We celebrated a daughter’s graduation recently with a party at our house over Memorial Day weekend. Since it was close to our older daughter’s birthday, I decided to bake two cakes to mark the two occasions at the same party. The catch is that we had decided to make our house a gluten-free zone for the five days that our older daughter (recently diagnosed with celiac disease) would be staying with us and to have only gluten-free dishes on the menu for the whole time. Gluten-free salads and meat on the grill (for the Paleos and the non-vegetarians) seemed easy enough when planning the party menu, but how to do the cakes without good old non-nutritious white flour?
I turned to King Arthur Flour’s line of gluten-free products for help and bought two yellow cake mixes and cake enhancer to make a Boston Cream Pie birthday cake and an M&M-decorated cake for graduation. (Thank you to my husband who came up with the M&M idea when I realized at the last minute that I couldn’t be sure the tubes of decorator icing were gluten-free, so there was no way to write on the cake!)
Judging from the number of people who tried slices of both cakes, and the lone half-slice of cake that was left the next day, I’d say everyone would agree that the King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix and Cake Enhancer are excellent products!
The filling and topping for the Boston Cream Pie and the traditional Butter Cream Frosting for the graduation cake were relatively easy to make gluten-free, but I had to be careful to use only bowls and utensils that we had purchased and kept separate, and only unopened packages of confectioner’s sugar and chocolate chips, etc. that we could be sure no one had previously dipped a measuring cup into that had trace elements of gluten lodged in tiny cracks, etc. So even though I used cake mixes, which I usually don’t do, baking the two cakes took about twice as long as it usually would! This was an education for me, and really brought home the point of how difficult and anxiety-producing it is for a person with celiac to have to share a kitchen with people who eat a traditional American diet, no matter how careful they might try to be not to drop crumbs into the silverware drawer or not to produce a light dusting of flour over the countertop and other canisters while baking.
For more about the party menu, what we did right (and wrong), and revelations about my nasty Twizzler habit, check out my daughter’s post, A Tale of Two Cakes, on her blog about being newly diagnosed with celiac disease, Based on a Sprue Story. (M&Ms are gluten-free, we have learned, but Twizzlers are not.)
Some cookbooks I’ve seen online and want to try:
Disclosure: I don’t own stock in, receive freebies from, or have any relatives who work for King Arthur Flour. I’m just a KAF addict. KAF also has a great baking blog with a lot of recipes I can try out for our next gluten-free get-together.
Mermaids, monsters, and mistaken identities start off the summer of free audiobook downloads from SYNC with a splash. Hosted by AudioFile Magazine, SYNC offers a whole summer of free, legal audiobook downloads – a new pairing of a YA title with a classic work each week from now until August 15, 2013.
I’m sorry to be late with this announcement for anyone who doesn’t already know about SYNC. Today, June 5th, is the last day to download the first pair of audiobooks!
Download the first free YA Novel & Summer Reading Classic pair from SYNC here. TEXT syncya to 25827 for alerts on the SYNC title releases or subscribe to email reminders at the Web site.
This Week’s Audiobooks:
Available to download free May 30 – June 5
By Anna Banks
Read by Rebecca Gibel
Published by AudioGO
“Gibel’s flirty banter will make a big splash with listeners.” –AudioFile Magazine
By William Shakespeare
Performed by a Full Cast
Published by AudioGO/ BBC Radio
A storm rages. Prospero and his daughter watch from their desert island as a ship carrying the royal family is wrecked. Miraculously, all on board survive. Plotting, mistaken identities, and bewitching love follow as the travelers explore the strange place of spirits and monsters.
Thank you to AudioGO for generously providing this week’s titles.
Available for a limited time
Remember–grab these titles tonight before they are replaced by a new pairing on June 6! While the title availability is time-limited, your listening time is not. Once you have downloaded the MP3 files, the audiobook is yours to listen to at your leisure.
The OverDrive Media Console will deliver SYNC summer audiobooks to you via Overdrive Media Software installed on your computer (compatible with Windows and Mac) or through an Overdrive app on your mobile device (compatible with iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7).
Visit OverDrive to download the Overdrive app or software program for your computer, if you don’t already use it.
