Coming up with something to say about Carolyn Jessop’s Escape is harder to do than I imagined. And it’s not because the book isn’t good. It’s well-wri...moreComing up with something to say about Carolyn Jessop’s Escape is harder to do than I imagined. And it’s not because the book isn’t good. It’s well-written, the kind of memoir I like, focusing on the perception of events and making clear what was later retold or what gaps were filled in. Jessop’s style is easy to digest and it was a quick read – I found myself reading it while walking from class to class, from work to home, from the gym to the car…it was literally like I couldn’t put it down. What makes it hard to talk about is just how outrageous and horrifying the experience of this woman truly was.
Carolyn Jessop was born in to a polygamist family as part of the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), a fundamentalist splinter group of the mainstream Mormon church. While Jessop spends the first few chapters of her book explaining the history of Mormonism, polygamy, and the break-away of the FLDS from the Mormon church, what was far more interesting in her novel was her description of modern life in an FLDS community (note: the book was originally published in 2007, updated with an epilogue in 2008, and includes the verdict after the YFZ compound raid in Texas).
Carolyn’s father has two wives, and she’s raised in a home where her mother’s fragile mental status and her father’s tyrannical emphasis on obedience shaped the lives of her and her two sisters, one of whom fled the compound at 18. Carolyn has dreams of going to college, becoming a doctor, and helping the fellow women in her community. Instead, at the age of 18 she is married off to Marril Jessop (at the time, he was 50 years old) and becomes his 4th wife in a very unstable home.
What Jessop makes clear from the beginning just how pervasive and deep the mental control of the FLDS leaders truly went. Women were taught that their husband – called their priesthood head – had the power to dictate whether or not they would gain entrance in to the celestial kingdom, and whether or not they would be made exalted goddesses or lowly slaves to their husbands and sister-wives for all eternity in the afterlife. The way to ensure a positive experience in the afterlife was to give your husband absolute obedience, never questioning either him or the prophet of the community (believed to be in complete communication with God). Husbands were encouraged to take multiple wives and have as many children as possible, as children were signs of God’s pleasure with you and the larger your Earth family, the larger your celestial kingdom would be in the afterlife. As wives knew that the best way to please a husband was to have his children, there was often fierce competition between sister-wives. This system of ideologies, although not always abused (Carolyn makes clear that there were many FLDS men who sought to live in harmony with their wives, to not abuse them, treat them as equal, and to follow the teachings of the doctrine as rightly as possible), was the ideal situation for people like Merril Jessop to use and abuse their children to solidify their power.
Carolyn’s relationships with her sister-wives is rife from the beginning. The first wife, Faunita, has been desparaged and berated so severely by Merril that she sleeps all day and only comes out at night to watch televison. Rosie, the second wife, has been mentally and physically abused to the point of suffering a number of nervous breakdowns. Third wife Barbara, Merril’s favorite, ran the house with an iron fist, running to Merril at the first sight of problems and using her powers of manipulation to abuse the rest of the sister-wives. Carolyn is never happy, but feels more devoted to her sense of duty and her belief in her salvation in the afterlife. After Carolyn begins having children with Merril, she is able to bring a sense of centrality and order to her life, waking up more and more to the horrors of her life. Because the sister-wives were seen as sharing the responsibility of properly raising the children, when Carolyn began to be more vocal about the abuse and unfairness of her current situation it meant that the abuse and violence was turned to her children. After 13 years of marriage, two more cruel and mentally broken sister wives, and eight children (one of which is severely disabled due to a severe cancer case as an infant), Carolyn escaped the compound, made a life for her children in Salt Lake, fell in love again, and won the first every custody case against the FLDS. Her story, one of such horror, ends in happiness and hope.
Wow! Talk about nothing to say. I guess it’s more a matter of just getting started! It’s almost impossible to fathom the horrible things Carolyn Jessop had to experience. She was told, constantly, that she deserved the abuse and it was a punishment from God for not complying with her husband’s wishes. Her children are beaten to the point of passing out, without Carolyn’s knowledge. The older ones are told to pray for her death to mend her rebellious ways. She witnesses women being beaten to the point of miscarry, witnesses an epistiotomy done with scissors and sewn up with dental floss. The FLDS has been placed on lists of hate groups along with the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nation. And the saddest part of all is that the women either aren’t able to get help (most local police are also FLDS and won’t provide any help to a woman without her husband’s awareness and permission) or don’t think they need to, believing in the teachings of absolute obedience.
