Monday, September 1, 2014

Monday's Reading Recap


Happy Labor Day!! How. Is. It. September? My wedding is next month!!!!!! Fortunately I knew that I would be feeling overwhelmed about now and I already planned for a fun book blogging month: Dystopian September!! I finally get to share my reviews with you for all the popular and classic dystopian books and series I've read this year. I've been stockpiling them for you and hope you'll enjoy a month full of government chaos and brave protagonists! I'll probably be putting this blog somewhat on autopilot and might be skipping my Monday updates (not that they've been consistent over the summer!), but I'm still here behind-the-scenes. Frantically putting together centerpieces while doing squats and trying not to eat any carbs. Ahhh, the life of a bride-to-be. #AreWeThereYet? ;)

Last Week I Finished Reading

So I'm officially adding A Clockwork Orange to my DNF list. I swear I have struggled with this book for so long that it feels good to label it this way. I feel bad that it now belongs in the same category as Chelsea Handler because I don't think it deserves that, but I just couldn't drag myself through it!!! The futuristic vocabulary and violent dystopia just wouldn't allow me to care enough to read on. I secretly hope someday I do finish it because I think the 213 pages will haunt me if I don't... 

  This Week I Plan on Reading: Uglies by Scott Westerfield (I think!). 

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This Week I'm Sharing a Review For: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

What books did you recently discover? 

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

I was raised the Chinese way: I was taught to desire nothing, to swallow other people's misery, to eat my own bitterness. / And even though I taught my daughter the opposite, still she came out the same way! Maybe it is because she was born to me and she was born a girl. And I was born to my mother and I was born a girl. All of us are like stairs, one step after another, going up and down, but all going the same way.
-from The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
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I have always heard of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club but I had never read it or even known what it was about, which is why I put it on my TBR Pile List Challenge. The Joy Luck Club is ultimately a story about the relationships of mothers and daughters, especially in Chinese culture and relating to the immigrant experience. The novel examines the lives of four women who emigrated from China and compares their life experiences to their respective first-generation Chinese-American daughters. The women are tied together through The Joy Luck Club where the four spend time playing mahjong together and their friendships are cultivated.

The structure of the novel is interesting and important being split into four parts and told by seven different narrators. The first component is narrated by each of the three immigrant mothers (one of the four having died before the novel begins); these chapters give the reader an understanding of what 1920s China was like for each woman individually. The second section is told from the perspective of each of the four daughters giving the reader their varied perspectives of growing up in America as the daughter of a Chinese immigrant mother. The third section is also told by the daughters and fleshes out each girl's development into adulthood and how they have grown to relate (or not be able to relate) to their respective mothers. Finally, in the fourth section the mothers bring their narratives full circle and the reader begins to emotionally understand the cultural behavior of the mothers toward their daughters.

At first the structure of the novel was the part I liked least about this book. While symmetrically it sounds great, it was really difficult to follow the stories when they were broken up amongst each other. I could barely follow whose mother belonged to whom (fortunately there is a list at the beginning of the book) and had to keep notes as I read. I really thought I might have preferred if each mother-daughter pair was its own section of the four-part series instead of mixing up all the stories. It was difficult for me to really get into this book because of that. But after reading some reviews about the book from others, I came to understand that the book is actually set up similar to a mahjong game. I am not familiar with mahjong so I was not able to distinguish this, but I don't doubt that the pieces of the story were strategically placed to reflect something so symbolic of the relationships in the book and the culture. Perhaps if you are familiar with mahjong you will be further impressed by this story's structure.

Even though the story was more difficult to follow than I would have liked, the actual content is stunning. The comparisons Tan draws between the cultures and the power of the background each stoic Chinese mother undergoes is not only fascinating but beautifully written. There are some lines that made me have to stop and appreciate them rather than continue reading. I loved the explication of the cultural disconnect between the immigrant mothers and their American-born daughters and the lessons each mother tries to instill in her daughter but is lost in translation. I felt Tan really captivated how isolating it is for immigrants, even amongst their own families, along with how much American-born citizens take so much for granted.

While this wasn't necessarily an "easy" book to read, it was very fulfilling and I think any mother or daughter should read it, whether their mother is an immigrant or not. I think if you don't get along with your mother it might help you see her in a new light, and if you do get along with your mother it will only magnify your love to read the stories of The Joy Luck Club.

Bottom Line: A must read for any mother and/or daughter. It's not an "easy" book to read and I recommend keeping notes of the characters to simplify the abundance of character information for four sets of women. But in the end it's very fulfilling and I think it would also make a great installment for any book club! 4/5 Stars.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

While the astronauts, heroes forever, spent mere hours on the moon, I have remained in this new world for nearly thirty years. I know that my achievement is quite ordinary. I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first. Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.
-from Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

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I'm not going to lie to you, I picked up this book last year after I learned that Mindy Kaling named her character on The Mindy Project Mindy Lahiri after her favorite author, Jhumpa Lahiri (I am so excited for season 3!!!). Since Mindy Kaling is one of my favorite people ever, I had to read this. Of course, it was no real surprise to me that some of the stories in this Pulitzer Prize winning book I had already read in college. I was happy to reconnect with Lahiri's stories and read them with older, more mature eyes.

Interpreter of Maladies is a collection of short stories focusing on various themes relating to Indians and Indian-Americans. Each story focuses on seemingly ordinary characters but elevates the mundane into a thought provoking anecdote on identity, tradition and the roles that are played in every day life. It's really difficult to narrow down favorite stories among this compilation, but I narrowed mine down to "When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine" and "Mrs. Sen's"; both center on Indians living in America, experiencing a homesickness for their families and traditions in India. In both stories, American children witness both Mr. Pirzada and Mrs. Sen respectively, and similar to the experience of the reader, these children come to better understand the experience of the displaced immigrant, separated from the people and traditions of their home.

I was so impressed by Jhumpa Lahiri's ability to take every day situations and heighten the reader's awareness, taking the ordinary to the extraordinary. Reading these stories encouraged me to see the stories and messages in everything around me, especially what other people might be going through. In the final story, "The Third and Final Continent", the main character rents a room from a woman who is 103-years old and becomes invested in her life, a life he would have otherwise overlooked if he hadn't rented a room and learned about her. This encourages the reader to look at other people's stories that cross over into their own lives.

After reading the collection of stories in Interpreter of Maladies, I completely understand Mindy Kaling's love for Jhumpa Lahiri. Her poignant prose and ability to tell a story powerfully yet succinctly has made me a big fan of Lahiri's work very quickly myself. I can't wait to pick up The Namesake next!

Bottom Line: A must read for any lover of great literature. Read these stories one at a time in between other books, or all at once within a day or two, like I did! 5/5 Stars.

This post was not sponsored by The Mindy Project, although I wish it was.