ext_939: Sheep wearing an eyepatch (skywardprodigal Cog Flowers)
[identity profile] spiralsheep.livejournal.com
16. I read I Speak for the Devil by Imtiaz Dharker. Her poetry tends to confessional style, which I usually dislike, but Dharker uses that style to speak for herself and her characters so skillfully that I enjoyed this collection throughout. The language and structures are deceptively simple but manage to convey complexities and deeper meanings. The whole collection is complemented by Dharker's own illustrations, which highlight her interest in bodies and embodiments. I offer you two samples: the more intellectually representative poem and the more sensually typical poem.

Tags: british, scottish, islam, muslim, calvinist, british-asian, poetry
pauraque: bird flying (Default)
[personal profile] pauraque
This is a broad and wide-ranging introduction to Islam, and assumes the reader has no prior knowledge of the subject. (I didn't, so that worked for me.) A lot of time is spent on the origins and ancient history of the religion, including the cultural background of the region and how the very earliest Muslims lived and practiced their faith.

The middle section, after Muhammad's death but before the modern face of Islam had really arisen, kind of lost my attention. Too many names, dates, and battles, and I wasn't sure how it all fit together in the bigger picture. Aslan is knowledgeable but his style is pretty dry. I felt like asking if this was all going to be on the test.

Things picked up more when he got into discussion of the divisions between Sunni, Shi'a, Sufi, and their own subdivisions, and modern attempts to create Muslim states and how they've gone about it differently. This is where it really shows, though, that it's just a general introduction. It seemed he took on more than he could do justice to in a short-ish book. A number of interesting topics are brought up but then given only cursory treatment.

Aslan himself is a liberal Shi'ite, and he definitely puts forth his own views, not only on what Islam is, but on what it *ought* to be, religiously, culturally, and politically. I don't think arguing one's own position is bad -- it's certainly better than pretending to be neutral when you're not -- but again, the book seemed like it was being too many things at once. Is it a quick historical overview for beginners, or an argument for Islamic democracy, liberalism, and pluralism? It's both, and in a way that ultimately didn't read as cohesive for me.

tags: a: Aslan Reza, Iranian-American, Muslim, subject: Islam, genre: non-fiction
pauraque: bird flying (Default)
[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
zeborah: Zebra against a barcode background, walking on the word READ (books)
[personal profile] zeborah
I'm very enthusiastic about this book, and not only because at one point it refers to Sultana's Dream and I'm like, “Yes, I've read that!" As one might half expect from such a reference this is a deeply feminist story: the story of those who wait, but don't just wait.

The prologue tells of Rehana's children being taken from her after her husband's death, so it's a bit of a jolt to have chapter 1 begin 10 years after she's won them back. But this lacuna becomes instrumental later while the story explores her determination to protect her children in another context entirely: Bangladesh's struggle for independence from Pakistan. Her love of and fear for her son Sohail is a staple of such stories, but I especially liked the development of her more difficult relationship with her daughter Maya; and of her own character in supporting her children and friends and country – with which she has yet another nuanced relationship. There is a subtle but I think a very deliberate interplay of themes which holds the tales of family and country effortlessly together.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
Sarwat Chadda, Devil's Kiss

The Knights Templar are still present in modern-day London (though there's not many of them left), and they have a secret mission to fight the forces of evil: vampires, ghouls, ghosts, and so forth. Billi's dad, Arthur (a white British Christian), is the head of the Knights Templar, and ever since her mom (a Pakistani Muslim) died as a result of the Templar's work, he's been cold and closed off to her, focused only on the mission. Billi feels pressured to follow in his footsteps and join the Templars, but she wants her own life, her own friends, and for her dad to pay attention to her.

I really liked this book; it's fast-paced, with an exciting plot (involving the Ten Plagues of Exodus), and interesting characters (including appearances by the Angel of Death and Lucifer), and some genuinely scary moments. I was a bit confused by the fact that everyone in the Templar has a name from the Arthurian legends, some of which are names you would expect to see in modern London (Arthur, Kay) and some which you wouldn't (Gawain, Percival). But this patten is never mentioned in the book, and Arthurian legends have nothing to do with the plot, so I didn't understand what was up with that. There's a sequel that's just come out that I haven't read yet, so maybe it plays a part in the next book.

