30 October 2003

Reads & Listens, October 2003


Samurai Girl: The Book of the Sword by Carrie Asai
Fast, easy read. Constant pop culture references are annoying (but I'm not 14) and most of the characters are flat types. Would make a good anime or sitcom (like Buffy or Alias), but suffers as a plain old text.

Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
First, this is a beautifully designed book -- the cover art, the font styles, the size of the book -- it's all wonderful. It's a book that will survive multiple readings quite nicely and still look good on your shelf ten years from now. Secondly, the story (essentially a close retelling of the goose girl fairytale) is lyrical and utterly captivating. In many places it reads more like poetry than prose and would be great read aloud. I think if you like Robin McKinley's books, you'll like Goose Girl.

Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin (illus. by Eric Beddows)
Not a collection of short stories so much as a travelogue or set of fictionalized essays. Not as enjoyable as some of her other works, but a good airport read.

In Their Own Voices: Teenage Refugees and Immigrants from India Speak Out compiled by R. Viswanath
Part of Rosen Publishing Group's In Their Own Voices series. Tells the stories of seven Indian teens -- why they left India, what living in the US is like, their hopes and dreams, etc. Each teen's story might work better if paired with an essay discussing a major issue in the teen's story. For example, essays on culture shock, marriage customs, or political uprising in Kashmir would have done wonders. While this book also includes a very brief history of India it concentrates mostly on India under colonialism and makes colonialism seem pretty okay, really. On the other hand, Voices offers the reader a pretty unique POV not found in most other YA materials.

Neela: Victory Song (Girls of Many Lands Series) by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Overall, a good YA read. Pretty historically accurate look at one girl's life in 1939 India. Neela is strong and determined -- good role model material -- and the author's treatment of the Bengali culture seems authentic. My only real complaint is that the ending was too abrupt. What happened to Neela's mother while Neela was away rescuing Dad? How is Neela's disappearance and return handled by her village? What happens to her marriage prospects (considering her indecorous behavior -- climbing trees is one thing, but running off to Calcutta dressed as a boy is quite another)?

Asian Americans: Oral Histories of First to Fourth Generation Americans from China, the Philippines, Japan, India, the Pacific Islands, Vietnam and Cambodia by Joann Faung Jean Lee
Personal histories of Asian Americans grouped into three major sections -- "Living In America," "Aspects of Americanization," and "Reflections on Interracial Marriage." By no means a warm fluffy look at "model minorities," but rather brutally honest look at an extremely diverse group of people.

Against Borders: Promoting Books for a Multicultural World by Hazel Rochman
Brilliant book with essays on cultural issues and bibliographies of juvenile and YA resources on specific ethnic groups. An absolute must have.

Betty Crocker's Indian Home Cooking by Raghavan Iyer
The photos are beautiful and make everything look temptingly delicious. The simple (mostly vegetarian) recipes use ingredients readily available at local grocers and Iyer's comments are always helpful.

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
As always, a clever little novel. Pratchett never disappoints.

Karma of the Brown Folk by Vijay Prashad
Inspired by du Bois's The Souls of the Black Folk, this is a well written and eye opening attack on the myth of the "model minority."

Everything You Need to Know About Asian-American History by Lan Cao & Himilce Novas
Well, not precisely everything, but certainly more than you learned in school.