There is not a single thing I didn't like about this book. Some might complain that it started off rather slow but I live for slow contemporary starts...moreThere is not a single thing I didn't like about this book. Some might complain that it started off rather slow but I live for slow contemporary starts, I like getting to know every little detail about the main character and their friends. Sure some things are a little too convenient (Danny speaks Spanish but Julian doesn't speak Spanish so naturally Danny must translate often. also Julian's Chinese grandmother writes for a sizable newspaper), but who cares? This story is too fun to get wrapped up in such minor things. I'm a sucker for kids and teens engaging in social justice because I think too many books only show us as selfish brats who don't care about the future of our world. That's simply not true and this author gets that. At the core of this book (or the trunk of this book, and yes there will be more annoying tree metaphors) is a message of environmentalism. Here we have three kids who don't have an extraordinary amount of resources available to them and yet they manage to come up with a plan, a plan that has the potential to work. They aren't hackers or geniuses or super wealthy, instead they have lots of heart and pool together their respective brain power to find a solution. These qualities make the book an interesting read and one that is authentic. I could easily see myself and other kids in middle school coming up with a similar plan (instead of those outrageous plots that you know would never work out in real life. Not that those can't be fun). The core has different branches that all lead back to the plan to save the redwoods but they divert (in the best of ways) to stories dealing with racism, family abandonment, strong friendships and the actual application of what we learn in school.
In addition to the save-the-trees message that rocked, I also adored the subtle displays of racism. In today's world, rarely do we see outright prejudice and Operation Redwood perfectly reflects that fact. Julian's mother travels a lot and his father died when he was seven, so when Julian's mother leaves for China for several months, he has to go live with his uncle Sibley. Sibley is his father's brother and while Sibley's young son, Preston, adores Julian, Sibley and his wife do not. Sibley's wife, Daphne, goes out of his way to make sure Julian knows he is not welcome (she has a point system. A POINTS system, but that's actually not a totally implausible situation). Of course since she never spells it out, you can't be sure that part of that dislike is race-based, but it probably doesn't help that Julian's Chinese (his mother is Chinese, his father is white) heritage 'ruins' her image of the perfect all-American blonde family. Like when Julian says '[s]omething about the way his aunt said 'half-Chinese' always made it sound vaguely like an insult-or not an insult exactly, but something that made him less than Preston, who at least in her view, wasn't half anything." (pg. 51) I had such a YES moment when I read that, I totally get what Julian's describing and I think many people from different cultural backgrounds may have a similar moment. Julian doesn't spend the entire book talking about the hardships of being a biracial kid, he mentions it, but he also talks about the joys of being biracial and how funny it can be to think about "how strange it was that he should be descended from two such different people, how weird and improbable that their DNA would end up mixed together in his own body." (pg.341). I would be remiss not to rave about Danny. I LOVE Danny, I want him to be my best friend. He is a mess, always hamming it up and yet his silly ways often help him to come up with the most outrageous-but-they-just-might-work stunts. But he can also be very practical (he's quite handy with computer basics such as sending emails in which Julian is hopelessly defunct). One of my favorite exchanges between Danny and Julian is below
"Am I good or what?' he [Danny] said with a broad smile.
'You have a real talent for lying. And you've ruined my reputation too. Congratulations!' [Julian]
'We all have our gifts,' Danny said humbly." (pg. 79) What a great kid.
Operation Redwood has many different branches that all lead back to the importance of speaking up when a wrong is being committed and the value of nature. Julian lives in San Francisco which can be a bit polluted, and he ends up going to see the Big Grove of redwood trees and is in awe of nature. I probably would be too. I don't live in the heart of the city, but I can relate to not spending much time relaxing and pondering nature, especially as we kids become older. I love that Julian has such a diverse group of friends, as the 21st century pushes on, we are going to see more diverse friendships, even now, people are rarely friends with only white people, and it's soo nice to see a book that reflects this. In fact this is the kind of contemporary middle grade I want to see more of, pretty please publishers? The ending certainly surprised me and it's realistic. Robin is resourceful, Danny is imaginative and Julian has the quiet strength that only unveils itself when push comes to shove. I could go on and on and on, but I'll stop. Ultimately this is a prime example of a book where it's the LITTLE THINGS that make it such a phenomenal read. The plot is not complex but it is revolutionary in that it so accurately depicts our world through the eyes of middle school students. A definite favorite of 2011 already.
