Author: FP

Wild Swans by Jung Chung, China: ATW in Books

I am reading a book from every country in the world. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China is my book for China. The last book I read was Austria: Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler by Trudi Kanter.  THE BOOK: Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, by Jung Chang IN SHORT: This is a memoir sharing the incredible, true story of three women in China—from a warlord’s concubine born in 1909 to her granddaughter, a product of the Cultural Revolution who became the first Chinese person to receive a doctorate (in linguistics) at a British university. THE BEST BIT: “The Best Bit” just doesn’t work in this context because the whole thing is terrifying and horrifying and moving and really perhaps exactly what you’d expect from a comprehensive retelling from the perspective of three women grappling with literally everything (starvation/privation/repression/everything bad) over nearly 100 years in China. If you are reading this book from the relative comfort of the United States, U.K., or most of western Europe in the year 2018, in most cases, I would find it difficult …

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang: ATW in Books

I am reading a book from every country in the world. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China is my book for China. The last book I read was Austria: Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler by Trudi Kanter.  THE BOOK: Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, by Jung Chang IN SHORT: This is the verifiably wild story of three women in China—from a warlord’s concubine born in 1909 to her granddaughter, a product of the Cultural Revolution who became the first Chinese person to receive a doctorate (in linguistics) at a British university. THE BEST BIT: “The Best Bit” just doesn’t work in this context because the whole thing is terrifying and horrifying and moving and really perhaps exactly what you’d expect from a comprehensive retelling about life from the perspective of three women grappling with literally everything (starvation/privation/repression/everything bad) over nearly 100 years in China. If you are reading this book from the relative comfort of the United States, U.K., or most of western Europe in the year 2018, in most cases, I would find it difficult to …

old san juan puerto rico

Everybody Come to Puerto Rico!

Fact: I have never been somewhere warm for New Year’s Eve. Because I am a traveler of budget means, I did one of two things: For a number of New Year’s, I went to Scotland, with an ex-boyfriend, which was amazing, even if it did get dark at three o’clock in the afternoon. (We mostly stayed at his parents’ house and watched TV. I’m making it sound boring, but it was awesome.) Otherwise, I often went somewhere with my friend Katie — and bargain prices for flying on New Year’s Eve always meant that we’d come back on the 31st. This is usually cheaper, but also sadder, and I am not sure I recommend it. (I do not.) This year, we were able to get cheapish tickets to Puerto Rico — no doubt because many visitors are scared about the condition of the island, post-Hurricane Maria. For sure, what has happened (and is happening) here is a national disgrace. (Fact: Puerto Ricans are Puerto Rican and American, something you might not think would be a challenging …

2017: The Year in Books

2017 was a year I would quite happily burn into the ground. If it was a town I had invaded, I would plow salt into its fields and then burn the fields, and if they wouldn’t burn, I would wait until they had grown back a bit, and then burn them down again. So. There’s that. If 2017 was terrible, and it was, in all kinds of big and planet-destabilizing ways, I also found that it was terrible in small ways as well. (HA not that I’m literally just complaining.) One of them means quite a lot to me: the books that I read. I read six books this year. That’s one book every two months. I really want people to read, not least because I am writing a book. Apparently I am not taking my own advice. The good news was that what I did read was really good, beginning with…. Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada The main reason I only read six books this year was because what I did read was long …

Checked Bags

When I first came to France, I brought yoga tights and Wheat Thins plus as much Diet Coke as I could carry. When I flew home, I brought cheese, macarons, morning-bought bread, rose jam. That list has changed over the past three years. Now I bring toothpaste and deodorant. (Ours are better.) And when I come home, I bring prescription drugs and contact lenses: the things that help my body survive from one day to the next. * * * Something you might never guess about me is that I have always had health insurance. I have private American insurance and comprehensive expat insurance. I also live in a country where a doctor’s visit costs about $25. People are often surprised when I say this: There is something slightly witchy about a single woman over 30, and a disinterest in health insurance seems, I think, to be one of those things we might avoid, we witches, like compromise and caregiving. No, I say. I like having the bed to myself. I do not like millions of …

