Friday, June 29, 2018

Diverse Reads on my Blog #18

Diverse Reads on my Blog #18

I have a question: what kind of world would you want to leave for your children? I know it sounds something people use when they are worried about the physical state of the earth; but I've been thinking a lot: the world I refer to is of the historical narratives that get passed down from one generation to another. We inherited the historical narratives that emphasize winners over losers, and are these narratives okay with us? These narratives also shut out different voices, different experiences from ours, and is it okay that our descendants will look at us the way we see our ancestors? Think really hard about the question.

Blast from the Past

Getting Physical by Jade Lee

When savvy business student Zoe crosses paths with sexy international businessman Stephen--a Tantric master--she's about to get a transcendent learning experience 

The sex is incredible, mind-blowing, life changing Unfortunately, it also comes with a time limit. Because Stephen's home is on the other side of the world. 

Still, Zoe's going to enjoy every moment with her skillful, exotic lover. But it isn't long before she realizes she'll have to choose. Does she want to hold on to the life she has...or have a lifetime of feeling his body move against hers? 

Like there's a choice...

Why Its Diverse: The author did include a Chinese male as a love interest, and she has a mix of Asian/Caucasian ancestry.


'Till Death Do Us Part-Lurlene McDaniel

A change is coming. April Lancaster's fortune cookie tells her: Be prepared. But how could she be prepared for the news that she has an inoperable brain tumor? April's life will never be the same. Then she meets handsome Mark Gianni. Mark has cystic fibrosis, but he also has a passion for life...and for April. He shows April how to keep living in the face of life-threatening illness. And when he asks April to marry him, she's happier than she's ever been.

Why Its Diverse: Both of main characters have illnesses: April Lancaster has inoperable brain tumor, while Mark Gianni suffers from cystic fibrosis, but they are brave and will do what they can to be happy.






The Debt of Tears by Cao Xueqin

Divided into five volumes, of which The Debt of Tears is the fourth, it charts the glory and decline of the illustrious Jia family (a story which closely accords with the fortunes of the author's own family). The two main characters, Bao-yu, and Dai-yu, are set against a rich tapestry of humor, realistic detail and delicate poetry which accurately reflects the ritualized hurly-burly of Chinese family life. BUt over and above the novel hangs the constant reminder that there is another plane of existence- a theme which affirms the Buddhist belief in a supernatural scheme of things.


Why Its Diverse: This is considered a Chinese classic, which covers chapters 81-98, and its pretty revolutionary for its time, making women far more smarter than the men (in the book)





Blast from the Past: Allies of Diversity

East Wind, West Wind by Pearl Buck

East Wind: West Wind is told from the eyes of a traditional Chinese girl, Kwei-lan, married to a Chinese medical doctor, educated abroad. The story follows Kwei-lan as she begins to accept different points of view from the western world, and re-discovers her sense of self through this coming-of-age narrative.



What diversity it has: This is written by the famous Pearl Buck prior to her writing THE GOOD EARTH. This discusses the thorny issues of east meeting west and whether or not its possible to combine the best of the two.








A House Divided by Pearl Buck

The epic of China begins with soil, and with the simple peasants like Wang Lung whose story was told in The Good Earth. It rises and swells on the fortunes of the warlords and merchants, men like the Sons of Wang Lung. It surges anew in modern China- Communist China- in the third generation of the House of Wang. A House Divided brings Wang's grandson to America, where troubled and alone, he must choose between the old values and the new, between two generations- one dead, one powerless to be born.


What diversity it has: This is, literally, a sequel to THE GOOD EARTH and SONS and its a bit like EAST WIND, WEST WIND,  although it seems to have drawn different conclusions than EAST WIND, WEST WIND.






What I am Reading Now

Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

Clarissa Goenawan’s dark, spellbinding literary debut opens with a murder and shines a spotlight onto life in fictional small-town Japan.

Ren Ishida is nearly finished with graduate school when he receives news of his sister Keiko's sudden death. She was viciously stabbed one rainy night on her way home, and there are no leads. Ren heads to Akakawa to conclude his sister's affairs, still failing to understand why she chose to abandon the family and Tokyo for this desolate town years ago.

But Ren soon finds himself picking up where Keiko left off, accepting both her teaching position at a local cram school and the bizarre arrangement of free lodging at a wealthy politician’s mansion in exchange for reading to the man’s catatonic wife.