I more than anyone understand the importance and need for religious freedom, but as with all things, there becomes a point where fanatical religious beliefs cross over in to human rights dangers for a larger portion of the citizens involved. And that’s the thing. They are American citizens and deserve the same rights and protections as any other. But with the FLDS’s deep pockets and the fear of the American legal system to take on the biggest cult in America, it’s not exactly a hopeful picture. But I urge you to read this book. It’s a story of a strong woman, a strong mother, and what happens when one person takes on the entire system. It’s wonderful, and horrifying, and touching and uplifting all at the same time.
The Time Traveler’s Wife is a love story spanning the lives of Claire Abshire and Henry DeTamble. But as if they don’t have enough to worry about (as...moreThe Time Traveler’s Wife is a love story spanning the lives of Claire Abshire and Henry DeTamble. But as if they don’t have enough to worry about (as all couples occasionally do) Henry is also a time traveler, who in his later years – after he and Claire marry – goes back in time to visit his wife as a child. Claire, however, doesn’t time travel and thus lives her life lineraly, with Henry jumping back and forth. It’s at times saddening, at times thrilling, and always working towards what is established early on as a less than happy ending.
This is perhaps the thing that I love most about this book. While I’ll never turn up my nose at a love story, its entirely too difficult to find one that makes love real. Not sweeping, not always romantic, not always well spoken, and never always easy. Henry is flawed – he can be stubborn, sullen, and a little controlling. And Claire isn’t perfect either – headstrong, a little selfish, perhaps with a few too many regrets. But that’s what makes the love between them so powerful. It not only spans time and separation, but the flaws of both people.
Another thing I loved about this book is that Henry and Claire live the life I could see myself living one day (granted without the time traveling). They’re artists and librarians respectively, and their best friends are fellow artists and anarchists. They recite German and French poetry, know the names of famous artists and discuss foreign affairs the way that only those born of a higher education can. It’s a world of academia, and the book opens that world up, if only for a second.
Don’t get me wrong. This book isn’t necessarily all that easy at times. While straightforward in its language, the concept of time travel, and the trying to wrap your head around how Henry can be simultaneously 42 and 12 while Claire is 19 and hasn’t technically met Henry can most definitely give one a bit of a headache. But its worth it. For the writing, yes, but more importantly for the two amazing characters who welcome the reader in to their lives, as messy and disrupted those lives may be.(less)
Oh my God, how much did I TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY FRACKING LOVE THIS BOOK?!?!?!?!?! Not only is Tina Fey one of my top five “I would totally go gay for...moreOh my God, how much did I TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY FRACKING LOVE THIS BOOK?!?!?!?!?! Not only is Tina Fey one of my top five “I would totally go gay for you” crushes, but this book continues to cement in my mind that she is beautiful, funny, and an incredible business woman. Tina discusses everything from growing up in the suburbs, getting her period, and how to keep your daughter a virgin forever (hint: theatre camp, Greek eyebrows, and gay best friends) to working for Second City Improv in Chicago, writing for Saturday Night Live and then, of course, 30 Rock. The book is part comedy manifesto, part autobiography, part behind-the-scenes look at being one of the leading ladies of comedic television (and, really, television in general). She hits on body issues, commitment issues, getting along in the workplace, and finding comfort in being yourself. This book was amazing and, I have to say, had me laughing out loud every few minutes. Seriously. My boyfriend believes I have either gone crazy or started taking psychotropic drugs because of my random bursts of laughter. And, after the heaviness that was Escape, it was wonderful to read another book about another empowering woman that didn’t make me feel like cutting off every penis I come across or crying my pretty little eyes out.
I was SO LUCKY that the library had this sitting on the shelf when I happened to chance by, and I don’t think I’ve ever had as many people stop and say “ohmygodthatsthebookIwanttobereadingrightnowyou’resocool andluckytohaveitI’mnowinstantlyinlovewithyou.” Or something like that. I could continue to rant and rant and rant about how much I love this book (which I do) and Tina Fey in general (which I also do, but in a much more naughty way) but this post has already topped the 1,000 word-good-gracious-how-can-you-write-that-much mark that I try to stick to, so instead I’ll just leave you with a smattering of quotes that made me laugh so hard, I’m pretty sure I felt a little pee come out. But don’t think these are the only funny part’s. They aren’t. So the book is still totally worth reading for yourself. Trust me!
