A marvelous work for historical fiction! I appreciated the novel even more after reading Lisa See's author note at the end: what incredible research aA marvelous work for historical fiction! I appreciated the novel even more after reading Lisa See's author note at the end: what incredible research and personal experience/family narratives she expertly wove into this story!
My one critique initially was that gender discrimination as portrayed in this novel seemed a little too "one the nose," and I couldn't tell if this was due to the writing or cultural context of the novel. However, See's note on footbinding in the Afterword helped give insight, and I almost wish I had read this before reading the novel:
"Many preconceptions and misconceptions surround footbinding. It's easy to equate it with the horrific practice of female genital mutilation in Africa, the tradition of shrouding women in burkas in the Middle East, or even the strange, peculiar, often extreme cosmetic surgery treatments that so many American women seek. But I didn't want to put my contemporary Western values on teh practice. Rather, I wanted to write about footbinding from the perspective of the women and girls who had grown up with it. For me, this brought up a lot of questions: How does a culture decide what's beautiful? How does our worth as women change according to that sense of beauty? How can a mother put her daughter through such agony? And what would it mean to have achieved the socially accepted and acknowledged beauty of three-inch feet yet be hobbled or possibly crippled in the process?" (263-264).
This is not a novel for the faint of heart. See's descriptions of footbinding are vivid and brutal, albeit necessary. I didn't feel like she was trying to cultivate Western voyeurism here. Rather, she successfully established women's reality in this particular setting to readers who are far removed from that context, both temporally and culturally.
Finally, I loved this novel because female friendship was the force that continually offered hope and comfort in such an oppressively patriarchal life. This kept the novel from spiraling into narrative without agency. ...more
Modern Romance is a delightful and insightful window into the contemporary dating world, particularly when considering technology's enigmatic influencModern Romance is a delightful and insightful window into the contemporary dating world, particularly when considering technology's enigmatic influence. I read the audio book version, which I highly recommend because Aziz adds in some fun (and funny) asides/tangents that aren't in the print version of the book.
One of the best aspects of this book is its intergenerational commentary. Aziz and I are from the same generation, so we have a certain love-hate relationship with technology like texting, namely because it hasn't always been part of our lives. I think he does a great job at illustrating how differently the Millenium generation views such vehicles for communication/love. As a result, I think this book is a must-read for parents of teenagers to understand the whats and whys of dating in the 21st century. Fascinating stuff.
However, as many commentators have stated, this book is needlessly heterosexist. I just don't understand Ansari's choice to leave LGBT narratives out of his studies. In addition, I felt like some of the chapters got a little repetitive and could have done a better job exploring elements such as gender roles more deliberately.
Having said all that, I really appreciate this book for what it is and am glad that a comedian, for once, chose to write about something substantial and interesting, instead of just writing a book to capitalize on fame. Ansari is smart-funny, which is why I love his standup. And this is a smart book (with delightful occasions of "funny" too). ...more
So good! Kamala, a 16-year-old Pakistani girl from Jersey City becomes a superhero, and she has to grapple with what that means for her identity as aSo good! Kamala, a 16-year-old Pakistani girl from Jersey City becomes a superhero, and she has to grapple with what that means for her identity as a young Muslim girl with strict (but delightfully loving) parents. Finally, a comic book series that focuses more on character development than just battles! I love so many things about this first volume: the questions about faith/tradition, the fact that Kamala doesn't need a love interest to make the story compelling, and the ways that gender and cultural roles get upended....more
I enjoyed every minute of this book. Functioning more like a collection of short stories than a novel, Alvarez arranges "How the Garcia Girls Lost TheI enjoyed every minute of this book. Functioning more like a collection of short stories than a novel, Alvarez arranges "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" in reverse chronological order, a risk that works incredibly well. Each chapter could also stand alone as its own short story. (Teachers of short fiction, take notice! Seriously, some great craft at work here.) Illogically, I found myself more and more interested in each story, even though the protagonists got younger and younger, and the overall "plot" of the novel unwound.
I adored this book as much as I enjoyed "Yo," which explores the life of adult Yolanda. In "Garcia Girls," we get to see Yo and her three sisters briefly as adults; most of the novel focuses on their adolescence and childhood. However, Yo gets the spotlight in "Garcia Girls" too -- she obviously became one of Alvarez's favorite characters, and for good reason. She bucks up against gender norms, parental authority, and societal expectations.
I love how Alvarez continues to explore the same de la Torres family in her various novels. In "Garcia Girls," we follow the story of a family that immigrated to the United States during the revolution in the Dominican Republic. In "Before We Were Free," we read about the family who was forced to stay behind. It doesn't matter what order you read these books in. I kind of liked beginning with "Yo" and then backtracking to "Garcia Girls" to find out what conflicting gender/cultural norms these characters encountered that formed their identities.
The last thing I'll say about this book is that it is surprisingly optimistic. This is in part due to Alvarez's development of incredibly resilience in her characters and in part due to her use of paradox. While she doesn't shy away from difficult themes, we leave each chapter feeling hope instead of despair.
Take a novel that is well-written, embraces hope, and involves many of my favorite themes -- postcolonial identity, gender, coming-of-age narrative, etc. -- and you have one of my newly discovered all-time favorite authors, hands down....more
What a beautiful, marvelous book. My first grade buddy Alaina recommended this to me, and it is an amazing read for just about any age. Well-developedWhat a beautiful, marvelous book. My first grade buddy Alaina recommended this to me, and it is an amazing read for just about any age. Well-developed quirky characters, strong women, and an engaging plot with lots of imagination and agency, even a hint of magical realism that is so well-managed you don't even question its magic or realism.
"My heart told me it would not let me leave those pages flopped upside down on the floor of the truck, even if I am never going to read a word. A heart is like that. If you listen, it will give you marching orders."
"Beatrice, we came to show you there's a long line of women behind you who have stood on their own two feet, and to show you that you can do it too."