My favorite parts were moments when the characters dealt with issues regarding Knights Templar in the modern world. For instance, there a long-running argument between Arthur and Gwaine on emphasizing the "demon fighting" aspect of their mission over the "killing people of other religions" part of it. It's mentioned that Billi was raised as a Muslim, but had to convert to Christianity to join the Templars. This isn't a major part of the book, but for me, it made the whole thing feel much more real. I would have liked more exploration of how the Templars have changed and adjusted to the present, actually. Again: maybe in the sequel!

A fun read, and one I recommend.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
11. Farahad Zama, The Marriage Bureau for Rich People

Mr. Ali, a recently-retired Muslim man living in a city in South India, finds he has too much time on his hands. So, what to do but open a marriage bureau? It's sort of like a dating service, but with an emphasis on caste instead of personality-matching quizzes (emphasis on looks and occupations are universal, though). Secondary characters include Mr. Ali's estranged son, Rehman, who is a human rights activist; Aruna, a poor Hindu girl he hires as a secretary who is secretly worried about her own marriage prospects; and, of course, Mrs. Ali.

This book is being marketed to fans of "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series, and I have to agree that if you like them, you will almost certainly like this new book as well. They share a similar simplistic-but-charming writing style, a focus on traditional values, and evocative descriptions of the beauty in rural and natural scenes. Zama's book is a bit marred by a heavy reliance on "As You Know, Bob" language to convey information about Indian weddings and marriages to the reader, but hey, if you don't know much about that topic, it's certainly an easy way to learn.

A fun, breezy book, with a very predictable happy ending. However, it's clearly aiming itself at an audience who's only looking for light reading, and it achieves its goal of being pleasant read.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
[personal profile] zeborah
Lucian of Samosata
- The True History
- Icaromenippus, An Aerial Expedition
Ibn al-Nafīs - Theologus Autodidacticus
Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain - Sultana's Dream
Naif Al-Mutawa - The 99: Origins

Sometimes when reading old things that have been called "early science-fiction" I think "Well, that's not really very science-y," but while I was reading these I thought more about what was known of science in the times they were written, and about how even some modern stuff doesn't fit my sometimes exacting preferences for storytelling, and decided that these all definitely count each in their ways. Lucian does the fantastic voyage; Ibn al-Nafīs the message story; Hussain the utopia. And of course the 99 doesn't need any explanations, it's just a modern superhero series.

Long post behind cut )Also of interest: Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad's website Islam and Science Fiction.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
40. Reza Aslan, How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror

A non-fiction pop book dealing with a wide range of subjects, from the history of the state of Israel, to the difference between Islamist groups like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Jihadist groups like al-Qa'ida (as well as the inaccuracy of referring to al-Qa'ida as any kind of unified group), to historical examples of other 'cosmic wars' such as the Crusades or the Zealot rebellions of the Roman Empire, to the history of Fundamentalist Christianity in the United States, to others. He doesn't always tie these many, many topics together as tightly as one might wish, but if you look at the book as a smorgasbord of various information about the "war on terror", it's a pretty awesome book.

One of my favorite things about Aslan is that he's a much more lyrical, thoughtful writer than I tend to expect from pop non-fiction. Let me quote a paragraph at you: "When I close my eyes, I see white. Strange how synesthetic memory can be. I am certain the insular town of Enid, Oklahoma, where my family alighted three decades ago, was chockablock with buildings, homes, churches, parks. And surely other seasons came and went in the stretch of time we lived there, months when the city's empty streets were not blanketed in snow and the sky did not rumble with dark and silvery clouds. But I remember none of that. Only the clean, all-encompassing whiteness of Enid, Oklahoma, snow as it heaped on the sidewalks, perched on the trees, and settled evenly over the glassy lake." See? How can you not be willing to spend a couple of hundred pages with the man, even if he wasn't telling you fascinating, important things.

