Chinatown, now and then

My new Lydia Chin/Bill Smith book, FAMILY BUSINESS, is set in Chinatown and concerns real estate. (Well, this IS New York.) To celebrate we’re showing some (mostly vintage) Chinatown photos here on the blog. (Sorry about the resolution on this one, but it’s a beauty nevertheless.)



Interior view of tearoom in Chinatown, New York City, N.Y., c1903
Library of Congress

Chinatown, now and then

My new Lydia Chin/Bill Smith book, FAMILY BUSINESS, is set in Chinatown and concerns real estate. (Well, this IS New York.) To celebrate we’re showing some (mostly vintage) Chinatown photos here on the blog.



View from the Manhattan Bridge along E. Broadway, Manhattan

Vergara, Camilo J., photographer

Chinatown, now and then

My new Lydia Chin/Bill Smith book, FAMILY BUSINESS, is set in Chinatown and concerns real estate. (Well, this IS New York.) To celebrate we’re showing some (mostly vintage) Chinatown photos here on the blog.


Store and restaurant in Chinatown, New York, c1903.

Credit: Retrieved from the Library of Congress

FAMILY BUSINESS is on the way!

The new Lydia Chin/Bill Smith novel, set in NYC’s Chinatown, will launch 6pm Tuesday Nov. 23 at NYC’s Mysterious Bookshop, 58 Warren St. NY NY.
Come on down!

Hey, check me out! A Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review!


Some love from Publisher’s Weekly!


SJ Goes to Opening Night at the Met










Through the wonderfulness of a friend I scored a ticket to the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera season. This was a particularly exciting opening night because of course last year there was no season at all. Still, I might not have gone; opening night is fancy and I’m not a fancy kinda gal. But the season opened with FIRE SHUT UP IN MY BONES, Terence Blanchard’s opera based on Charles Blow’s memoir. I very much wanted to see it, so I accepted the challenge of dressing as though I almost fit in. Silk shirt, silk trousers, embroidered silk Chinese slippers — I don’t wear heels — and there I was, among the ball gowns, capes, embroidered sequined jackets… and you should have seen the women, too. No, seriously, everyone looked great.

And the opera? I’m far from knowledgeable enough about opera to be qualified to review it, but it seems unfair to tell you I went and then not tell you how I felt about it. So: the performances were great. Angel Blue, especially, and Will Liverman, were mesmerizing, and Walter Russell III, who plays Charles as a child, has probably had his life ruined by getting a standing ovation on opening night at the Met. The music I also loved. Blanchard drew on many sources and handles his transitions seamlessly. I was disappointed in the libretto. An opera’s not about the libretto, and most are probably disappointing but luckily in languages I don’t speak. I’m probably too word-oriented and placed too much emphasis on it.

The most interesting thing about this opera, though it’s by a Black composer based on the memoir of Black man and performed by an all-Black cast, is that it’s not a Black story, if by Black story you mean a story about racism, a story that defines Black people in terms of how they’re situated in the White world. This opera is about making choices, about a child becoming an adult, about leaving, or not leaving, the past behind. That these universal themes are dealt with in the context of a Black man’s life, instead of the default White life, is, if you ask me, the real cause for celebration.

Ode to a Mosquito

With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning (though I’m sure she felt the same).

How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.
I loathe thee to the depth and breadth and height
My skin can itch, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of buzzing and ideal sprays.

I loathe thee to the level of each day’s
Most quiet need, by citronella candle-light.
I loathe thee freely, as I slap at night.
I loathe thee purely, as thou escape’st my gaze.

I loathe thee with the passion put to use
In my old bites, and with my childhood’s tears.
I loathe thee with a loathing I don’t lose
When summer wanes. I loathe thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but loathe thee deeper after death.

A Glimpse into the Writer’s Mind

I just typed “shellshocked” in a new chapter, and then checked the spelling to make sure the word doesn’t need a hyphen. Turns out it does. Okay, fine. But Spellcheck also gave me the choice of spelling it as two words without the hyphen — or, in case “shell shocked” were not the two words I wanted, it offered “shells hocked.”

And bingo, I was off. What shells could be valuable enough to hock? Would all pawnbrokers recognize them, or you’d need a specialist? Or maybe these aren’t seashells, they’re mortar shells. If you had mortar shells, why would you hock them? Because you knew you were about to get raided by the FBI…

It ain’t easy corralling this kind of brain.




It’s spring and the waterfowl on the river are busy as bees, or beavers. This morning two pairs of mallards were swimming around, with a male Gadwall in attendance. One of the male mallards swam away from the little flock, which caused two events. First, the female he’d been with zipped over to him, swam right in front cutting him off, and then settled in right beside him, reminding him who he belonged to. The Gadwall, meanwhile, came over to harass them. That left the other mallard pair on their own, but not to worry: a female Gadwall came flying in, landed behind them, and started annoying them. What does this say? That the Gadwalls, as they’ve done before, are nesting in the bushes by that stretch of river and the mallards were getting too close in their own search for a nest site. Also, that female mallards like to keep their males in line.

And speaking of nesting, those of you who remember the goslings born last year on the rocks by the Sanitation Pier and raised in the park by Mama and a very fierce Papa may be happy to know M and P have nested again, and I think she must have eggs in there because he’s been swimming back and forth patrolling for enemies. This is the best photo I could get so I’ve circled them in red. Papa in the water, Mama in the upper left of my circle right up by the wall. Just after I took this a crow flew in and landed near her. Papa lifted out of the water and flapped over, practically sat on top of it. It left in a hurry. Hatchlings coming, I hope!

Ode to my Second Vaccine Shot

Got my second shot Moderna

And I’m feeling kinda great.

Got my second shot Moderna.

I was early, couldn’t wait.


Got my second shot Moderna

Up on St. Ann’s Avenue

Where the golden sun was shining

And the sky was brilliant blue.*


Got my second shot Moderna

Up here in Mott Haven

Across the Bronx from the small house

Wherein Poe wrote “The Raven.”**


I checked in with my QC code

They said, “SJ, welcome back!

Just go on in here to the school,

Talk to the man in black.”***


He waved me to the lunchroom

Where the tables were all set up

And nurses, docs, and volunteers

Were wearing sterile get-ups.****


The nurse at table number 5

Swabbed my arm and stuck it

Then she smoothed on it a Band-aid

And said to me, “Good luck! It*****


Might swell up a little

And you may start feeling sick

But if you do, don’t worry —

That part is over quick.”


Then she sent me to the gym to wait

A fifteen minute span.

I sat there and I people-watched,

Enjoyed my fellow man.


When time was up I headed out

To E. 138th

To get café con leche

And some cake to celebrate(th).”******


So as of now I’m fully vaxxed

And it’s a happy day

And I hope you all soon get your shots

And COVID goes away!


*You saw that coming, right?

**Irrelevant, but true.

***It wasn’t Johnny Cash, no.

****Just cut me some slack, okay?

*****Not what you were expecting?

******Okay, that one’s awful.