I am supposed to be studying Arabic… but guess what? after two years I am tired… and bored..
One thing I have been able to get into again, that I was pretty good about when in was working is reading books for pleasure… of course that wasn’t really possible when I was in Qatar…. and my first two semesters in the program were not conducive to me time either… well hello 2011.
I just finished a book called “A song yet sung” by an author called James Mcbride and I realized that I have enjoyed reading two previous works of his “The Color of Water” which is a memoir about his life as well as that of his mother, the daughter of Orthodox Jewish parents who ran away and married an African-American in the 1960s or so… and “Miracle at St Anna“, which became a feature film its about a group of African-American soldiers during WWI. A song yet song is about a runaway slave who dreams the future, its pretty fast paced an grabbed my attention from the first page… I loved it!
That got me thinking about the books that I have enjoyed reading in the recent past. I must admit, that while the English “Classics” are important they have not played an important role in my book list of late. I am just really into literature coming from minority authors as well as contemproary authors and find that the works they put out is just so unlike the books that I had to read in high school…
Among my favorites are
A thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. It’s about two women who live in Afghanistan before, during and after the Soviet War and the U.S. attacks after 9/11. Like Song yet Song, it was a great read, pulls you in and just keeps you turning pages. Add to that it was a sort of personal take on the variety of Afghan society.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith was one of those books that I didn’t think I was going to like all that much. but I absolutely loved it. It’s a really big book, but you really feel like you are living through the ups and downs of this early 19th century Irish-immigrant family. I think it is considered a classic text and is read in lots of English classes in the US.. so its an exception to the rule.
The Book of Night Women and John Crows Devil by Marlon James. Marlon James is a Jamaican-American and both of his novels take place there. Although Night Women is about a slave revolt in the 1700s and is certainly not for the faint at heart. It’s riddled with very rough, very raw language and some of the scenes are so brutal. However, I think that that is what makes the book so interesting to me. Plus, much of it is written in Jamaican patwa which was amazing to me the extent to which I didn’t notice it after the first few pages. Some people don’t like it and don’t think the foul language is historically accurate, but I think its more about the author expressing the harshness of slavery especially in the West Indies. John Crow’s Devil is about an evangelist and how he brings sweeping changes to a little Jamaican town.
The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan, who of course is a pioneer in the minority literature circuit, is a captivating story about three generations of Chinese women.
Sarah’s Keys is about a little Jewish girl who locks her brother in a secret closet when French officials come to take her family away to Nazi camps and tries to get back to Paris tho free him. Well, it’s about a woman who is trying to find out what happened to Sarah. Of course it’s a sad story but its a good bit of history added in too as it discusses the complicity of Vichy regime during WWII.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barba Kingsolver is another one of those books that I did not think I would enjoy that much… but I absolutely did. It’s a bout a Missionary family that goes to the Congo during the time of Independence. It’s great story about the shortfalls of religious extremism, and history lesson of sorts on the nature of American and European involvement in the brutal assassination of Patrice Lumumba. It made me read up more on the Congo.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz is witty hilarious depiction of the life a Dominican-American dweeb growing up in NYC. It was hilarious and also a great introduction to Dominican history. I personally don’t know much about Latin America, and this book definitely gave me food for thought. I plan on reading up more about the Dominican dictator Trujillo. How in the world can a book that talks about a brutal dictator be funny? you have to read it.
The House Behind the Cedars by Charles Chestnutt a traditional tragic mulatto story about a black girl who tries to pass as white and has her whole world crashing down on her. I read it because it was written in the 1900s instead of the 1800s which is when most of the tragic mulatto stories I had read previously were written.
Of course, there are others, some of which Didn’t like very much, so I probably won’t mention them…lol… some of which I did , but they have just slipped my mind. Interestingly enough I have also tried getting into some African authors, but I still haven’t found one that tickles my fancy. One in particular, considered quite a success in our time has been quite diasspointing to me… I just don’t get why I can’t connect to his characters… oh well.