On her first day at school: “We colored together in silence. I was so used to being praised and encouraged that when I finished my drawing I held it up to show Alex, who immediately ripped it in half. I didn’t have the language to express my feelings then, but my thoughts were something like ‘Oh, it’s like that, motherfucker? Got it.’
On getting a pamphlet about her period from her mother: “The explanatory text was followed by a lot of drawings of the human reproductive system that my brain refused to memorize. (To this day, all I know is there are between two and four openings down there and that the setup inside looks vaugely like the Texas Longhorns logo.)”
On inheriting traits from her father: “It’s my face, too, it turns out. The cheekbones later discovered there by a team of gay excavators are courtesy of my dad. “
Discussing one of her primary crushes in college: “I met HRW (Handsome Robert Wuhl) the next evening at his off campus apartment…He introduced me to one of his roommates, Jess or Chris or something. He was a wiry little guy who would be joining us on the climb. This was news to both me and Jess-Chriss. To say he was unfriendly would hte the biggest understatement since the captain of the Hindenburg said ‘I smell gas.’ He alternated between ignoring me and shooting me disdainful looks that clearly said ‘Who is this ugly off-brand non-sorority girl ruining our homo-erotic bro-times?’”
A moment that is both funny and, also, insightful: “My dream for the future is that sketch comedy shows become a gender-blind meritocracy of whoever is really the funniest. You might see four women and two men. You might see five men and a YouTube video of a kitten sneezing. Once we know we’re really open to all the options, we can proceed with Whatever’s the Funniest…which will probably involve farts.”
From the chapter on beauty tips: “2.) The Right Undergarments Are an Essential Part of Your Silhouette – I developed breasts very early, around nine years old. I developed breasts so weird and high, it’s possible they were above my collarbone. At that point, wearing a bra was not so much about holding the breasts up, as clarifying that they were not a goiter”
MY FAVORITE QUOTE FROM THE ENTIRE BOOK: “We should leave people alone about their weight. Being chubby for a while (provided you don’t give yourself diabetes) is a natural phase of life and nothing to be ashamed of. Like puberty or slowly turning in to a Republican.”
This passage is a bit long, so bear with it, but it’s totally worth it! It comes from the section where Tina is responding to some of her ‘fan-mail’: Posted by jerkstore on perezhilton.com: “In my opinion Tina Fey completely ruined SNL. The only reason she’s celebrated is because she’s a woman and an outspoken liberal. She has not a single funny bone in her body.” Dear Jerkstore, Huzzah for the Truth Teller! Women in this country have been over-celebrated from too long. Just last night there was a story on my local news about a “missing girl”, and they must have dedicated seven or eight minutes to “where she was last seen” and “how she might have been abducted by a close family friend”, and I thought “What is this, News for Chicks?” Then there was some story about Hillary Clinton flying to some country because she’s secretary of state. Why do we keep talking about these dumdums? We are a society that constantly celebrates n one but women and it must stop! I want to hear what the men of the world have been up to. What fun new guns have they invented? What are they raping these days? What’s Michael Bay’s next film going to be? When I first set out to ruin SNL, I didn’t think anyone would notice, but I persevered because – like you trying to do a nine-piece jigsaw puzzle – it was a labor of love. I’m not one to toot my own horn, but I feel safe with you, jerk-store, so I’ll say it. Everything you ever hated on SNL was by me, and anything you ever liked was by someone else who did it against my will. Sincerely, Tina Fey. PS: You know who does have a funny bone in her body? Your mom every night for a dollar.”
Last one, promise!: “‘Blorft’ is an adjective I just made up that means ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.’ I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.”
Nicholas Sparks, I will admit, is a purely guilty pleasure author for me. That isn’t to impute on his skill or on those who fully admire his work, but...moreNicholas Sparks, I will admit, is a purely guilty pleasure author for me. That isn’t to impute on his skill or on those who fully admire his work, but for me his books have always been more about escapist fluff than serious literature. Which explains, I think, why I picked up this slim little volume when I was trying so desperately to pull myself out of my reading slump. To be honest, it was a fully selfish choice – with dozens and dozens of books peering at me threateningly from the TBR shelf, I just wanted to curl into the book equivalent of the fetal position and read something I know wouldn’t really make me think, wouldn’t take too long to read (nothing gets you out of a slump better than the feeling of accomplishment of finishing a book!) and would take me down an emotional path I knew how to walk (I always cry, but I always know when I’m going to cry, so it’s beauty in the predictibility!)
