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"Welcome to the Middle-Aged Orphans Club," writes Sherman Alexie, and as a middle-aged orphan myself, I did feel welcome, and seen, and understood. In July, Alexie cancelled part of his book tour because of complicated grief and being haunted by his late mother: "I don’t believe in ghosts," he writes. "But I see them all the time." Me too, brother.

Like Bad Indians, this is an intricate quilt of a book, part memoir, part poem, part dream. It's hard to imagine how it could be otherwise. The loss of a parent is a loss of meaning. For indigenous people, this is doubly true. Lillian Alexie was one of the last fluent speakers of Salish. Her death robs her son, and the world, of an entire universe.

This book, like Hawking radiation, is an almost-undetectable glow of meaning escaping from a black hole. If you haven't lost a parent yet it might be too much to bear, but if you have, it might feel like joining a group of survivors around a campfire after a catastrophe.

IN AUGUST 2015, as a huge forest fire burned on my reservation, as it burned within feet of the abandoned uranium mine, the United States government sent a representative to conduct a town hall to address the growing concerns and fears. My sister texted me the play-by-play of the meeting. “OMG!” she texted. “The government guy just said the USA doesn’t believe the forest fire presents a serious danger to the Spokane Indian community, even if the fire burns right through the uranium mine.”

...“Is the air okay?” I texted. “It hurts a little to breathe,” my sister texted back. “But we’re okay.” Jesus, I thought, is there a better and more succinct definition of grief than It hurts a little to breathe, but we’re okay?
[identity profile] ms-mmelissa.livejournal.com
Maya Angelou is best known for her first autobiography, the groundbreaking I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which chronicles her early childhood before breaking off abruptly when she's seventeen. Gather Together in My Name picks up a short while after her last book broke off and chronicles Maya's early forays into adulthood. 

I enjoyed Gather Together in My Name a great deal more than its predecessor. The work has received criticism for its looser structure; Marguerite stumbles in and out of jobs with regularity and falls in and out of love with men at the drop of the hat. This doesn't provide for a great, over-arching narrative, but then life seldom does, and this chaotic period of Maya Angelou's life (from about 17 to 19) seems to demand a less formal structure. 

Angelou was purportedly hesitant to write about this period in her life and after reading the book it's easy to see why. Already a young mother at this point in her life, Angelou also spent this time period making forays into prostitution, both as prostitute and pimp, while remaining stunningly naive about the world around her and her own actions. Some of the most powerful moments of the book can be found in these passages; Angelou is at her best when she is speaking from the voice of teenage Marguerite, outlining her own beliefs and showing the reader how a headstrong girl who believed she was jaded and world-weary was repeatedly fooled by her own naiveté. However, Angelou was writing this at a point in her life where she was no longer a naive spirited girl, but a savvy woman and the voice of that woman occasionally emerges, to the book's detriment. In an early scene Marguerite goes to the home of a lesbian couple simply to show how laissez-faire and grown up she is. As the two begin to kiss in front of her Marguerite is overcome with revulsion and disgust, which Angelou promptly excuses as the bias and hatred of an ignorant girl repeating the prejudices of the world around her. The authorial intrusion is a rare mis-step in a work that is fearless in its refusal to apologize for its narrator. 
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[personal profile] pauraque
(Full book title doesn't fit in the subject; it is The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male.)

Note: Max Valerio is the same person as Anita Valerio, as published in This Bridge Called My Back, which I know has been reviewed here. It would be nice if we could easily find all his works together through the tagging system, but I can't think of a way to do that without misgendering him. Any thoughts?

Max Valerio is a trans man (like me) who spent many years living in San Francisco (where I'm from). You might think there'd be a lot in his memoir that I could relate to, but for the most part you'd be wrong.

Oh, there is some. His portrait of the life and atmosphere of San Francisco in the 90s is pitch-perfect and often quite funny. (He should write a novel about the lesbian punk scene then.) I was nodding along to his struggles with deciding to transition and sifting out the right from the wrong information about trans people, and his worries about whether he would lose all his gay and lesbian friends if he became "straight". (He lost some -- so did I.)

