I really just couldn't get into it, unfortunately, and didn't find it all that funny, so I stopped reading after the first few chapters. I apologize i...moreI really just couldn't get into it, unfortunately, and didn't find it all that funny, so I stopped reading after the first few chapters. I apologize in advance.(less)
An engrossing Romantic novel that brings up all sorts of questions about technology, nature, and what really constitutes a monster. It's interesting t...moreAn engrossing Romantic novel that brings up all sorts of questions about technology, nature, and what really constitutes a monster. It's interesting to dig through all the hype and learn the story that started it all (Frankenstein's the name of the *doctor*, not the monster, by the way...). I really enjoyed it, and if you shy away from scary books, have no fear. This one's pretty toothless.(less)
I chose this book to do my unit plan on for one of my teaching classes, and so watched the movie soon after finishing it. I regret to say that, while...moreI chose this book to do my unit plan on for one of my teaching classes, and so watched the movie soon after finishing it. I regret to say that, while the movie heightened my appreciation for the book (in part because the movie was just so, so eighties/early nineties), it also lessened my affection towards it, in a way. I remember not wanting to read this book in high school because I thought it would be boring, and I'm glad I didn't, because I think I would have probably struggled with the structure, keeping the characters straight, not feeling overwhelmed by all of the taboos, and not writing Chinese culture off as misogynistic, and thus, covertly inferior to Western culture. I think the movie, with its much more straightforward, but much less elegant structure, helped with the first two problems, watered down the third, and almost threw the last to the wind (cultural elements seemed much more kitsch-y, and the overall message seemed to be, "of course the US is better than China; areyanuts?") So, if you're wondering, the movie is no substitute for the book.
Amy Tan writes beautifully, and creates rich, deep characters. Her ability to show the many facets of each of the women in the novel (as they are viewed by their friends, daughter/mother, and then view themselves) is amazing, and reminded me of Lisa See (or I should probably say, Lisa See reminds me of her, especially in the theme of misjudging those you love most). The movie packaged each character's story up much more tightly, with neater, happier endings (kids and boyfriends/husbands all around!), whereas the novel left things much looser and on shakier relational ground mother-daughter-wise, which seems much more true to life. It was a little hard for me to empathize with the late-30ish (or at least, that was the age I was assuming they were) daughters, with their divorces, subtle feelings of American superiority, and feministy dilemmas, as those had an almost Fried-Green-Tomatoes feel to them. (Not that I didn't enjoy Fried Green Tomatoes; it's just not my context.) I think that, because of this, I empathized with the mothers more (and almost feel like you were supposed to, with their stories being so much more vivid and dramatic). I think An-mei wins the "most tragic story" award for me, which surprised me because I felt very non-commital about her character at first. Lindo's story is so impressive, and made me feel like she'd almost earned the right to be superior... it became charming, almost, towards the end of the book, which I think was the intention. Seeing how much all of the mothers endured, all of their worries about their daughters forgetting their culture and forgetting them, and all their genuine love for their children was tragic and beautiful by turns. It made me wonder what sort of secret tragedies my own mother might be carrying around. It's hard not to finish this book and wonder if you, as a child, haven't just been a supreme jerk to your mother all your life... and then get real with yourself and just admit that, yes, of course you have.
JLC made me wish that I knew Chinese myths/fables better so I got more of the references that Amy Tan made in the book, as she certainly made some lovely, enduring images with them. She creates such powerful symbols that I felt like the movie couldn't really hold a candle to them. I do feel like the movie helped me to visualize Ying Ying's first husband better, though, adding a much more textured understanding of his character (basically, that he's the ultimate creeper... why, why why put him on the cover with Ying Ying in the "romantic" dancing scene? That artistic choice is like being a DJ and playing Sting's "Every Breath You Take" for the first dance at someone's wedding and then telling them afterward that the song's about a stalker... but I digress.) I also thought it was so interesting that the movie had Ying Ying (view spoiler)[ drown her baby rather than abort it. I'm wondering if the producers decided that infanticide was less objectionable than abortion? If so, what a telling decision. (hide spoiler)]
My review is devolving into babbling now, so I'll conclude by saying I'm glad I finally read Amy Tan, and hope to read more of her work. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I was surprised to find myself really glued to this book. I didn't want to put it down, not from any sense of suspense, but I guess fascination, almos...moreI was surprised to find myself really glued to this book. I didn't want to put it down, not from any sense of suspense, but I guess fascination, almost. I found Ehrenreich very admirable for her willingness to undergo this type of experiment (even just moving to completely new places all alone is daunting, not to mention doing jobs very new to you and living in a way you are unaccustomed to for the sake of documenting it). Her frankness about her privilege through it all is helpful - a reminder not to idolize her as some amazing person for doing this since so many of her coworkers live lives much more permanently in minimum-wage conditions and consequences. Her account flies in the face of so much "conventional knowledge," mainly that people in minimum wage jobs are stupid or doing jobs that don't require serious effort or thought, that low-wage earners could improve their lot if they would just "work harder" or manage their money better (when Ehrenreich shows that, in her budget at least, there was no fat to trim, unless you consider fat things like meals or gas to get to work). Not to say this as if these were things that I didn't at least somewhat believe myself: I have to admit that I was expecting that she would be cleaning up at most of these jobs because of her PhD and background, but I was really surprised that she didn't get any pats on the back for being an extraordinary worker or seem much better prepared than her workmates. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so surprised by this: although I was an A student at high school, I wasn't exactly a star waitress by any means, and found the job as stressful, tiring, and sometimes unsanitary as she did. But I think this must be a myth that we keep alive - that the people serving us in restaurants, cleaning our houses, picking up after us at stores -are somehow beneath us in intelligence, lazy, undeserving of anything better... so that our consciences can't catch up with us.