A Walk to Remember, for the few of you who have managed to avoid either the book or the movie, is about a young man, Landon Carter, who falls in love at 17 with the preacher’s daughter, Jamie Sullivan. It’s late 1950′s Beaufort, South Carolina, and Landon is taught things about himself that he never anticipated when he realizes that he loves Jamie – an innocent, homely, kind and unfailingly Christian girl who he’s known his entire life but never really seen. Now, I have some issues with how heavy-handed the Christian aspects of this story can get, but, overall, it also played into the things I love most about the story – it’s a story of a boy with no faith learning how to have faith in something, which I think is a lesson that we all could learn just a bit more. **SPOILER** When he learns that Jamie has leukemia, he realizes that it’s time for him to own his own life and to be the person that so many around him see him to be. Her death is saddening, to be sure, but it’s also full of hope and the promise, for Landon, of a future better than it would have been otherwise. **END SPOILER**
I also love that this love story is almost an anti-love story, at least an anti-cliche love story. Landon falls in love with Jamie slowly, almost imperceptibly – he helps her out with the school play because he feels sorry for her, goes with her to help the orphans she volunteers with because he has a car, helps pick up the cans she puts out to collect money because he doesn’t know how to say no. And then, at the end of the day, he realizes that underneath all of his guilt and his “I just couldn’t say no”-ness, that it’s more than that. He’s fallen in love. The thing I love most about this is just how true to life it can be. Love isn’t always about grand moments of forehead-slapping revelation. I like to think that we’re in love with everyone from the beginning, and sometimes it’s just a matter of all the right incidents lining up. Kismet, if you will.
Now, if you can believe it, the movie version of A Walk to Remember is a rare exception to “the book is always better than the movie” rule, because I actually like this version (starring Mandy Moore and Shane West, directed by Adam Shankman) better than the book. In the movie, I think Jamie is given a bit more permission to be a teenager – she’s still pious and still has faith, but she’s not quite as ‘holier than thou’ as the Jamie in the book, and she has moments of crises of faith. In addition, I will say this only once – HOW DAMN CUTE IS SHANE WEST, FOR REAL?! It may be shallow, but damn if that wasn’t the thing that kept me running back to the theater and dropping all of my allowance money when this one hit the theaters.
I also liked the movie a bit more because the ending was a little less…intense than the ending of the book. In the book, because of Jamie’s disease, she gets to be incredibly sick and incredibly frail, to the point that even physical descriptions of her call to mind the pallor of illness and inevitable death. It’s part of what makes things so sad. But in the movie, while Jamie does make progressions to illness, she avoids things like wheelchairs and 24/7 nurse care (there is one particular scene in the book where Jamie is described as being fed through a tube which, thank God, was left out of the movie because, let’s be honest, it’s kind of creepy) and manages to be sick with dignity. While not true to the book, I felt that it gave the story the chance to focus on what really matters: not that Jamie is sick (although this is important!) but that Jamie’s sickness and, more importantly, life, has this huge effect on Landon.
I picked up The Peach Keeper on Friday because it was the first really, truly beautiful day of the spring and I needed a book that would bring that ha...moreI picked up The Peach Keeper on Friday because it was the first really, truly beautiful day of the spring and I needed a book that would bring that happy, sunshine-y outside feeling in to what I was reading. I mean, we’ve been having on and off nice days since the end of March, but Friday ended a week of cold (unseasonably so), rain, and gray days with some beautifully golden sunshine and clear blue skies! And nothing says beautiful spring weather like diving in to a book full of southern beauty, magic, and hardcore girly romance/friendship. And The Peach Keeper had all that and more!
This was my first introduction to Sarah Addison Allen, but from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t surprise me at all that shes a favorite out there in the blogosphere! Walls-of-Water, the small southern town she creates, is one of environmental charm, buried secrets, and a little bit of that southern magic. It was a darling book, and totally fit the bill for that sweet little bite of a novel I was looking for!