What I did not nod along to (warning: discusses problematic views of rape) )

Anyway, goes without saying I can't recommend the book. I did enjoy the parts of the memoir that weren't bogged down in sexist and transphobic nonsense, but that's about all I can say. It's a damn shame.

a: Valerio Max Wolf, genre: memoir, subject: transgender, au ethnicity: Native American (Blackfoot), Latino
[identity profile] seekingferret.livejournal.com
11) Monster by A. Lee Martinez

At this point, I could probably copy/paste the review I've written of the past three Martinez novels I've read here. Martinez's fantasies are lightweight, fun, irreverent, and formulaic. I enjoy his formula a good deal, and I enjoy the way I can just have that pleasure without thinking too hard. I'll keep reading his stories.

This one specifically is about a monster-hunter working for the equivalent of animal control in a city with frequent infestations of fantasy monsters. If you think that concept sounds like fun, you'll enjoy the story.

12)Black, White, and Jewish by Rebecca Walker

Walker is the daughter of (black) author Alice Walker and (white and Jewish) civil rights lawyer Mel Leventhal. She was born in Mississippi at the height of her parents' civil rights struggle. She describes herself as a "Movement Child", whose interracial makeup was a deliberate and direct challenge to the racism that surrounded her parents. In many ways this memoir tells the coming of age of a girl who was born as a social experiment. I feel queasy making this comparison, but it reminded me of Ishiguro's dystopic novel Never Let Me Go. At the minimum, it's being narrated by a woman who always seems unsure and a little afraid that the reason she's writing this story is because it was the story she was born (and maybe designed) to write.

Her parents divorced when she was still a child. Her father moved to New York and her mother to San Francisco and she split her childhood between coasts, between parents, between lives. It's reasonably stress inducing, but again, her parents were intellectuals affiliated with the Civil Rights movement and they knew they were fating their daughter to this kind of split existence (though they thought they would be together to give her more stable guidance). The thing I found most fascinating about Walker's narrative is the way she seems to be pushing up against the 'expected' narrative of an interracial childhood, seeing if she can fit into it or if she needs to invent new narratives.

Walker's prose is gaudy and overwritten and not helped by artsy section headers that grab random lines from the chapters that follow and turn them into incomprehensible pull quotes. I think this added to my sense that the novel compared to Ishiguro. It felt like a novel more than a memoir, and Walker's life is interesting enough that a straight recitation of the facts and her impressions of them would have held my attention. I didn't know what I was supposed to do with her schmaltzy, vaguely spiritual musings on memory as an abstract concept. Those parts of the story held no value for me and were generally skipped or skimmed.

But as I said, the story and her impressions of it are enough of a story to hold my interest. Walker writes of experiencing an incredible range of growing up experiences and how much context shaped her experience. When she was among black people, the specific ways she felt part of their community and the specific ways she felt isolated are sharply detailed, and the same thing comes in her vivid descriptions of her experiences in white communities. And many of her stories are interesting and compelling even without the frame of reference of race, stories of growing up, learning about sex and sexuality, learning about family history, learning how to learn.

tags: mexican-american, biracial, african-american, jewish, fantasy, memoir, a: martinez a lee, a: walker rebecca
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[personal profile] pauraque
Shirlee Taylor Haizlip's family has been racially mixed almost as far back as her genealogy can be traced. In her family tree one can find black slaves, American Indians, Irish immigrants, and Martha Washington.

It was on her mother's side of the family that something happened which is probably more common than most people know. Her mother's father took his light-skinned daughters, and they became "white", while their slightly darker-skinned sister was put in foster care and remained "black".

A good part of the book is about Haizlip's search for her family members who chose to pass as white, and what happens when they are reunited. She also tells the fascinating stories, pieced together from records and passed-down memories, of several generations of her relatives, of their experiences as multiracial Americans in different times and places.

The issue of passing is one that I can deeply relate to, as a transgender person, just from a slightly different angle. Haizlip identifies as black, but is sometimes read as white. She has to wonder whether she and her darker-skinned husband will be read as a black couple or an interracial couple, in a world where being read as the latter may put them in physical danger. Again, this is something one may be tempted to think is uncommon, but really isn't! Many of us have to wonder whether the rest of the world will see us as who we know we are, even in such seemingly basic characteristics as our race and gender. Many of us have to wonder on a daily basis whether we'll be read as a member of a privileged group or not, and to decide whether it is desirable -- or safe -- to correct any misconceptions.

