A Touch of America: Memories of an Austrian Fulbright Scholar was not my favorite read. The idea has such potential: reading about the impressions ofA Touch of America: Memories of an Austrian Fulbright Scholar was not my favorite read. The idea has such potential: reading about the impressions of America from the perspective of an exchange student after World War II. I have several issues with the book right from the start. The first is that it is not clear that this book is fiction. The character Helen is based on Wilma Shine’s experience but she is fictional. Just the title indicates that this is in a memoir style and it is not. Perhaps it is in the historical fiction: memoir style but it is not in itself a memoir.
Another critique I have is the formatting. Across the top of each page is a line (like a header) and on many pages the text and line are crooked. Unfortunately having a line there accents this imperfection. Chapters do not have numbers and in some cases there are large white spaces for no apparent reason.
The writing itself is startling. I am not sure if there is a factor I am unaware of but the writing was oddly disjointed. It almost reads like a travel journal. It is short and abrupt and the writing overall does not flow well. I found the story to be more about Helen’s relationship with her love interest that her discovery of America. Shine did mention the different states that Helen visited but did not focus on that. I think there is a neat story contained in this book but I was very distracted by the writing, the formatting and the general abrupt nature of the book.
I received a complimentary copy of A Touch of America as a member of the Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit dorrancebookstore.com to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team. Thank you to Dorrance Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
The Emancipation of Robert Sadler is not going on the list of my favorite books. The story of a slave post emancipation is distressing and needs to beThe Emancipation of Robert Sadler is not going on the list of my favorite books. The story of a slave post emancipation is distressing and needs to be told. The part of the book that was auto-biographical I really appreciated. It was the section on ministry that really bugged me. At one point, Sadler claims that God told him to marry Jackie, a woman who was not a believer. In his story it worked out and she came to Christ, but I have a problem with a minister claiming that God spoke to him something that is directly contrary to Scripture. If it stayed biographical and less "how you should live" I would have liked it better....more
**spoiler alert** Reading Mao’s Last Dancer I forgot that I was reading a book and thought that I was sitting across from Li over multiple meals and h**spoiler alert** Reading Mao’s Last Dancer I forgot that I was reading a book and thought that I was sitting across from Li over multiple meals and hearing his life story. It was redeeming to read about a child growing up under Chairman Mao who thrived as an artist despite the circumstances. Li’s success powerfully affected the living conditions of his family which got better and better over time.
One of the most compelling parts of Li’s story is the transformation in his thinking. Reading about reluctant self criticisms and devotion to Mao which included sympathy for the “poor Americans” whose lives were much worse because they did not have the dictator and almost watching his shock and amazement as he visited America and realized that what he had been taught was propaganda was fascinating. Li’s Dia (father) told him a story growing up about a frog stuck down in a well. The frog was taunted by the frogs above the ground because their limited well was not the great world and they did not know it. Even as a child, Li instinctively knew that he was in a well prevented from the world by “the party.” There is a precious moment near the end of the book, when the Li family reunites and Dia thanks his son for showing him the world outside the well.
Another powerful moment is when the realization dawns on Li that the only thing that separates him from his brothers is opportunity. Even though they are finally allowed to visit and keep in touch years after his defection their housing, careers, salary, and even number of children was dictated to them. One of the themes of the book is Li’s divided emotion. With every achievement and milestone in his life is joy but also the sadness that his family is not there to celebrate it with him and guilt that he has so much while they have so little.
Mao’s Last Dancer is one of the easiest memoirs I have read. The juxtaposition of peasant life under Mao with the dreams to be the best dancer fascinate the reader. Li pulls his audience into his life story even describing the food and bathrooms at each stage in his life. I’ll definitely read it again....more