I'm very glad I read this, even though I doubt I'll be interested in rereading it again. I definitely liked the book, but whether a person will love iI'm very glad I read this, even though I doubt I'll be interested in rereading it again. I definitely liked the book, but whether a person will love it or not depends a lot upon their taste, and how important certain aspects of novels are to them. The book has a powerful story and a walloping message, but is often heavy-handed in its writing style. Indeed, this was the author's first book, and it turns 20 years old this year, so its place in the world of popular reading and writing has shifted. You can tell, reading it, that this is a writer who will grow more, because it is so well-conceived but misses some beauty in the writing, and some subtlety in the themes, and those are important characteristics to me as a reader.
It did pleasantly surprise me. It wasn't about what I expected it to be about, but I ended up getting something out of the direction it went in anyway. At first I wasn't certain I liked it much at all, and then I started to understand what the focus would be and it worked a bit better for me. While I was expecting this to be a mother-daughter story and an immigration/culture-shock story, this is not really the novel's atmosphere at all. It's a looking-in book rather than a looking-out book. Trauma, really, is the atmosphere, to the extent that it almost is a "therapy book": both mother and daughter experience sexual traumas, and these, themselves, are our subject. It is the "reverberation through the generations" story. It is straightforward and tough. There is a coming-to-terms, without a clean ending. (There's a big ending, but not a clean one.)
Our protagonist Sophie grows up in Haiti without her mother and then, suddenly, is summoned to live with her in New York. She experiences almost the opposite of culture shock: her New York school is Haitian, they teach in French, and her mother does what — according to her — Haitian mothers do. Sophie left the political dangers of the country of Haiti behind, but the cultural issues are still with them in the United States. The sexual oppression of girls becomes very real in Sophie's life, and it becomes the focal point of everything, including her mother's past, and her own future.
While I was reading this, I attended an event with the author where she mentioned meeting a group of psychiatry students who had read this book and were using it as a case study for clinical analysis, and I can completely see how you could do this. I often think about the connections between literary analysis and counseling. And here, everything floats right up on the surface, the same way it does in clinical case studies. Having lived her teenage years with her mother's PTSD, as an adult Sophie is in therapy, Sophie attends a support group for victims of sexual phobia, and eventually, Sophie goes right back to Haiti. She needs to ask it questions. She looks her beloved grandmother in the eye and asks why their family does what it does. These scenes are quite blunt and simple, in terms of literary artfulness, but as an "issue book" it is almost as good as a survivor's handbook. A script, even.
This book also surprised me in some personal ways on the more general thematic level, the connections-between-people level. It directly addresses (and works out) some things that happen to have come up in my own life in the past week. Isn't it strange when this happens for you in a book? I didn't even know it would, here. But I listened.
Reviewed when I read it as an e-book from the library. Bought a copy to use for a project....more
What I always loved about Reza's plays were the monologues, which is essentially what you get from a first-person narrative novel, no?
All I really remWhat I always loved about Reza's plays were the monologues, which is essentially what you get from a first-person narrative novel, no?
All I really remember about this book was that it was immensely cynical, which wasn't really a bad thing, and also that there was this really weird condom joke I have never made sense of, which is definitely a bad thing.
Reza is definitely one for the "I am concerned I wouldn't like this any more if I reread it again, which would be troubling because it was super important to me once upon a time" list. Don't know....more
It's essentially a set of monologues, back and forth, which is a thing II loved this soooooo much once.
I'm afraid it might actually be really stupid.
It's essentially a set of monologues, back and forth, which is a thing I sort of dig. Perhaps, though, I dug it more as a writing exercise than I would on a stage. (I immediately started writing a rip-off, when I read it in high school. I found it really inspiring.) I'd go to see it, sometime, and maybe, on the right Sunday afternoon, I'd read it again....more
I remember quite liking this, actually. I think I read it when it was new. I thought it was sweet, and it probably is much moreso than Shopgirl is, beI remember quite liking this, actually. I think I read it when it was new. I thought it was sweet, and it probably is much moreso than Shopgirl is, because the redemption here hinges 1) more on overcoming an actual setback than an imaginary one, and 2) on a relationship with a little kid rather than a dream-girl. I still own this, and I'd consider rereading it sometime....more
I'm not certain I'll ever actually read this through? But I went to see Neal Pollack at countless thingies in college, and I thought he was the best.I'm not certain I'll ever actually read this through? But I went to see Neal Pollack at countless thingies in college, and I thought he was the best. I have basically zero contact with his new, bearded yoga-writing parenting-humor journalist self, but this book was written during the period in which he posed as a fake literary giant, The Greatest Living American Author, whom no one could resist. (This book includes a piece called, "Why Am I So Handsome?") The satire fit, in the Bush era. Helped, even....more
This book came out shortly after I graduated from high school and moved away to college. When it did, my two favorite English teachers went to a signiThis book came out shortly after I graduated from high school and moved away to college. When it did, my two favorite English teachers went to a signing back home, and got me an autographed copy to send to me at my dorm room.
Then I loaned it to a girl on my hall and she moved away with it.