When DJ Tanner sends you a book in the mail

As part of the B&H Bloggers program, I received a free copy Candace Cameron Bure’s latest book. I spent no less than three days laughing every time I saw it on the coffee table, which is where I thought it might have to remain. I could not in good faith review a book that was the farthest thing for me to reach for, even within the genre of spiritual memoir which is my fave. It just wouldn’t be fair. A good book reviewer will be able to separate the person from the author’s voice; to reserve critique for the author’s character from the author’s content.

I have very little against Candace Cameron Bure. I have listened to her talk at Liberty University. I appreciate the principles upon which she is unwavering as she makes decisions for her career and family. I just don’t think she is exceptionally talented as an actress or inspirational speaker. I didn’t have high hopes for her writing, though I give her credit for letting her co-author Erin Davis have a proper byline. (Ghostwriters get such a bum deal.) Most importantly, though, I was completely prejudiced against the premise of this book. I don’t watch “Dancing with the Stars” which the writer uses as the framework for the events of this memoir, drawing spiritual insights from her time preparing for and performing on this reality TV show. The fact that Bure got a book deal out of a quasi-celebrity TV appearance seemed like–well, I think Uncle Joey’s reaction is apt: Cut. It. Out.

Curiosity got the better of me, though. And you know what? This book is actually pretty substantive. The tone is sincere throughout. Bure clearly cares about the way she comports herself on and off camera. She took her role on the show very seriously and examined every decision through the prism of how she would be representing herself as a godly woman. There are moments that are really inspiring, like how she shares her and her husband Val’s discussion about performing the seductive rumba and the implications for her as a daughter of Christ. The discussion on modesty was comprehensive and not pious. It was accessible, drawing from Proverbs, Psalms, and many parts of the New Testament. I think on these merits alone, the book is worth buying for a young person who is navigating the murky waters on modesty.

Still, the writing is pretty painful at times. In certain moments, it’s as if DJ Tanner is writing the copy. There are sentences like, “Betcha didn’t know that dancing could be such serious business!” Ay. Where is Kimmy Gibbler because we need some comic relief. Moreover, the premise is overall still vomitous. There is a lot of attention paid to social media reactions and the book is written with the assumption that the reader cared deeply about the show and about Bure’s competitive edge. If you have a rabid DWTS fan in your house, this book might be for him or her. However, the spiritual insights within the framework of one season of one show was just not enough for a solid story skeleton. A book like Devon Franklin’s “Produced by Faith” does a much better job using show business as a metaphor wherein the spiritual life is examined.

Bure’s book can probably be read in about a week and is available in paperback.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above (typically those to books) may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Read More

Multi-cultural Monday: Aziz Anzari is schooling me

I don’t know if it was better or worse to listen to the Fresh Air interview with Aziz Anzari and Alan Yang before I watched “Master of None,” but I did. I approached the show perhaps a little bit more cerebrally and a little bit more prepared for the gags than if I went in with fresh eyes and ears.

“Master of None” is somewhat of a broad comedy in that the character of Aziz Anzari orbits in a world that is pretty non-specific. Young single guy in the city. I believe this is quite intentional: he’s an American guy. Not an IT guy, doctor, or a convenience store owner as he points out again and again throughout the season. Just a guy trying to make it as an actor and navigating a world that still wants to type-cast Indian-American dudes into a limited set of occupations and personas.

Loverpants and I laughed and we laughed hard. We laughed the laughs of people who could identify so closely with the Asian parent representations. My husband, obviously, as the son of first generation immigrants from Asia, and I as their daughter-in-law.  I may not have been raised by parents who emigrated from Asia, but I am not immune. I relate to my in-laws as elders and want to know them and be known by them just as every kid wants of their parents.

The struggle for me, though, is checking where I am laughing the laugh of those who know – OR –  laughing the laugh of those who should know better.

