Thursday, June 1, 2017

Diverse Reads on my Blog #9

So I've been away for a long time when it came to mentioning Diverse Reads that I previously reviewed on my blog. Do not worry, gentle reader, I will make more attempts to represent diverse reads.

Blast from the Past:

White Tigress by Jade Lee

The Dragon: the Chinese symbol of maleness, virility, power.
The Tiger: femininity, fortune, desire.
Two symbols. Two people. One all-consuming passion.

Englishwoman Lydia Smith sailed to the Orient seeking her fiance. She found treachery instead. In seedy Shanghai, she was drugged, sold, and made a slave to a dark-eyed dragon of a man. But while her captor purchased her body, was that what he truly sought? He demanded not her virginity but her yin-the essence of her ecstasy-and there seemed no choice ubt to consent. What harm, Lydia wondered, was there in allowing him to pleasure her, to teach her, until she could flee?

It was the danger-and reward-of taking the first step on a journey to heaven, and her feet were already on the path to becoming a radiant and joyous...White Tigress.

Why It's Diverse:

The author is half Chinese from her mother's side and Caucasian from her father's side. Her Tigress series also depict Asian men as romantic heroes and desirable by women, both Caucasian and Asian.

The Crab Flower Club by Cao Xueqin

The Story of the Stone (c 1760 A.D>) is the great novel of manners in Chinese literature. Divided into five volumes, of which The Crab-Flower Club is the second, 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:

It's considered one of the Chinese classics, and covers chapters 27-53 and is second of the four great classics. Imagine finding a book in China written in mid 18th century that is dedicated to women and talks a great deal about their plight and it takes place in China

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Winer of the 1921 Pulitzer Prize, The Age of Innocence is Edith Wharton's portrait of desire and betrayal in Old New York. As Newland Archer preparers to marry the docile May Welland, his world is forever changed by the return of the mysterious Countess Ellen Olenska. "Wharton's characters...become very real. You know their hearts, souls and yearnings, and the price they pay for those yearnings." (San Francisco Examiner.) This authoritative text is reprinted from the Library of America edition of Novels by Edith Wharton.

Why It's Diverse:

I know, a wealthy white woman author, why is she here? Truth is she suffered from deppression, and the way to help her out of depression is for her to write stories or novels. (Supposedly her doctor prescribed her that remedy!)

Blast from the Past: Allies of Diversity:

Mother Earth, Father Sky by Sue Harrison

In a frozen time before history, in a harsh and beautiful land near the top of the world, womanhood comes cruelly and suddenly to beautiful, young Chagak. Surviving the brutal massacre of her tribe, she sets out across the icy waters off America's northwest coast on an astonishing odyssey that will reveal to Chagak power secrets of the earth and sky...and the mysteries of love and loss.

How it promotes diversity:

Native American characters, people who live near Alaska in ancient times are portrayed as complex human beings. I also love the details she has when it comes to daily life of the people and is something I would re-read over and over.

Bird and Fish by Adrienne Leslie

A bird and fish may fall in love but where will they live? Wendy Dale quietly shoulders her exhausting family demands: her daughter's battle with Crohn's disease, her husband's laissez-faire approach to their crumbling marriage and a self-absorbed mother grown more demanding after a series of strokes. By becoming an aging girly-girl, Wendy stifles her authentic self in clearance rack shopping, Martha Stewart housekeeping and smoothing the daily friction between black, white and Asian students who jockey for school control. Taking no joy from teaching or homemaking, the teacher longs simply to write a children's story honoring her father's unusual legacy.

Curmudgeon Hyun Jae Won is hiding in America. Talked into starting anew after the suicide of his parent approved wife, the artist turned entrepreneur seeks anonymity until the red-haired teacher unhinges his solitude by stumbling into his shop after her cell phone announces her diagnosis of cancer.

Forming a kinship for their dreams, Jae Won and Wendy soon discover while growing up over 6,000 miles apart they are more alike than different. As if tied by the mythical Red String, they must battle Korean and American relatives, unscrupulous art dealers and well-meaning friends. The couple will travel 200 miles from Manhattan's hurly burly Upper East Side to the pristine fishing grounds of upstate New York and back to the city's biggest borough strengthening their bond till Jae's fate calls him back to Seoul.

Bird and Fish daubs infidelity, passion, cancer survival and re-birth with the vibrancy of a Minhwah watercolor on a New York autumn canvas.

How it promotes diversity:

The author happens to be a fan of Korean dramas and attempts to write a novel and its sequel based on a Korean drama. One of the characters also happens to be a breast cancer survivor, and has a daughter with Cron's disease.

Sea and Sky by Adrienne Leslie

Cancer survivor Wendy Dale has been busy healing others; her alcoholic husband, her chronically ill daughter and cantankerous mother. No wonder she took a Korean lover. But Hyun Jae Won returned to Korea leaving Wendy unable to heal herself. After discovering her good friend Libby Spring abandoned a baby in Taegu, Korea years earlier, Wendy offers to make the six thousand mile journey to locate Libby's now-grown son. Finally, she has an excuse to find her soul mate. Now, if she can only find out why she's trhowing-up every morning.

The eye opening, jaw dropping second book in Adrienne Leslie's Bird and Fish Duology, is finally out. Only this time, in Sea and Sky, the flames of love aren't smoldering. They're burning the house down.

How it promotes diversity:

It's sad that I didn't enjoy either of the books, although I admire the author's intentions. This is loosely based on old Korean dramas and features a white woman who is a breast cancer survivor and has a daughter with Chron's disease.

What I am Reading Now

Nothing yet, I am afraid

Future Reviews

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.

5 Books I am planning 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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