Feminism in Cold Storage

Feminism in Cold Storage

A blog about feminism and books. 

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4 Stars
The Warrior Woman
The Woman Warrior - Maxine Hong Kingston

In the world of memoirs, this one was a little difficult for me to rate. I was confused for a decent portion of it, not sure whether this was fiction or nonfiction at times. I had chosen it as part of the Read Harder Challenge for this year, task 17: read a classic by a woman of color. I suppose I could have counted Kindred but I didn't realize that it was written in 1979 until I was actually reading it and had already listed this memoir as my option for the challenge. Besides, I prefer using nonfiction for challenges anyway.

That said, I did eventually wander back over to the Goodreads and Amazon pages for this book and get it figured out.

As a whole, the book really was an amazing look into being the first US-born children of Chinese immigrants. There are flavors to the story that are familiar with my own experience of being the first US-born generation in my family too. The stories from where the family is from that don't make quite make sense in the US and the feeling of having lost so much in the migration are things that I grew up with too. I could relate to it without feeling like I already knew what was going to happen.

Here is a little bit about each story:

No Name Woman - this is the story of an aunt of Kingston's who had died back in China. She had been scorned for becoming pregnant while her husband was away and the entire family was forced to deal with the aftermath. Her mother told her of the story as a morality tale but Kingston also offers quite a bit of introspection about what it must have been like to be her aunt and what it must have been like to be a woman in China under those circumstances. She decomposes the story a bit too, rooting through for wholes in her mother's account. Set in China, it is one of the stories that showcase her heritage and the way that heritage can continue to effect even those of us not born in those countries.

White Tigers - this is the one that totally threw me for a loop. It's also written in the introspective memoir style but is actually one of the "talk stories" her mother told her and is delivered in the first person. I was so confused and kept looking at the info to make sure that this was definitely listed as non-fiction. I don't know, maybe I was just not paying an adequate amount of attention to catch it at the time because I hadn't realized from the last story that she wasn't even born in China and the entire story also takes place there. It's a great story and one that I understand her being captivated by, but it isn't her story nor does it appear to be based on one of her ancestors.

Shaman - I think this was my favorite. I love the idea of women making a great situation out of something that begins less than favorable. This takes place before Kingston is born and is about her mother deciding to be a doctor in China while her father is in the US making money. He makes more than enough to send home and for the mom to be comfortable at home, but she wants to do more with the money. Not only can I appreciate that sentiment but the very idea of going back to school after so long and how she becomes a great doctor are intriguing and uplifting.

At the Western Palace - I just love her mother so much. I get how it may have been a little hard to live her sometimes, but I love her attitude about things. My mother was much the same way. Go get what's yours. Don't take an unnecessary amount of crap from people. If life disappoints you, figure it out and move on. This story isn't actually about her mother, it's about an aunt but her mother is the larger image in it. She brings the aunt to the US after her husband never asks her to and then there's a some drama about the husband and the story is told from the point of view of Kingston herself who is just a little too young to really understand what's happening.

She understands, but doesn't grasp the gravity of the situation. She doesn't understand why it's such a big deal for the aunt and why she is so timid and so broken. Still, she gives the reader enough to see it and to feel for her aunt while also giving us a feeling of how alone she must have been with the rest of the family not understanding her. It says a lot about how culture does or does not migrate with the people who come from it.

A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe - finally we get to Kingston's own story. I did appreciate her story being the last once I understood the format because I can also understand the people around her. It would have been like reading the New Testament of the Bible without reading the Old Testament first, or even know what the Ten Commandments were. Her family and the other Chinese around her would have made less sense. I was a little horrified in the scene with the silent girl but kids can be cruel. On the other hand, I loved everything that came after her yelling at her parents to not marry her off. I cracked up at her mother's response to that.

I had looked over some other reviews when I was trying to figure out what was going on and it seems like this is generally a love it or hate it kind of book. I loved each story and would have loved for it to be advertised more as a collection of personal stories or life stories from a single person. It does paint a good overall picture of what the experience can be like to migrate to the US from China in that timeframe. It can be hard to remember what the threat of communism was like then and how countries that were engrossed with it treated their people. I am just old enough to remember seeing coverage of the Berlin Wall going down. I am also the first US born of people who came here to escape the devastating effects of communism. It's hard to explain to the younger generation now just what it meant. For that, I will endlessly appreciate this book and that it appears to have been brought into American literature classes.

Not only is the book about figuring out culture and heritage and what it means to live somewhere that you don't share the heritage, but it's also entirely about relationships among women. It's about her unnamed aunt and society and the ways that she is allowed to be remembered or not. It's about her relationship with her mother, her relationship to other Chinese children, her mother's relationship with both her own sister and her niece, her relationship to the legends of past Chinese women and the hopes of Chinese women contemporary to her.

