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[personal profile] yatima
(Content warning for child sexual abuse)

Samantha Irby is seriously funny in a way that, ironically, makes me frown and try to analyze exactly how she's pulling it off in such a sustained way. Part of it is that she is hashtag relatable as heck:

What I really wanted to do was pull a blanket over my head and listen to Pearl Jam’s No Code on repeat while eating snacks and pretending to be searching for myself all day (fuck, that’s all I want to fucking do now), but I couldn’t find anyone willing to pay for that shit.

Fifty out of the 168 hours of my week are spent mad because work is interfering with all the Internet articles I’m trying to read

Part of it is sheer discipline: tight writing with a point so sharp you almost won't feel it slide in.

You could tell how much the bride’s parents loved her by the quality of the food.

My parents, as I can’t stop reminding people, ARE DEAD.

So yeah, dizzying technical prowess and ferocious wit, but that's not even the thing. It's the writing on the deaths of her parents - unsparing, un-self-pitying - that will stay with you long after the last page. Get into Samantha Irby now, so that when she blows up into the megastar she's destined to be, you can say you knew her when.
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[personal profile] emma_in_dream
This collection of journalistic essays about life as second generation Lebanese Australians is really interesting. It would be great for a school library as the collection is accessibly written and eclectically covers a variety of topics.

My only quibble is that some of the essays are about the experiences of the authors while others are the result of interviews but the essays are not marked to show this distinction. It would be helpful if there was a header on each essay giving a very general overview of who was interviewed.
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[personal profile] sumofparts
I finished my second set of 50, yay and started a new set. Below are some thoughts on the books.

Remainder of second set:
39. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
40. A Gesture Life by Chang-rae Lee
41. Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice
42. Zone One by Colson Whitehead
43. The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
44. The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
45. Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai
46. Snakes and Ladders by Gita Mehta
47. The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee
48. Beijing Confidential by Jan Wong
49. Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre
50. Brick Lane by Monica Ali
New set:
1. Decoded by Jay-Z

Cut for length )
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[identity profile] sumofparts.livejournal.com
Haven't posted in a while. Here's a series of mini-reviews with some spoilers. Also, some of the books contain potentially triggering content.

6. Un-Nappily in Love by Trisha R. Thomas
7. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
8. Tracks by Louise Erdrich
9. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
10. Umbrella by Taro Yashima
11. Little Joy by Ruowen Wang
12. Why War is Never a Good Idea by Alice Walker
13. Erika-san by Allen Say
14. Dahanu Road by Anosh Irani
15. What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
16. The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez
17. In the Company of Ogres by A. Lee Martinez
18. Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez
19. Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez
20. Monster by A. Lee  Martinez
21. Certainty by Madeleine Thien
22. So Long Been Dreaming edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan
23. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
24. Too Many Curses by A. Lee Martinez
25. A Nameless Witch by A. Lee Martinez
26. A Person of Interest by Susan Choi
27. Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead

Mention (not counted)
Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren (white); illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (person of colour)

Read more... )
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[personal profile] sanguinity
18. Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche), Everything You Know About Indians Is Wrong.

Grab bag of Smith's essays, spanning fifteen years, and hell if I know how to summarize the collection. Some of these essays I've read before -- on the 'net, in other anthologies, or the previous time I sat down to read this book (so bad at finishing anthologies!) -- but here's an odd thing about reading one of his essays a second time: it's like a brand new essay. Any given essay of his tends to range wide in pursuit of his final point, and the parts that make me go "Ohhhh!" on the first go-round aren't necessarily the parts that make me go "Ohhhh!" on the second go-round.

A decent chunk of these are about Native art and artists -- Smith is a curator for the NMAI -- or no, not necessarily about the art itself, but about things that the art is about. Or not about. Or dialoguing with. (It really is that wide-open, because it's sometimes not until the final third of an essay that I'll realize that this is another one that he wrote for an exhibition catalog, and while the essay is about the topic I had thought it was about, it was also a preamble for introducing a particular set of artworks.) A few more essays are about the NMAI itself -- which is typically distinct from writing about art (except when it isn't). Several more are about movies (some about Indians, some by Indians). Others are about his time with AIM. Some are about Native intellectuals. And then you have the essays where he's writing about the AIM to explain about the NMAI, and so forth.

You see? I don't try to sum up, I just read. Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I mark something to quote later. Sometimes I grab my girlfriend's sleeve and make her listen to this one bit right here. And I'm guessing that the next time I read one of these essays, I'll note very different things altogether.

