Monday, December 18, 2017

Diverse Reads on my blog #12

Diverse Reads on my Blog #12

Whether you love or hate the current POTUS, this has been one long and extremely controversial year of real-life reality TV. While I'm relieved that the first year is over, one does wonder what will happen next year? Let's hope the worst case scenario doesn't occur and that I will still be able to blog about my reads. To 2018, may it be a better year than 2017 and 2016.

Now without further ado, here are some diverse reads for December of 2017

Blast from the Past

By the shores of silver lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Ingalls family had fared badly in Plum Creek, Minnesota. They were in debt. Mary was blind now. So Pa went West to work at a railroad camp in Dakota Territory where he could make as much as fifty dollars a month! Then he sent for his wife and four children, and they became the first settlers in the new town of De Smet. But the railroad brought hordes of land-hungry people from the East. Had Pa waited too long to file his homestead claim?

Why Its Diverse:

It seems odd to put a book written by Laura Ingalls Wilder in there, but By the Shores of Silver Lake does have feature a blind character, Laura's older sister Mary.



Under His Spell by Kathy Lyons/Jade Lee

Nicky Taylor is a driven executive. A total control freak. And magician Jimmy Ray has loved her forever. When he spots her in the audience, he realizes he finally has a chance to fulfil his own lifelong fantasy. With a little help from Dr. Mesmer, that is...

Who'd have guessed that a little hypnotism would unleash Nicky's wildly sexual nature? Or that Jimmy's powers of persuasion would encourage her to burn up the bedsheets with him that night...and the nights after. She's the perfect woman.

Unfortunately Jimmy's pretty sure Nicky's still under his spell. And he has to change that. Because he's quickly falling under hers...

Why Its Diverse:

The author is of Chinese/American ancestry.

Warp Speed by Lisa Yee

Entering 7th grade is no big deal for Marley Sandelski: Same old boring classes, same old boring life. The only thing he has to look forward to is the upcoming Star Trek convention. But when he inadvertently draws the attention of Digger Ronster, the biggest bully in school, his life has officially moved from boring to far too dramatic . . . from invisible to center stage.

Why its Diverse:

The author is of Chinese ancestry.






What I am Reading Now

Nothing, unfortunately

Future Reviews

How to Build a Piano Bench by Ruthi Postow Birch (author suffers from ADD)

A Humble Philosophy for Great Success
“Get an education, get off Petain Street, and amount to something.” These are the words that Ruthi Postow Birch’s father said to her when she was a little girl living on a red-dirt road in Pritchard, Alabama, a town that straddled the poverty line. And that is exactly what she did. How to Build a Piano Bench is Ruthi’s humorous and heart-warming story about growing up in southern Alabama, the life lessons she learned there, and how she applied that knowledge to build a successful business in Washington, DC. Full of anecdotes and advice on how to use both your strengths and weaknesses to work to your advantage, this wonderful story will inspire and delight anyone who has ever had a dream to be something bigger than what they are.



The Girls by Emma Cline

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.



The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman

The Spirit Catches you and you fall down explores the clash between a small county hospital in California and a refugee family from laos over the care of Lia Lee, a Hmong child diagnosed with severe epilepsy. Lia's parents and her doctors both wanted what was best for Lia, but the lack of understanding between them led to tragedy. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Non-fiction, Anne Fadiman's compassionate account of this cultural impasse is literary journalism at its finest.






Night by Elie Wiesel

Night is Elie Wiesel's masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie's wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author's original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man's capacity for inhumanity to man.

Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be

Dawn by Elie Wisel

Elisha is a young Jewish man, a Holocaust survivor, and an Israeli freedom fighter in British-controlled Palestine; John Dawson is the captured English officer he will murder at dawn in retribution for the British execution of a fellow freedom fighter. The night-long wait for morning and death provides Dawn, Elie Wiesel's ever more timely novel, with its harrowingly taut, hour-by-hour narrative. Caught between the manifold horrors of the past and the troubling dilemmas of the present, Elisha wrestles with guilt, ghosts, and ultimately God as he waits for the appointed hour and his act of assassination. Dawn is an eloquent meditation on the compromises, justifications, and sacrifices that human beings make when they murder other human beings.