There is one tiny problem though, and it's pointed out by almost every single person who I saw that didn't like this book. She does have a way of generalizing the Chinese. I get it, though, because I have generalized Cubans. I actually had to be taught to not do it by people like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the danger of a single story. I had lumped all Cubans into a single version of the refugee story and that's just grossly untrue. Likewise, Kingston makes it sound like all Chinese do this or that or don't do this or that.

But then again, this was written well before my time. I also recognize that there have been times in the US when it was hard to set a people behind unifying themes and ideas. I recognize that there have been times when it has been necessary to make distinctions that WE are like this and not that. Perhaps that was a part of the intended purposes of all those generalizations. Perhaps, it was important to Kingston to make a claim on what is or can be Chinese vice what is or can be Asian as a whole or vice what is or can be any other group. I don't know.

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2 Stars
Zodiac
Zodiac - Romina Russell

I'll be honest, I was with this book for about the first three quarters of it. And then it lost me. Actually, I was really enjoying it, despite the typical YA love triangle and a nobody who becomes the last hope of civilization. It's YA, I get it.

(Disclaimer: I LOVE young adult books, but there are those who happen to be coming of age stories but are mature and anyone could love and then there are those that are very specifically written for a teen audience. No judgement, but this is among the second kind.)

Don't get me wrong, the book isn't a total waste. I had originally chosen it for the gorgeous cover and that it's among the few titles with a "Z" in it for Litsy A to Z. It also perfect fit Read Harder's Task 12: Read a fantasy novel. I prefer science fiction over fantasy but this teeters in both so it was going to be a win. It almost was.

For starters, the world building is spectacular and I almost wish they would bring a world this well built to the big screen just so the graphic artists can play in it. I loved the way the cultures differed but were still based on the Zodiac the way that we have it now. I love the way the politics differed based on the cultures. I loved the way the Guardians form a sort of UN or something. Just spectacular.

I didn't mind Rho or her insecurities. Everyone has insecurities and this was obviously going to be a series so she needed to start off in a way that gave her enough room to grow into the powerhouse that is always the endgame for these kinds of books. I didn't mind Mathias and his brooding Edward-like qualities. Of all the Edwardesque characters I've seen over the years, he's my favorite. Even over Edward himself. Yes, I'm refering to Twilight because it makes an easy comparison as most people are still familiar with it. And then there was Hysan, who I thought of as more of a Gale from the Hunger Games. He's gorgeous and accessible and maybe hiding things but probably all wrong for some reason. They were decent characters but not as developed as some other books while not being entirely two dimensional either. Okay, they were close to two dimensional but they peaked into a third dimension that might come about in another book but this was told in the first person so perhaps it's meant to be Rho's point of view that restricts them. Given her title, I can see only anyone wanting to display only one dimension.

Then the plot. It's a little thin and the villain isn't exactly developed by the end but I also get that as an intentional part of the plot. It was in that last quarter though, that I would have thrown the book had it not been audio on my phone.

I don't want to spoil what happens but it irritated me. I still finished because I was too far along and I thought that since so much of the story was so YA that maybe it was a fake out. I felt like it happened just to avoid an awkward or uncomfortable scene that otherwise had to happen. There had to be better ways to get where the author wanted to go. It felt almost lazy to handle it this way.

And then I thought, maybe it is a fake out of a greater magnitude. I realized that this was also not a good enough reason to stick with the series. If it was a longer fake out, I would just be more annoyed when it resolved. So I'm left with this feeling of so much potential and disappointment.

Again, this is a YA book that is actually directed at a YA audience, so maybe they haven't read the umpteen million YA books that I have already and don't feel like this story has been played out. Maybe they'll love it anyway. I probably would have adored this book in my youth when love triangles didn't make me want to gag. The world building is really of a calibur that far outdoes the rest of the book. Most of the plot plays out enjoyable enough to make it worth reading until that moment in the last quarter that pissed me right off. It was going to be a solid three stars until that point. If you look over my rating scale, 3 stars are respectable here. They are still great books. 2 stars aren't common here but it's not entirely bad either. I was just really tweaked by that thing at the end. Maybe some of you will like that about it, but it's about to keep me from finishing the series.

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5 Stars
The Glass Castle
The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls

To say that Walls had an unusual childhood would be a massive understatement. She didn't have any of the stability with a roof over her head or meals to eat that most children in the US take for granted, but she did have some amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to do things that many of us will never do.

I'd like to say that this is due to that her parents rarely followed the rules (or, you know, laws) and gave her and her siblings even fewer to follow. She was a child of people who had the kind of wandering existence that I've known some to pine for, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows.

In fact, it seems like it was hardly ever sunshine and rainbows. They'd have long stretches of okay times with fairly regular meals and then periods of near starvation where they had to go through the trash to eat. But their parents did have an odd splendor in the way they dealt with such an extreme level of poverty. They weren't perfect, but Walls manages to tell the story in a way that never quite judges them. They were who they were and she seems to have accepted that, even when it embarrassed her.

