This was the first book I read in my mission to become a book-reader again. The African Women’s Book Club had read it earlier in the year and I had participated in its discussion blindly. Shhhh, don’t tell. I picked it up from my local library right after sitting for the Infectious Disease Board examination.
Simply, this is a 2006 novel about Biafra’s struggle to establish an independent republic from Nigeria. But deep between the words is a remarkable piece about life in Nigeria at the end of colonialism, about class, about ethnic rivalries, and about the violence and dehumanization during the struggle for Biafra.
I knew about Biafra but I did not know about Biafra. This book left me in awe and extremely jealous of Miss Adichie. Jealous, I say. She writes so beautifully and I would like to say I know someone who went to school with her because that’s just one degree of separation and maybe some of her awesomeness will come my way.
This book has its own webpage here.
This is probably one of the first books I traded for on PaperBackSwap. I’m not sure what possessed me to do so. I’m still waiting for someone to take it of my hands.
This 1989 novel is about a lovey-dovey married couple (the kind that makes you want to stick your finger down your throat) whose lives get thrown upside down after the birth of Ben, their fifth child, who is not quite “normal”. It read like a horror story! I don’t like horror stories. If goth is your thing, then this would be a good read. It has to be if it petrified me, right?
This is a suspenseful and moving 2000 novel about the lives of two sisters who live in rural Wisconsin after the First World War. Lots of secrets and repressed memories here. I enjoyed this read. Ruth, the daughter of one of the sisters, tells us from page one that she nearly drowned as a child but somehow we don’t believe her. She couldn’t possibly have and besides why is everybody else denying it. The story goes back and forth being told by different characters and shifts in time but it is still quite simplistic and very literary. Again, I was envious of the author as this is her first novel. Goodness, there is so much talent out there.
This is a 1997 novel about a pair of fraternal twins whose childhood is sprinkled by a series of small disasters that end up affecting their adult lives in big ways. The author is Indian and she comments on Indian politics, class systems and discrimination, as well as general themes like betrayal and love. This is another book that is a patchwork of flashback memories rather than a chronological read. The story is ugly but very real. It was disturbing at times even. The words are beautiful though maybe a bit much (quantity wise). Again, another first book, and apparently the world is still waiting for the author to release her second….whenever that may be.
How could you put down a book with a beginning like that?
I read this before I knew a film was being made and I’m yet to watch it. This is a 2002 novel in which a teenage girl watches from limbo as her family and friends struggle to come to terms with her kidnapping, rape, and murder. In the process, she also comes to terms with her own death. It is an interesting concept. An eerie read. It made me angry though, just like any story about criminals such as pedophiles and murderers who continue to live amongst us would.
I got this book because I enjoyed the author’s earlier book Cane River several years ago. I believe I picked that one up at an airport somewhere. The PaperBackSwap member who sent this book to me was enamoured with it telling me about her travels to the area of Louisiana featured and her attempts to contact the author. She was so excited to be sharing this novel with another.
It’s not in the same ballpark as Cane River, but again it is a family history that this time focuses on the atrocities of the Colfax “Riot” of Easter 1873 which really was just a massacre of ex-slaves trying to exercise their right to vote by the local white men. I gave the whole subject material one big side-eye as it was a history lesson in it’s own right. To think that no-one was ever held accountable for the atrocities, torture, and lynching of mass people that day, is so depressing. Despite the carnage, the author’s family dream did not die. The author celebrates the lives of her ancestors and you can’t help just admire their loyalty, love, and perseverance.
Mr. McCourt’s account of his life and that of his family members is brutally honest, sad, and at times humourous. He describes how his Irish parents meet in New York and how his mother falls into depression after his baby sister dies prompting the whole family to move back to Ireland. This is a story of poverty, of adventure, of alcoholism, of depression, of survival, and of love. It’s amazing what the human body and mind can endure and overcome. I read that some people who knew the author were angry at his portrayal of Ireland and the people he describes. Ah, what can you do? It was his experience, and his expression of peoples ‘characters. I cried. I laughed. I loved it.
I don’t remember how I came to desire to read this book. Was it the title? Was it the scruffy man on the cover page? Was it because it was based in Britain? Was it because it was another immigrant story? This 2008 novel is about the struggles of a middle-aged Russian man, Lev, widowed when his wife dies of leukemia, who emigrates to London to find work so that he can send money back to his mother who is taking care of his 5 year old daughter. I liked it because of my own experience growing up in Communist East Germany and I would often interject people from my own memory and wonder how they coped with the changes when The Wall came down. I’m sure like Lev they are seen as invaders, as second class citizens, except they didn’t have to cross country borders for that experience. Economic migrants in their own country. Overall, the tone is one of melancholia. Lev is running away from grief caused by his wife’s early demise. London, through his eyes, is not a pleasant sight. As his Irish landlord says, himself a second class citizen of sorts, “Life is a feckin’ football match to the Brits now…If you can’t get your ball in the back of the net, you’re no one”. Lev is made to feel so small so often, you feel his pain, his embarrassment, his shame, but also his love for his daughter.