Day (The Accident) by Elie Wiesel

"Not since Albert Camus has there been such an eloquent spokesman for man." --The New York Times Book Review

The publication of Day restores Elie Wiesel's original title to the novel initially published in English as The Accident and clearly establishes it as the powerful conclusion to the author's classic trilogy of Holocaust literature, which includes his memoir Night and novel Dawn. "In Night it is the ‘I' who speaks," writes Wiesel. "In the other two, it is the ‘I' who listens and questions."

In its opening paragraphs, a successful journalist and Holocaust survivor steps off a New York City curb and into the path of an oncoming taxi. Consequently, most of Wiesel's masterful portrayal of one man's exploration of the historical tragedy that befell him, his family, and his people transpires in the thoughts, daydreams, and memories of the novel's narrator. Torn between choosing life or death, Day again and again returns to the guiding questions that inform Wiesel's trilogy: the meaning and worth of surviving the annihilation of a race, the effects of the Holocaust upon the modern character of the Jewish people, and the loss of one's religious faith in the face of mass murder and human extermination.

One half from the East by Nadia Hashimi

Internationally bestselling author Nadia Hashimi’s first novel for young readers is an emotional, beautiful, and riveting coming-of-age journey to modern-day Afghanistan that explores life as a bacha posh—a preteen girl dressed as a boy.

Obayda’s family is in need of some good fortune.

Her father lost one of his legs in a bomb explosion, forcing the family to move from their home city of Kabul to a small village, where life is very different and Obayda’s father almost never leaves his room.

One day, Obayda’s aunt has an idea to bring the family luck—dress Obayda, the youngest of her sisters, as a boy, a bacha posh.

Now Obayda is Obayd.

Life in this in-between place is confusing, but once Obayda meets another bacha posh, everything changes. The two of them can explore the village on their own, climbing trees, playing sports, and more.

But their transformation won’t last forever—unless the two best friends can figure out a way to make it stick and make their newfound freedoms endure.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death. Cells descended from her may weigh more than 50M metric tons.

HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave.

The journey starts in the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s, her small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia — wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo. Today are stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells, East Baltimore children and grandchildren live in obscurity, see no profits, and feel violated. The dark history of experimentation on African Americans helped lead to the birth of bioethics, and legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet by Jamie Ford

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history - the internment of American-Japanese families during World War II - Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us about forgiveness and the power of the human heart.

In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.

The Carrion Birds by Urban Waite

Set in a small town in the Southwest, a soulful work of literary noir rife with violence, vengeance, and contrition from a fresh voice in fiction-the author of the highly acclaimed The Terror of Living

Life hasn't worked out the way Ray Lamar planned. A widower and father who has made some tragic mistakes, he's got one good thing going for him: he's calm, cool, and efficient under pressure, usually with a gun in his hand. A useful skill to have when you're paid to hurt people who stand in your boss's way.

But Ray isn't sure he wants to be that man anymore. He wants to go home to Coronado, New Mexico, to see the twelve-year-old son he hopes will recognize him. He wants to make a new life far from the violence of the last ten years. One last job will take him there. All he has to do is steal a rival's stash. Simple, easy, clean.

Ray knows there's no such thing as easy, and sure enough, the first day ends in a catastrophic mess. Now, the runners who have always moved quietly through this idyllic desert town on the Mexican border want answers. And revenge. Short on time, with no one to trust but himself, Ray must come up with a clever plan or Coronado's newly appointed lady sheriff will have a vicious bloodbath on her hands.

Relentlessly paced and beautifully orchestrated, with refreshingly real, vulnerable, and very human characters and a vivid sense of place, The Carrion Birds is an unsettling and indelible work of literary noir in the tradition of Cormac McCarthy, Elmore Leonard, and Dennis Lehane.

5 Books I planned on tackling this year:


Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enríquez, Megan McDowell

An arresting collection of short stories, reminiscent of Shirley Jackson and Julio Cortazar, by an exciting new international talent.