There were a few stories I really loved, one of which I am totally keeping in my pocket just in case I'm ever at that point with my own family. There were also lots of points in the story where my heart broke for Walls and her siblings. Some people are well suited to "adulting" and others are not, her parents are just not those people. Their hearts appeared to be in the right places though. Or maybe it's just the way Walls tells the story.

She tells the story as she encountered it, not inserting knowledge from later in life to situations, not guessing what may have been in their minds based on information she had down the road. She doesn't seem to be protecting them either, never shying away from their less attractive traits.

The movie based on her life will be out soon (August 11) and I'm thinking about seeing it, though not in the theater. We don't normally go to the theater for movies we can't take the six year old to. After reading the book, I'm not 100% sure I want to see it, but the cast intrigues me. Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson both have the ability to be heartbreakingly vulnerable about the worst parts of a person and I'm not sure how they're going to portray it. It would be easy for any director with these actors to make it heart-warming or heart-wrenching. I'd be happy with a combination. The book left me with that Good Will Hunting feeling where they went for the heart but it left me with a good feeling overall. I hope the movie does that to.

Have you read the book? Are you planning on watching the movie?

Review
3 Stars
The Archived
The Archived - Victoria Schwab

This is an entertaining YA fantasy. I put it on my Read Harder 2017 list for task 15: Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. To discover author's that fit into this category, I took advice from the Goodreads group on the Read Harder challenge which has Schwab mentioned as an author who is LGBTQ+. 

I've been wanting to read her Shades of Magic series as well but I had it in my head at the time that this was a stand alone. I have no idea why. It is part of a series and the next book is The Unbound, which I will be reading to finish the series at some point down the road. My library had this one but not the next one quite yet.

Like I said above, I did enjoy it. It's quintessentially YA with an ass-kicking strong female lead and a touch of a love-triangle. Unlike some other YA, our heroine, Mackenzie Bishop, has a good head on her shoulders. She usually makes good decisions but is recently rocked by a family tragedy that contributes to setting the story in motion. She's flawed but not so much that the reader can't feel sure she'll get back on track provided nothing too drastic happens. Of course, it's a novel by a good writer, so drastic things are bound to happen, right?

The two male leads are interesting and different from each other in great ways. They may even be swoon worthy if I were close enough to my YA years to not make that super-creepy. As it is, I merely recognize that they are suitably matched for Mackenzie as love interests. Mackenzie's parents are great. They're recovering from the same tragedy that she is and are handling it in understandable ways. I love the details on fakeness of Mom's smile. Parents have a tendency to try to make things okay before they are. It's the way of the world. Still, I loved their efforts. I wish I knew more about Da, though.

Now for the really fun part. The world building was my favorite part! I love the Archive and the Narrows and the way Schwab plunges right into them. The people who work at the Archive are nuanced but only as far as Mackenzie would reasonably know them. The Coronado is a great old building with lots of stories and nooks and crannies and interesting little things about it. I loved the other residents that Mackenzie meets. Most of all, the story held layers of secrets of it's own and while some were eventually revealed, they only caused more questions about what secrets were still held. I'll be interested to see where the rest of the series goes but I also appreciate that the story had a solid ending. I could stop here and feel pretty satisfied with the story. I won't, but I could.

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5 Stars
An Indigenous People's History of the United States
An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (ReVisioning American History) - Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

It's amazing how hearing the same story from a different perspective makes you see it all a little differently. While there are some bits that I'm not familiar with from American history classes throughout the years, most of the information isn't entirely new. This book just does something with the information that no American history class I've ever taken has done. It added in the impact those actions had on the Native Americans.

It reminded me that carrying out an action against a people and then going home, doesn't make that the end of what happens there. Many war stories also include this, but again, we forget in the US because we go in, fight it out, destroy everything, call the people liberated, and then go home. At least, that's been our way for a long time. Even countries that we occupied for a time weren't in the main consciousness of the rest of the country and the troops that have occupied those countries weren't there for so long that they joined in or cared about the community in a general way. Yes, some troops will do that but its not the mission and most just get homesick the longer they are anywhere. We don't have to pick up the pieces. I remember also reading a beautiful poem by Wislawa Szymborska called The End and the Beginning, it can be found at the Poetry Foundation here. There is always work to be done to recover from the all the "growing" out west that the US did.

While there's no argument that what the US did to the Native Americans as a whole is tragic, I can't help but notice the irony in having called them the "uncivilized" as our civilization continues to kill all things natural around us, especially when they always strove to protect it all. I also read this book far too close to my reading of Looking for Palestine to not notice the parallel situation we would find ourselves in as a country were the UN to look at us and say that we have to abide by the treaties that we signed with the many indigenous peoples' of the US. The people currently living in those areas would revolt as if the land hadn't been misappropriated in the first place. It's not as if the account here of how it was taken is strikingly different from what I remember of high school history. Again, the difference mainly surrounds that this book includes the effect on the Native Americans.

