Having read the other titles in the trilogy, I think Sweet, Hereafter is a deft closing. This final installment is about Sweet, a young girl we meet tHaving read the other titles in the trilogy, I think Sweet, Hereafter is a deft closing. This final installment is about Sweet, a young girl we meet through Marley in Heaven. Sweet is odd; she wears knee high rain boots, isn’t obsessed with ipods or Facebook, drives a truck dubbed Alice and likes feeding ground hogs apple peels. She doesn’t fit in with her perfect, beautiful family. In this closing book, it’s a few years later and Sweet, a senior, is still odd but popular. When her relationship with her family reaches her breaking point, she moves in with Curtis, another quiet but friendly young man enlisted in the Reserves home after one tour in Iraq. Their connection is both tender and tenuous.
The story unfolds slowly. The commentary is sparse and even the most dramatic scenes are subdued. This is however a poignant read. Johnson renders a short, but memorable story about how we find meaning and make connections in the lives we lead. There’s no happy ending but there is resolution. I think there is some peace. To paraphrase one of the characters, there is enough. We don’t get a lot of time with the characters, we don’t get lengthy histories or long passages of dialogue but we do get enough. We get a mother connecting with a daughter in a way I think the daughter understands. We get a young girl and young man loving for a time. We see friends doing what they can. We get enough.
In a culture where communication is a juxtaposition of multi-tasking and texting, I think this kind of brevity matches teens' modern sensibility without compromising the art. This is life distilled in a meaningful way.
The length of the book works. This book is small but powerful. Yes, it is a good for a reluctant reader and a broader audience as well. My experience is that most teens want everything from food to entertainment to get to the point and get there fast. No, we don’t get 400 pages of pining or violence. It’s not an epic tale of adventure. It is what I think the author intended: an intimate close to a series that has looked at relationships the way they really happen.
For me the read is seamless; elegant in sparse prose lines that feel like poetry. The depth of the work is understated but potent. ...more
The Other Side of Paradise written by Staceyann Chin is startling in its clarity, fresh in its narration and the writing is as bold as the young poet,The Other Side of Paradise written by Staceyann Chin is startling in its clarity, fresh in its narration and the writing is as bold as the young poet, writer, lesbian activist is daily in her tweets or one of her performances. TOSoP is about a young girl who refused to be quiet. She came into the world unexpectedly with lungs much bigger than her premature body should have had.
What I love most about The Other Side of Paradise is the writer’s voice, specifically Staceyann the child’s voice. The voice is authentic. You can’t manufacture this. Some would say the child’s voice is audacious, and it is. In a culture where it is trendy to create in-your-face work, The Other Side of Paradise doesn’t have to scream at you to captivate you. Young Staceyann not knowing how dangerous it is to speak her mind honestly makes you cringe and want to hush the child before she says one more thing that earns her a scolding, a smack and rejection. It’s the cruel reality of being innocent and vulnerable that wallops you upside the head.
This memoir plays out like a daring Indi film. The footage looks like it’s unedited but the rendering is so flawless, you know it’s a carefully crafted work of a real writer. While we get Staceyann as-is there is nothing clumsy or awkward here. This work isn’t burdened with analysis nor is it a sanitized, hindsight-laden trope. Instead we come to know Chin through reliving her experiences and digesting choice reflections of what those experiences mean. Staceyann the child suffers abuse, neglect, abandonment and rejection but she doesn’t carry her victimization around like a child’s tattered blanket. She calls it what it is and does what she can rid herself of it so she can get on with becoming the woman she wants to be.
There are many poignant episodes in this memoir. In all of them, I was so vested that often I was having an internal dialogue with Staceyann: Oh, no, Staceyann, no, not this time. Don’t answer. Don’t tell the truth. Be quiet. Instead of pandering, Chin gives us relief when we need it with organic episodes that say even when life is ugly we find some joy. When the young girl discovers she can pleasure herself, I laughed and ached with her. When her aunt scolds her, when she tells Staceyann that her life is her own fault, and it is Staceyann’s responsibility to avoid being hurt by others, I relived the sting of being shamed and the isolation of knowing there is no one you can cry out to, to protect you, and I know many women who figuratively know the desperation of wrapping yourself tightly in a filthy, disgusting sheet. Ms. Chin’s memoir is a testament that while we may been violated, we do not have to remain victims. We can fight back and win.
I knew little about Ms. Chin’s work or her before reading The Other Side of Paradise. What I discovered was a child I did know. I am glad I took the time to listen, to listen to the child who grew, who dared to not be quiet and who later became the woman who was audacious enough to tell her story. Ms. Chin’s memoir is impressive, provocative, brilliant writing. It is an unflinching look at the other side of Paradise....more
Stealing Buddha’s Dinner is a good and uneven story of a Vietnamese girl who grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the early 80s. Bich’s family escapesStealing Buddha’s Dinner is a good and uneven story of a Vietnamese girl who grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the early 80s. Bich’s family escapes Saigon in 1975 and are sponsored by a Christian Reformed Church family in what Bich describes as a sea of blonde and blue-eyed people. The memoir chronicles how the narrator struggles to define who she is: a Vietnamese girl who left her native home so young that she only identifies with her culture through her grandmother and her grandmother’s food and faith. Bich desperately wants to be American and for her assimilation is fed by her obsession with American junk food.