Overall, I think I prefer Aslan's other book, No God But God, to this one, but for a broad summary of many things relating to modern Middle Eastern politics and the American response, this book is great.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
35. Diana Abu-Jaber, Crescent

Oh, this book. I wish I could quote the entire thing at you; the language is gorgeous and perfect and there are so many bits of it floating in my head. This is the most wonderful thing I've read in ages. Okay, just a few quotes:

Describing Sir Richard Burton: He did, however, like so many Victorians, have an aptitude for ownership, an attachment to things material and personal, like colonies and slaves- he especially enjoyed owning slaves while living in someone else's house.

Two people discussing a fairy tale: I didn't know that business about the Queen of Sheba. That she was so beautiful. That it could make you go crazy.
It was one of her more salient characteristics.

Describing food: The potatoes are soft as velvet, the gravy satiny. It is as if she can taste the life inside all those ingredients: the stem that the cranberries grew on, the earth inside the bread, even the warm blood that was once inside the turkey.

The food porn in this book is amazing. I was left with a deep craving for hummus with olive oil, mjaddarah, lamb with garlic... all the amazing Middle Eastern food Abu-Jaber describes.

I suppose I should actually describe what this book is about. Sirine is a mixed-race woman, her father Iraqi and her mother European-American, who was born and has never left Los Angeles. She works as the chef at a Lebanese restaurant in the Iranian section of LA, and lives with her uncle, who is a professor at a nearby college. When she meets Han, a writer in exile from Iraq, they start a relationship and she has to deal with questions of exile, home, secrets, and so on. Interspersed with and weaving through the main plot is a long-running story told by Sirine's uncle, supposedly about his cousin, but which reads more like a fairy tale or a Sufi parable (though the uncle insists that it has no moral), full of mermaids, djinns, the Mother of the Nile, and lost tribes of Bedouin. The book is set in 1999, which means the political situation is a bit different from today; I kept being confused until I figured out when it was set.

But a description of the plot doesn't do much to capture the book, since, really, relatively little happens in it. It's full of beautifully described ordinary moments, lush cooking scenes, vivid evocations of both LA and Iraq (having only been to LA once, I can't say how accurate those scenes are, though they're amazing to read. The Iraq scenes, though, captured exactly my memories of Syria and made me long to go for a visit). It can be hilariously funny at points (I loved the mythical Hal'Awud), though it's a fairly serious book overall. The language is so poetic that reading it made me feel dreamy and content.

This post is getting long, so let me just say that I highly, highly recommend this book. I'll be seeking out other things by the author.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
30. Reza Aslan, No God But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam

I adored this book. It's a non-fiction book detailing Islam as a religion; about half of it is devoted to an incredibly detailed description of life and culture in the Arabian peninsula immediately before and during Mohammad's life. The second half of the book lays out some of the most prominent evolutions of Islam since then, from the basic branches of Sunni, Shia, and Sufism, to more recent developments like Iran's Khomeinism to Saudi Arabia's Wahhabism.

This book was fantastic. It's perfect both for the reader who knows nothing about Islam and the educated reader. It contains so many details and interesting perspectives that I think there's something new for everyone to learn*, and yet it lays things out so clearly that it's also a great introduction. Aslan is a wonderful writer; despite it being a non-fiction book, it has a very conversational tone, which is totally engaging and enthralling. I have not read many non-fiction books that have sucked me in like this one.

Very, very highly recommended, and I'll be checking out Aslan's other book.

In particular, I spent a lot of time shrieking "Oh my God! Did you know this?!" during the section about Britain's role in the formation of Saudi Arabia.
[identity profile] rootedinsong.livejournal.com
29. Ten Things I Hate About Me, by Randa Abdel-Fattah

I liked this a lot more than Does My Head Look Big In This? Real, honest examination of passing, dual consciousness, and holding on to one's cultural identity.

One thing that got on my nerves about it was the protagonist's older sister, who is one of these "smart kids" and uses (or is portrayed as using) strings of big words that actually don't make much sense. That's a particular pet peeve of mine...