The book tells the story of Paxton Osgood (btw, how awesome of a name is that?!) and Willa Jackson, decendants of the two most prominant families in the town of Walls-of-Water. Willa’s family once owned the Blue Ridge Madam, an antebellum estate on a hill just outside of town that stands as a monument to the weath that used to reside in the town in the middle of its logging hey-day, before her grandmother fell on hard financial times and a scandalous pregnancy. Paxton’s family has decided to restore the old house, and soon Willa and Paxton are thrown together in a way they never anticipated. Yes, they knew each other in high school. But they ran in different social circles, and were guilty of judging each other unfairly. But with the restoration of the property – and the discovery of a skeleton buried under an old peach tree – the two begin to learn more and more about one another, their town, and the intertwined history of their families. Along the way, they learn things they didn’t ever see coming, and it leads to a number of changes in both their lives. This is a great novel of friendship, love, and choosing to love the place you were born without feeling that you have to be defined by that place.
Before I continue gushing, I should probably mention that there were one or two snafus that popped up to me when I was reading. One was the character development throughout the novel. The characters are all wonderfully built, but after a while I felt that things got a bit repetitive. I also felt that there were a few diversions from the plot line (into the past, into the homes/lives of other neighbors, etc) that, while fun to read, didn’t necessarily do a lot for the plot as a whole. In fact, there were times when I wished the book did a better job of incorporating the past – there’s only one chapter dedicated to the events that transpired between Willa’s grandmother and Paxton’s grandmother in the late 1930s, and I thought it would have been a fantastic aspect of the story thats a bit missing.
These are, honestly, small problems in what was, all in all, a really fantastic read and exactly what I needed to usher in such a beautiful spring. My favorite parts of the novel were probably the small glimpses of magical realism that kept popping up throughout the novel – Tucker Devlin, a travelling salesmen whose bones are the ones discovered on the property, smells constantly of peaches, seems to weild control over local birds, and literally puts a spell over the ladies of Walls-of-Water in the 1930s. Throughout the novel, incidences of his magic pop up again and again, ususally in a way that even the people facing the magic don’t understand.
I was also enamored with the descriptions of the smalll southern town, both the town and houses as well as the national part that surrounds Walls-of-Water. There is something so extraordinarily charming about mid-atlantic south, and I’m pretty sure a large part of that has to do with the fact that my brother grew up there, lived there his entire life (there being South Carolina), and every time I visit him I want to leave less and less!
All in all, I’d say there really couldn’t be a better book for curling up with on a sun-baked couch, with a cup of coffee or perhaps that first sweet tea of the season.
I love C.S. Lewis. Love him. I’ve never read any of his theology (I did skim Mere Christianity for a Western Civ class once) but his Chronicles of Nar...moreI love C.S. Lewis. Love him. I’ve never read any of his theology (I did skim Mere Christianity for a Western Civ class once) but his Chronicles of Narnia were some of my favorite books as a child. Before Harry Potter. Before Little Women. Before Anne of Green Gables, there was Lewis and his Pevensie children (Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy). Before I get to the actual review, I want to address a little bit of a kerfluffel that goes on amongst the Narnia readers that I know: Do you read the books in order of the publication dates, or chronologically? When I was a kid, I read them in the order they came in in the box set I have – I read them in order of the publication dates. I didn’t mind the story being separated, taking tangents in to other aspects of Narnian life before returning to the Pevensie children. Now, however, I have a bit more of an appreciation for the overarching arc behind the story of Narnia and tend to read the books as they’re supposed to take place chronologically. Meaning, long story short, Prince Caspian is set to take place right after The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Prince Caspian tells the story of how the Pevensie children find their way back to Narnia again. While they’ve been back in England after returning from their first set of adventures in the wardrobe, hundreds of years have passes in Narnia and a new king is on the throne. King Miraz is a Temarine who, after overthrowing Old Narnia, has tried his best to wipe out the memory and legends of talking animals, spirits in the trees and water, and even Aslan himself. His nephew Prince Caspian, however, is raised on tales from his Nurse and his tutor Doctor Cornelius and believes in the Old Narnia of the High King Peter and his brother and sisters. Miraz tolerates Caspian until his own son is born, when Caspian must flee and search out those remaining talking animals and members of Old Narnia in order to fight Miraz and keep them all safe. He blows an ancient magical horn, seeking the help it’s supposed to bring, and that’s when the Pevensie children find themselves brought back to Narnia. The young kings and queens (Edmund and Peter and Susan and Lucy) meet up with Caspian and Aslan himself returns from The Land Beyond the Sea to help awaken the long-dead spirits of Narnia and defeat King Miraz. I won’t spoil the end of the battle for you, but needless to say things end as you would expect them to end in a children’s fairy tale. At the end of the book, however, Peter and Susan inform Edmund and Lucy that they are too old to return to Narnia anymore, and all four Pevensie children find themselves returned to the English train station they were in before being transported to Narnia.