Haizlip does not have cut-and-dried answers about race and passing, because there aren't any. What she has are stories, her family's stories. The range of experiences are both eye-opening and familiar. Some of her ancestors were listed as one race on one census form, and a different race on another (without asking them what they preferred, of course, or questioning whether the available options even made sense). Things like this are still happening. People need to know that not everyone is easy to categorize, and what it means for our social and emotional lives when someone else does the categorizing for us.

This is an awesome book. I strongly recommend it.

tags: a: Haizlip Shirlee Taylor, African-American, mixed race, memoir
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[personal profile] pauraque
Content warning: The book depicts rape, beatings, and female genital cutting, but they're not discussed in this post.

This is the story of Mende Nazer, who was abducted from her home in Sudan in 1993 and sold into slavery. Throughout her teenage years she was forced to do domestic work for a wealthy family, before being sent to work for her "master"'s sister, the wife of a Sudanese diplomat living in London. While in London she was finally able to make her escape and successfully seek political asylum. This was a big news story a few years back, some of you may remember hearing about it. Since the book's publication, she has become a British citizen.

The book is well-written and engaging, and tells a story the world needs to hear, a story that is not extraordinary, but rather all too common. The only extraordinary thing about it is that Nazer escaped, whereas most people in her situation never do.

But here's my problem: The co-author, Damien Lewis, who is white. At the time of writing, Nazer had only been studying English for a year, maybe less. She spoke two other languages fluently, but instead of using a translator, Lewis had her talk to him in English, and he interpreted and wrote down what she said in his own style. That it is his own style is obvious from reading his afterword that explains the writing process -- it's the same voice. He says it was done this way because her story was far too "personal" for a translator to come between them. He, and only he, could achieve the "closeness" with her to help her express her thoughts. Hmm. This is my skeptical face.

But it's okay, because Lewis is an "expert" on Sudan, according to his bio blurb. I notice it doesn't mention his age, while Nazer's bio eagerly and irrelevantly informs us yet again (it's mentioned multiple times in the text) that her tribe -- gasp! -- doesn't record exact birthdates. How exotic! It is obvious why she needed this White Expert to render HER story into HIS own words.

Okay, sarcasm off. Sorry. To be fair, several years have passed and Nazer speaks good English now (yay Youtube) and has not, to my knowledge, disowned the book or Lewis. It's up to her how her story is put forth. I just have to be honest about my personal reaction to reading it, which is that I really wanted Mende Nazer's voice, and was frustrated by the feeling of having to dig through layers of Damien Lewis's voice to get to it.

[eta: Note that author Damien Lewis is not the same person as actor Damian Lewis, as Wikipedia believes. Someone oughta fix that.]

tags: a: Nazer Mende, w-a: Lewis Damien, African (Sudanese), Muslim, genre: memoir, subject: slavery, setting: Sudan
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[personal profile] pauraque
This is the memoir of Jin Xing, a child of Korean immigrants to China, who was blessed with extraordinary talent as a dancer. Her gift was noticed at a young age, and she trained with the People's Liberation Army dance troupe. As an adult, she took the opportunity to study and perform in other nations around the world, and during her travels she realized that she was not a gay man, but was in fact a straight woman, and that she wanted to medically transition. She became one of the first people to have an officially recognized legal gender change in China, in 1996(!).

In the book, events and memories pass by quickly, painting a not very detailed but more impressionistic picture of her life. This happened, and another time this happened, and here's another thing... It's not one of those memoirs that could just as easily be a novel. She's just describing memories that stand out to her, with not a lot of "story" in between.

Let me just say, I am not Asian, but I am trans, so I approached this book as both an insider and an outsider, and I found that hard to reconcile at times. Jin Xing grew up in a world I know very little about, and part of me wanted to be accepting of her thoughts on her identity because it's framed by a culture that is foreign to me, while the rest of me balked at views she put forth that felt very antiquated and not at all trans-positive.

Read more... )

tags: a: Jin Xing, w-a: Texier Catherine, Korean-Chinese, genre: memoir, subject: transgender
[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 )
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[personal profile] pauraque
Born in Liberia and descended from the nation's founders, Helene Cooper lived there for 14 years as a member of the wealthy elite. She knew her homeland -- its unique history as a colony populated by former U.S. slaves, its sights, its tastes, its scents, its joys and its dangers. When Liberia's bloody coup d'etat finally came, Cooper had to leave a home she knew well.