As he comes to know the figures in Akakawa, from the enigmatic politician to his fellow teachers and a rebellious, alluring student named Rio, Ren delves into his shared childhood with Keiko and what followed, trying to piece together what happened the night of her death. Haunted in his dreams by a young girl who is desperately trying to tell him something, Ren struggles to find solace in the void his sister has left behind.

Pages 81 out of 322

Future Reviews

Speak No Evil by Uzudinma Iweala (for fresh fiction, but does contain a gay African teenager)

A revelation shared between two privileged teenagers from very different backgrounds sets off a chain of events with devastating consequences.

On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, D.C., he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school. Bound for Harvard in the fall, his prospects are bright. But Niru has a painful secret: he is queer—an abominable sin to his conservative Nigerian parents. No one knows except Meredith, his best friend, the daughter of prominent Washington insiders—and the one person who seems not to judge him.

When his father accidentally discovers Niru is gay, the fallout is brutal and swift. Coping with troubles of her own, however, Meredith finds that she has little left emotionally to offer him. As the two friends struggle to reconcile their desires against the expectations and institutions that seek to define them, they find themselves speeding toward a future more violent and senseless than they can imagine. Neither will escape unscathed.

The Art of Keeping Secrets-Rachael Johns (One of the supporting characters is transgender, but I'm not sure yet how the author plans on using him; either as a comic relief or to learn valuable lessons from, for Fresh Fiction)

Some Secrets Weren't Meant to Be Kept...

They started out as the "misfit moms"--the trio of less-than-conventional parents at their sons' tony private school. They've shared everything. Or so they thought. Now, on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to New York City, they'll sightsee, they'll shop, they'll catch a few Broadway shows. They'll tell all...

After seventeen years as a single parent, Neve will reveal a past sin that could destroy her relationship with her son. Emma will uncover the roots of her exhaustion and divulge the inappropriate feelings she has for her boss. And Flick--who knows a little about crafting a flawless exterior--will share the shocking truth that lies beneath the veneer of her perfect marriage.

When the tight hold they've each kept on their secrets for years begins to slip, they must face the truth. Even if the truth will forever alter the course of their friendship and their lives.


My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood (main characters suffers from PTSD, while another is alcoholic, for Fresh Fiction)

In the vein of Fiona Barton's The Widow and RenĂ©e Knight's Disclaimer, a psychological thriller about a war reporter who returns to her childhood home after her mother's death but becomes convinced that all is not well in the house next door—but is what she’s seeing real or a symptom of the trauma she suffered in Syria?

The One Person You Should Trust Is Lying to You…

Kate has spent fifteen years bringing global injustice home: as a decorated war reporter, she’s always in a place of conflict, writing about ordinary people in unimaginable situations. When her mother dies, Kate returns home from Syria for the funeral. But an incident with a young Syrian boy haunts her dreams, and when Kate sees a boy in the garden of the house next door—a house inhabited by an Iraqi refugee who claims her husband is away and she has no children—Kate becomes convinced that something is very wrong.

As she struggles to separate her memories of Syria from the quiet town in which she grew up—and also to reconcile her memories of a traumatic childhood with her sister’s insistence that all was not as Kate remembers—she begins to wonder what is actually true…and what is just in her mind.

In this gripping, timely debut, Nuala Ellwood brings us an unforgettable damaged character, a haunting , humanizing look at the Syrian conflict, and a deeply harrowing psychological thriller that readers won’t be able to put down.


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.


Eternal Life by Dara Horn

Rachel is a woman with a problem: she can’t die. Her recent troubles—widowhood, a failing business, an unemployed middle-aged son—are only the latest in a litany spanning dozens of countries, scores of marriages, and hundreds of children. In the 2,000 years since she made a spiritual bargain to save the life of her first son back in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, she’s tried everything to free herself, and only one other person in the world understands: a man she once loved passionately, who has been stalking her through the centuries, convinced they belong together forever.

But as the twenty-first century begins and her children and grandchildren—consumed with immortality in their own ways, from the frontiers of digital currency to genetic engineering—develop new technologies that could change her fate and theirs, Rachel knows she must find a way out.

Gripping, hilarious, and profoundly moving, Eternal Life celebrates the bonds between generations, the power of faith, the purpose of death, and the reasons for being alive.