I am a sucker for these sort of books, real life tales that both depress and inspire. I enjoy reading these kind of non-fiction books because while al...moreI am a sucker for these sort of books, real life tales that both depress and inspire. I enjoy reading these kind of non-fiction books because while all non fiction books teach me something new, I like that these books are told in narrative format, with explanations and history lessons smoothly interspersed. This book literally made me sick to my stomach, even though that is not the point of the book. In one incident in eastern Congo, the Congolese militias use rape as a weapon of war. "In one instance, soldiers raped a three-year old girl and their fired their guns into her." All I could think when I read that was 'oh my god.' The story continues "When surgeons saw her, there was no tissue left to repair. The little girl's grief-stricken father then committed suicide." (pg. 84). I do not share the story for the sake of pity, rather I want those two sentences to move people the same way it moved me. While I was reading this book I was infuriated. People not only confuse me, they make me sick, this book really brings home how cruel we humans can be to each other. It's not pretty, it's not pleasant, but it is the truth and it needs to be spread. The book never takes on a self-important tone or becomes too difficult to follow, instead it engages the reader by posing questions, sharing stories, and expanding on shocking statistics (as opposed to simply listing depressing statistics which doesn't do much more than temporarily shock someone).
The most fascinating aspect of this book is when it discusses the importance of Americans not trying to solve the problems of developing countries, but rather provide resources to people within that country so that they can solve their own problems. This idea has slowly been repeated by many but Half the Sky goes a step further in showing how sometimes Americans' ideas of progress may differ from the developing country's idea of progress. We may have different results in mind. Take the organization Tostan, "Tostan sometimes angers feminists for its cautious approach and for its reluctance to use the word 'mutilation' or even say that it is fighting against genital cutting. Instead, it relentlessly tries to stay positive, preparing people to make their own decisions. The curriculum includes a non judgemental discussion of human rights and health issues related to cutting but it never advises parents to stop cutting their daughters. Still, the program broke a taboo by discussing cutting. And once women thought about it and realized that cutting wasn't universal, they began to worry about the health risks" (pg. 226). When I first read about the mission of Tostan even I was baffled at how they didn't openly speak out against genital cutting. But as the authors explain the history of this horrific tradition and why more often than not, its mothers who do this to their daughters, understanding dawned. This organization instead of trying to push their own agenda, listens to the African women it is trying to help and places heavy emphasis on their respective culture. If all non profits did that perhaps we could actually make a difference....
Half the Sky is a siren's song sans the bad result, only good can come out of you heeding the call of this book. There is no way you can read this book without first being heartsick and then resolved to answer the call for action. Women's rights is deemed to be the issue of our generation and while some may debate that, what is not debatable is that we cannot continue to ignore the plight of women around the world. We have to make up for lost time whether by donating to non profits run by native changemakers, providing microfinance loans (the book explains in great detail as to why it is better to loan money to women than men in the developing world), volunteering or a host of other methods. The authors encourage young Americans to travel abroad and volunteer in a hospital, school, etc. run by natives of the respective country or mostly run by the native people. They argue (and I would agree) that this work will have more of an impact on the youth and give them a better understanding of the problems, possible solutions and the culture of the developing country. It may be a shock, but often, the shock factor is the best way to motivate change. This is a book that I think not only everyone should read, but everyone should buy. I certainly intend to, it's a fantastic resource.
While I'm still too young to know if my best friend and I will be able to withstand the challenges that life throws us once we are adults, I could see...moreWhile I'm still too young to know if my best friend and I will be able to withstand the challenges that life throws us once we are adults, I could see our friendship in Gayle and Pat's younger years. I think any girl will be nodding her head, laughing and feeling the pain of the main characters, the best friends. The character development is excllent. The authors make you really care about the characters' and their problems. I didn't want this book to be completely realistic because I wanted everyone to have a happy ending. I admit, I was skeptical about how realistic all the drama was, especially in Gayle's situation. I didn't think it was possible for anyone to hit so many lows so fast, but I still felt immense sympathy for her.
