kaberett: A drawing of a black woman holding her right hand, minus a ring finger, in front of her face. "Oh, that. I cut it  off." (molly - cut it off)
[personal profile] kaberett
This came into my possession via the latest Humble Ebook Bundle, and I am so glad it did. This is how glad I am: I am about two-thirds of the way through it and I can't wait to finish before I tell you all how good it is.

The protagonist, Hanna, is sixteen, manic depressive (and explicitly, canonically prefers that descriptor to "bipolar", Because Reasons), and Finnish-"island girl" (Hawaiian?), raised (for most of her life) in Dallas. She describes herself as biracial and bicultural, and she's bilingual in English and Finnish - and the codeswitching is genuinely plausibly represented.

The dude she ends up hanging around with a lot is the same age, Latino, and bilingual in Spanish and English - again, really nicely represented.

The story takes place in creepy smalltown Texas. It's sub/urban fantasy and abusive parents and a critique of the medical-industrial complex and teenagers having (complicated, not always happy) sex lives all tied up in tight, funny monster-killing brilliance. It's lovely.

Content notes. )
[identity profile] emma-in-oz.livejournal.com
2.29 Larissa Behrendt, Home: A Novel (2004)

Here's another from Anita Heiss' list of her top 100 (or rather 99) Indigenous books - http://anitaheissblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/anitas-bbc-black-book-choice-reading.html

I really really liked this novel. It begins in 1995 with a young, Indigenous lawyer visiting the lands from which her grandmother was taken. It then flashes back in time to 1918 when she was taken as part of the Stolen Generation and has different chapters on the lives of her descendants.

Not only is it an interesting conceit but it is very well written. There's a great line about her relationship with her white, French boyfriend - there is 'nothing between us but skin'.

It's the winner of the David Unaipon Award for Indigenous writers.
[identity profile] atdelphi.livejournal.com
4. The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1996)

In three related novellas, The Jade Peony relates the experiences of a trio of siblings growing up in Vancouver's Chinatown in the 1930s and 40s. The result is simply one of the best books I have ever read.

Choy's writing is beautiful, and his characterization is at once perceptive and unflinching but also endlessly sympathetic. Usually in pieced work stories like this, at least one narrative falls flat, but I enjoyed and was impressed by all three sections equally: the story of Jook-Liang, who wants to be like Shirley Temple and who forms an unlikely friendship with an elderly family friend; Jung-Sum, who grapples with the past regarding his first family, and with the future regarding his sexuality; Sekky, who more than anyone deals with the blurring lines between Chinese and Canadian, home and away, and friend and foe; and, in the corners of the children's narratives, the story of their parents and grandmother.

I can't recommend this book enough to anyone who likes coming of age stories, and I'm looking forward to reading more of Choy's work.
[identity profile] atdelphi.livejournal.com
3. The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2008)

Sammy Chan, the protagonist of The End of East, is newly returned to Vancouver, having left behind a boyfriend and thesis in Montreal in order to look after her widowed mother. Soon after, she discovers some papers belonging to her late grandfather, and the story begins to weave in and out of the past, looking at the lives of Sammy's parents and grandparents, the family's relationship with Chinatown, and the way familial bonds are both borne as burdens and desperately sought.

I have a general rule about stories featuring dysfunctional families: I already have one of those, so if I'm going to read about an imaginary one, there had better be something more going on than "Tsk, isn't that awful?" Jen Sookfong Lee does some interesting things with distance in this book (Sammy's point of view is so immediate that it may be difficult to have any idea what's really going on with her, but her family is presented from afar, so objectively that emotion may be blunted), and there are individual scenes that are written beautifully and subtly, but on the whole, this story felt underdeveloped and needlessly episodic to me, and too familiarly bleak and brittle for me to enjoy on an aesthetic level.

This is the author's debut novel, and based on the things I did like about her writing here, I would pick up one of her subsequent works, but I wouldn't be interested in re-reading The End of East.

Additional note: For those who look to avoid such content, The End of East contains a fairly graphic and sudden rape scene.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
2. Sarita Mandanna, Tiger Hills

Devi is a beautiful, strong-willed young girl, growing up in Coorg, a rural, mountainous area of South India, in the late 1800s. She's in love with Machu, a warrior famous for having killed a tiger single-handedly. Devanna, Machu's younger cousin, is a quiet, intelligent boy, studying to be a doctor, who's in love with Devi. As you might expect, things don't turn out well.