I’ve read a few memoirs that use food as a way of showing how we relate to family and how our identities are in part shaped by how food is integral to our culture; a promising vehicle and I was excited to read this. What is most problematic with the memoir however is how tightly Bich binds everything in either lists of food, episodes of eating food or thinking about food. Still in a society that is currently suffering in mass from obesity and our own neurosis with food disorders, Bich’s obsession works for me. While our relationships with food vary, for most of us, food is comfort.
I was expecting what I thought was a typical immigrant story but early on it became clear this would be different. Bich was eight-months-old when her family fled Vietnam. When they moved to Grand Rapids, Bich's family was part of a small, but growing minority surrounded by a largely homogeneous Dutch-descent, CRC community. Because they were sponsored, there was work and the extended family was intact. Every immigrant experience isn't punctuated by strife though assimilation is common factor. Bich’s story is about creating an identity not holding on to one. The memoir isn’t linear and the jumping around can be a bit confusing but overall, the obsession with food and the desire to be accepted unifies the work. Bich’s reluctance to relay her feelings without food to help her is at times tedious yet just when I had had enough of the food, she’d share something personal and intimate like the time she spends with her grandmother while she prays or watching television with her.
In one review, the reader felt the Laura Ingalls Wilder passage was disjointed and unnecessary. I couldn’t disagree more. This passage provides the kind of clarity that was missing for most of the book. Sans the food descriptions, in this section the author describes with incredible clarity the internal conflict of alienation yet an undeniable desire to fit in with people who reject her, will always see her as a foreigner and who frankly are prejudice and unkind; they aren’t perfect. They are not ideal. The Ingall section was an acknowledgment I had been waiting for. I had grown impatient with the child Bich who up to then failed to acknowledge how she willingly glossed over the pain of alienation and prejudice and instead fixated on the fantasy she believed was key to her happiness. And while she didn’t overtly discuss it, her descriptions of the Cleaver homes in the 80s was a juxtaposition I couldn’t stop thinking about. Here’s a child growing up with a progressive though enabler stepmother, idolizing pop icons like Madonna and what this child craves most is a dated model of a mother in a starched apron baking cookies.
Some readers have remarked they wanted to know more about her parents' strained relationship and the author’s relationships with her siblings and uncles, but for me, I get the not sharing too much about her family. This is Bich’s story. Her family didn’t sign up for having their lives opened for examination and speculation. Could Bich have done better to show how she related to them, maybe, but I appreciate her respecting their privacy.
There are moments here that are memorable and well written. Yes, the book is uneven, it’s not a smooth ride but neither is real life. This is non-fiction not a screenplay. It’s one woman attempting to wrangle into words a girl’s tumultuous coming of age and her struggle to reconcile a hunger she couldn’t satiate while growing up. Despite its shortcomings this feels real to me. It feels honest and that is satisfying. ...more
A fresh, imaginative retelling of a classic fairy tale. This is how most reviews lead off, but this lead falls short of a fantastic, modern tale of reA fresh, imaginative retelling of a classic fairy tale. This is how most reviews lead off, but this lead falls short of a fantastic, modern tale of resilience, growth, loss and love.
This retelling of Cinderella is far better than what I remember of the original fairy tale. In Lo's edition, Ash falls in love with the King's Huntress. The main character also loves fairy tales and recounts many from her childhood and those that are shared at celebrations. The addition of the mini tales makes for a very interesting read. And there is a love triangle far more interesting than what Twilight offers (just my opinion). This love story is more tender, more romantic, complex and therefore more satisfying.
I'm not a big fantasy or fairy tale fan, but Lo has me rethinking the genre. Ash is a wonderful book by an author to watch. Expect more praise to follow....more
This artwork is stunning. I took my time with this work in part simply so I could linger over the images. Not only are the images breathtaking but theThis artwork is stunning. I took my time with this work in part simply so I could linger over the images. Not only are the images breathtaking but the construction of the volume itself is pure craftsmanship. Heavy paper and rich colors and a glossed cover compliment this classic story about first love, crossing the threshold of childhood and finding love again.
The writing is poetic, simple in construction but rich with metaphor, and there is a tenderness that can only really be appreciated with a deliberate, unhurried reading. The is best way to experience this work is to approach it the same way you share a bedtime story with a child: a few pages each night over a course of several nights.
Gaining an intimate view of another culture is always a treat but here, not only did I learn a great deal about pastoral Korea of a generation or so removed but here is a mother/daughter relationship that is close and nurturing. The estranged relationship between mothers and daughters is well documented but rarely do we see a mother and daughter celebrated in this way. It is a welcome departure.