(Yeah, I, too, am convinced that I could have written a better review than that. But I don't think you can review it so much as quote it, and I'm not gonna back and pull a half-dozen quotes. Especially since when I tried, most of them were jokes that required a page and a half of set-up.)
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
13. Pico Iyer, Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East

I love travel books, and this is a fantastic one. Iyer visits several Asian countries (including India, China, Tibet, Burma, the Philippines, Bali, Thailand, Hong Kong, and probably a few more I'm forgetting) with the goal of seeing how they've been affected by Western pop culture and tourism. Iyer is quite good at describing places, and seems to have really made the effort to get to know local people and include their viewpoints.

This book is a bit out-of-date now (it was written in the early 80s), but to me that just added to the appeal. This is a China and Tibet newly opened to Westerners, a Hong Kong which is still a colony, Burma before it was Myanmar. So many of the places he visits no longer exist- at least, not as they did at the time- that it makes for an intriguing historical snapshot.

Iyer uses the 'Modern, Masculine West meets Traditional, Feminine East! However Will They Understand One Another?' trope a bit too much for my tastes, but you could easily skim those parts and focus on the descriptions of places and people, which are quite well-written. Recommended, and I'd love recs for other travel books, if you have a favorite!
[identity profile] alankria.livejournal.com
I'm way behind on posting here and, for various reasons, all but one of the following books are currently not in my possession - so these are pretty short reviews.

4. Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, Paper

The back made it sound wonderful: a scribe in central Asia searching for the perfect paper, while his town's location at a crossroads of travel and politics impacts upon his life. While it is about that, the execution is not as good as I'd hoped. A lot of time is given over to the Scribe's unhappy musings about his life and how he's just not capable of writing the perfect book. Events unfold sometimes slowly, sometimes offstage, with the overall effect of not particularly gripping me. Bahiyyih Nakhjavani's language is lovely in places and some of the characters are interesting, but I felt like the novel isn't quite as focused as it could have been: it muses, it tells, but it doesn't quite work. Certainly interesting, though, and I intend to re-read it sometime because I suspect there are layers to be found. Also there's a chronology of paper-related history at the back which is marvellous.

5. Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo & Erlinda Enriquez Panlilio, eds. Why I Travel and other essays by fourteen women

Now this was a find! It's a collection of travel essays by Filipina, with a section focusing on local destinations and another on international ones. A small section at the back considers the how of travel in particular; one my favourite essays is here, concerning how a wheelchair-bound woman has discovered that she shouldn't feel too limited by her situation, and she tells all about her adventures in a Moroccan souk on donkey-back and other experiences around the world, where the help of a few people has resulted in her having a fantastic time. The essays sometimes describe the places visited, sometimes dwell on personal history in that places (especially in the local section), and are almost all engaging and interesting.

6. Rattawut Lapcharoensap, Sightseeing

A collection of short stories by a Thai author. This means, crucially, that you're getting stories about Thailand as a complex and real place, not the magical land of golden temples and hookers often described by farang writers. Rattawut is concerned with the regular Thai person, not particularly wealthy, often in a perpetual balancing act just above poverty. He writes about a young boy's relationship with a Cambodian refugee whose now-dead father put all their wealth in her gold teeth; he writes about a young man whose mother is on the verge of going blind; he writes about a teenaged girl whose poor father is losing his cockfights to a rich bully, and the various consequences this has on their family; he writes about a wealthy teenaged boy dodging the draft while his poorer friend cannot; and so on. In some stories, the plot itself is not particularly innovative. The entire emotional arc of the draft-dodging story was predictable, for instance. But the way Rattawut writes allows you to really get into his characters' heads and understand their various decisions, so they are not distant or simple stories, and the Thailand he writes about is a difficult, interesting, complicated place. Definitely recommended, especially for readers of realist fiction or those interested in Thailand/SE Asia as depicted by a local.

7. Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red

Oh, My Name is Red, I did want to adore you. Those long beautiful passages on the nature of art and miniaturism and history are, in my opinion, worth the price of admission alone. (Especially if you, uh, got it for cheaps at an Indian pavement book stall.) Yet the characters are almost all un-captivating and parts of the plot progress strangely. A character is tortured and, within pages of the torture ending, decides that the man who gave the order is going to be his new mentor and father figure, and Pamuk spends the rest of the book telling us that they have a deep and meaningful bond. We're told a lot about characterisation in this book. I enjoyed reading about historic Istanbul (and I can't imagine the city under snow!) and, as I said, his tangents were divine, and parts of the murder plot were pretty interesting. Overall, though, a bit of a flawed package.