It did make me cringe a little to hear her call us "colonialists". It's not that the moniker is really wrong, especially once you've heard her case for it, but that it's so right it hurts a little. We, as a country, did all this while denouncing the form of colonialism that we had been under. We still managed to feel absolutely nothing about putting ourselves upon those who we could after having been so put upon by the English. It barely makes sense except for the tendency for people to take out their inability to control their own destinies on those who they can control. Like an abused child abusing their smaller sibling. It was also disappointingly true to hear her talk about our actions towards people of other countries with less military might than ours. I've read a few other books that would completely agree with this assessment of what we do when we aim to "liberate" other peoples*. It's more of a mess than anything else, but it's a mess of a way to handle things that we inherited and maybe one day we'll come up with the right way or at least a better way to handle it all but I won't hold my breath.

The book does note some promising changes to the way Native Americans are viewed and treated in the US but which can be easily seen in the divided responses people had to the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Stand with Standing Rock protests and campaign. The controversy received a lot of media attention and was a hot topic for part of the election but the direction of the election and that the pipeline stands and has already leaked oil show just how much further we have to go. Still, it gives me hope for the future.

My only problem with the book, though I completely understand it in the perspective, is the general way she talks about the troops. I get that it was exponentially easier in worse times to get the troops feeling hateful and then drunk and then just let them loose on society. I also get that incidents like Abu Ghraib doesn't inspire confidence in our present situation. The difference is that the Armed Forces themselves take great pains these days to prevent rather than inspire such behavior. I get that it doesn't make a whole lot of difference to the people that are on the other end of our weapons and I get that the present change in administration is troubling to many world-wide. Still, I felt I would be remiss in my review to not mention this attitude toward US troops for the benefit of future readers who may or may not have affiliation with the present Armed Forces. It makes the information here, though not generally untrue, a little harder to swallow at times.

Above all, I hope this book finds it's way into classrooms and churches and hearts. I hope we act on the actual virtues of Christianity and go back and decide without being further told to abide by those treaties, that we treat our neighbor better than we would treat ourselves, and find a way to coexist that's good for all of us. We can't fix the past but we can make a future that embodies what our ancestors should have done to begin with. Maybe we will one day. It's one of the things I'll be working toward in whatever ways I find.

I listened to the audiobook on Scribd, read by Laural Merlington.

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5 Stars
Kindred
Kindred - Octavia E. Butler

I know, it's about time right? It seemed like everyone was reading this a while back and I know that it isn't exactly a new book to begin with. I wanted to read it because of all the reviews and rave it was getting but had this gnawing fear that I would hate it. But then I listened to Bloodchild and other Stories by Octavia E. Butler and fell a little in love with her. I realized, though I should have trusted all the good reviews flooding in, that this was not about to be the same fictionalized book set in the antebellum South designed to make me feel sorry for slaves, hate slave owners, or convince me that there were really plenty of really nice slave owners. Butler goes a long way to introduce a lot of nuance and dimension to her antebellum characters that I'm not accustomed to reading about.

*And that's about all that I can muster for a spoiler free section of this review. Proceed if you've already read it or know the story.*

I loved the way Butler used Rufus and Dana to show the dynamic of both slave and slave owner and the ways they could play off each other. I appreciated that Rufus grew into his atrocities as he learned that being like his father could get him what he wanted. He learned how to manipulate and abuse along the way while somehow maintaining the delusion that his way was overall best. At the same time, I love that he listened to Dana for so long and that he didn't want to sell off slaves or separate families. He didn't really have compassion but he was also wading into being monster instead of jumping in like its easy to assume. We got to watch him descend into it because he could, which I always thought of as one of the scary things about living in an environment like that.

I loved Dana's introspection on everything in the past and how she felt it was easier to assimilate than she anticipated but I also loved Kevin's disgust with the family and his inability to tolerate people of the time while he was left behind. It was interesting that he had been alone there for so long and that the changes he went through didn't seem to change his feelings for Dana or about the beliefs of the time but that it all did affect him. I loved that he kept searching for a place for himself because nothing there fit while maintaining communications with the family in hopes of Dana's return.

For as much as the story revolved around Dana and Rufus, most of the slaves were well developed. Butler made it easy to understand how one might stay in that environment and what made running so much more dangerous even while staying was slowly killing you (or not so slowly in some cases). But I also appreciated that she introduced slave owners worse than Rufus's father to not ignore the range of the atrocities committed against the slaves and free blacks to not ignore that they existed either. Not that Rufus's father was depicted as a particularly benevolent slave owner like they are in many books written at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Then there's the story and the time travel. The involuntary nature of the time travel was great for moving the story forward and for getting Dana to where she needed to be. I wouldn't imagine the antebellum South would be an intentional destination for any time traveler who could oppressed in it's time, so I get that it had to be involuntary. At the same time, the involuntary way she came back to her present seemed to make every conflict more tense.