What is there to say about a book I loved so much growing up? To me, there is still some hidden magic in the belief that animals can talk and, perhaps what appeals more to me, that the trees, water, flowers, etc. all have their own spirits and personalities. There is a wonderful part of Caspian when Lucy, walking through the woods, imagines what all the trees would have looked like before Miraz came along and sent their spirits in to a deep sleep (sorry I don’t have the exact quote – I’m at work and, of course, forgot to bring the book with me!). She imagines whispy willows with gentle smiles and long hair, sturdy oaks with beards and warts and kind smiles, busty birches with knowing smiles and matronly airs. Is that not just such a beautiful concept! I often think that, if people began to personalize nature more – seeing that even trees and flowers and animals have personalities all their own – that they’d be far less inclined to be so damaging towards it. Narnia has also held such appeal for me because, as a child, who doesn’t dream of a world behind their own, waiting behind closed wardrobe doors or just a horn-call away from a train station. It’s the idea that, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you’re perhaps not all that far away from magic and fantasy. That’s why it always saddened me so much to hear Peter and Susan say they’re too old to return. I personally don’t ever think you’re too old to return to Narnia. Narnia is a place within your heart, brought about by holding on to your sense of wonder and child-like awe. So I say hold on to your Narnia! Be amazed by the delicacy of a flower. Laugh at something silly. Sing along to your Disney movies and tell people that maybe, just maybe, you still believe in faeries (I do!). There is always magic to be had. (less)
Drown is a series of interconnected short stories that follow the life of young Yunior, his brother Rafa, and their mother and father as the family mo...moreDrown is a series of interconnected short stories that follow the life of young Yunior, his brother Rafa, and their mother and father as the family moves from the Dominican Republic to the neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York, a largely Dominican/Caribbean neighborhood. As the stories progress, Diaz is able to advance Yunior’s voice along with his age, a narrative skill I’ve seen used hundreds of times, but never with the dexterity that Diaz brings to the overall story. Take this example, the beginning of the first story (“Ysrael”):
I was nine that summer, but my brother was twelve, and he was the one who wanted to see Ysrael, who looked out towards Barbacoa and said, We should pay that kid a visit.
Versus the beginning of the second story (“Fiesta, 1980″):
everybody decided we should have a party. Actually, my pops decided, but everybody – meaning Mami, tia Yrma, tio Miguel and their neighbors – thought it was a dope idea.
In the 21 pages between the beginning of “Ysrael” and “Fiesta”, Diaz manages to age Yunior in a way that is not only visibly progressive across the page, but also realistically adapted to the character at hand. Although the narrative voice continues to change as chapters progress, and there are some who believe that perhaps Diaz is playing with multiple narrators rather than just Yunior, I believe that looking at the deeper traits of the character indicates that it’s the same character in different points of life, throughout the novel.
Yunior is a sensitive boy. He’s beaten by his father, growing up, for getting car sick (“Fiesta, 1980″). His brother is both violent and cruel (“Ysrael”). His mother is poor, broken, and tired, having been dragged around her entire life by a man who may love her but certainly isn’t faithful to her (“Aguantando”). It’s a hard life for Yunior to live, and he doesn’t escape unscathed. He becomes a drug dealer, violent towards women (“Aurora”) as well as homophobically unsure in his sexuality (“Drown”) (just to clarify, when I say homophobically unsure, I mean that Yunior has two – he makes sure the reader knows its ONLY two – sexual interactions with another male friend and while he reacts homophobically, there is also a part of him that begins to questions aspects of his sexuality previously left alone). However, even with all of the negative cultural influences that seem to pervade Yunior’s life, he is still a character with a certain amount of innocence in his heart, who has an inherent predilection for kindness and tolerance rather than hate or dismissal. He truly loves people, getting to know them and doing what he cane for them. And he love his mother. Which is always nice to see.
It’s not often that books assigned for class end up being wonderful reads that I’m glad I was assigned. Even attaching the word “assigned” to a book can often make even the most wonderful book on the planet pretty horrible-ish. But this was a noteable exception. If you’ve got any interest in reading about the blending between Latin American/Caribbean and American cultures, the progression of character development, and/or family dynamics that operate in a less than dynamic family, Drown is most likely right up your alley. Then again, I have to say that, if you like books, Drown might also be right up your alley. (less)