This was a memoir published in 2008 that I read for my local book club. I wouldn’t have picked it up on my own to tell you the truth as memoirs are not really my interest. But when I heard the concept, a single father chronicling his experiences, I thought neat, it’s not everyday we hear about the struggles of single parent fathers, let alone single parent African-American fathers. Well, I learn that Mr. Ellis is a novelist and screen-writer who is not an average-Joe father. His life is beset with international travel, model girlfriends, and high profile friends. His kids, whom he loves very much, that much is true, are raised by a team of nannies and other caregivers who rotate in and out of their lives. While it is his experience of solo parenting, to me it was an account of romantic trysts and fantasies with the ladies in his life. To his credit, he doesn’t use the book to speak ill of his ex-wife who probably deserves a side-eye or two, fellow Swellesley alumnae or not. Nor does he lament his fate as a single parent. And there is just a hint of his relationship with his father, his near-death experience, and commentary on being a black man in America, period. He just loves his kids and tries to reconcile how he’s going to achieve a fulfilled sexual life within those limitations while inviting us into his life in a candid and witty way. Either way, I cannot see myself ever reading this book again….why? because I guess Harlequin romances aren’t my interest either no matter what the background is.
Published in 2001, this is the author’s fourth novel and also deals with a mother-daughter relationship. I actually haven’t read any of her other books, but I did watch The Joy Luck’s Club in college. Does that count? I was holding this book in my hand one day in a very slow moving TSA line at the airport. A middle-aged Asian-American man asked me how I was enjoying it because he had read some of her other works. When I told him it was worth picking up he lamented that he wished there were equally heart-wrenching mother-son relationship novels out there. The thought had never occured to me! I wondered if Angela’s Ashes would count as that. I didn’t mention it to him because I had a feeling he meant one relevant to him as an Asian-American man.
This novel is about an American-born woman Ruth worrying about her mother who is slowly succumbing to Alzheimer’s dementia. But within that is also the story of the mother, LuLing, an immigrant to America from China with a fascinating relationship with her own mother and family history unbeknown to Ruth. The two have spent most of their lives not understanding each other. I of course identified with Ruth’s character. I could hear my mother saying some of the things LuLing says and I could see myself ignoring those words trying not to listen because they are obviously from a world far far away. I don’t think I’m going to read Joy Luck Club or any other of Ms. Tan’s work because I’ve got her formula (of stereotypes) down.
Another amazing debut novel that depicts the hypocrisy and irony of race relations in the New South of 1960s America. Set in Jackson, Mississippi this 2009 novel tells the plight of countless black maids who are abused by the white families, particularly the women, they work for. It is told in part by a young white woman who has returned home from college and unlike her peers is not married nor is invested in looking for a husband, children, and life in the country club.
This was a selection for my local book club. Some people are calling it a new American classic. I think time will tell. All I know is that even though it’s quite a large book and I had to get a hardcover, I spent many an evening pouring over its words trying to find out what next only to force myself to bed so that I wouldn’t be a zombie at work the following day. I think it’s quite realistic although I wasn’t alive the 1960s and certainly not in Jackson, Mississippi. It did take a while to get into the dialect given to the Black women though. One major criticism of this book is the Southern vernacular through which the Black people’s voices are heard whereas the White women speak “normal” English especially as the author is white. I don’t know. I don’t think that one must be part of a culture in order to write in the voice of that culture. Anyway, this was an exciting book and made a great book club meet. We watched a clip of the author describe why she wrote it and then we had a hearty discussion in regards to which actresses would make the perfect characters in the soon to be made film.
I got this book at the suggestion of a friend. I read it all in one night curled up underneath the blankets. In hindsight, this book exemplifies how detached I am from the world of book aficionados. Written in 1988 in Portuguese, it holds the Guinness World Record for the most translated book by a living author according to Wikipedia. Who knew? It is one of those books from which people like to quote phrases and passages. And I see why. This allegoric novel describes the journey of a shepherd boy who has a recurring dream and decides to travel to the pyramids of Egypt to find his treasure. The core thread of the book is summed up in the words of Melchizedek “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” In this book of few words, volumes of wisdom are spoken. It is simply enchanting.
I picked this book up from my local library. It is an excellent collection of twelve short stories that chronicle cultural misunderstands and explores the human condition. There’s struggle for identity in each of these stories and that’s probably why I enjoyed reading it so much. Of course, like any collection of short stories, some are better than others, and some just stop when you desire more. Racism, sexism, the immigrant experience, sexual orientation, classism, religion, war, tradition and education are all beautifully captured here.