30. Persepolis (complete edition), by Marjane Satrapi

I really liked this. Comparing this to a lot of other books that portray authoritarian regimes, real or fictional, really illustrates for me one of the main things that [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc is about: the viewpoint matters.

So many books depict the horrors of a regime and the devastation it wreaks on the citizens, emphasizing how resistance is crushed and the people's spirits are broken. This shows oppression, but not the breaking of spirits; it shows the little everyday resistances, the extent to which the regime does not control the people, the fact that the people are emphatically still human and life is still life.

And the book is not about that. It's about the author's own story.

31. No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, by Reza Aslan

I read this on [livejournal.com profile] sheafrotherdon's recommendation. I agree with her assessment: it's really beautifully written, really clear, and really engaging. (And I find most books of history to be excruciatingly boring.)

The author starts with a depiction of the society in which the Prophet Muhammad lived and goes on to explain the social and religious reforms that he championed, the reception of his message, and the evolution of Islamic thought, practice, and politics from then until the present day. I kept thinking, "Oh, that makes so much sense now!" or "Now I understand what people mean when they say..." (It shed a lot of light on books on Islam that I've previously reviewed here.)

At the end, he argues for a reformation within Islam - new ways of understanding the religion, formulations of an indigenous Islamic conception of democracy. (It actually reminded me a lot of what I said in my review of The Whale Rider - he doesn't think of it in terms of a conflict between Western conceptions of human rights and the traditions of Islam, but in terms of Islam evolving, reforming itself from within.)

[identity profile] rootedinsong.livejournal.com
15. Why I Am a Muslim, by Asma Gull Hasan

There was very little I liked about this book. Although it's directed towards adults, it is written in a very simplistic, repetitious style, as if the intended audience were twelve-year-olds. I read it because I do not know much about Islam and wanted to learn more, but it didn't teach me very much of interest.

The author is very focused on convincing her readers (who are assumed to be non-Muslims who have very little accurate information about Islam) that Islam is not a religion of terrorism, women's oppression, and intolerance of all other religions, and that these things are actually un-Islamic. Most of the information she gives about Islam is in service to these goals; this is not sufficient to provide a real picture of what Islam is like and what Muslims believe and practice, which is what I was looking for. She also does what seems to me to be exegetical gymnastics to explain away passages in the Qur'an that don't fit into her modern liberal conceptions of equality and religious tolerance (as I have seen liberal Christians do with the Bible); I don't think these issues can really be that simple.

I found the last chapter, "Because Being Muslim Makes Me a Better American (And Being American Makes Me a Better Muslim)," to be very problematic. The author says, "What surprises many Muslims and non-Muslims alike are the many striking parallels between the principles of Islam and the founding ideals of the United States..." and goes on to list what she sees as elements that Islam and American ideals have in common, such as social justice, freedom of speech, diversity, and capitalism, uncritically praising the US for these things; she seems to have almost no skepticism about the rosy myth of the American dream. This paragraph especially bothered me:

Like all American schoolchildren, I learned about Columbus's journey to America. He was looking for India, though, not America. When the Native Americans greeted him on the shore, he called them "Indians" because he thought he had found India. The purpose of his search for India was to overcome Muslim control of the East Indies spice trade. The "discovery" of America was motivated by a desire to outflank Muslims. How funny that in pursuit of Spain's policy against Muslims, Columbus, who had been commissioned by Spain, inadvertently found America? Years later, America would become home to over seven million Muslims, maybe even as many as twenty million. The country that Columbus has been credited for "discovering" would stand for the same principles of the religion his voyage was meant to undermine.

I do want to take into account the forces that would drive her not to be critical of the US in a book defending Islam - many people in her intended audience would probably take substantial criticism of the US to be a confirmation of the worst stereotypes and slanders they had heard.

Does anyone know of a better book on the topic?

(Edit: too many tags again)
[identity profile] rootedinsong.livejournal.com
13. River's Daughter, by Tasha Campbell ([livejournal.com profile] kittikattie)

I thought this was a lovely, simple story, with a sense of rootedness that many stories lack (rootedness in the land, in nature, in a culture where characters truly belong). I loved how the river was the protagonist's connection to her people and her true identity.