The delicate balance that Dana had to ride in the past between her need to be born in the first place and to preserve the life that she had made her decisions more interesting. I appreciated that she didn't want to tell Alice to go to Rufus or not to. She left her survival up to Alice's horrible decision alone. While it may have been tempting to influence Alice for her own survival, she knew she'd regret it. She probably knew that Alice was going to do it anyway because it was the unfortunate best alternative in her situation, even though it was horrible. When I first read that Rufus was white and her ancestor, a big part of me hoped that it was going in a different, less believable direction. The story really resonates with honesty in a way that none of the other antebellum South stories I've read ever have, not when it comes to the slave/slave owner dynamic.

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5 Stars
Looking for Palestine
Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family - Najla Said

I was not aware of Edward Said before reading this book, so I went into it without any expectation on the part of his daughter. I had originally found the book when searching for memoirs about non-celebrities, for books about the human experience and was drawn to the way that the description of this book included her cultural confusion.

I have experienced cultural confusion and appreciate reading about how others have dealt with it and what they have gone through. Being cultural confused here in the States isn't necessarily a bad thing, and strangely a topic that was also deeply covered in the book I read directly before this (Black White and Jewish). For me, it was being both white and Hispanic. As if being mixed wasn't confusing enough, there are the great many countries that Hispanics can be from, though we are often confused for each other, and the in-fighting that happens among us. I totally identified with this part of the book since the Middle East can apparently cause the same identity issues. Everyone that you meet can't wait to tell you what your culture is like but you, who are supposedly living it, can't quite figure it out. Yep, that was my childhood too.

That said, I loved reading about every moment of Said's confusion over why she couldn't just be like other girls and why she couldn't quite understand who she was supposed to be. I loved that there were so many elements of a typical American childhood mixed in with those differences. I loved the way she talks about feeling like the other mothers loved their daughters more by demanding special dietary concessions while her mother didn't do that. I loved the way she dealt with having to revise her place in the world as the conflicts in the Middle East made different parts of her heritage hard to explain to the New Yorkers around her. More than anything, I loved the way she changed paths and forged a new place for her in her chosen career path. She wasn't going to let people tell her where she belonged, she told them. Okay, she was a part of a group that started in on it and I appreciate that they wouldn't let someone else distort their narrative after 9/11.

My only problem is that I didn't totally understand the title. The subtitle makes total sense as you read the book but I kept expecting her to be doing something closer to Palestine or maybe for Palestine. The best I can guess is that she was looking for Palestine within herself because Said is both Palestinian and Lebanese. The Lebanese side she understood earlier.

I had seen some discontent with her disconnect with her father's work as a child but kids are not their parents and I would hope that anyone reading the book would see that. Maybe it's again coming off of reading Rebecca Walker's book because it can be so obvious to some and yet other expect some children to relive their parents lives. I found it endearing to hear about how she later figured out that all these people who had been guests in her childhood home turned out to be big movers and shakers in the political world.

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This Child Will Be Great
This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's First Woman President - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

President Sirleaf is one of the Nobel Prize winning women that I challenged myself to read last October. I had first heard her name in the memoir of one of her co-winners, Leymah Gbowee, that I had reviewed here for the blog I had before this one. Because of that, I was a little familiar with the civil wars that tore Liberia apart for 14 years and the name Charles Taylor.

What I wasn't familiar with was the overall political history of Liberia, which President Sirleaf discusses throughout her memoir. Her family had been involved in politics there long before the civil wars which gave her a more overarching view of what was happening than I had listened to in Gbowee's book. A part of me wishes I had read them in the opposite order. Gbowee's book is a lot more of the every woman experience of the wars and President Sirleaf shows the reader the "bigger picture", if you will.

President Sirleaf's story starts long before the wars, though. She begins with some history, such as the relationship the US had with the founding of Liberia before moving on to more personal history. I loved the story about the man who gave the memoir it's title by looking at her as a baby and saying those words, "This child will be great." I love the doubt that follows. President Sirleaf's rise to power was slow and winding, given the political climate of her country throughout her life, but it appeared to have progressed at a relatively steady pace with what seemed like short segues into other areas. There was a lot of heartache and a lot of experience involved in that climb to power, but she persevered.

This memoir was narrated by Robin Miles, who is an amazing narrator. The link will take you to an interview she did with BookRiot. The pacing of both the book and the narration was great, it was one of the few audiobooks that I haven't felt the need to tweak the playback speed on my app. Overall, it's an important memoir to read for those of us interested in the lives of women, particularly those who have had political success or been awarded the Nobel Prize.