Macabre, disturbing and exhilarating, Things We Lost in the Fire is a collection of twelve short stories that use fear and horror to explore multiple dimensions of life in contemporary Argentina. From women who set themselves on fire in protest of domestic violence to angst-ridden teenage girls, friends until death do they part, to street kids and social workers, young women bored of their husbands or boyfriends, to a nine-year-old serial killer of babies and a girl who pulls out her nails and eyelids in the classroom, to hikikomori, abandoned houses, black magic, northern Argentinean superstition, disappearances, crushes, heartbreak, regret and compassion. This is a strange, surreal and unforgettable collection by an astonishing new talent asking vital questions of the world as we know it.

Pages: 200 in my copy

The Republic of Užupis by Haïlji,  Bruce Fulton (Translator), Ju-Chan Fulton (Translator)

Uzupis (on the other side of the river) is, in reality, a neighborhood in Lithuania's capital city of Vilnius, which took the peculiar step of declaring itself an independent republic in 1997. In this novel, however, it is the lost homeland of a middle-aged man named Hal, who lands in Lithuania hoping to travel back to the town of his birth in order to bury his father's ashes there -- in a place that might not really exist. In a literary tradition dominated by social realism, The Republic of Uzupis is a unique work of melancholy, Murakami-esque whimsy.

Pages: 149





Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee

Casey Han's four years at Princeton gave her many things, "But no job and a number of bad habits." Casey's parents, who live in Queens, are Korean immigrants working in a dry cleaner, desperately trying to hold on to their culture and their identity. Their daughter, on the other hand, has entered into rarified American society via scholarships. But after graduation, Casey sees the reality of having expensive habits without the means to sustain them. As she navigates Manhattan, we see her life and the lives around her, culminating in a portrait of New York City and its world of haves and have-nots. FREE FOOD FOR MILLIONAIRES offers up a fresh exploration of the complex layers we inhabit both in society and within ourselves. Inspired by 19th century novels such as Vanity Fair and Middlemarch, Min Jin Lee examines maintaining one's identity within changing communities in what is her remarkably assured debut.

Pages: 560

The Patriots by Sana Krasikov

When the Great Depression hits, Florence Fein leaves Brooklyn College for what appears to be a plum job in Moscow—and the promise of love and independence. But once in Russia, she quickly becomes entangled in a country she can’t escape. Many years later, Florence’s son, Julian, will make the opposite journey, immigrating back to the United States. His work in the oil industry takes him on frequent visits to Moscow, and when he learns that Florence’s KGB file has been opened, he arranges a business trip to uncover the truth about his mother, and to convince his son, Lenny, who is trying to make his fortune in the new Russia, to return home. What he discovers is both chilling and heartbreaking: an untold story of what happened to a generation of Americans abandoned by their country.

The Patriots is a riveting evocation of the Cold War years, told with brilliant insight and extraordinary skill. Alternating between Florence’s and Julian’s perspectives, it is at once a mother-son story and a tale of two countries bound in a dialectic dance; a love story and a spy story; both a grand, old-fashioned epic and a contemporary novel of ideas. Through the history of one family moving back and forth between continents over three generations, The Patriots is a poignant tale of the power of love, the rewards and risks of friendship, and the secrets parents and children keep from one another.

Pages: 542

Love, and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

A powerful novel about an orphan boy who is raffled off at Seattle’s 1909 World Fair, and the friends who teach him what it really means to have a family, from the author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

Inspired by a true story, this is the unforgettable story of a young boy named Ernest, set during the 1909 Seattle world’s fair called the Alaska Yukon Pacific Expo. It is a time when the magical wonders of technology on display at the expo future seems limitless. But for Ernest, a half-Chinese orphan who found his way to America through a last desperate act of his beloved mother, every door is closed. A charity student at a boarding school, he has never really had a place to call home. Then one day, his wealthy sponsor announces that if a home is what he wants, then that is what he will have: Ernest will be offered as a prize in the daily raffle at the fair, advertised as “Healthy boy to a good home for the winning ticket holder.” The woman who “wins” him is the madam of a notorious brothel who was famous for educating her girls. He becomes a houseboy in her brothel and is befriended by the daughter of the madam, as well as a Japanese girl who works in the kitchen. The friendship and love between these three form the first real family Ernest has ever known.

Pages: 304

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