But as she would come to realize, she did not know it nearly so well as she thought she did.

Read more... )

tags: a: cooper helene, genre: memoir, author: black (Liberian), setting: Liberia & United States
[identity profile] mizchalmers.livejournal.com
41. Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama, The Four Immigrants Manga

This book is so freakin' awesome I can't even tell you. I love 20th-century memoir, I love San Francisco local history and I love graphic novels: The Four Immigrants Manga is a standout in all three categories. Even the tale of its rediscovery is freakin' awesome. Frederik L. Schodt was researching a book on Japanese manga in 1980 (how avant is THAT?) when he stumbled across this in a Berkeley library. It took another EIGHTEEN YEARS before his translation was published. Seriously, you should just go and read it right now. Schodt's translation is very clever and sensitive, with English and translated-Japanese rendered in different styles, so you always know where you are.

And the story itself, holy cow! It's the tale of the author, who came to San Francisco to study, and three friends he met on the boat. They land in 1904 and the book follows their lives for twenty years, so yes, there's a huge earthquake right up front, but in fact what happens after that is often even awesomer and stranger. (Hint: farm work is much harder than you think.) And it's funnier than hell. Can you tell that I liked it? The Four Immigrants Manga is one of those texts that reaches across a language barrier and a hundred years and shakes the teeth out of your head. It brings my beloved San Francisco to life in new ways. It should be required reading in California schools, and if it were, the kids would love it. BECAUSE IT'S GREAT.

42-3. Sanjay Patel, The Little Book of Hindu Deities and Ramayana: Divine Loophole

Actually all five of the books I'm reviewing today have strong links to the Bay Area, and that's because San Francisco is my adopted home and I love it like food. Go Giants! Patel is an animator at Pixar, across the Bay. I first encountered his Hindu-deity-art at his Web site, Ghee Happy, and I was one of many nagging him to just go publish a book already. Little Book is a useful reference, if you're like me and can't always keep your Gods straight, but Ramayana is an honest-to-God masterpiece. My husband read it to my daughters, aged 7 and 4, and they were spellbound by it every night. The illustrations are really beyond beautiful, and Chronicle Books has done a nice job with the binding: it's an object with heft and sheen, a desirable thing. Highly recommended, if only as a counterbalance to the Greek revival of the Percy Jackson series.

44. Jen Wang, Koko Be Good

Wang is another local graphic artist and Koko is not only set in San Francisco, like the great Wyatt Cenac film Medicine for Melancholy it's set in my San Francisco, south of Market Street, the San Francisco of beer at Zeitgeist and Al's Comics and the fog rolling in under Sutro Tower. It's intensely evocative and very good on random encounters and the strength of the relationships they can drag in their wake, especially for people in transition. If I found the ending both telegraphed and a bit unsatisfying, it's because I'm an extremely fussy old lady with brutally high standards in graphic novels. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, and if you like it you will love Paul Madonna's sublime All Over Coffee.

45. Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking

I've only just started reading this and it's going to take a while, because I will only read it during daylight, not while I am trying to go to sleep. Not since Truman Capote's In Cold Blood have I read anything that is quite so high-octane nightmare fuel, and for very much the same reasons: the killings it describes are real, random and purposeless, and the prose itself is beautiful, clear, organized and relentless.

One of the oldest cities of China, [Suchow] was prized for its delicate silk embroidery, palaces, and temples. Its canals and ancient bridges had earned the city its Western nickname as "the Venice of China." On November 19, on a morning of pouring rain, a Japanese advance guard marched through the gates of Suchow, wearing hoods that prevented the Chinese sentries from recognizing them. Once inside, the Japanese murdered and plundered the city for days, burning down ancient landmarks and abducting thousands of Chinese women for sexual slavery. The invasion, according to the China Weekly Review, caused the population of the city to drop from 350,000 to less than 500.
It's a controversial book - Wikipedia has some useful starting-points for a discussion of factual inaccuracies and disputed interpretations - and on the whole you'd probably rather not have it be the famous plagiarist Stephen Ambrose who declares you "one of the best of our young historians." But it is an important book, that helped revive the memory of Nanking in the West.

