Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Review 2010

All year I've been reading books and have been dying to write reviews for my site. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to carve out that time. Therefore, here's everything in one post.

The Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman. I had just come back from India in January and Ru's book helped me sustain the beauty of the Subcontinent for a bit longer. Her story takes place in Sri Lanka and is so beautifully written. She captures the simplicity of life in India, which was what I missed upon my return; her book illustrated that life so well. "Disobedient Girl" has two stories that run in parallel, but then merge at the end so well. I didn't expect to cry so fiercely at the end! Dammit, I cried for days just thinking of one critical scene because I fell in love with the characters. I was frustrated with the unfairness of life and fate. No, this is not one of your 'oppressed third-world women" books. It's a book about women who are friends, mothers, and daughters. It's about finding your own path when you've been dealt a hand without a choice. It's about secrets that control you.

It's been a year now since I read it, but it's so unexpected and I missed the characters when I closed the book. That's when you know they've truly come alive.

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz - It took me some time to get to this book, though I was listening to every Junot Diaz interview on NPR. I was definitely intrigued when he talked about his immigrant experience coming to the US when he was 6 and not understanding English. He applied that experience to the novel - forcing the reader not to understand what was being spoken in Spanish. When I read it, I got it! There was a scene where the daughter said the last thing she heard was the mother say XYZ. Unless you know Spanish, you don't know what happened.

Not  only is the story brillant and characters so real, I have a connection with Junot Diaz. He was spot on with his description of Rutgers University campus and lifestyle from late 80's/early 90's. I had to research and learned he was an English major at Rutgers the same time I was. Therefore, we could have taken a class together! (OK, fine, it may have been the Shakespeare with 200 people in it). As a reader, I connected to this book beyond the main story, and admired his writing even more. I actually got frustrated because I couldn't visualize Douglass library, though I practically lived there.

Downhome Anthology edited by Susie Mee - This is an amazing collection of short stories written by southern American women. I had pulled this collection off the library shelves because I didn't know what I wanted to read. This book has known writers such as Flannery O'Conner, Zora Neal Hurston, Dorothy Allison and other writers that were new to me. The book is sectioned out and deals with issues such as family, marriage, relationships. Stories are so honest and real, talking about the good and the difficult parts of the southern memory - race, gender, economical status.

I've actually wondered if I was a southern woman in my past life. I'm absolutely fascinated by the south and find the culture so exotic, but familiar. I once wrote a short story in the voice of white southern characters, which is crazy since I'm an Indian-American from northeastern US! Aren't you supposed to write about what you know?

Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica - I had heard about this website and found the book on the clearance table. The first page grabbed me because it said waiters don't just bring food to your table - they have to be food allergy specialists, sommeliers, amateur chefs, etc. I've never been a waitress, though I have done a short gig at McDonald's as my first job. Then I decided I would never work in food industry again. Ever.

His writing is not that polished and at times I was a bit suprise an editor let him get away with awkward phrases. He's a blogger who kept an anonymous account of life as a waiter, which led him to a book deal.

However, it's great book just to give you an insight into the restaurant business. It's interesting to read about the expectations we have of our own dining experiences.

1 comment:

J.Doe said...

Those sound like interesting books. I'll get around to buying them/reading them someday. I enjoy reading in my free time but I don't seem to have much of that anymore. I also don't know exactly what to read either. To be sort of off subject in the 1980s an 1990 I LOVED John Grisham books. I recently read 3. One was only passably OK after I skipped several pages, the second was lacking in plot I thought (although all his books seem to have a similar plot)and the third was so boring I put it down after reading 40 pages or so. The 3 books could all be lame books but more likely they are not and my tastes have just changed.
I feel kind of empty now and hope your book recommendations will fill that void.