8. Githa Hariharan, When Dreams Travel

A novel about storytelling and storytellers, especially female, typically powerless ones. Hariharan takes the myth of Shahrzad and begins after it ended, with her sister Dunyazad returning to Shahrzad's palace to help her husband construct her tomb. Echoes of the Taj Mahal in its vast splendour and the Sultan's obsession and the consequences. Dunyazad and a scheming maidservant with a peculiarly hairy mole meet and share stories, including many of a hair-covered woman who was eventually ostracised by her community -- revolving around the possibility that Shahrzad escaped and they can too, from the entrapments of the old 1001 Night story and the present concerns of their lives. When Dreams Travel is a curious, meandering book, beautifully written.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
9. Gita Mehta, Snakes and Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India

Snakes and Ladders is a book of short essays (very short; I'd guess the average was three pages) on the modern history of India, written to celebrate the country's fifty anniversary in 1997. If you don't know anything about modern India, I think this would be a great place to start. If you already are familiar with the topic, this is probably not really the book for you, although it is certainly written in a very engaging style.

My favorite essays were the ones that didn't deal with history or politics at all, but recounted personal moments from Mehta's own life: how her mother was out at a club at 3am, dancing the foxtrot and the tango, when she went into labor to have Gita; the effect on her parents' marriage of their involvement in the Freedom Movement; how she grew up with a love of reading, thanks to the booksellers of Calcutta.

Recommended as a lighthearted but educational read.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
4. Elif Batuman, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People who Read Them

Elif Batuman, a Turkish-American woman who wants to grow up to become a writer, instead somehow finds herself getting a PhD in Russian literature. This collection of essays is about her graduate school experience (including endless questions on why she studies Russian literature instead of Turkish). Each of the essays focus on a particular moment in her studies: the trauma of attempting to help step up and run a conference, attending the quite strange International Tolstoy Conference in Russia despite the airline having lost her luggage, writing a paper on an ice palace in St. Petersburg, her relationship with another student. It's a very funny book, although unfortunately the essays don't hang together very well, and there's no sort of overall narrative. My favorite parts were the strange people she had to deal with, many of whom will probably sound familiar to anyone who has had to deal with academics.

In my opinion, the best essays were those dealing with the summer Batuman lived in Uzbekistan, in order to learn the language. You see, at her school PhD students are required to teach Russian 101 to undergraduates. However, as one of the few students who is not a native Russian speaker, Batuman is afraid to take on teaching this class, convinced that she'll make too many mistakes. So when she hears about an opportunity to teach Uzbek instead, she goes for it. Of course, she doesn't speak Uzbek, but neither does anyone else at the school, so they won't know if she messes up. And so she heads off to Uzbekistan for the summer. As you could probably guess, it does not work out as she expected.

A very funny book, although fairly forgettable. A fun read.
[identity profile] fiction-theory.livejournal.com

Title: Snakes And Ladders: Glimpses of Modern India
Author: Gita Mehta
Genre: Nonfiction
Page Count: 297
Publisher: Anchor Books

Reviewer's Note: In case anyone actually cares, I no longer link books to Amazon as I once did, but to Barnes & Noble. And as always, if any part or the whole of this review is inappropriate I will edit or delete it immediately at the moderator's request.

Review: Snakes and Ladders by Gita Mehta )
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[personal profile] sanguinity
13. K. Tempest Bradford, "Until Forgiveness Comes."

As Tempest discusses here, this is inspired by, and commentary on, the anniversary ceremony conducted at Ground Zero. As a west-coaster, I am disinclined to make much comment, except to say that Tempest hits themes that matter to me very much.

14. June Jordan, "The Difficult Miracle of Black Poetry in America: Something Like a Sonnet for Phillis Wheatley."

Creative nonfic -- plus something like a sonnet! -- that serves as both a biography of and an ode to Phillis Wheatley, firmly positioning her as "the first" in the "not natural" enterprise of Black poetry in America: the first to negotiate the "difficult miracle" of persisting, regardless of being published, regardless of being loved.

I had never realized, until Jordan pointed it out, that Wheatley's surviving poems are juvenilia, written while she was enslaved and with the blessing and patronage of her owners; the poetry she wrote as a free adult, married to a law student who argued for universal emancipation, was never published. Jordan then draws the line forward to 1985 (the year of this essay's publication), to judging poetry prizes where all of the finalists are white:
But the miracle of Black poetry in America, the difficult miracle of Black poetry in America, is that we have been rejected and we are frequently dismissed as “political” or “topical” or “sloganeering” and “crude” and ‘insignificant” because, like Phillis Wheatley, we have persisted for freedom. We will write against South Africa and we will seldom pen a poem about wild geese flying over Prague, or grizzlies at the rain barrel under the dwarf willow trees. We will write, published or not, however we may, like Phillis Wheatley, of the terror and the hungering and the quandaries of our African lives on this North American soil. And as long as we study white literature, as long as we assimilate the English language and its implicit English values, as long as we allude and defer to gods we “neither sought nor knew,” as long as we, Black poets in America, remain the children of slavery, as long as we do not come of age and attempt, then to speak the truth of our difficult maturity in an alien place, then we will be beloved, and sheltered, and published.