Don’t miss the remaining summer season of SYNC audiobook downloads! There are some of my favorite narrators represented here:
June 6 – June 12, 2013
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood, read by Katherine Kellgren (HarperAudio)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, read by Wanda McCaddon (Tantor Audio)
June 13 – June 19, 2013
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Will Patton (Scholastic Audiobooks)
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, read by Robert Ramirez (Recorded Books)
June 20 – June 26, 2013
Once by Morris Gleitzman, read by Morris Gleitzman (Bolinda Audio)
Letter From Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr., read by Dion Graham (Christianaudio)
June 27 – July 3, 2013
Rotters by Daniel Kraus, read by Kirby Heyborne (Listening Library)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, read by Jim Weiss (Listening Library)
July 4 – July 10, 2013
Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford, read by Nick Podehl (Brilliance Audio)
She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith, read by a Full Cast (L.A. Theatre Works)
July 11 – July 17, 2013
The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann, read by Peter Altschuler (HarperAudio)
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, read by Simon Vance (Tantor Audio)
July 18 – July 24, 2013
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, read by Erin Moon (Recorded Books)
Hamlet by William Shakespeare, read by a Full Cast (L.A. Theatre Works)
July 25 – July 31, 2013
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen, read by Charlie McWade (Scholastic Audiobooks)
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain, read by Steve West (Blackstone Audio)
Aug 1 – Aug 7, 2013
Death Cloud by Andrew Lane, read by Dan Weyman (Macmillan Audio)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, read by Ralph Cosham (Blackstone Audio)
Aug 8 – Aug 14, 2013
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, read by Katherine Kellgren (Brilliance Audio)
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, read by Miriam Margolyes (Bolinda Audio)
Aug 15 – Aug 21, 2013
Sold by Patricia McCormick, read by Justine Eyre (Tantor Audio)
Let Me Stand Alone by Rachel Corrie, read by Tavia Gilbert (Blackstone Audio)
Don’t let the innocent-looking boy on the cover of David Yoo‘s The Choke Artist: Confessions of a Chronic Underachiever fool you into thinking this hilarious memoir about coming of age Asian in a sea of white faces is for the same audiences as his YA novels, Girls for Breakfast and Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before, or his middle-grade novel, The Detention Club. The cringe-worthy comedy of The Choke Artist gets pretty graphic with its escalating, self-deprecating, true confessions, ranging from high school through his post-college years. It is definitely adult reading! Perhaps perfect for the “New Adult” audience, but its themes of identity and belonging will resonate with adults of all ages.
I recently met David Yoo at a library conference in Cambridge, Mass., not far from his current home. When he arrived for the Speed Dating with the Massachusetts Must-Read Authors event, I welcomed him and blurted out, “I’m reading your book right now!” (I was only about 30 or so pages in, at the time.) He turned pale and briefly put a hand over his eyes. “Don’t tell me that!” he pleaded.
A few weeks later, reading farther along in The Choke Artist, I realized the horror he might have felt at this middle-aged librarian, possibly the age of his mother, reading his stories of juvenile delinquency, teenage lust, sibling rivalry, and longing to belong. Not to mention that I might take umbrage as a fellow parent at all the jokes he makes at his parents’ expense. (Just now, though, I checked Wikipedia, and I would have had to give birth at age 13 to be his mother. So relax, Dave!) I’m sure quite a few of these stories of his reckless youth and undersexed college days are wild exaggerations, in any case. At least, I hope so, for his sake. (And for his poor mother’s!)
The book reads like stand-up comedy and purports to explain the author’s need to be an underachiever, both in response to his older sister’s being a “model minority” who played the violin and “studied her tail off” and to his “full-blown, deep-seated ambivalence towards my ethnicity.”
Here’s how the book begins, with a chapter entitled Gangs of New England. The author is attending high school in Avon, Connecticut, which according to City-Data.com, is 93.6% white.
I formed my first posse junior year of high school. There were three of us: me, my best friend, Jay, and his best friend, Chris. What initially brought us together was our mutual love of rap music. That, and we were three of the bigger losers at Avon High. Previously, I’d been a member of the elite soccer crew. It was the main sport in school – the football team sucked, and at one point the varsity soccer team was ranked second in the country, according to the USA Today national rankings. Just being on team carried serious social cachet, but I didn’t get along with the coach at all, and startlingly soon after quitting I had a major falling-out with my friends and found myself temporarily sitting by myself at lunch. I needed new compadres, fast, and the only two guys in school who weren’t part of an established clique already were Jay and Chris.