The ending threw me off balance a bit - I didn't expect the protagonist to kill one of her oppressors to ensure that the townspeople remained afraid of the river so that they would leave her people alone. I expected the book to end with her finding freedom, being content just to have escaped. But I could understand how violence could be required to keep the oppressors away.

14. Does My Head Look Big In This?, by Randa Abdel-Fattah

I kind of had to make myself keep reading this book. The protagonist got on my nerves - I dislike books about girly girls who are focused on boys, pop culture, shopping, their appearance, etc.

I warmed to her more in the second half of the book, when the focus was more on serious issues, and I didn't mind finishing it. But I still wouldn't read it again.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
19. Tariq Ali, Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree

I really wanted to like this book. I was so excited for it. And then, sadly, it just didn't live up to my expectations. It's so disappointing when that happens!

Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree is set in 1500, just a few years after the Reconquest of the city-kingdom of Granada, the last of the Muslim kingdoms in the Iberian peninsula to fall to the Spanish Christians. Although the peace agreement signed at the time promised that Muslims could continue to practice their faith and speak Arabic, the tide has been turning against them; the novel opens with a scene of Arabic books being burnt. For Muslims in Granada, there are basically three choices: leave their home and move to Africa or the Middle East; convert to Christianity; or attempt to fight the Christians and take back their land (a pretty much hopeless cause, given the relative military strengths of the Muslims and Christians). The main focus of the story is one family of wealthy Muslims who are dealing with these changes and watching how it affects their friends and family. They debate these choices, some people choosing one and some another, and the novel shows the consequences of their decisions. Despite all this, there's a lot of upbeat and cheerful scenes in the novel, such as the courtship of a daughter of the family, or the youngest son's attempts to beat people at chess.

That's all fine: the plot is interesting, the characters are well-drawn. The problem I had with the book was the writing itself. It came off to me very much like a first draft. There were a lot of little not-quite-right phrasings, people abruptly appearing or disappearing from scenes, awkward dialogue, and historical details that seemed off (like the scene where the family is described as eating tomatoes and red chilis. Both of these plants are native to the Americas, and though Christopher Columbus did bring back some peppers from his second trip to the Americas, and so I suppose it's just possible, if unlikely, that they spread quickly enough to be a common food a mere seven years later, Europeans don't seem to encounter tomatoes until almost fifty years after this scene is set. I know this is a little nitpicky detail, but there were lots of things like this that bugged me). Overall, it just seemed like it needed the author to look over it another time.

I finished the book, and enjoyed parts of it, but I can't say that I liked it well enough to recommend it, though people who are less bothered by writing style than I am may have no problem. If anyone knows of any other books about Al-Andalus, I'd love to know! I do already have Ornament of the World on my reading list.
[identity profile] sweet-adelheid.livejournal.com
Quick-version reviews:

#22 - Infidel: My Life by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Hirsi Ali grew up in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Kenya. Her experiences of Islam cross a spectrum from her (mostly-absent) father's approach, which in some ways allowed interpretation and debate but in other ways was highly traditional, through to devotion to the calls for the renewal of Islam by the Muslim Brotherhood. She's now become in/famous for her calls to consider ways in which Islam may be problematic.

#23 - The Dreaming, Vol 1-3 by Queenie Chan
Although manga is enough of a departure from my regular type of reading that I feel justified in posting it here, I couldn't count the three volumes as separate books. Only the third volume took more than an afternoon/evening to read. In the end, I can't recommend this book, because of what I (ymmv) see as a very problematic treatment of Indigenous Australian cultures and traditions. More info at my LJ.

#24 - Inside Black Australia: An Anthology of Aboriginal Poetry, edited by Kevin Gilbert.
Published in 1988 as a "Bicentennial" year protest, this collection is full of anger, and I found most of it very hard to cope with. I did persevere through to the end though, and I'm glad I did, as Gilbert's own poetry is last in the collection, and despite the fact that his introductions both to other poets and himself had angered and alienated me, I found that some of his poems were *beautiful*, and that they portrayed their anger in a way that allowed me to process it, rather than just putting up a wall. Note: many readers of this comm may find my review difficult or potentially offensive, particularly on "tone argument" grounds.