I stayed up very late to finish this novel, needing to know that karma existed and would come back to haunt all those who mistreated Gayle, Pat and Marcus. I was cringing at parts, wondering how friends could say such horrible things to other, but family and friends know what to say to hurt us the most. I highly recommend this book, it's perfect for a women's book club or just reading it wth all your girlfriends. I was relived to find out there is a sequel and I can't wait to go get it.
I wonder how the authors write together? I bet it can be a true test of friendship but they pull it off so well!(less)
This book is hilarious. Within the first few pages I was already chuckling as T.C. explains that every member of his family has the name of a famous R...moreThis book is hilarious. Within the first few pages I was already chuckling as T.C. explains that every member of his family has the name of a famous Red Sox player "I even have an Aunt Bane and an Aunt Ruth. (This was a lucky coincidence. They met thirty-eight years ago at a Bobby Kennedy rally in Rockport and they've been together ever since. Aunt Babe swears they would have fallen in love even if Aunt Ruth's name had been Sheba, but I'm not so sure). " (pg. 2) Ale, T.C. and Augie are the greatest group of friends. Witty, kind, loyal and a tad bit insane. They do some frustrating things (Ale made me finally understand why guys think girls are so impossible to understand. I didn't even always understand her reasoning on issues of romance, and I'm a girl!) but almost always redeem themselves. This is one of the rare YA novels where the parents don't fade into the background. We meet Augie's surreal parents (both accept the fact that he's gay without question, they always know what to say and his mother trashes every Broadway play that comes to town), T.C.'s engineer father (his romantic endeavors are so cute and he's so supportive of T.C.), and Ale's parents (her father was an ambassador to Mexico, I'm not sure what her mother does). Ale's parents weren't as prominent as Augie and T.C.'s but we learned more about them than usual for a YA novel. Ale, Augie and T.C. have to keep a diary during their freshman year. Augie writes to a different diva every week (ranging from Angela Lansbury to Judy Garland), T.C. writes to his mother and Ale writes to Jacqueline Kennedy. These diaires provide an intimate glimpse into the lives of these characters.
My Most Excellent Year contains a wonderful air of incredulity but readers will be so charmed by all the characters, the swift moving plot and the setting of Brookline, MA that they won't mind. The IMS, emails, letters and newspaper articles all add to this story and give a better idea of the events and characters. The humor will delight readers and the actions of the characters are truly inspiring and very touching. Readers will walk away from this book knowing a lot about Broadway and its divas, the Red Sox and knowing that they will have to decide whose better: Jack Kennedy or Bobby Kennedy? (It's hard to say, but I choose Jack)
Disclosure: I'm a Cubs fan first, Yankees 2nd, no room for Sox of any kind (White Sox on a very very bad day). (less)
This is an amazing and sometimes painful story of America's first black public high school, located in Washington D.C. The author is the daughter of...more This is an amazing and sometimes painful story of America's first black public high school, located in Washington D.C. The author is the daughter of two Dunbar alums and she maintains a respectful tone when dealing with the school, reverential of its history but she includes the views of people who did not like the school, those who gradually became disappointed with it. She includes the multiple sides at play when the school was renovated in the 1970s (many alumni were against it because it destroyed the 1916 building but some alumni were for it and now the school has been newly renovated as modern-day people connected to the school bemoan it's '70s decor and design). I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Dunbar's journey reflects the journey of many public-high schools in America, a school that used to be triumphant and attract the best talent in teachers and then went through a very serious rough patch and is currently attempting to rebuild and restructure. I love history and this book reminded me of how resilient Black people are, we made the best of a segregated high school and produced some of the finest contributors to our nation' history. It's a shame that it had to be segregated and is still mostly segregated today (the difference being that it is no longer mandated segregation of course). Reading about Dunbar's decline was actually heartbreaking as the atmosphere of the school changed; the caliber of the teachers seemed to deteriorate and the attitudes of the students turned less towards academics. The story becomes much more focused on socio-economics and shows the connection between Dunbar becoming a desegregated public high school and neighborhood-based instead, as the quality of the neighborhood changed so too did the environment inside the school. But the book ends on a hopeful note. The principal and few teachers interviewed seem passionate and dedicated, large sums of money were allocated for Dunbar to get newly renovated and promote it's heritage while leaving plenty of visible encouragement for its new students and their future achievements. I will be following the story of Dunbar with interest because I do think it plays a huge role in the story of public school education. This book read like a story, easy readability with an engaging cast of characters and great setting.