Chang took her own life in 2004, and I am sorry for the books of hers we will not get to read.
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[personal profile] pauraque
This was a book I picked at random off the Asian History shelf at the library, and as soon as I started reading I felt like I had waded in over my head. I had to stop and do some background reading to figure out exactly what the Cultural Revolution *was*. If you don't know, this book won't tell you -- it was written in Chinese for a Chinese audience, and it assumes that you know what the political situation was and who the major government players were. I did not, and I doubt a read-through of a few Wikipedia articles gave me the knowledge that a person should have to fully understand and assess this book.

That said, I read the book anyway. It was a disturbing and puzzling experience on several levels.

Read more... )

To sum up, I don't think I can really recommend this. It has a few strong points and memorable scenes, and it may read better to someone more familiar with Chinese politics, but by the end I felt the author had painted himself as a cold-hearted bastard who never learns anything from his terrible experiences. I hope that isn't the truth, but it's what I got from his book.

(eta tags: a: ma bo, chinese, china, cultural revolution, memoir)
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[personal profile] pauraque
I went to the library looking for something by bell hooks, because I read Killing Rage a long time ago and got a lot out of it. My library only had two of her books, of which I picked Bone Black. I sat down to see if it was something I wanted to read, and didn't get up until I realized hours had passed and I had to get home. I finished reading later the same day. I loved this book.

Read more... )
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[identity profile] coffeeandink.livejournal.com
Amitav Ghosh, The Shadow Lines, Circle of Reason, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Hungry Tide, and Sea of Poppies
It's hard to know how to summarize the work of Amitav Ghosh; he never does the same thing twice. I can't even give you an idea of the scope of his work with the notes below, because it's just the novels I've read so far; I'm missing a novel, a memoir/historical investigation, and a book of essays, and that's just what's been published in the U.S. I could, I guess, say that all of his work that I've read so far deals with one or a dozen of the cultures contributing to modern India, but that's so capacious a subject I might as well just say, "Well, he writes about people," and have done with it. (Except then I'd be leaving out the dolphins, swamps, fruit flies, and sailing ships.) He's remarkable not just in the range of his content but the range of styles: he has written a Modernist literary novel, a science fiction thriller, a magic realist novel without magic, a contemporary literary novel, and an historical adventure.

Full review at my journal.

Karin Lowachee, Warchild, Burndive, and Cagebird
Set of loosely connected space operas; each has a different protagonist and the plots occasionally overlap, but what unites them is a common background and similar thematic concerns about the effects of growing up in wartime on adolescents. (All adolescent boys, in this case, but she depicts enough male sexual abuse and prostitution that the only thing that would seem to distinguish male experience from female is the lack of unwanted pregnancy or fears thereof.) It's not necessary to read the books in any particular order or to read one to understand any of the others.

Lowachee is gifted at creating distinctive narrative voices for and empathetic connections with her different and sometimes unlikable protagonists: Jos Musey of Warchild has been so traumatized he can barely feel his own emotions or recall his own memories, Ryan Azarcon of Burndrive is a spoiled rich boy drug addict, Yuri Kirov of Cagebird is a pirate whose use, abuse, and murder of others isn't glossed over. And all of them are compelling and comprehensible and sometimes surprisingly likable. Jos is probably the most conventionally appealing character, but I have to admit to a weakness for bratty Ryan Azarcon; on her Website Lowachee mentions her admiration for Maureen McHugh, and Burndrive in general reminds me of McHugh's Half the Day Is Night, a book split between the perspectives of a rich and privileged businesswomen and her reserved bodyguard who pays prices for survival that the privileged don't see. No one else seems to like this book -- it gets by far the least notice of McHugh's novels -- but I am extraordinarily fond of it. It's hard to be that clear-sighted about privilege and not have the reader end up hating the privileged. That clear sight -- about prices paid, limited choices, and complicity in abusive regimes -- is also displayed by Lowachee.

Full review at my journal.

Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself

Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is one of the few known autobiography written by a black female slave; most other accounts of black women's lives under slavery were dictated to other people, frequently white or male or both.