This was also one of those rare books that I could fit into all three of my reading challenges this year because it is by a Nobel Laureate, it satisfies Task 11 for my Read Harder challenge, and is my Letter T for Litsy A to Z.

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4 Stars
A Small Revolution
A Small Revolution - Jimin Han

This is a pleasant surprise. It's a Kindle First book I got a few months ago, along with the audio upgrade, that had so much more to it than I expected. At it's core the story is about four college girls who are held captive by a guy with a gun for reasons that blur between the personal and the political. But this isn't about some rejected college student who wants to take out his anger by showing power, it's more of a hostages make people listen situation.

Yoona is the protagonist and I loved the way she tells the story to Jaesung. It's not done in a way that makes it sound like she is relaying it to him later and that everything is fine. She talks to him as if he is her conscience. Jaesung is another character who is not in the room with them but he is still a part of it. You know from the beginning that Jaesung has something to do with why Lloyd, the gunman, has these girls in this room at gunpoint.

I appreciated Yoona, Jaesung, and Lloyd as characters, as would-be or possible revolutionaries. I loved the niavete they possess and the way each works through that in their own way and the way the interference, or not, of parents rang true to life for me. Some are very involved, others not so much or not at all. I couldn't help but feel for Yoona, not just in that room but as other events became known. Then there's Lloyd's unraveling, what brought him to the place, what motivates his conversations with the negotiator and I loved the negotiator. Much of the book isn't even about the room they are in but the way they all came to be there and these are the scenes that surprised me most.

I enjoyed the story embodied a part of American life by being about people who were the first or second generation to be born in the US, by being about people who still have ties to the land of their parents. I appreciated it as a story about Korean-Americans, which I feel is a group we don't hear much about, but also about Korea and a dorm room in the US. The story elements fit together beautifully and the only thing I would wish to change about it was a little more denouement.

Also, I really love this cover. Its perfectly captures the feel and tone of the story without giving anything away. Every time I see the cover since finishing the book, I get a little wistful about the story and all the characters and everything they wanted to do and everything they wanted to fix about the world.

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5 Stars
Black White Jewish
Black White & Jewish - Rebecca Walker

Never before has a book so completely spoken to my heart. I originally found this last year when I was looking around for around for women's memoirs to be put into my Diverse Books Tag focused on that genre (a book with a biracial protagonist). I recommended it to my library but got quickly absorbed in a number of other books while I waited for it to be available or for the right time to pop up. At last, my library purchased it and I was the first one to get it when it came out.

I have to say that waiting for the right time worked out fantastically. Some books just seem to know when you need them. As I said, this one just spoke right to my heart. That's not to suggest that I "know" what it was like for Rebecca Walker to navigate her life or what it's like to be black and white and Jewish all at the same time. What I do know is that I am quite familiar with that sense of not quite belonging to anyone, but maybe belonging enough to be claimed here and there for this or that trait. I have drifted from one home to another within my family or neighborhood or group of friends and felt that change that Walker describes as "switching radio stations". I've felt the sting of being in one group while people denigrate the other part of you, the part that they don't claim, while they insist that it's not you but you know that it is, even if only in part. I've felt it on both sides of me.

We've lived vastly different lives in different times within this country and I couldn't possibly relate to all of Walker's experiences, but I had never known anyone to describe this being and not being so well, so beautifully. The idea of being a "movement baby" sounds terrifying, like for too much to live up to. Later, I found it far easier to relate to what happened when the ideas of the movement were gone and she was treated like her existence was half-oppressor and half-oppressed, when people asked her navigate those waters and explain what it felt like. I was never able to explain what it was like to be fragmented this way and now I have someone to turn to for that.

I loved Walker's style of writing and relating everything back to memory and the way that memory shifts, that way that it can be wrong and right at the same time and the way it shapes us and perceptions of us without ever asking for permission. I loved the poetic feel that accompanies most of the book. I peaked at some other reviews and it's not the kind of book that everyone loves, but I still find it an important book to read and discuss. Perhaps it would make a great book club memoir because it does bring in questions of race on several fronts and it could open conversations about sex in adolescence, the effect of divorce and/or neglect on a child's upbringing and other important issues that Walker goes through that still plague us.

The downside to that, of course, is that using the book that way invites criticism of Walker and her parents as people who were theoretically doing the best they could. I don't mean to sound like I doubt that anyone was doing their best but I also don't want to make it sound like I'm making assumptions about what could/should have been done. The point is simply that getting judgey about someone's life and story like this would miss the point of reading the book.