I only wish there had been a section in the back with short biographies and pictures of all the elite and famous Dunbar alumni such as Charles Drew, Benjamin O.Davis Jr., Sen. Edward Brooke, Anna Julia Cooper, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mary Church Terrell, and Jean Toomer (just to name a few).
This is a silly thing to dislike and I didn't dislike it per se but I genuinely did not understand the Rumi quotes. My confusion over what he was...more4.5/5
This is a silly thing to dislike and I didn't dislike it per se but I genuinely did not understand the Rumi quotes. My confusion over what he was saying made me feel like a complete idiot but maybe in time I will understand better. For now I'm content just thinking that he writes vague poetry that celebrates nature, simplicity and individuality (and that might not even be right). I was bothered by the fact that the Layla storyline was really cliche, whimsical mother kept safe/protected by down-to-earth daughter who desperately wants her mother to change. I was hoping Layla would have a less abrupt change (ex: *spoiler highlight to read* What made the one accident in Ecuador lead Layla back to Jeff? Why didn't Layla do that when she had other close-calls and Zeeta begged her to go back to a 'normal' life?* End of spoiler*) and be a little less of a caricature.
This book left me with a serious case of wanderlust. It was hard for me at first to fathom how Zeeta could want to give up her traveling lifestyle with Layla. She spoke seven different languages and had already lived in fifteen different countries. I want to travel the world and speak at least four languages so badly, I'm envious of all those who get to travel and it's hard for me to understand people/characters who don't appreciate the immense opportunity they've been given to travel the world. The author did an excellent job of (almost) completely immersing me in the world of Otavalo (I do wish more Quichua and Spanish words had been thrown in). The hustle and bustle of the market, the loud, cajoling calls of the vendors to tourists with backpacks and water bottles, the dazzling crystal caves in a quiet village, every scene is described in glowing terms down to the most minut detail. Zeeta is the typical teenager in that she doesn't know exactly what she wants and often feels torn between two different sides. She is observant, meticulous and she has a cautiously adventurous spirit. I didn't think Zeeta was boringly practical because she was always willing to explore, she just wanted to know her mother had a financial nest egg for their future.
The Indigo Notebook excels in bringing to life the colors, sounds, smells and even the textures of Ecuador to readers who may never get the chance to visit the country. Not only does it provide more than a cursory glance at life in Ecuador but it opens the page to the larger world of Central American culture (obviously Latin American cultures are very diverse but there are some unifying/common elements). The 'treatment' of being bicultural/multiracial was rarely mentioned but when it was, it was handled deftly. Zeeta's mother is white but Layla doesn't remember what ethnicity her father was but it's clear he wasn't white (and that is why this is not an off-color review). Zeeta observes (and is somewhat irked) that the conversation between Layla and her new 'boy toy' will soon "take a turn to how 'mixed-race' kids always turn out beautiful-in the same way that mutts are tougher than purebreds-and then he'll ask, Where is her father from anyway?" (pg. 6). Through Wendall's avid search for his birth parents, Zeeta is able to live vicariously through him because she doesn't have a clue as to her father's name and where he might live. This is a tale that I was absolutely enamored with due to its fantastic setting of Ecuador, mostly unique characters and the fact that Ecuador did not overpower Zeeta and the other characters. The setting did not overtake the plot and/or the characters which is something that I think is quite important. Otavalo was a major character in and of itself but it wasn't more important than Zeeta, Wendall, and a few other characters. I can't wait to read the next book in the series, The Ruby Notebook!