5 Books I am planning on tackling this year

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


Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

A searing, electrifying debut novel set in India and America, about a once-in-a-lifetime friendship between two girls who are driven apart but never stop trying to find one another again.

When Poornima first meets Savitha, she feels something she thought she lost for good when her mother died: hope. Poornima's father hires Savitha to work one of their sari looms, and the two girls are quickly drawn to one another. Savitha is even more impoverished than Poornima, but she is full of passion and energy. She shows Poornima how to find beauty in a bolt of indigo cloth, a bowl of yogurt rice and bananas, the warmth of friendship. Suddenly their Indian village doesn't feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond the arranged marriage her father is desperate to lock down for her. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend again. Her journey takes her into the darkest corners of India's underworld, on a harrowing cross-continental journey, and eventually to an apartment complex in Seattle. Alternating between the girls’ perspectives as they face relentless obstacles, Girls Burn Brighter introduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within them.

In breathtaking prose, Shobha Rao tackles the most urgent issues facing women today: domestic abuse, human trafficking, immigration, and feminism. At once a propulsive page-turner and a heart-wrenching meditation on friendship, Rao's debut novel is a literary tour de force.

Pages: 307


Israela by Batya Casper

In my heart, I call to their mothers, 'Take your sons to your houses. Bind them to your chairs; gag them, blindfold them if necessary until they grow calm. Then teach them, for they have forgotten, about peace, about the blessed life, about a future-a present-without pain.' Beneath their prayers, in their morning cups of coffee, beneath their love-making and their child-rearing, and in their sorrow, especially in their sorrow when burying their dead, I hear the simmering of heating souls; I smell the charge of armies, of lives exploding uselessly into smithereens. I sit in mourning over a disaster still to come. In Israel, the lives of three women interweave with the story of their country. Ratiba, an Israeli journalist, turns her back on her heritage to marry an Israeli Arab. Her sister Orit, an actor, lives alone and longs for her lost sister. Elisheva is a nurse who dedicates her life to the wounded and the dying. As their lives unfold, the three women find themselves facing choices they would never have envisioned. This is a story of secrets and alienation, yet also of hope and heroism. It is about Arabs who save Jews from disaster and Jews who heal Arabs. It is the story of everyday people torn and desperately searching for the right path. Here, the ancient pulsates in present time and the biblical holds prominence with the secular. Beneath this modern-day drama unfolds the story of a land and its people, revealing the historical trajectory of two peoples, victims and perpetrators of a biblical curse 'This perceptive, poignant novel offers a fresh and essential outlook on Israel. With memorable characters and an abundance of drama, Israela is gripping reading.' - Lou Aronica, New York Times bestselling author

Pages: 365


A Different Mirror; A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki

"A Different Mirror" is a dramatic new retelling of our nation's history, a powerful larger narrative of the many different peoples who together compose the United States of America. In a lively account filled with the stories and voices of people previously left out of the historical canon, Ronald Takaki offers a fresh perspective - a "re-visioning" - of our nation's past.

Pages: 428









Forgotten Reflections by Young-Im Lee

In the current international climate where North Korea takes center stage, “Forgotten Reflections” weaves an inspirational tale of family, lost memories, folklore and an unforgotten history, spanning three generations as South Korea rises from the ashes.

DARE TO DREAM IN THE MIDST OF WAR.

1945. Rice fields seem endless in a quaint farming village of South Korea, yet Iseul the villagers have been starving for as long as they can remember. Their Japanese colonizers have taken every last grain with them as they are finally forced out of the Peninsula. In the newly independent Korea, Iseul and Jung-Soo dream of what their future might bring. Yet, war is on the horizon, and Iseul has fallen for an alleged North Korean communist spy.

Men are conscripted and rice is taken to feed the growing army as the Peninsula is thrust into an international war that would determine if the strategic region will become communist or democratic. With nothing but the news of death and hunger awaiting the village of women, children and the aged, Iseul musters up whatever hope she has left to bring the village together to make paper. Soon, the village once known for its rice, becomes famous for its paper, becoming a beacon of hope for their battle-worn soldiers awaiting letters from their loved ones.

Yet spies and communists continue to roam South Korea, turning neighbors and families against one another. For years, Jung-Soo has been suspicious of his father’s allegiances. With a series of mysterious revelations about his father, Jung-Soo is forced to choose between his tainted communist past, and the future he hopes to have with Iseul after the war.

Pages: 476

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