This novel has some beautiful descriptions of scenery (apparently Coorg- spelled Kodagu today- is known as 'the Scotland of India'), but the plot is a bit over-the-top, with tragedy following tragedy. I enjoyed reading to pass the time on a long bus trip, but I'm not sure I can genuinely recommend it, unless you're looking for something to read that won't require a lot of thought.
[identity profile] veleda-k.livejournal.com
I swore I wouldn't get behind this year, and look at this. I'm already lagging. I suck at New Years resolutions.

#2: The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino (translated by Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander)

The Devotion of Suspect X )

#3: Villain by Shuichi Yoshida (translated by Philip Gabriel)

Villain )

#4: The Other Side of Paradise: a Memoir by Staceyann Chin

The Other Side of Paradise )
[identity profile] cyphomandra.livejournal.com
I borrowed all of these from the library, but they don't have a lot else in common - the first is a YA, coming of age (or responsibility) novel, set in contemporary Pakistan; the second, a literary novel that mixes general and personal histories to create various identities (in families, in cultures, in racial/ethnic groups); and the third is a satire, sharp and uncomfortable. More details follow - spoilers, definitely, for the first book, and the second two I talk about how I felt about the endings, although am hopefully vague enough about actual events.

Amjed Qamar, Beneath my mother's feet. )

Hsu-Ming Teo, Love and Vertigo. )

Colson Whitehead, Apex hides the hurt. )
[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
 #30. Luba: The Book of Ofelia (Vol. 2 in the Luba trilogy; Vol. 21 in the Complete Love & Rockets)

2005 (material originally published 1998-2005), Fantagraphics Books

Warning: Long and obsessive plot details ahead!  This is a crazy long book -- 240 pages -- and incredibly dense, for a graphic novel.  Also, the storytelling modalities are highly refined and self-referential, full of interweaving, flashback and allusion; and also it's Part 2 of a three-part series-within-a-series.  So I take these reviews as an opportunity to parse the plot, to assure myself that I've actually followed what the hell is going on.

So!  This is the second part of Gilbert ("Beto") Hernandez's trilogy about the latest adventures of Luba, his protagonist, in America.  (For basics about Luba, you can see my earlier post about the previous book in this series.)

At this point in time, Luba and her children are in the United States, but her husband Khamo is stuck in immigration limbo.  Luba continues her quest to figure out what she must -- or can -- do in order to untangle his shady past, police record, and hazy criminal associations, so that she can bring him to join them.  (Like most of Luba's accomplishments, this is not really hindered -- and is perhaps made more impressive -- by that fact that, like some of the other main characters living in the United States, she still can't speak a word of English.)


Much of this section's narrative mechanics is fueled by the announcement that Ofelia, Luba's long-suffering older cousin, has decided to finally try being the writer she has always wanted to be.  This in-progress "book of Ofelia" gives, perhaps, the collection its title, although the phrasing also seems to imply (in its Biblical cadence) that she is instead the main subject of the book.  (Except that she isn't, really; she's not present throughout.  I keep thinking about the way that, in Spanish -- as I think I understand it, anyway -- this phrase, "el libro de Ofelia," does not make a distinction between the book *by* Ofelia and the book *about* her.  So this book, perhaps, is both.)


(On that note: one other thing I like is how much of the book's dialogue and internal thought-monologues are in Spanish.  The switches back and forth are frequent but consistent: the Latin American-born children tend to speak in fluent English to each other, but use Spanish with their parents, and to think in it when introspection is called for; the American-born children and adults think in English, although they frequently and fluently use Spanish with their relations.  Hernandez indicates the switches with the widely used comics convention of putting the "second-language" dialogue within brackets (and, in this book, some double-bracketing for other languages, like French).  When Hernandez' stories were set entirely in the Central American village from which many of the characters hail, he used to just put a note at the bottom of the first page that everything was in Spanish unless otherwise indicated -- a convention that Jaime has also sometimes used, e.g. in stories set among recent immigrants and jornalero workers -- but now that they've migrated to America, there's a lot more use of both tongues.)


So.  What's happening in the Book of Ofelia?