I was disappointed at the Michael storyline, I thought it ran predictable but it doesn't really matter because once the truth about Michael is reveale...moreI was disappointed at the Michael storyline, I thought it ran predictable but it doesn't really matter because once the truth about Michael is revealed, the plot quickly becomes unpredictable. The real world seemed to take a backseat to all the monsters and the work of the Templars. Billi comes to school with bruises from all her fights and her teachers wonder about the bruises, but they never press the issue. Also her father was so cruel and I thought the explanation was too convenient (I happily accepted it though in order to move on to more mystery supernatural stuff). The pacing could be a bit off as well, sudden bursts of violence and terror, than a lull of calm intermixed with a dash of real life. I wanted it to flow a little smoother.
Other than that, I loved every minute of this story.This book has one of the best beginnings. It sucks you right in because it starts with Billi being assigned to murder a child. That's all I'll say about that. My favorite part of the book was probably the violent paranormal aspect of it. The author isn't trying to make nice, "sparkly" vampires or friendly monsters. Oh no, his monsters are more true to their original self; completely and utterly terrifying. There are vampires (called ghuls), werewolves, fallen angels, etc. and all of them are downright nasty. The author doesn't tell us about the wicked battles occurring, he shows us and it's INTENSE. Another part of the book that is extremely well done is how religion is handled. Billi is half Pakistani and her mother was Muslim, but when her mother died, her white Christan father raised her. The Knights Templar are Christians but the book draws upon myths and other religions. It makes several mentions of events that occurred in the Bible and the author uses his imagination to fill in conversations mentioned in the Bible (for example what Moses and the angel talked about after the unleashing of the ten plagues). It's an interesting take and provides quite a lot of food for thought.
And the ending :0 I sort of called it but I wanted so desperately to be wrong. You can't fully predict the whole ending, only bits and pieces. My heart was in my mouth and I was on the edge of my seat towards the end. Finally, you have Billi. All the characters were great (tie for second favorite character goes to Elaine or Percival), but Billi is amazing. She is spirited, the weight of the world is on her shoulders and she acts her age. Sometimes she whines a bit and makes some stupid decisions and then has to clean up the aftermath. But she's a fighter, honest and stubborn. One of my new favorite heroines. Elaine is a straightforward, loving Jewish woman who works with the Templars. She has some amusing lines and cool powers. I'm eager to learn more about her interesting backstory. Percival (Percy) replaced Billi's father, as someone for Billi to look up to. He was in charge of teaching her how to use weapons, but he was one of the few Templars (there are only nine) who remembers that Billi is HUMAN, not just a killing machine. He looks after her (sidenote: he's from Senegal) and we love him for it.
Devil's Kiss is a mesmerizing tale with a valiant and realistic main character at its heart. The monsters are scary, the battle scenes intense, the mythology and religious aspect will make you think and the romantic tension between characters is believable. Each character jumps off the page, a force to be reckoned with, unwilling to remain a background character. This is one of those special books where each time you re-read it, you will find something new to think about(less)
IQ "When I started in real estate, I considered renovating old houses instead of tearing them down, but it didn't make sense. Nigerians don't buy hous...moreIQ "When I started in real estate, I considered renovating old houses instead of tearing them down, but it didn't make sense. Nigerians don't buy houses because they're old. A renovated two-hundred-year old mill granary, you know, the kind of things Europeans like. It doesn't work here at all. But of course it makes sense because we are Third Worlders and the Third Worlders are forward-looking, we like things to be new, because our best is still ahead, while in the West their best is already past and so they have to make a fetish of that past." Obinze, pg. 436
If I could buy this book for everyone I know I absolutely would. Adichie never disappoints, honestly that should say it all. I don't want to go on and on about how much I love this book, instead I just want to share quotes. But I will say for absolutely any topic that you can tie back to race, there will be some character sharing their thoughts and you will find that eerily reflects your own. I didn't agree with absolutely anything but so often it seemed like either Adichie was in my head or was busy stringing together sentences to give me new things to consider that I had never thought about. Race in America is discussed but so is race in Europe, specifically the UK. Class and race, just class, love, hair, immigration, social norms, people's odd quirks but Adichie is never self-righteous, at times she can even be self-deprecating (I think). It's like the ultimate dinner party with a range of guests from the witty to the annoying who can talk about anything under the sun. I absolutely adored this book and now for quotes. Furthermore if this book reads like a day-long dinner party or salon, if you get all your friends to read it that will fuel conversation for a future dinner party. And the love story was nice too although the main character did get on my nerves a bit when she just shut herself off.
