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Monthly "Reads" > Shomeret's June Reads 4/4

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message 1: by Shomeret (last edited Jul 01, 2011 11:04PM) (new)

Shomeret | 1371 comments 12)Books Without Bias: Through Indian Eyesby Beverly Slapin and Doris Seale (literary criticism)445 pages. Source: Library Started: 6/25 Finished: 6/25

Why Read: I looked at other books associated with Slapin and Seale after I read A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children because I wanted to see if there was an equivalent book about adult fiction. I thought that this book might be what I was looking for. Instead it turned out to be an earlier study on children's literature dealing with Native American characters and themes. I wondered if I would experience it as a duplication of A Broken Flute.

Comments: Books Without Bias is a different book. It contains introductions from the authors which deal with their backgrounds and motivations. Beverly Slapin is a concerned Native American parent. Doris Seale is a Native American children's librarian. I winced when I learned that they had removed seventy books from the shelves of a children's library and locked them away. As a librarian, Doris Seale should have known that there were other options open to her. I did think that the checklist that offers guidelines for unbiased books was valuable, but I thought there should be separate guidelines for fiction and non-fiction. I was impressed by the quality and lucidity of the reviews which were all written by Doris Seale. In A Broken Flute there were a number of reviews which varied in quality. So I think that in some ways Books Without Bias is actually a better book on this subject. Rating A

13)Caleb's Crossingby Geraldine Brooks (historical fiction)306 pages. Source: Library Started: 6/25 Finished: 6/26

Why Read: This is about the first Native American to attend Harvard. This happened during the colonial period in the 17th century. It sounds fascinating, but coming on the heels of Books Without Bias, I found myself thinking about what Native Americans might think of the book.

Comments: Caleb was a real historical personage who did attend Harvard. Brooks constructed his character and motivations with verisimilitude. I also really liked Bethia, the Anglo American viewpoint character. She managed to maintain her independence and do what she thought was right in the midst of personal tragedies that might have broken a lesser character. Yet I had to ask myself why she was the viewpoint character and not Caleb. It's like Dances with Wolves. The primary character focus is not a Native American. Not only this, but Geraldine Brooks chose to write a book dealing with Caleb because he went to Harvard. He participated in Anglo-American cultural institutions whatever he might have thought of them. The struggle of his medicine man uncle's efforts to preserve his traditions is not central to the book. He's a character who remains in the shadows. Brooks gives us an impression that Caleb's uncle has great stature and power, but he's never brought to the foreground. So I rated this book A-

14)One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming (mystery) 327 pages. Source: Library Started: 6/26 Finished: 6/27

Why Read: I haven't read any of this series before, but this one sounded interesting. It deals with Iraq War veterans. The MC Clare Ferguson is one of them.

Comments: What happened to Clare in Iraq? It all seems like a vague abstraction to me. The mystery case could have happened in the context of any war. Because the police chief MC, Russ, was a Vietnam veteran, Vietnam and Iraq seem to run together. The boook is about the generalized American military experience. I would have preferred more particularity. On the other hand, there's some really good characterization around the topics of post-war transition and PTSD. I also really liked the way Russ handled Clare's issues within the context of their relationship. I rated this book B+. It would have gotten a higher rating if we could have had some really good flashbacks from Clare's perspective.

15)A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell(historical mystery) 300 pages. Source: Library Started: 6/29 Finished: 6/30

Why Read: This is the first book in a series about Hannah Vogel which begins with Hannah as a crime reporter for a Berlin newspaper in Weimar Germany. She sees a photo of her brother's dead body in a gallery of what we would call John and Jane Does. It's a tremendous shock, but Hannah must find out whodunit and why.

Comments: I love Hannah. She's tremendously resourceful and courageous. She is faced with a number of challenges in the course of this novel and surmounts them all. Her brother's life as a gay cross-dressing performer is very prominent in this book. There is also a small amount of explicit homosexuality. So this is not a book for everyone, but I found it compelling and enjoyable. I will definitely read more in this series. I rated this book B+

This month I'm very conscious of how critical I've been about some popular books. I actually enjoy analysing books that I've read even if I consider them flawed. I hope that other people who read my reflections get something out of them.


message 2: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandin954) | 1200 comments Shomeret wrote: "15)A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell(historical mystery) 300 pages. Source: Library Started: 6/29 Finished: 6/30"

I am glad to see that you liked A Trace of Smoke. It has been on my TBR for while now. That period of time is fascinating. I've seen Rebecca Cantrell on various panels at Bouchercon and she has always seemed very sharp.


message 3: by Ann (new)

Ann (annrumsey) | 14411 comments We do Shomeret, I like to understand the perspectives of others who have read the same books near a time I have. I form my own opinions, but use the comments to help me sort though my feelings about what the authors were trying to tell us. It adds to my enjoyment.
I think we each start reading a book with different moods and motivations and the author's words are probably often interpreted differently or resonate in different ways for different people - isn't it grand!
Shomeret wrote: "This month I'm very conscious of how critical I've been about some popular books. I actually enjoy analysing books that I've read even if I consider them flawed. I hope that other people who read my reflections get something out of them. "


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