Obsessive plot details! Avoid if you fear spoilers! )


[Tags I'd like to add: a: hernandez gilbert, i: hernandez gilbert, california, children [*not* "children's"], magic realism, disability, meta-literature]

[identity profile] anitabuchan.livejournal.com
19. Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley

I didn't expect to like this, as normally I can't stand 'poor little rich girl' stories. I think the difference here is that I couldn't help liking Syrah, the main character. She wasn't self-pitying, and didn't sit around waiting for someone else to come and fix her life. Her problems were the type that I think most could relate to - family, weight, boyfriend, friends, and the loss of something she loved (snowboarding, after an accident).

I liked that all the characters ended up quite complex, even if some of them started out seeming stereotypical. I also very much liked the ending, although I don't want to spoil it! And finally, I liked how Headley handled issues like gender and weight - Syrah wasn't made happy by succeeding in losing weight, she became happy when she gave up dieting and started to enjoy food.

20. Lucy the Giant by Sherri L. Smith

Another book about a teenage girl with family problems :). But very, very different. Lucy's father is an alcoholic, and she is driven to run away. Her height (over 6 foot) means she is taken as an adult - something she takes advantage of by joining a crabbing boat.

I loved this. It was very emotional, reading as Lucy learnt what normal life was like for most people - from the big things, like having someone care for them, to little things, like learning that most people don't leave money lying out in the open. Of course, in the end the boat crew she's joined discover her real age. They reacted the way you'd imagine, but even so, this has a happy (or at least hopeful) ending. It made me cry, so if you feel like a depressing but hopeful read, I recommend this!
[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
 #28.  Skim, Mariko Tamaki (writing) and Jillian Tamaki (art)
2008, Groundwood Books

Another book that I found through reviews on this comm.   (Thanks again to all of you: you keep leading me to wonderful books.)

I enjoyed the book for many of the same reasons others did, especially those mentioned by [livejournal.com profile] kyuuketsukirui[livejournal.com profile] sanguinity and [Bad username or unknown identity: puritybrown .]   As regards the art style, I also loved, as someone else mentioned, that it clearly evokes Japanese aesthetics and the Japanese artistic tradition... but the influences it draws on are not manga.  There's something about that, especially given the often troubling aspects of gender representation in mainstream manga (I'm thinking of exaggerated gender dimorphism, neoteny, and hypersexualization), that I found profoundly refreshing and even kind of inspiring.

Very highly recommended.  I'm putting Mariko Tamaki's other graphic work, Emiko Superstar, on my to-read list, and I'd love to see other work from Jillian Tamaki.  (Actually... let's see.  Her website is here, there's an interesting illustrated interview with her here, and I see mention of a 2006 book called Gilded Lilies.  Has anyone read it?)

[Tags I would add if I could: spirituality (or: religion/spirituality), high school]

Hey, by the way: [Bad username or unknown identity: puritybrown , ]did you ever send the Tamakis that fan letter?

[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
#26. Luba in America (Vol. 1 of the Luba Trilogy), by Gilbert Hernandez
2001 (material originally published 1998-2000), Fantagraphics Books

Ha!  Man, I just never stop referencing myself, do I?  (Well, well: the internet wouldn't be as much fun if it weren't so easy to be intertextual.)

This is the third Love & Rockets book I'm reviewing, since I am indulging in a catch-up binge on my favorite comics series after years of only-sporadic reading.  The first two I reviewed were by Jaime Hernandez, the half of the Hernandez brothers whose work I consistently adore. Luba in America, by contrast, is by Gilbert Hernandez, whose stories, characters, style and subjects are quite different.  In an earlier post I discussed my feelings about Gilbert's work, including and especially my ambivalence about his increasingly sexual and sexualizing vision of his female characters' lives.  

But, heh, Gilbert was also a bold, compassionate and masterful storyteller at one time, and perhaps is still.  If his "weird id display" (as a previous commenter called it) doesn't put you off, there is still a lot of story to admire.  So here I am: taking a careful breath, and plunging into the now-complete "Luba trilogy" to see what Gilbert has recently been up to.

Venga conmigo! )
[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
#20[b]: A Right to Be Hostile: The Boondocks Treasury, Aaron McGruder
2003, Three Rivers Press

This is hilarious. I remember reading The Boondocks on and off while it was running in newspapers (more off than on; I was moving around a lot and not all my papers carried it), and I remember being sometimes impressed but often lukewarm on it. I remember formulating the impression that it was presumably the strip's controversy value and what Amazon somewhat coyly calls its "notoriety" that made it such a big success. (What "notoriety" means here is, among other things, visibly black characters talking about visible black issues, often with no white people in sight(!), and, with enormous daring, going so far as to claim the aforementioned right to be hostile. In America's newspapers! In the funny pages!)