They hung out by themselves because they didn’t play sports, and on top of that, they were from the poor part of town. Or relatively poor, at least. Avon was absurdly wealthy, so to clarify: by “poor” I mean “squarely ensconced in the middle class.” But within the utterly unrealistic microcosm of society that was Avon, they were the closest thing to burnouts at our school. While most guys were working up a sweat playing sports or freely making out with one another in the privacy of drama rehearsal, these two still rode Mongoose dirt bikes with plastic fluorescent green pegs on both sides of their back tires, practicing bunny hops and rail slides outside Chucky’s food store on West Avon Road after school. Suffice it to say, socially this was a giant step down for me, but I desperately needed a new crew, and they were my only viable option.
I was stunned when I found out they listened to rap music, too. I’d tagged them as typical skate punks, whereas it made perfect sense that I would get obsessed with rap, since I was the closest thing to a black kid in town. Well, there actually was one real black kid in my grade, but definitely anytime he was out sick from school I was easily the next best thing, simply due to the fact that – as an Asian kid – I was pretty much the only other male student of color within town limits. Although now I can see how he might secretly have resented it, back then I was always deeply jealous of the fact that everyone assumed the black kid was tough just for being black, while my skin tone suggested to everyone that I was a bookish nerd destined to one day steal engineering jobs from them before getting selected as an alternate for the Olympic table tennis team. Nobody would believe that I was in reality a C student and an utter nightmare for my parents at home, and this glaring oversight distressed me no end.
The Choke Artist was recently selected by Massachusetts Book Award judges as a 2013 Must Read nonfiction title, out of books published in 2012 either by a Massachusetts author or having a Massachusetts theme. If you enjoy humorous memoirs along the lines of David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, or Mindy Kaling, you’ll probably enjoy laughing and cringing your way through The Choke Artist, too.
The Choke Artist
Grand Central, 2012
$13.99 US / $15.50 CAN
Disclosure: I borrowed this book through my public library network.
Armchair BEA ends today, so instead of leaving BEA (Book Expo America) and the 90°F heat of Manhattan about now, I’ve been plopped on the couch in air-conditioned comfort for the past hour and a half. I didn’t have a lot of time to participate fully in Armchair BEA, but there’s always next year!
First, I want to give a shout-out to Mighty Bright. If I had gone to BEA in real life this year, I would have visited Booth 1012 to thank them for the Mighty Bright book light I received last year as a freebie. I have used it many times since then, and it still works beautifully.
Last year at BEA, I was invited to a lovely Blackstone Audio luncheon where I got to meet Ridley Pearson. I’m sorry to say I still haven’t listened to the audiobook they gave me (The Risk Agent), though, and the second in the series is coming out soon. I’ve been looking for alternatives to Amazon’s Audible for when/if I ever decide I can splurge on an audiobook download service, and I see Blackstone Audio (which was bought out by AudioGO last December) offers Downpour for $12.99 a month with what looks like a good selection of titles.
This year, through Armchair BEA, I met author Tara Masih virtually via Audra’s blog, Unabridged Chick.
Last year, I navigated crowds and lugged books around the Javits Center and only met a few bloggers at the Book Bloggers Conference because the schedule was so busy. On the plus side, I did get to visit with my daughter at the Workman booth and meet some of her colleagues at The Experiment, a publishing company whose books are distributed by Workman.
This year, I met up with many bloggers through Armchair BEA, and there were no large crowds to wade through. Also, I won a prize on Day #1, but didn’t see it until the end, so I’m not sure what prize I’ll get yet. A big thank you to all of the Armchair BEA sponsors!
If this is the first you’ve heard of Armchair BEA, you can learn more at Armchair BEA Central.
Thank you one last time to the Armchair BEA Blog Team for organizing this event!
- Pam van Hylckama Vlieg
- Tif Sweeney
- Florinda Pendley Vasquez
- Jasmine Ko
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