While some time has passed since reading this book of fiction, I found the Da Vinci Code to be an exhilarating thriller and mind-boggling conundrum th...moreWhile some time has passed since reading this book of fiction, I found the Da Vinci Code to be an exhilarating thriller and mind-boggling conundrum that left me thirsty for answers to questions about Christianity, the Catholic Church, and the nature of religion.(less)
In The Left Hand of Darkness, author Ursula K. Le Guin distinguishes gender as a biological function necessary for procreation from gender as a social...moreIn The Left Hand of Darkness, author Ursula K. Le Guin distinguishes gender as a biological function necessary for procreation from gender as a social construct implemented to dictate one's social identity and social behavior.
She does this by creating an alien world, where the inhabitants may take the sexual role of either male or female only during a mating cycle -- and they are not always the same gender from cycle to cycle. Planted in this setting is a representative, a human male, who co-narrates as he pursues a mission to convince its leaders to join an inter-planetary alliance. The second narrator is one of the planet's inhabitants, who is an "ear" to one of the planet's rulers.
To illumine the novel's motif, which suggests a boundary between one's concept of gender and one's biological gender, Le Guin gives each character voice to express a perspective on the unfolding drama as well as on one another and their sexual cultures. While Le Guin uses the native of the alien planet to provide much of the story's mystical and political intrigue, it is through the representative that Le Guin asks the reader to examine one's notions of sexuality and gender.
As a whole, The Left Hand of Darkness is a book to be enjoyed by anyone interested in pursuing gender studies.(less)
Putting a spin on the question "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?", Tananarive Due's My Soul to Keep starts out eerily as she answers the ques...morePutting a spin on the question "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?", Tananarive Due's My Soul to Keep starts out eerily as she answers the question and then leaves her readers begging to know how. Linked to this question is a murder mystery that Due's protagonist, a Black Christian woman and investigative reporter, sets out to unravel and write about.
As she sets out to solve the murder -- and another that might be related -- readers' interests in the story heighten as the initial question is answered and then creates another question. Will the protagonist find out how close to home the mystery hits? As the drama unfolds over the rest of the novel, what Due presents an allegory about fraternal organizations, social norms, and privilege. Each of these societal elements, Due illustrates through her characters, function only to counter Biblical references to Jesus's teachings.
Fans of sci-fi and Christian literature will find this a compelling novel worth reading.(less)
Are evil people born evil? Or, do evil people become evil over time? Gregory MacGuire has crafted a story that explores a common Christian theme. Or i...moreAre evil people born evil? Or, do evil people become evil over time? Gregory MacGuire has crafted a story that explores a common Christian theme. Or is it just an origins story?
Either way, the read is enjoyable, slowly at first. Once Elphaba, the center of the story, enters the picture, one can only hope for the best future of a baby girl born green and with teeth that will chew off a finger if placed in her mouth. How are the parents, who come from a line of religious leaders, to respond to the child? How is Elphaba impacted by the entrance of a second child, a sibling born without defects and who becomes a religious zealot and the Wicked Witch of the East? From these situations, most readers might empathize with Elphaba, who advocates rights for Animals (not animals) and opposes their mistreatment (Can you see that?!) in later chapters.
Before the end of the story -- a new account of the Witch being doused with water -- readers are treated to see that Elphaba and a snobbish young Glinda (the Wicked Witch of the North) are roommates while in school and that Elphaba experiences a romance.
In effect, Maguire goes from telling a story about the origins of evil to the origins of racism or classism and how these social ills play into the descent of society into chaos and the individual into madness. (less)
In two short stories, each containing a paragraph that doesn't end until the last page of the story, Reinaldo Arenas uses independent clauses most oft...moreIn two short stories, each containing a paragraph that doesn't end until the last page of the story, Reinaldo Arenas uses independent clauses most often separated by commas to make the action in the story more immediate.
This style works best for the first short story, Old Rosa, than it does for the second, The Brightest Star. Told by a young Cuban boy observing the relationship his mother has with each of the men in his family, Old Rosa reads like a sheet of musical notes. It is an ode from the storyteller who also disappoints his mother. (less)
The idea that Alice Walker's novel, The Color Purple, bashes black men is understandable. That, throughout the book, the supporting male characters (l...moreThe idea that Alice Walker's novel, The Color Purple, bashes black men is understandable. That, throughout the book, the supporting male characters (like "Mister") rarely display positive attitudes and behaviors towards the women fuels this idea.
The novel is a series of journal entries written by the protagonist, Miss Celie, who receives abuse from two men who turn her life into hell. After losing trust in God to watch over her, Celie meets strong women in Shug Avery and Sophia who teach her about self-worth and challenge her beliefs about God, the One she was taught to revere but then grows to see as just like the other men who have abused her. By the novel's end, Celie's newly found understanding of God and the discovery of a betrayal of the heart become the catalyst for realizing her own potential and self-worth.
By the novel's end, Walker has stressed that one's concept of God is crucial to one being able to realize one's self and to love one's self. In effect, she also dispels the idea that being a woman means being subordinate, dependent, and weak. As such, would-be readers should see The Color Purple as a novel about triumph.(less)
Having gotten high off Frederick Smith's first novel, Down for Whatever, I rushed to buy his next novel the minute I learned it was in bookstores. Hav...moreHaving gotten high off Frederick Smith's first novel, Down for Whatever, I rushed to buy his next novel the minute I learned it was in bookstores. Having studied journalism, Smith applies those writing principles in Right Side of the Wrong Bed more successfully than in his debut novel. Anyone reading this novel is in for a roller coaster of unnecessary drama made for the protagonist, partly by his young lover who is 10 years his junior and partly by the protagonist himself. By the end of then novel, Smith leaves us with a protagonist who reaches a lesson learned.(less)
Nathan McCall treats fear and prejudice with humor in Them, his first piece of fiction that appears to be about gentrification but is really about how...moreNathan McCall treats fear and prejudice with humor in Them, his first piece of fiction that appears to be about gentrification but is really about how fear drives prejudice and misconduct. While many characters lend to the telling of this story, it is "Barlowe Reed" that McCall uses to encourage readers to consider the merits of racial loyalty and those merits for upholding principles that transcend race.
"Barlowe" is a middle-aged black man longing to own a home but encounters his internal conflict just as his neighborhood becomes integrated, beginning with "Sean and Sandy Gilmore," a white couple who move next door to him. Soon other white homeowners follow, which makes the black residents grow suspicious and become resistant to them and their suggestions for neighborhood "improvements." Both blacks and whites hold separate meetings, which is not only a problem for Barlowe but for his neighbor Sandy with whom is neighborly begrudingly.
Before its end, the novel will have every reader wondering how its racial conflict will be resolved, and maybe every reader will walk away satisfied with ending, just as I did. (less)