Anyway, reading this compilation, I'm forced to dramatically revise my opinion. This is fabulous stuff. McGruder's incisiveness, cutting wit, characterization and sense of timing are often nothing short of brilliant. The strip really does bring to mind the eminent predecessors McGruder cites as influences in the foreword (Trudeau, Watterson, Breathed). (All of which leaves me unsure why I didn't find the strip quite so awesome at the time, except that it does come to mind that collections allow authors the luxury of picking and choosing; McGruder may have wisely left out a lot of duds. ;)

Anyway. What is awesome about this strip?  Let me tell you! )

[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com

 #23.  Bayou, Vol. 1,  Jeremy Love (writer, illustrator) with Patrick Morgan (colors)
2009, Gettosake and ZudaComics.com (online), D.C. Comics (print version)

A shoutout to [info] 
chipmunk_planet for posting about this book back in June.  This is the first -- and, I know, not the last -- book I've discovered via this comm that I would have overlooked otherwise, and which I found absolutely amazing

Bayou is an incredibly creepy, graphically startling work of deepest [Black] Southern Gothic, set in rural Mississippi in the 1930s and featuring as hero the courageous young daughter of a sharecropper.    

All by itself, that premise would make it kind of remarkable: heroic little girls are in markedly short supply in the comics, much less poor, ragged black ones.  The ambition and underlying coherence of this comic's vision, and the graphic aplomb with which it is executed, make it downright astonishing.  I am really impressed by Bayou.  My only serious complaint about the print version is that this "Volume 1" is really not complete; the story is published serially online, at ZudaComics.com (under the aegis of D.C. Comics), and although this book collection heralds itself as "the first four chapters of the critically acclaimed webcomic series," it doesn't end with much closure -- the author was clearly not planning these chapters to be a self-contained story arc.  (That said, it just drove me online to see What Happened Next. :)
 You can read it online, too (if you have a fast enough connection...)

More about the story... )

[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
#22. Good as Lily, by Derek Kirk Kim (writer) and Jesse Hamm (illustrator)
Marvel Comics (Minx imprint), 2007

I ordered this book from the library on the strength of the short-story collection The Eternal Smile (reviewed in a previous post), the 2009 collaboration between Derek Kirk Kim and Gene Luen Yang. I have already had a taste of Yang's solo work (in American Born Chinese), and I liked The Eternal Smile well enough that I became eager to check out Kim's solo work as well. So I asked the library for Same Difference and Other Stories, which is Kim's debut collection, published in 2003; and Good as Lily, which is a graphic novel published in 2007 by Marvel's short-lived Minx line for tween girls. (AAARGGH I HATE THAT NAME.)

Anyway. Good As Lily isn't bad, although I don't like it as much as Kim's earlier book (for reasons I will elucidate). Here's why... )

All in all a very interesting book, one of the more successful pieces I've seen from the Minx line. (I STILL HATE THAT NAME! And I can't help being glad they got served for it. ;)

[Tags I wish I could add: i: hamm jesse, coming of age, california, magic realism.]
[identity profile] sairaali.livejournal.com
I'm awful at doing writeups, so this list has just been sitting on my desktop for ages making me feel guilty for not doing writeups.

Soo, I will just put the list up with brief one-liners on whether I liked it or not, and I'd be happy to discuss more in comments.

5) Silver Pheonix by Cindy Pon
Fantasy, adventure, romance, dragons, goddesses, intrigue! What's not to love?

6) Bodies in Motion by Maryanne Mohanraj
This is more of a series of interrelated short stories than a novel. The stories follow three generations of two families who immigrate from Sri Lanka to the US. It portrays a mix of different immigrant experiences, although nearly all of the characters are solidly middle or upper-middle class. The style is very ethereal and dreamy.

7) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
This has been reviewed here a million times. I enjoyed it, but found the casual sexism a bit grating.

8) My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson
If I thought Oscar Wao had a few problematic scenes wrt to gender, holy wow, it was nothing compared to this. Neither the narrator nor any of the characters question the basic assumption that a woman needs a man to love her and that only a domineering man could possibly handle loving a strong independent woman. The story itself was well crafted and tightly written, but I couldn't get past the sexism.

9) Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor
Love! A young girl with the ability to speak to shadows struggles with her community's distrust and fear of female Shadow Speakers, a result of her estranged father's dictatorial and regressive policies. When her father is publicly beheaded, her world is turned inside out, and she embarks on a quest of self-discovery that takes her far away from home, during which she discovers a major military plot against her home.

Girls with cat eyes! Talking camels! Magic plants that grow into houses! A girl meets a strange orphan boy with his own powers and secrets on her quest without a queasy romance subplot being introduced! Again, what's not to love?

10)And the World Changed: Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women Ed: Muneez Shamshie
Definitely would recommend this. Like any anthology, some of the stories are so-so, some are fantastic.

And I know this comm is focused on books by POC, but I know there are a bunch of SFF fans here and I'd like to make some anti-recs. I found the following books at the $1 ARC sale at Wiscon, and I suggest giving them all a miss for skeevy race issues.
Stone Voice Rising by C Lee Tocci - pseudo-Natives with magic powers just for being Native, and also misappropriational mishmash of at least six different tribes' religious beliefs, that I could recognize. Kokopelli become Popokelli, a demented fae creature who betrays his species and sells out to the (literal) Devil.
Kop and Ex-Kop by Warren Hammond - Locals on a backwater economically depressed planet are being murdered by a serial killer from the orbiting space station, which has technology centuries advanced of what is available planetside. Oh and incidentally, all the space dwellers have perfect milky white skin and the planet dwellers are all dark. Bleck.
[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
21. !Ask a Mexican!, Gustavo Arellano
2007, Scribner

I actually finished this book months ago, but I couldn't figure out what to say about it.  I guess I still can't, really.  There are some things I really like about this book, and some things I find very disappointing, so I guess I'll just talk about that.

The book is centrally made up of a collection of columns by Arellano, who writes a kind-of-advice column for the OC [Orange County, CA] Weekly, whose putative mission is to answer questions from clueless gabachos (white people) about Mexican culture and mores.  That's a part of the country where many Mexican immigrants and their Mexican-American descendants live side-by-side with white (and other) Americans, and where there seems to be a virulent ongoing culture clash, fueled in part by arguments about immigration policy and illegal immigration, and in part by the stuff that fuels any culture clash (confusion, fear, tribalism, bigotry, language barriers, racism, and all the rest of that awesome stuff).   So tensions can run high there, and if one can judge by the tone of the questions The Mexican gets asked -- if even one-third of them are actual questions written in by actual white Californians -- there are lots of people who are happy to let their racism just hang out.

Given that background, I admire Arellano's "straight-talk" approach, which deals candidly with insults, epithets, stereotypes and racist language, in order to talk about them.  Wab and gabacho (insulting words for "Mexican" and "white person" respectively) are frequent in the column.  Questions like "Why do Mexicans have so many fucking kids?", "Why do ghetto-poor people spend money on their trucks instead of their families?," "Why do your women insist on wearing low-riding jeans with their fat bellies spilling out?," or "Why don't you illegal immigrants have enough respect for the United States to learn English?" -- these questions get serious answers.  Arellano doesn't spend a lot of time berating anyone for intolerance or racism; the premise seems to be that the racism is obviously there, that's the ground-zero starting point, so let's talk about the actual questions.  He maintains his dignity by addressing his interlocutors in the same tone -- which is not particularly polite -- but the answers often have a lot of actual content: Arellano talks about cultural, social, and historical issues and themes in Mexican culture, and frequently quotes sociological studies and government demographic data (Arellano has an MA in sociology).  That's presumably the aspect of his approach that merited the cover blurb from the L.A. Times, "A sassy mix of Lenny Bruce rant and civil rights manual."  For my part, it reminds me of the early days of Dan Savage's "Savage Love" sex-advice column, when he invited -- nay, demanded -- that his interlocutors address him as "Hey, Faggot!"  The theory again being: we both know you have private opinions about me, so let's get it all out there up front so that it won't become the subtext to the rest of our conversation.