Despite what others might think, I found this book engaging, even at it's lowest moments. I appreciated the way it was a little episodic, moving through periods in her life and only stopping to fit in the moments that best sums up the time-frame for her rather than dwelling on incidentals. As mentioned above, what I loved the most was the way she relates what it is like to not fit succinctly into any single category of race, to be a part of something and not a part of it at the same time, close and yet removed from it. I have felt these things so many times in life when I am in Hispanic or not Hispanic depending on the way whoever I'm talking to feels about it and it rarely seems up to me to let them know who I am and how I fit into these categories and whether or not I even want to.

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3.5 Stars
Written in the Stars
Written in the Stars - Aisha Saeed

This is my Letter W for the Litsy A to Z challenge this year. I picked it because of that cover. Isn't it gorgeous?

This is also one of those books that I had read the synopsis for when I first chose it and just trusted my earlier judgement, having put it on a challenge list and all. Then I promptly forgot what it was actually about, which is always fun for me because I know its about something I'm interested in but still get to be surprised.

Let me say that I enjoyed a lot about this book but it was greatly helped by the fact that I had finished Dear Zari directly before it which provided me with great information on the realities of life for Afghan women. Though our protagonist in this book is Pakistani-American, the understanding of cultural traditions is similar enough to be helpful in this book and not see that none of the characters who live in Pakistan are behaving unusually, nor are they written in a way to be seen as villainous. They are doing what they know to do for the situation they are in.

Naila, our protagonist, is born and raised in American and her parents try to hold her the cultural expectations of their extended family back in Pakistan. They want her to be a good Pakistani girl and she can't begin to comprehend what is wrong with being a good American girl instead. Her general attitude about these traditions while in the US reminded me a little of Ms. Marvel too. When her world turns upside down in Pakistan, the story really turns.

I spent the rest of the book unsure of which direction the resolution to Naila's issue the author was gonna go until close to the end. I felt pretty sure that a happy end was coming though. 

Overall, I really enjoyed it. Its a great YA that fits in a rather underrepresented demographic, those teens whose lives fall somewhere between the US and the Middle East. It also falls solidly into chick lit, in my opinion, which is part of the fun here. The characters aren't exactly well rounded, but I don't think that was the point anyway. Its enough that they are entirely different manifestations of familiar archetypes in YA or chick lit. It made them a little unpredictable for me, which is always fun. I think anyone who reads either of those genres would enjoy this.

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4.5 Stars
Bloodchild and other stories
Bloodchild: And Other Stories - Octavia E. Butler

This is the first of Butler's work that I've read, or listened to in this case. The narrator is Janina Edwards. I listened to it on the Prime Channel "Worlds Away: Sci-Fi Classics" and am so glad I saw it there. I decided to make this my Task 22 for Read Harder 2017, Read a collection of stories by a woman. I was going to use another book, and though that one fits, the stories are actually part of a series that I haven't read yet, which made it hard for me to keep up with.

Sci-fi is my preferred genre in fiction but reading challenges and the desire to read more diverse authors has pulled me away from it in recent years. I've found some great books that I am so glad to have read and a love for historical fiction I never thought I'd have. But this book is full of some of my favorite things about my favorite genre and written by prolific author that I'm glad I can go back to for more worlds.

Each story had its own world to build, though most took place right here on Earth. I enjoy stories on far off planets are alternate worlds but rarely have I read any that sit so well in this in between space. These world could be called dystopian, which there are plenty of, but most of these stories take place in that early transition from the world we know to something radically different like the Hunger Games. It sits in the same in between as the Walking Dead in most cases.

Of the stories, of which there were seven, none let me down at all. Sometimes short story collections have one or two stories that aren't up to par with the others but all the worlds were different and engaging. This, of course, doesn't meant that I am without my favorites. I found "Book of Martha" and "The Evening and the Morning and the Night" were favorites.

Butler's stories that revolved around alien contact and the way we might live with that were interesting in a way that was completely new for me. I love that she was toying with the idea that we would have invaders that didn't want to exterminate us and that we couldn't exterminate. I loved the 'silent war' that took place in one story. Mostly, what I enjoyed about these cohabitation stories was the concessions that both sides may have to make, what might develop from it.

My favorite thing about this collection is that each story made you think about the world, our responses to change or unavoidable situations. These are the things that I love about science fiction the most. I already had Kindred on my list to read for Litsy A to Z but I'm sure I'll be coming black to Octavia Butler over the years for my sci-fi fix.

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5 Stars
Dear Zari
By Zarghuna Kargar Dear Zari: Hidden Stories from Women in Afghanistan [Paperback] - Zarghuna Kargar

Kargar shares some fascination and mostly heartbreaking stories that she had collected while producing The Afghan Women's Hour on BBC for five years. I'd had this book on my to read list for a while and even put it on both my Litsy A to Z (Letter D) and Read Harder (Task 24: Read a book wherein all point of view characters all people of color) lists. 