"She [Ifemelu] had always liked this image of herself as too much trouble, as different, and she sometimes thought of it as a carapace that kept her safe." pg. 61 I like carrying that image around of myself too....
"I'm sorry Laura said that. I've never liked that word 'sassy'. It's the kind of word that's used for certain people and not for others." (pg. 164). ADICHIE CAN READ MY MIND. I honestly thought I was the only person in the world who felt that way until I read that sentence.
"So now I say biracial, and I'm supposed to be offended when somebody says half-caste. I've met a lot of people here with white mothers and they are so full of issues, eh. I didn't know I was even supposed to have issues until I came to America. Honestly, if anybody wants to raise biracial kids, do it in Nigeria." pgs. 124-125 I was crying with laughter when I read that sentence.
"The wind blowing across the British Isles was odorous with fear of asylum seekers, infecting everybody with the panic of impending doom, and so articles were written and read, simply and stridently, as though the writers lived in a world in which the present was unconnected to the past, and they had never considered this to be the normal course of history: the influx into Britain of black and brown people from countries created by Britain." pgs. 260-261
But the best quote to end with is in relation to literature; "Black writers who do literary fiction in this country, all three of them, not the ten thousand who write those bullshit ghetto books with the bright covers, have two choices: they can do precious or they can do pretentious. When you do neither, nobody knows what to do with you. So if you're going to write about race, you have to make sure it's so lyrical and subtle that the reader who doesn't read between the lines won't even know it's about race." Shan, pg. 337 and then there's this "You can't even read American fiction to get a sense of how actual life is lived these days. You read American fiction to learn about dysfunctional white folks doing things that are weird to normal white folks", Shan pg. 337. My goodness YES to that whole statement(less)
IQ "Cafes are the finest places for people alone not to feel lonely. In Paris you smile only when you have something to smile about. Sorrow and pain...more IQ "Cafes are the finest places for people alone not to feel lonely. In Paris you smile only when you have something to smile about. Sorrow and pain are deemed part of life", pg. 188
Kati Marton has written one of the most honest memoirs of all time. Of course I have no way of knowing if that is actually true BUT she candidly admits to cheating on her first husband, Peter Jennings, and her second (and last) husband, Richard Holbrooke. And she gave the cheating incidents more than the one sentence treatment. I was (am) really impressed at her being so open about the struggles of her marriage, the confusion and why she felt drawn to all the men in her life. Also literally all her paths take her back to Paris which I found strangely endearing,Paris truly has a hold on her, it was almost magical to read about how she always indadvertedly ended up back in Paris. Unfortunately (for me) this book combined with the TV show The Newsroom and Katharine Graham's autobiography (and of course the movie His Girl Friday ) made me want to be a journalist, to work in a newsroom, be a foreign correspondent. These things have also made me feel woefully uneducated, Ms. Marton was so well-traveled and well-versed in a variety of subjects, not delving too deeply into issues so that a reader is overwhelmed but lightly touching on a variety of current events (or current during the respective time period) and the people involved in them. Ms. Marton eloquently describes the highs and the lows of the job, her relationships not just romantic ones but also with her family, her children, and friends.
Ms. Marton takes us from the student protest Paris days in the late 60s to the turbulent 70s, back to the Lost Generation's 20s, and finally into the 21st century, describing the changes and what remains the same in Paris. This book perfectly illustrates that (in my imagination anyway) when one falls IN love IN Paris, they also fall in love WITH Paris. The latter seems to be the stronger bond and thats a beautiful thing.(less)
In Touching Snow, thirteen year old Karina is worried about a few things; her grades (3 Ds, one C), being sent to the principal's office, being the mo...moreIn Touching Snow, thirteen year old Karina is worried about a few things; her grades (3 Ds, one C), being sent to the principal's office, being the most unpopular girl at her school and bracing herself for being beaten by her stepfather. Her stepfather is finally put in jail on child abuse charges. Problem solved right? Wrong. Karina's family and a few other adults want Karina to take the blame for the injuries her stepfather (called the Daddy) gave to her older sister, Enid. At the heart of this novel is the question of how far people will go to protect the ones they love (along with the idea of some adults only seeing what they want to see "Why did I keep thinking some adult somewhere was finally going to start acting like one?" Karina, pg. 101). This story might have one of the best opening lines ever: The best way to avoid being picked on by high school bullies is to kill someone." I was instantly transfixed. What was Karina referring to?