Full review at my journal. NB: It's intermixed with comments on Jean Fagan Yellin's biography of Jacobs; Yellin is white.
[identity profile] seekingferret.livejournal.com
32) Tempting Faith by David Kuo

Kuo wrote this book after leaving the Bush White House Office of Faith Based Initiatives, where he worked from 2001-2003. It's a memoir of his experience mixing politics and religion from his teenage years through his service in the White House.

It follows the standard narrative of politics corrupting the idealist, but features a few fascinating revelations as well as some stirring passages. Kuo's experience before the White House was largely as a speechwriter, for Bill Bennett, Ralph Reed, John Ashcroft, and others. My favorite passage:

The lesson soon led to another, much bigger one, about the role of government in caring for America's soul. For years a national debate had raged over whether America was falling apart morally and culturally. Like so many other Christian conservatives, I knew the answer: absolutely. New policies, new strategies, and political leaders were needed to help us reclaim America's greatness. On 9/12 I discovered something else.

At the time, I was put in charge of assisting "all" of America's charities and mobilizing "all" of America's religious groups, a task that both highlighted the White House-centric view of the world and showed how desperately we all wanted to help. Our office developed a massive list of ideas and plans: we planned candlelight services and telethons and moments of silence. Then we discovered the obvious. People were doing all of those things on their own. They didn't need us to do it. America didn't need anyone else to rally it. It rallied itself. The American soul wasn't sick.

The big revelation for me was that Kuo was involved in the development of a particularly insidious speechwriting technique, wherein a politically moderate speaker would insert figures from the Gospels in their speeches in order to communicate to evangelical voters, in code, that he was one of them. Kuo suggests that in the case of some of the speakers he used the trick for, like Jack Kemp, the speakers weren't even aware of the significance of the coded phrases. Talk about shibboleths.

I wish I had the sense that Kuo had deconstructed his belief that just because a person loves Jesus, their heart must be in the right place. It leads to some puzzling passages where he is trying to denounce some action of Bush's while insisting that his heart was in the right place. I leave the book unclear if Kuo recognizes the problem with this logic.

tags: memoir, non-fiction, politics, a: kuo david, chinese-american
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[identity profile] kyuuketsukirui.livejournal.com
Title: When I Was Puerto Rican
Author: Esmeralda Santiago
Number of Pages: 274 pages
My Rating: 5/5

This is Esmeralda Santiago's memoir of growing up in Puerto Rico and moving to New York at age thirteen. It ends with her about to start high school and I assume the second of her three memoirs picks up from there. I'm eager to read it. I'm sure it will be as well-written and engaging as this was.
[identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com
Mourning his mother’s death and suffering from midlife crisis, food fanatic Simon Majumdar decides to eat his way around the world for a year. The result is an uneven but always entertaining episodic memoir of his adventures. At worst, it’s perfunctorily written and peppered with national stereotyping (“with typical Latin-American machismo...”) At best, as when he writes about his food-obsessed Welsh-Bengali family or provides precisely detailed snapshots of people he meets on the way, it’s funny and sweet.

He visited a number of places I’m familiar with, giving me that “HI BOB!” feeling one gets when one sees a movie shot in one’s hometown, though he usually went off on some path that didn’t touch on what I expected him to write about: in Santa Cruz he spends the entire trip having Thanksgiving dinner at someone’s house, and in Hong Kong he seeks out obscure restaurants only to invariably find that Anthony Bourdain got there first. (Hate to tell you, Simon, but Anthony Bourdain also visited the yakitori joints in Ueno that you enjoyed so much.) I was amused to note that in Xi’an he too was dragged to the touristy dumpling restaurant that shapes the dumplings into walnuts, geese, goldfish, etc – and since he did not say one word about their flavor, I assume he too was underwhelmed.

It’s not a great food memoir, but it is a fun one.

Eat My Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything
[identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com
A childhood/teenage memoir of growing up in Harlem during the 1940s and 1950s, focusing on Myers’ family and neighborhood, his early attempts at writing, and the pervasive racism that slowly poisons his life and dreams.

Myers’ relaxed, warm style and deadpan humor make this easy reading, though I suspect that the episodic structure and lack of emphasis on the moments of conventional action would appeal more to adults than to teenagers.

Bad Boy: A Memoir
[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.)


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