Each chapter has the story of the woman featured and how her story relates to or represents Afghan women in general. Kargar seemed to take great care to make sure that many sides of Afghan women were featured. There were the child brides and war widows that we're accustomed to hearing about in the US, but also entrepreneurs and more. Many of the stories do involve domestic violence, sometimes from a spouse and sometimes from a sibling, but this isn't the only problem that Afghan women face. Like women from every country, there are many issues that they must deal with and not all are negative and not all are simply cultural. I enjoyed the way Kargar makes the distinction between religious, legal, and tribal practices. Some of the situations that these women contend with are some combination of those three and some just don't fit the category we assume it does.

I also really enjoyed hearing about the way Afghan Women's Hour was received by Afghan women and men. I'm always amazed by the effect that sharing stories has, even when they aren't happy stories. Or maybe especially when they aren't.

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5 Stars
Rise of the Rocket Girls
Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars - Nathalia Holt

This is one of my Read Harder 2017 books. Its my choice for task #13, a nonfiction book about technology. I had already read Hidden Figures and some anthologies about women scientists, so I knew we were up to more than most would assume back then. I listened to the audio book version from the library, read by Erin Bennet. 

This is one of those covers that do a great job of showing you everything about the book but I still managed to misinterpret it. I had no idea that rockets were going as far as they were so early. It was fascinating to hear about the way the women went from being computers to programming them. It makes the whole process sound so natural. I also greatly appreciated the details on the way these women worked out family and career. I wouldn't have thought it all possible for the timeframe before I started reading more women's stories. 

Overall, the story and narration held my attention but there was something a little off about it. It took me a little while to realize that it was read in a style that was reminiscent of the introductions to for the show The Desperate Housewives. While this wasn't a bad thing, I did constantly feel like I should be expecting some crazy plot twist. 

This is a great books for anyone into herstories, or the history of rockets or space probes. 

Review
4 Stars
The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure - Rachel Friedman
This was an unexpected amount of fun. It was one of my Read Harder 2017 picks, my travel memoir for task #8. It turns out that this was a perfect option for me. Friedman experience some different cultures, goes to some crazy places and even lives there a while but she does not get all judgey about the way people live or lose sight of where she has come from and the luxuries she enjoys.

That said, these travels of hers also take her on a bit of an internal journey. This I also appreciated. I know that some people do manage to go places and stay absolutely unchanged by them, but I relate more to Friedman on this account. Traveling changes me too. Its not so much learning about others but getting the opportunity to live in another community that looks at the world a little differently. Its hard for it to not rub off a little on me. Its hard to explain.

The point here is that Friedman recognizes this. She recognizes and relates well the value of getting outside our own communities for a while and seeing what else is out there. She's not quite trying to find herself, but I feel like that's the real journey here.

I am jealous of all the places Friedman goes. I am fairly well traveled but I haven't been to any of the countries Friedman goes to in this book. They're all on my list of places I dream of going. On the other hand, her description of the backpacker/hostel life assures me that this is not the way for me to travel. Backpacking maybe, hostels definitely not. Then again, I'm married with a little kid now. We're working on an elongated summer concept around the US to hit all 50 states one day. That's more doable in the short term.

Altogether, I really loved it. Friedman's style of writing was fun and engaging and her travels were interesting.
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5 Stars
Blind Man's Bluff
Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage - Sherry Sontag, Christopher Drew, Annette Lawrence Drew

I remember when this book first came out. I was a teenager and my father picked it up immediately and was so excited about it that he told me about half the book in an evening when he was done. I remember lots of stories from it but always felt like I was missing some. It was one of those books he had insisted on me reading one day and even gave me but that I didn't feel like I needed to read because I knew most of the stories (which did not turn out to be true).

Then I came across it again this month. It's been a week or so since I finished it, my reviews this month have been woefully behind. I had come across the audiobook version in my library when I was looking for a new book and it is on one of those few subjects that I knew my husband wouldn't mind listening to on our two day drive back home from visiting my parents. It turned into the easiest part of the drive.

I have always had a particular fondness for history surrounding boats and the sea, so this book was especially fascinating for me. I loved all the crazy stories about espionage and the way that became a big job for submarines to do. I don't remember all the names, unfortunately, but the man who used bets to factor intuition into calculations of where to look for things was amazing. That's an interesting concept all by itself.

It was crazy to get into the mindset of the Cold War while listening to this book. I don't remember much from that timeframe but I'm old enough to remember just a little. The fear and paranoia were strangely different from what terrorism has done in the last few decades. It's hard to explain but the book really brings you back there. I appreciated that the authors included that element, particularly since I'm reading it so long after both the period it covers and its publication.

I know herstories are normally my thing for the blog but I decided to include a review when I noticed that two out of the three authors were women. I enjoyed the narrator, Tony Roberts. He got a little monotone sometimes but kept the sense of suspense throughout the book.

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