I hated this book. Yup, you read that sentence right. But it gets a 5/5. I hated that a story like this one needs to be told. I hate that parents abuse their kids and that husbands abuse their wives (and in the rare case, the wife abuses the husband). I don't want these incidents to happen anymore. I hate that this novel made me want to cry and that oftentimes, I forgot that happiness does exist in the world. I hate the Daddy and at some point I got fed up with all the adults in Touching Snow as well. I also grew angry at Karina, her two sisters and her cousins.
I was amazed by this book (it just seems wrong to say I loved this book). I love that the author wrote about a story that needs to be told, from a different perspective. There are few books on child abuse told from the perspective of an immigrant and their family. The issues run a lot deeper. I wholeheartedly believe that it would be easier for a woman born and raised in America to leave her abusive husband than it would be for a recently arrived immigrant from (insert country name here, specifically a 3rd world or an under developed country) to leave her abusive husband. I loved most of the characters in this novel. Karina lives with her mother, the Daddy (her stepfather), her mother, her older sister Enid, her younger sister Delta, her younger brothers Gerald and Roland, Jack and Joseph (her two cousins) and their aunt, Merlude (Jack and Joseph's mom). Karina is completely crazy and yet she can be very rational. She makes up some strange stories and gets herself into odd situations but she is very determined and resourceful. Her oldest sister Enid is fantastic. Enid really steps up and takes care of the house while their mother works long hours. She protects her relatives when she can and she' makes big sacrifices for them. From Karina's Menudo-obsessed friend Rachel (who happens to be white) to the mysterious Augustin to the Daddy's brother, Uncle Jude, all the characters are fleshed out.
Touching Snow is intense. Honestly, I'm glad I didn't have the time to finish this novel in one sitting because I needed a break from it, to see some happiness and sunshine. Obviously a story about child abuse is going to produce a strong reaction in anyone, but I think the reason this novel really resonated with me is because the author did such a great job with the details. She doesn't shy away from anything and her choice of words to describe the injuries inflicted by the Daddy make it painstakingly clear and vivid in the reader's mind. At the same time, she managed to make me smile through the pain. While we are reading about the abuse, we are also learning about Haiti and its culture and how difficult it is to be an immigrant in America. One of my favorite lines from the novel is when Karina is explaining about her extended family: "Gran and Aunt Jacqueline are more like sisters than mother and daughter, and they don't get along at all, but they live together. My cousin Edner says that's because Haitian people like to torture themselves. They're so used to being miserable that whenever they aren't, they have to go find something to be miserable about. He says that's why Aunt Jacqueline-that's his mom-went and got Gran from Haiti. After Aunt Jacqueline's first husband died, she didn't have anyone to fight with except her kids, and that wasn't enough." (pg.73) Doesn't this sound like someone you know? Ignore the Haitian part for the moment. Don't we all know someone in our lives who likes to be miserable all the time? This statement seemed to be maddeningly accurate when I read about the actions of the characters. Besides the assimilation story, another interesting subplot was about how Haitians don't view themselves as Black. But white Americans do.