But not otherwise. And yet we persist.

And it was not natural. And she was the first.
[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
#25. This Bridge Called My Back, ed. Cherríe Moraga & Gloria Anzaldúa
1981/'83, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press

This is another book that is so full of... ideas and thinking and newness, and that has so many visions and so much emotion in it, and that contains both so much I can identify with and so much that seems deeply foreign -- I don't mean only the experiences and attitudes of the women who wrote it, but also, which is harder for me to assimilate, the lens through which they view the world: the moment of history, cultural and political, in which thy formulated these ideas and these manifestoes -- that I feel overwhelmed when I try to think about posting a review of it.

But I also feel kind of like a coward for backing out of reviewing it. What to do? I think I will let it simmer for a while. I may also read the much more recent companion book to it (this bridge we call home, used, I see, as an icon for this group ;), and see if that helps me understand, and bridge the thirty years of historical difference between these women and me.

[tags I would add if I could: assimilation, sociology, spirituality [or: religion/spirituality], puerto rican, a: morales rosario, a: rushin donna kate, a: wong nellie, a: lee mary hope, a: littlebear naomi, a: lim genny, a: yamada mitsuye, a: valerio anita, a: cameron barbara, a: levins morales anita, a: carillo jo, a: daniels gabrielle, a: moschkovich judit, a: davenport doris, a: gossett hattie, a: smith barbara, a: smith beverly, a: clarke cheryl, a: noda barbara, a: woo merle, a: quintanales mirtha, a: anzaldua gloria, a: alarcon norma, a: combahee river collective, a: canaan andrea, a: parker pat] 

(Also, apropos of nothing: Whoo! Halfway through! This book feels like an appropriate one for that milestone.)

[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
16. Octavia Butler, Bloodchild

This is a book of short stories and essays. I'd never read anything by Butler before, though I know she's very popular, and a book of short stories seemed a good place to start (well, and also the book was sitting right there on the shelf looking at me when I was checking out at the library). The stories are science-fiction, though they range from very similar to the real world (a drug for cancer causes a disease in the children of the people who took it) to very, very different (humans live in a few encampments on a world controlled by giant centipede-like aliens). Unexpectedly, I discovered that I'd actually read two of the stories before, though I have no idea where I would have come across them, since I don't read short stories often. Regardless, they were both excellent, and I was glad to rediscover them. The essays are mostly advice for writers, with one about Butler's own experiences as a science-fiction fan and trying to become a published author.

I really enjoyed this book, and will definitely be reading more of Butler in the future. A lot of people have described her as depressing, but I didn't find these stories to be. Dark, yes, involving people in very bad places, yes, but there always seemed to be a certain... belief in humanity? Or at least in its potential? Not quite sure how to describe what I mean, but these stories didn't come off as depressing to me.

two books

May. 14th, 2009 03:32 pm
[identity profile] afterannabel.livejournal.com
1) The Flying Camel: Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage by Loolwa Khazzoom (Editor)

Before reading this I knew very little about Jews who did not identify as Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Mizrahi, and had only recently been made aware of their existence. It was really illuminating to read the stories of women who, according to many people, aren't "real" Jews because of the color of their skin, where they were born, and/or where their parents were born. One Amazon reviewer said that it was a bunch of women complaining about discrimination but, while accounts of discrimination are certainly part of many of their stories, I think this book is more about the personal search for community and identity. Trying to find a cultural understanding of Jewishness that more than makes room for people from India, Egypt, Libya, etc. but goes so far as to make them feel not marginalized.

2) For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange

I'm embarrassed I didn't pick this up years ago. The format was not what I was expecting, I didn't anticipate stage directions. Overall I found it really powerful. I feel like anything more I could say would be taking away from it somehow, or not doing it justice.

[identity profile] brooklynmili.livejournal.com
Hi! This is my first post; my goal for my reading is *not* to make all of the books I read by people of color this year by/about Arab-Americans. It would be an easy out, since I'm writing my dissertation about the Arab community in New York, so I'm going to try my best to make it more diverse than that.

1. The Hakawati - Rabih Alameddine

Queer multi-narrative novel set in, among other places, Lebanon... )

2. The Uncultured Wars: Arabs, Muslims, and the Poverty of Liberal Thought - Steven Salaita

Essays on Arabs and Liberal Movements and Politics in the US )


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