Anzari tells Terri Gross of his chronic frustration with Indian-American actors who will effect an Indian accent just for a role. Anzari says it is one thing if the accent is genuine, but when it is put on like a mask, it is clearly for sport. It’s to amuse a mainstream white American audience, an audience that should know better. We should know now that accents from Western European countries are often esteemed as charming: England, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy. But the Vietnamese nail salon worker is endlessly entertaining, and the slapstick of Long Duck Dong in Sixteen Candles is something of a template for Asians in American movies–even 30+ years later.

K.C. Bailey/Netflix
K.C. Bailey/Netflix

Why are we charmed by certain accents and amused by others?  The easy way out would be explaining away the similarities in Romance and Germanic languages to American English.  But I think familiarity lends itself a measure of understanding. When we find someone familiar, we may open ourselves to learning more about their joys and their struggles.
Whereas if someone is unfamiliar, we may presuppose that we might not be able to understand their human experience.

It has taken me a long time to confront my own discomfort with unfamiliarity. Just because I am uncomfortable doesn’t mean something needs to be unknowable. Take learning Sanskrit-based languages. I don’t hear them or read them except in, say, a Thai Restaurant or in a foreign film. There are characters for some of these languages, letters for others. There are pronunciations that require my tongue to contort in formations that feel impossible. Learning Korean has been so damn hard. It’s just altogether unfamiliar and my brain is filled with all kinds of other trivia. So instead of pushing past this unfamiliarity, I am often happy to reside in a place where I can regard Korean as an unfamiliar unknowable. Thus I am free to laugh and poke fun from my vantage of the unfamiliar, unknowing, but I should know better.

Wwhat I know, more and more, thanks to Loverpants and Anzari and “Fresh Off the Boat” and Margaret Cho, et. al. is that I miss out on a great bunch of awesome people when I maroon myself on the Isle of the Unfamiliar. And that’s not a laughing matter.

Read More

Discontentment: a play in three parts

The week was going to be impossible to enjoy I decided on Sunday, which is a wonderful parliamentary way to outlaw contentment in one’s heart for a full week. Contentment was banished, by law and edict of Sunday’s decision. An unwelcome denizen, cast out with the chicken bones and fanny packs with broken zippers.

You know the basic plotline of this play.

I, playing a starring role as the Obliger, is huffing as she obliges every appointment and preordained meeting and every other Thing To Which She Said Yes, rueing the day she ever learned to say yes so well.  The other supporting roles are played by the usual suspects, a rotation of students and colleagues and one husband who falls very sick toward Act III and two children who don’t understand why certain things set the Obliger off, I mean, Seriously, Mom, what is one rotting french fry wedged behind a carseat among friends?

UntitledThe action comes to a climax when the inevitable meltdown transpires, the actress is centerstage facing the audience, whilst she furiously scrubs dishes and carries on in a monologue WHO CAN LIVE THIS WAY? that is probably a little too Medea and is not recommended for a younger audience. The denouement is only possible with reconciliation, to her husband, her children and to herself.



The stage is the place where dramatic irony is at its most delicious. The audience knows something is happening in tandem but the actors don’t. In this play, there is no dramatic irony. There is action taking place in tandem, but it is not known by the audience or the actor. Because God does not demand an intermission. He bids, provides, loves, delights in us. He does it all, onstage and offstage, in spite of our parliamentary banishment of contentment. In spite of our prideful self-reliance, He is still so good. All last week, I know that I was constantly noticing beauty around me. The perfect Bob Ross leafscape in living color. The gymnast bouncing so perfectly on the trampoline at my kids’ lesson. It wasn’t aggressive, just whispers of beauty that blessed me in spite of my pouty comportment. PanoNotice how I just used the word comportment. That’s just a symptom of how pouty I was–I started bandying about words that should only be used to refer to royals. I will never be royal, but I am surely loved by the King of Kings who says godliness and contentment are uber beneficial. (1 Tim 6:6). Untitled

Read More