Adventures in Reading

Fiction: A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar
October 4, 2008, 1:34 pm
Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: , , , , ,

“Mama liked to say you could never judge how people might have turned out. For her–aforementioned superstitionist par excellence–if things hadn’t happened exactly the way they’d happened, one out of three people involved would invariably be dead.”

Is it too late to add Randa Jarrar’s A Map of Home to my list of best books of 2008? You say no? Well add it to the list! I could not put this book down (even interrupting my Bram Stoker reading) and dare I just come out and say Jarrar is lovely, fun, and brilliant and I hope she’s working on another novel/collection of short stories soon?

A Map of Home at its simplest is a coming of age story. But like the story the protagonist Nidali tells of her big bosomed aunts putting rocks on their chests to squash their massive breasts, the book also explores the staggering pressures of multi-ethnic ancestry, a world that demands much of gender, being positioned between parent’s wants and desires, and trying to find your identity within an ever changing landscape. And like the breasts, Nidali is not squashed by these trappings as Jarrar easily moves her character into adulthood.

Jarrar comfortably deals with sensitive and frightening issues, but she also never loses her sense of humor. And it’s the honest and funny narrative that appealed to me as a reader. The depth and complexities of the novel are almost casually added as Nidali and her family are always in the forefront.

Visit the author at rockslinga.

Conclusion: Keeper.

Other opinions: Book Addiction.


Fiction: Demian by Herman Hesse
September 11, 2008, 12:50 pm
Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: , , , , , ,

“Novelists when they write novels tend to take an almost godlike attitude toward their subject, pretending to a total comprehension of the story, a man’s life, which they can therefore recount as God Himself might, nothing standing between them and the naked truth, the entire story meaningful in every detail.”

I missed Siddhartha and was given Demian, which is a story of identity, inner and external struggle. The crisis of fatalism and self plays out with the narrator Sinclair’s burgeoning puberty and sexuality or “crisis of adolescents.” Herman Hesse’s Demian is very much a book of plurality that revels in both the physical and the metaphysical. It’s a coming of age novel that questions everything from the comfort of family life to god.

Herman Hesse is an obvious writer in the sense that he has written an intriguing and compact story, it’s particularly neat in not requiring the reader to dig at all for meaning, but still manages a rather nonchalant and philosophical ending to leave the reader speculating. It’s a short and engaging novel and I found myself invited by Hesse to view concepts from a slightly different perspective. If you can get through the first few pages and Hesse’s in-your-face style of symbolism, it’s definitely an enjoyable book.

Conclusion: Keeper.

Fiction: Mexican High by Liza Monroy

Liza Monroy’s Mexico City is the story of Mila and her senior year of high school in Mexico City. Her mother works for the American government and Mila has spent her life moving from one metropolis to the next. It’s a period of transition and growth for Mila, but all happening in the dangerous and unfettered environment of Mexico City’s wealthiest social circles.

In many ways, Mexican High is a teen girl novel a la Clique and Gossip Girls (or at least what I’ve heard about them). However, the reader cannot so easily write off Mexican High because Monroy not only explores the glitzy yet darker side of teen life, but also represents the repercussions of lifestyle choices including drugs and sex. Additionally, Mexican High is a well-researched book about Mexico’s history, geography, culture and politics. Though Monroy has set her story in an abundant world of wealth, a theme runs throughout the book comparing this ostentatious lifestyle to the enormous group of working poor and the impoverished that also call Mexico City home.

This is a good book for anyone wanting a light read or for any teenager interested in reading a little more adult-like literature.

Conclusion: Returned to library.