Friday, April 2, 2010

Karen Maezen Miller

Karen Maezen Miller is "an errant wife, delinquent mother, reluctant dog walker, and expert laundress, as well as a Zen Buddhist priest and meditation teacher at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles." She is the author of Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, and her writing is also included in the anthologies The Best Buddhist Writing 2007 and The Maternal Is Political.

Her new book is Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life.

Earlier this week I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
After spending the last six months sitting on my widening rump finishing a nonfiction manuscript, I had two overpowering impulses: (1) to get out of the chair; and (2) crack open anything but a memoir. For the last few weeks I've made it into my small-town library twice a week or so. I go no farther than the new book display about three steps inside. I take two volumes at a time, and so I've read more books in the last few weeks than I have in a year. It's been such a rollicking escape that most of the titles elude me. But last week I read a work that I can't wait to blab about: Chang-rae Lee's new novel The Surrendered.

I've loved Lee's novels for their clear-eyed depiction of the Asian-American experience - his piercing narratives about generations that straddle culture, language and homeland. His new book does that and so much more. It's a vast and strange story about the ravages of war, ostensibly the Korean War, but it goes much farther than one story or time. His characters are haunted and wounded, unloved, doomed and irredeemable. And yet we see them, and ourselves, as pilgrims in the same pursuit of peace and place. I read it quickly, like I was starving, hardly liking a bit of it, and yet filled by the groaning whole of its beauty and ache. When I returned it to the library, I stood side-by-side with a stranger scanning the shelves for her next meal. I knew instantly to place the book into her hands, an intimate sharing and yes, a surrender.
Visit Karen Maezen Miller's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue