A quick read that shows the inspirational struggles of women in USA from 18th century until 20th century until they gained the right to vote. If onlyA quick read that shows the inspirational struggles of women in USA from 18th century until 20th century until they gained the right to vote. If only we could have Bernie Sanders or even Jill Stein elected into power to continue the struggle towards achieving more equality between men and women.
I think it is too bad that now we are stuck with Hillary Clinton who will definitely tarnish the image of women's progress in America, as her and her husband's policies have hurt millions of women across the country financially with their welfare reform in mid-1990s....more
Though I can understand French quite well, I have chosen to read this book in English for two reasons. First, I can read a library copy for free. SecoThough I can understand French quite well, I have chosen to read this book in English for two reasons. First, I can read a library copy for free. Second, I prefer not to refer to dictionary too often as it saps out the joy from reading them.
I am not reiterating the whole premise here, but suffice it to say that if you are quite familiar with news of contemporary French literature (whether translated or otherwise), you would have heard of the controversy behind this novel. And I do not even understand what the big deal is about…
The novel’s backdrop of Islamic Republic of France in the near future is not meant as a satire nor a tirade against what is perceived to be Islam’s encroaching hegemony over Western Europe. Rather, it is quite the opposite! The protagonist François, who was a professor in his 40s, did end up losing his job as the University of Sorbonne where he had worked was transformed into Islamic University of Sorbonne under the new Islamic regime of France. Despite this, he was offered a pension of 3000+ euros monthly which he remarked to be very generous. The whole thing (elections, coalition between UMP and National Front, power transfer from Socialist Party to French Muslim Brotherhood, inter alia) happened in the background as merely things that François notices on the news or talks about with his colleagues, as he was not involved in politics nor particularly knowledgeable of politics himself.
And yes, did I mention UMP? The irony is that UMP no longer exists… Though UMP was shown to be extant in 2022 in the novel, in real life UMP had been dissolved and transformed into Les Républicains in May 2015, a mere four months after the publication of this novel! This is why people should not get so tensed over this work of fiction, many of the political plot points in the novel are simply stretched by the author Michel Houellebecq’s liberty of imagination.
Being written from first-person point of view, not once did François react negatively towards the Muslim way of life during the entirety of the novel, even as he saw that women were no longer invited to official parties or that women were veiled. The author Michel Houellebecq also took liberties to ensure that in the novel, one French way of life would the same under the new Islamic regime, which is booze! The characters he met, whether Muslim or not, did not cast any aversions towards drinking alcoholic beverages. One colleague of François, a recent convert to Islam was even seen to be offering his array of drinks (martini, boukha, wine, brandy) as they discussed theology and philosophy on a casual evening.
Overall, because the story occurs in a highbrow academic’s head, there are plenty of references to literary works of many French poets and novelists from centuries ago, especially those of Joris-Karl Huysmans, whose works he made a dissertation of. Beware that it does get dull reading his comparisons and contrasts of Huysmans to Léon Bloy, Rimbaud, and other French literary figures. However, if you are patient enough, more interesting things happened. As François learned that his ex-girlfriend had moved on with her new life, he started seeking spiritual meanings in Huysmans’ monastic life to fill the void that had tugged him. And yes, the last 20% of the book would deal on whether François would embrace Islam to fill that void in his heart. (view spoiler)[Even the conversion of François to Islam itself is deliberately left ambiguous, the pages dedicated to it was written in conditional tense (instead of past tense like the rest of the novel), leaving it up to the readers to imagine for themselves whether or not François actually converted. (hide spoiler)]
I do question the author Houellebecq’s liberty of making the characters in the novel getting into polygamy, because even in actual Muslim countries, polygamy is not as widespread today as it was centuries ago. It almost seemed like every Muslim character in the novel wanted polygamy. However, I had also somewhat anticipated Houellebecq to have made the Muslim-led regime in the novel to sound less tolerant of other religions (like Saudi Arabia does) but instead, he turned it into an Islamic regime that is well-attuned to European sensibilities (like Turkey does). In the novel, conversions into Islam is encouraged with financial incentives, but even for those who did not want to convert, nothing bad befell them. Houellebecq had made the Muslim-led regime in the novel to appear quite tolerant as it is in reality: there is no evidence that Christians or Jews were persecuted anywhere in the novel, as proven by the fact that the protagonist could visit and stay in a monastery without seeing any tampering to the churches’ structures.
Again, this novel is merely a work of fiction, so there is no need to get so tensed about it.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
A very unique book, shaped like an Aztec/Incan/Mayan pyramid, with the smallest pages on the top and the largest pages on the bottom. It is packed witA very unique book, shaped like an Aztec/Incan/Mayan pyramid, with the smallest pages on the top and the largest pages on the bottom. It is packed with trivias of the amazing indigenous civilizations of the Americas too!...more
A touching, poignant graphic novel about long-distance romantic relationship between two Italians that evolved over the span of several decades. It doA touching, poignant graphic novel about long-distance romantic relationship between two Italians that evolved over the span of several decades. It does not necessarily end in happy ending, but hey...that's what realistic fiction is like. Not everything is granted a fairy tale "happily ever after" ending.
The story may feel disjointed at times, especially since there are separate sections where the story makes a leap of 10-20 years into the future. But I guess this is the author's take on artistic licence.
The style of illustration is also rather cute. I highly recommend this reading to anyone who has experienced any kind of long-distance romantic relationship....more
A very fascinating children's book on the history of Vikings. I learned a lot of interesting trivia, including how the names of Odin (Woden) became thA very fascinating children's book on the history of Vikings. I learned a lot of interesting trivia, including how the names of Odin (Woden) became the origin of Wednesday, Thor became the origin of Thursday, and Odin's wife Frigg became the origin of Friday....more
A brilliant educational and humorous graphic novel that explains in a lighthearted way how USA disposes 389 million tons annually. I love the way theA brilliant educational and humorous graphic novel that explains in a lighthearted way how USA disposes 389 million tons annually. I love the way the author Backderf uses a fictionalized account of his own experience as a garbageman to show the different types of garbage and the potential health hazard they may bring.
For anyone who are concerned about the environmental friendliness of North American continent, this graphic novel is a must-read....more
I've never had much interest on the dynastic history of China, particularly because the modern China (i.e. the Nationalist and Communist era) are moreI've never had much interest on the dynastic history of China, particularly because the modern China (i.e. the Nationalist and Communist era) are more interesting and relevant to today's geopolitical affairs.
However, this book changed my mind. To call it a children's book would be an understatement: sure, it is aimed at children with its simplistic language and cute illustrations, but it is packed with a wealth of interesting trivia that always piques you for to read more. For example, do you know that the chosen heir of the Emperor would need to attend school seven days a week, and gets only FIVE days off in a whole year? The huge amount of knowledge that need to be imparted to the Emperor-to-be, ranging from Math, Military skills, archery, Chinese, and Manchu language et al would take most of his childhood, so that he would be well-prepared to lead the Empire when his time comes.
This is the first book on Chinese dynasties (particularly Ming and Qing ones) that really sucked me in. Once I opened the pages, I just can't stop reading about how fascinating life was under the different Emperors that once ruled.
Kudos to Chiu Kwong-chiu and Eileen Ng for such a great oeuvre!...more
It breaks my heart to know that African American men in early 20th century were not allowed to check out items from the library... This fictionalizedIt breaks my heart to know that African American men in early 20th century were not allowed to check out items from the library... This fictionalized account of true story is both touching and inspiring!...more
This memoir, was surprisingly written by a lady who was born in 1993.
Some would say that is too young of an age to write a memoir. Even she herself exThis memoir, was surprisingly written by a lady who was born in 1993.
Some would say that is too young of an age to write a memoir. Even she herself expressed people's surprise that she could write a memoir at that age.
But if you read this account of how she defected from North Korea to China (and sneaked in to Mongolia before being sent to South Korea), you'd understand the pain and struggles that she had had to go through.
At times she contemplated suicide due to the mental torture she faced as a victim of human trafficking in China. Most North Korean women, especially the penniless ones, had no choice but to acquiesce to be trafficked into prostitution or sold as a “mail-order bride” to the millions of lonely Chinese men who couldn’t find a wife due to the One Child Policy. Fortunately for her, she had to endure neither of those aforementioned ordeals, though her own struggle did not end up any less painful. She had to avoid being detected by Chinese people who could report her to the authorities at all time, as the Chinese government has never hesitated to send back any North Korean defectors back to the country they just left.
However, remembering her vows to help her dying father escape North Korea and find her missing sister, she fought through them all and won.
She later became a Christian and a South Korean, obtained her South Korean equivalency of GED, and pursued a criminal justice degree. After 2010, she has also learned English and Spanish, and to my surprise, this book was originally written in English! There is no indication whatsoever that this book had been translated from her native Korean, which means that within five years of learning English she had gained adequate proficiency to pen a memoir in a language she had just learned.
Today, she has become one of the most recognizable faces for the oppressed people of North Korea.
To do all that before she even turned 22 (the book was released in 1995) is quite an accomplishment in itself, and I always wish Yeonmi-ya the best of luck in her life. ...more