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review 2017-07-24 22:43
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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text 2017-07-24 19:17
Reading progress update: I've read 75%.
In the Middle of Somewhere - Roan Parrish

I love this book but it pales in comparison to the others.  The author took on much deeper relationships and internal demons with the next books that for me excel in many ways.

 

*sigh*

 

...plus Spencer just has to studder as Colin for my knees to melt.  

 

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review 2017-07-24 18:25
I'm betwixt and between on this one...
Artistic Pursuits - Andrew Grey

'Artistic Pursuits' is book #3 in Andrew Grey's 'Art' series and I have to admit I'm not sure how I'm feeling about this one. There was a lot that I liked about this story but there were also a few niggles. So at the end of my ponderings this one for me was a little better than good but didn't make it into 'I really love it' territory. 

 

I really liked the overall plot on this one. Mystery/thriller type stories are and always will be catnip for me. Add in that the focus of this story is stolen artworks...specifically Tiffany windows and it was definitely a win for me. 

 

While you could read this one as a stand alone there is a bit of a cross over with Brian and Nicholai the MCs from book 2 having a role to play in this story, so I would probably recommend reading or listening, as I did, to the first two stories...not necessary but encouraged. 

 

Frank Jennings is an FBI agent and one of the MCs in this story and Leslie Carlton works for Interpol. These men meet when the cases they are working on appear to be connected. When Leslie shows up in the states Frank doesn't hesitate to offer him a place to stay. Needless to say working their mutual cases together as well as spending a bit of time in close proximity only fuels the initial attraction that both men felt. After spending one passionate night together Leslie is recalled to London. 

 

When Leslie is finally able to return to the states, while both men are still interested picking up where they left off isn't an easy or instantaneous event, it involves some awkward moments as both men are forced to admit how they feel and accept their share of the blame for why there was no communication during Leslie's time back in London.

 

My niggles were in regards to Frank's behavior and how drastically his behavior would change at times and some of the conversations between him and Leslie just for want of a better explanation didn't feel right to me...so very, very subjective and I'm sure that while some people might have the same impression, I'm sure others don't. So this isn't a good or bad thing just an 'it didn't work for me thing'. 

 

As well as the overall plot line I very much enjoyed the character of Carl. Carl was a secondary character who worked with Frank and showed himself to a good friend to Carl and Leslie but he was also very likable and interesting in his own right and a character that I'd be interested in seeing the author give us more of.

 

John Solo was once again the narrator for this audio book and in general he once again did a solid job with this story giving us distinct voices that conveyed the characters emotions and individuality. But again I had a little bit of a niggle with Leslie's voice, for me it just didn't seem British but I freely admit this was definitely a totally personal and subjective opinion. I actually played a clip of Leslie speaking for my personal guinea pig (more affectionately known as 'the hubby') his family was from England...parents came over to Canada just before he was born, he still has family there. So, I thought he would be a fairly knowledgeable and objective person to experiment with and when I played him the clip and asked him what country he thought the speaker would be from his reply with very little consideration was 'England' so there you have it. Maybe, Leslie's voice wasn't working for me but that doesn't mean it wasn't a solid reflection of the man's country of origin. Again, not a good or bad thing just an 'it didn't quite work for me thing'. 

 

In summary, more things worked for me than didn't and I did enjoy this one more than the first book maybe a little bit less than the second and truthfully I don't feel even a little bit deterred from wanting to carry one with this series. Book 4 is called 'Legal Tender' and sounds like it's going to be interesting so I'm definitely game for it and with any luck there'll be a book 5 with an MC named Carl...just puttin' that out there for the universe.

 

********************

An audio book of 'Artistic Pursuits' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2017-07-24 17:50
Review: "The Craving" by Z. Allora
The Craving - Z. Allora

 

~ 3 stars ~

 

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review 2017-07-24 09:52
I don't think I'll be watching this movie
High-Rise - J.G. Ballard

I was trying to explain what this was about to mom on WA, alienation, communication through violence, descent to barbarism. She said "Ah, sounds like Dogville". I left about a third in on that movie, and I don't think I'll be watching this one. It sounds like I did not like this, and, well, uncomfortable as it is, I though it bloody amazing. It's just that the madness that slowly creeps in, and has you partially numbed by the time the heavy stuff crashes in, would not have time to come to full effect in the span of movie time, and would make the impact of violence unbearable.

I realize what I'm saying is creepy as fuck, just as I was aware reading that while the characters are slowly inured to the rising wilderness, the reader is inured to the rising level of brutality. And you kind of welcome it, because you wouldn't be able to cope with it otherwise. I found, about 30 pages from the end, that I had felt more of an impact by the bottle throwing (that first act of violence perpetuated) than what was going on by the last third. Familiarity breeds contempt and repetition indifference.

Yeah... creepy as fuck.

Also, the first third or so was masterfully disquieting. In the context of that first line, which, for the unwary and squeamish, is:


Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.


every little war waged inside a big building takes an ominous shade. I lived in a building much like the one in this book for three years while a student. It was waaay outside of my money-bracket (hell, my parents money-bracket) but the old land-lady let me share her apartment for peanuts so she could have some company. I can tell you all the petty disputes and territoriality are true to life. Though they usually don't get this bloody (except for suicides. Those were an issue on Friday evenings).

Lastly, the symmetry. 3 for each, then 2 for each, then 1 for each (though he kinda cheated at the end), and one for what's left. I don't quite get what was going on with that clean-up at the end, though. End of settling pains?

That's that for my horror roll. I think I'll pick some regency romance next.

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