paris mineral expo

Minéral Expo Paris: Paris Field Trip

Destination: Minéral Expo Paris, which I have come to understand is the very popular exposition of minerals, gems, fossils and rocks, as well as a billion crystals shaped like (a) hearts, (b) angels and (c) magic wands. Spot: Espace Charenton, at Porte de Charenton, which might be the least attractive place I’ve ever been in Paris. Report: This was an amazing outing. As I have recently discussed, I am a fan of crystals. Generally, I am happy to go to Minerales do Brasil, which is a very weird, very amazing store in the 8th. This, of course, was a once-a-year opportunity to view thousands of crystals at once. I wondered if I would see enough new stuff to warrant the weird trip to this extremely weird place, and I am happy to say that I absolutely did. (See pictures below.) One of the things I liked most about this trip was that it was so extremely un-Parisian. It’s in a room that looks like it’s the basement conference space at the most middling hotel in the …

This Week’s Free Map: San Francisco

This week’s free map is … San Francisco! San Francisco (as you can see from the image above) is sort of a weird looking place. We actually did this one in two colors: Millennial Pink, above, and a blue one, below: All you need to do is click on the links above, save the PDF files, print, et voila, instant wall art! If you use nice paper (and a decent printer), it’s basically indistinguishable from a screenprint. Would you like a free map every week? Then just sign up for our newsletter! It’s FUN!    

Sézane: Paris Field Trip

Much is made of “French girl” allure. Maybe the reason why it’s so easy to conjure up that term is because — at least in Paris — it’s a real thing. “American girl” — what would that be? We are multitudes, we are that Coachella girl in the fringed poncho in Mitski’s video, we are Mitski in the raspberry pantsuit, we are Mitski in the gold mini-dress, we are myriad and various. Parisian girl style — not so much? I can’t describe it better than a French person, so here’s the situation, straight from a Parisian Instagram star: In France, we have style but the problem is that this style could be so boring. This is the same for every woman: In the upper class in Paris, you have a slim jean, you have ballerinas [flats], you have a simple tee shirt, you have a gray coat, and then your hair is with no artifacts [accessories]. This is a typical French woman. Honestly, if you find this subject remotely interesting (and I find it fascinating), …

minerales do brasil

Minerales do Brasil: Paris Field Trip

Minerales do Brasil may be my favorite store in Paris. There aren’t a lot of perks freelancing, and it’s equally hard to come by a finish line. When you finish a big project — congrats! Now you get to go look for more work! YAY! To deal with this, I started doing this thing where I would set myself a certain number of tasks, and then based on the difficulty of that task, I would reward myself WITH A SPARKLY ROCK when I finished. My collection, all purchased at Minerales do Brasil, currently looks like this: There’s a rock for when I finished a chapter of my book, a rock for when I finished a short story I was working on. You get the idea. This is a weird, random store, at the back of the second courtyard in a building in the 8th (it’s a 5/10 minute walk from the Miromesnil metro stop). I love it because — well, obviously, I love rocks (and minerals and crystals and the rest). But also because it’s …

This Week’s Free Map: A Wine Country Sampler

This week’s free maps are actually three free maps: Sonoma, Napa, and Santa Rosa, three of the cities in Wine Country. I went to art school in S.F. a few years after 9/11 but close enough to remember what it felt like when it seemed like the place where you lived might one day not be there. Maybe it’s ironic that the Bay Area felt to me so permanent and substantial (see: earthquakes). What I do know is that when I was there, I felt safe. And also that it was very possibly the most beautiful place ever. If you like these three maps, all you need to do is download them (here’s Napa, Santa Rosa, and Sonoma) and print them on nice paper, and they’re frame-worthy, if I do say so. (If you’re coming here without having subscribed, you can still do so! A free map every week! Plus some cool other things going on in the world: And then. I usually sell these for $5 (the downloads), which gives these a value, all told, of …