Perhaps the most surprising thing for me in this book was that housing was truly her main difficulty and biggest expense. Again, this shouldn't have been a surprise after apartment hunting and seeing what was available for prices I could relatively afford when I first left home versus what was decent and safe and out of my price range. I'm still shocked and saddened that so many of her coworkers that had full-time jobs were living in cars, or living in crowded conditions with other people, perilously close - if not already - homeless. I was also taken aback, though, by the widespread prevalence of worker abuse - first, the prevailing attitude that all low-wage earners are dishonest and using drugs by management, and second, all the ways in which all of the places she worked for cut corners, in terms of wages, counting time, and worker health and safety. (It still amazes me that bathroom breaks were not necessarily a given for workers until recently, and that companies fired workers for telling others in the same company what they were earning in an effort to keep wages down and organizing to a minimum.)
Maybe it was Ehrenreich's Teamster affiliations, but the tensions between management and staff really came out here: how employees would intentionally not work at their hardest, afraid that they would then be "time studied" and forced to work beyond their capacities; how they would keep back good ideas or not show themselves to be to diligent so as not to make managers feel threatened and so as not to be taken advantage of by managers who just "take and take and take." Perhaps saying that she brought out 'tensions', though, is inaccurate: what also amazed me was how relatively complacent people were with their situations, perhaps as a result of the constantly demeaning ways in which they were treated by their companies, and felt that they didn't necessarily deserve anything better. Particularly telling class-wise was when Ehrenreich described how the maid company she worked for emphasized how their maids cleaned the floor on hands and knees, the position of subservience (despite, as she notes, the fact that their cleaning techniques are much more cosmetic than actually sanitizing in order to comply with time studies where water is just too messy to use for mopping and disinfecting). It was also a reality check to read about how some of the homeowners would intentionally leave piles of dust under the rug, etc. to see if the maids were really "doing a thorough job," or leave money or jewelry out intentionally with a secret camera trained on it to see if the maids would take any. I think of my jobs (office/administration, teaching) and try to come up with any semblance of a way in which an employer has tried to litmus test my work or spot-check my honesty and can't think of any: checking back over my work sometimes to make sure I'm doing it correctly, sure, but not in a malicious, degrading sort of way, where the assumption is that the employee is lazy and suspect.
An eye-opening read, written compellingly, that definitely makes me rethink the way that I treat others in their jobs.(less)
This may be light heresy, but Pride and Prejudice just moved too slowly to really keep my interest. You have to give credit where credit is due, thoug...moreThis may be light heresy, but Pride and Prejudice just moved too slowly to really keep my interest. You have to give credit where credit is due, though... Jane Austen made novels what they are now (or, wait, what novels were about 30 years ago. That's better.)(less)
Ah, Jane Eyre! So heartrending! So dramatic! So romantic! Definitely cemented a decision that was for me a turning point in my life. Highly recommend...moreAh, Jane Eyre! So heartrending! So dramatic! So romantic! Definitely cemented a decision that was for me a turning point in my life. Highly recommend it.(less)
You have to love this book, unless you read it not realizing that it's supposed to be funny. (Someone close to me--I won't say who--has.) Douglas Adam...moreYou have to love this book, unless you read it not realizing that it's supposed to be funny. (Someone close to me--I won't say who--has.) Douglas Adams is hilarious in this book and in Restaurant, but unfortunately the series goes downhill from there, getting less clever and more random (but is that really a surprise given the Infinite Improbability Drive?)(less)
One of the assignments for my American Lit tutorial, and my favorite James novel. I really liked this book, perhaps because I was reading it while in...moreOne of the assignments for my American Lit tutorial, and my favorite James novel. I really liked this book, perhaps because I was reading it while in England and so very much feeling part of the "displaced American" sentiment. A slowly but gorgeously unfolding tragedy. (less)
Not my favorite James book, but this was my first attempt at reading him, and his work can be horribly dense. An interesting read, if you can wade thr...moreNot my favorite James book, but this was my first attempt at reading him, and his work can be horribly dense. An interesting read, if you can wade through it.(less)
This is a book that I got in trouble for reading in third grade while we were supposed to be watching a movie. I was almost done, so I didn't want to...moreThis is a book that I got in trouble for reading in third grade while we were supposed to be watching a movie. I was almost done, so I didn't want to stop reading even though I was usually a pretty obedient student. 'XD I remember liking it, although having a little trouble with some of the language, but really feeling as if it opened up a little imaginative world of the garden for me. I liked the movie that came out about it as well--darker than I expected, but the sweeping, dreary landscapes of Mistlethwaite seemed right on target, I thought the actors did a good job, and the garden itself was gorgeous enough to inspire a youthful wish of going there and just drinking it all in.(less)