Touching Snow is a powerful, compelling debut novel. M. Sindy Felin is truly gifted in that, she injects some light-hearted moments into this novel that threatens to suck you into an abyss of sadness. The apathy of the well crafted characters is so frustrating, you will be absolutely riveted. The worst and best part is that the reader will be able to sympathize or at least understand all the characters and the motives behind their actions. There are some loose ends (nothing too suspenseful), but not everything is wrapped up neatly in life either. My emotions in reading Touching Snow ranged from apprehension to sadness to anger. Although, the very last chapter made me smile (let's just say that the person Karina is telling this story to is a pleasant surprise(less)
Incredible Quote (IQ, one of many): "Now he lies in bed remembering every detail of that OCtober afternoon when he first met her, from start to finish...moreIncredible Quote (IQ, one of many): "Now he lies in bed remembering every detail of that OCtober afternoon when he first met her, from start to finish, and over and over. Not just because it is tasty, but because he is trying to sear her into his mind, brand her there aganist future wear. So that neither she nor the alive love of her will fade or scab over the way it had with Violet. For when Joe tries to remember the way it was when he and Violet were young, when they got married, decided to leave Vesper County and move up North to the City almost nothing comes to mind. He recalls dates, of course, events, purchases, activity, even scenes. But he has a tough time trying to catch what it felt like." Joe Trace, pgs 28-29
Since it's Toni Morrison JAZZ is an incredible addition to the standard story of man-cheats-on-wife-marriage-is-recovering. I had to read this book for my Harlem Renaissance class so most of my review is based off my notes. As per usual for a Morrison novel, l this story focuses on generations of women (True Belle-Rose Dear-Violet) although all the major characters get a chance to narrate, including some of the men. Its fascinating to me, and worth pointing out, that the narrator is unknown and unreliable. Until the end when you realize the narrator is THE BOOK ITSELF, whoa The story has a call-and-response air to it, the novel provides information to the reader (calls out) but the reader has to assemble the story for themselves (response). Furthermore several of the stories are repeated, each with a different point of view (just like in a jazz ensemble as my Professor pointed out, each member gets a chance to solo as in the book where everyone gets a chance to narrate) which provides new bits of info to fill out the entire story.
Migration is a central theme of the novel along with dispossession. ITs not just about people moving from the South to the North but also about orphans being disposessed by parents in some way, shape or form. JAZZ explores the reasons Black people did migrate from the South to the North and she especially focuses on the draw of Harlem which she refers to as the City "Nobody says it's pretty here; nobody says it's easy either. What it is is decisive, and if you pay attention to the street plans, all laid out, the City can't hurt you. [...] I like the way the City makes people think they can do what they want and get away with it. [...] Do what you please in the City, it is there to back and frame you no matter what you do. And what goes on its blocks and lots and side streets is anything the strong can think of and the weak will admire. All you have to do is heed the design-the way it's laid out for you, considerate, mindful of where you want to go and what you might need tomorrow" (pgs. 8-9). Improvisation is another strong theme of the novel which goes along with the unreliable narrator. I also love, loved, the names Toni Morrison gave her characters ranging from Joe Trace (the story behind his name, great) to Dorcas (which means "with antlers", that becomes relevant trust me).
An excellent read, especially relating to the Harlem Renaissance time
PS: Something my professor pointed out was that typography is important, such as the fact that there are no page numbers on the lett pages. Does anyone know why that is? He wouldn't tell us :)(less)
Children of the Waters is an amazing read. Carleen Brice is unafraid to talk about tough subjects through her characters. The dialouge never feels for...moreChildren of the Waters is an amazing read. Carleen Brice is unafraid to talk about tough subjects through her characters. The dialouge never feels forced, the conversations are genuine ones that people have with one another. The author does an excellent job in maintaing a neutral stance, Trish and Billie feel so differently about some things; faith, race and even family. But the author doesn't belittle either one of them, each of them is a strong, lovable and valid character. I especially admire how the author handles the issue of race, I thought that I would automatically be on Billie's side, since I'm half African American, I figured I could relate to her better on the race relations side of things. But I found myself agreeing with Trish about a lot of things too. I especially appreciated the look at racisim held by African Americans, Billie is light skinned and the envy of darker skinned African American women, including her own mother (who has very dark skin). The issue of colorism is still prevalent today and I was glad to see it addressed and I was pleased that Trish wasn't too understanding (or perhaps the better word is overeager, as in she was trying too hard to show that she understood black people) or clueless about this issue.
I don't know what to say about this book other than the fact that it's a must-read. I loved reading about Billie and Trish seperately, I was sucked right into their life's drama. But what I loved even more was when their stories intersected. Sure at times I was upset with some of the characters (ahem Nick, Will, Trish), but it was a good kind of upset. I truly came to care about these characters and I was sad to finish this book and not know that everyone got a happily ever after.
Sidenote: It took me such a long time to read this book not because it didn't hold my interest (it lead to some late school nights reading) but because of school and review copies that needed to be reviewed first.(less)