#25 - The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
I started reading this before the election, but only just finished it, for the simple reason that I own it, and thus it wasn't subject to library due dates. It is a great book, and I'll have to boost Dreams from my Father further up my To Read list.
sanguinity: woodcut by M.C. Escher, "Snakes" (Default)
[personal profile] sanguinity
48. Steven Barnes, Lion's Blood.

It is the 1860's (Gregorian calendar), and North America is being colonized by Egypt, Ethiopia, Vikings, and China; the Azteca rule Mesoamerica. Our story follows the ever-permutating relationship between Kai, the son of an Ethiopian official in New Djibouti (near what we know as Galveston, Texas), and Aidan, his Irish slave and footboy.

People who were frustrated with Blonde Roots and Naughts and Crosses might well enjoy this one -- the historical timeline and resultant world makes sense.1 Barnes doesn't get around to actually presenting this world's history to us until a hundred pages in, but I rather liked that -- the whole first part of the book is Aidan's abduction into slavery, and our unfamiliarity of the world makes his disorientation more convincing.

In feel, Lion's Blood is a lot like those sprawling historical epics, the sort of thing they used to make TV miniseries out of. Every once in a while, Barnes seemed to hit a note a little too hard -- there's a pseudo-St. Crispin's Day speech, f'rex, that I would have enjoyed better had I no familiarity with Henry V -- but I find that true of historical epics in general. Slavery is a prominent feature of this book, and there is violence commensurate with that, but something about the book's feel makes those scenes easier to read than pretty much every other book "about" slavery that I've read for this comm.2 (Also, much in keeping with this kind of sprawling epic: Kai and Aidan are eminently shippable.)

All in all, this was a perfect bit of long-holiday reading. Nice and thick, very readable, very easy to immerse myself in. I'm looking forward to the second in the series.


1 Mostly. There's a half-page about a Jewish merchant ship that confuses me.

2 I can't decide if I believe that to be a problem or not.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
9. Tanita S. Davis, A La Carte

Lainey is a typical high school girl (if a bit shy) who dreams of being the first African-American vegetarian chef to have a TV show. Sim, a white boy who was her childhood best friend, has grown up to be the cool, rebellious kid. This book is about their relationship, and the ways it affects Lainey's relationship with her family and other friends, in between lovely descriptive passages of food porn. The book even includes recipes! Which look easy and tasty, and though I haven't tried out any yet, I very much plan to.

This book was very well-written, particularly in its depictions of characters and their connections. Everyone seemed wholly realized, with more depth than is typical in novels. The resolution of the book was not what I expected, but was realistic and complicated and honest and really fantastic. Very recommended.

10. Randa Abdel-Fattah, Ten Things I Hate About Me

At home, Jamilah is the youngest daughter of a Lebanese Muslim family living in Australia, with a hijab-wearing activist older sister, a high school drop-out older brother, and a heavily-accented, taxi-driving father. At school, blonde-haired (it's dyed) and blue-eyed (contacts) Jamie is very much not one of the "ethnics". The book is about the stress and emotions of maintaining this double-life, and how to find a resolution between the two.

I really, really, really liked this book. It was much more complicated than Does My Head Look Big In This? (if less funny), and it raised much more difficult questions. I loved the real problems Jamilah had to deal with, and the directions this book went. So good.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
I was away from the internet for most of the beginning of this year, and so I've written some short reviews for the books I read during that time. At the link are my reviews of:

1. Natsuo Kirino, Grotesque
2. Alexandre Dumas, Twenty Years After
3. Shereen Ratnagar, Trading Encounters: From the Euphrates to the Indus in the Bronze Age
4. Dalai Lama, How to Practice
5. Lalita Tademy, Cane River
6. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Palace of Illusions
7. Wendy Lee, Happy Family
8. Randa Abdel-Fattah, Does My Head Look Big In This?

All reviews here!

I enjoyed all of them, but the short summary is: if you only read one, I recommend Does My Head Look Big In This?


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