I was disappointed, though, by some aspects of Arellano's answers.  For one thing, he doesn't always address the actual question asked: sometimes you can see him quickly veering the discussion around to fit in with something he apparently really wants to quote or write about that day.  That's not great advice-columnist manners, I think: dude, it's not all about you.  Also, some issues that questioners bring up he just kind of fails to deal with.  The ones that were of most interest to me -- where I happened to notice him falling down or just evading, over and over again -- were the ones that had to do with ingrained gender inequality in Mexican culture, and the ones relating to homosexual behavior and attitudes toward it.  He just kind of evades, man, over and over again -- and every now and then he says something that's just concretely insulting.  "As for the Mexican women being sultry and spicy -- that's all documentary, baby."  "Any man who breaks the shackles of propriety and... grabs his crotch is the kind of immigrant we want... Wolf-whistling Mexican men are our modern pioneers, and gabachas are their new frontier, their virgin soil."  "As for our young men's current fascination with pansy-ass K-Swiss sneakers and the color pink... blame metrosexuality, the biggest threat to machismo since the two-income household."  You know what, man, fuck you, too.

That said, I did learn a lot from this book.  One of the most interesting parts are the longer "investigation" pieces Arellano wrote for the book, and includes at the end of each chapter.  A lot of them include discussions with currently living-illegal Mexican immigrants about issues like living on a tiny budget or doing jornalero work (manual day labor).  The most amazing one, for me, is undoubtedly the ten-page essay on the huge Mexican and Mexican-American fan base of Morrissey.  (Yes, Morrissey, the fey, depressive Englishman, who remains sexually ambiguous decades after it's stopped being cool.  THAT GUY.  Morrissey and Mexicans?  I would never, in a thousand years, have guessed that one.)

So anyway.  As you can see, this book gave me quite a lot to think about. 

Below is a short sampling from it, to give an idea of Arellano's style:

Q: "Why are Mexicans known as greasers?  Is it because they spread rancid lard from their dirty kitchens all over themselves after bathing instead of baby oil or cologne the way clean, civilized Anglos do?"

Dear Gabacho: Mira, güey [Look, man], the only grease we put on ourselves is the Three Flowers brilliantine Mexican men use to lacquer up their hair to a shine so intense astronomers frequently mistake the reflection off our heads for the Andromeda Galaxy.  That puts us in brotherhood with the 1950s gabacho rebels whom mainstream society also denigrated as greasers.  But the reason greaser maintains such staying power as an epithet against Mexicans -- etymologists date its origins to the 1830s -- is because it refers to, as you correctly imply, our diet. Sociologist Irving Lewis Allen devotes a chapter in his 1990 compendium of linguistic essays... [Etc.]
[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
18. Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat
Vintage, 1994

Another writer who's long been on my to-read list.  Breath, Eyes, Memory is Danticat's first novel; it chronicles part of a girlhood in Haiti, the experience of moving to New York to rejoin her mother, and, later, as an adult and young mother, returning to Haiti to see her aunt and grandmother again.

As a novel, the book is very loosely plotted; it has a number of characteristic first-novel traits, including a certain uncertainty about its direction and themes, and some clumsiness in construction.  But Danticat is a good writer -- not yet skilled, here, but good -- and the kind of writer I like: the uncertainty usually doesn't lead to contrivedness, but lends an honest ear to mystery; it is seeking rather than trying to make things clean.

I found the book's heavy use of (snippets of) Haitian Creole very interesting -- I know French well, so parsing the meaning and looking up words and phrases was very cool -- and was moved and troubled by the book's exploration of the "virgnity cult" with which the generations of Haitian women in the book are so obsessed, trying to preserve their daughters' 'purity' in ways that seem shocking and violent to a reader like me.  Also -- and I don't know whether or not this was deliberate -- I find the evocations of daily life in Haiti extraordinarily illuminating, not so much for the descriptions of weather, customs, flora and food (although those are there) but for the differences between its material culture and my own.  Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere (a fact I looked up, not a point underlined in the book), and the ordinary people in this book do not have things surrounding them in the way that Americans do.  They live in houses with one room and one bed, they have outhouses and outdoor firepits, they cook their food in banana leaves, they sleep on the same mat they use to pile their beans to sell at market.  They walk miles in the dark to save fare on the collective taxis.  I don't think they have electricity; they light lanterns after dark.  All these things are normal to the narrator, and, I guess, to the people as well, but they are amazing, collectively, to a reader like me, at least when paying attention.

Summary: I like Danticat, and her lyricism; I like the odd, bold, lyrical, very unusual title of this book.  Any recommendations for other, later works of hers?


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