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review 2017-06-15 20:38
Black White Jewish
Black White & Jewish - Rebecca Walker

Never before has a book so completely spoken to my heart. I originally found this last year when I was looking around for around for women's memoirs to be put into my Diverse Books Tag focused on that genre (a book with a biracial protagonist). I recommended it to my library but got quickly absorbed in a number of other books while I waited for it to be available or for the right time to pop up. At last, my library purchased it and I was the first one to get it when it came out.

I have to say that waiting for the right time worked out fantastically. Some books just seem to know when you need them. As I said, this one just spoke right to my heart. That's not to suggest that I "know" what it was like for Rebecca Walker to navigate her life or what it's like to be black and white and Jewish all at the same time. What I do know is that I am quite familiar with that sense of not quite belonging to anyone, but maybe belonging enough to be claimed here and there for this or that trait. I have drifted from one home to another within my family or neighborhood or group of friends and felt that change that Walker describes as "switching radio stations". I've felt the sting of being in one group while people denigrate the other part of you, the part that they don't claim, while they insist that it's not you but you know that it is, even if only in part. I've felt it on both sides of me.

We've lived vastly different lives in different times within this country and I couldn't possibly relate to all of Walker's experiences, but I had never known anyone to describe this being and not being so well, so beautifully. The idea of being a "movement baby" sounds terrifying, like for too much to live up to. Later, I found it far easier to relate to what happened when the ideas of the movement were gone and she was treated like her existence was half-oppressor and half-oppressed, when people asked her navigate those waters and explain what it felt like. I was never able to explain what it was like to be fragmented this way and now I have someone to turn to for that.

I loved Walker's style of writing and relating everything back to memory and the way that memory shifts, that way that it can be wrong and right at the same time and the way it shapes us and perceptions of us without ever asking for permission. I loved the poetic feel that accompanies most of the book. I peaked at some other reviews and it's not the kind of book that everyone loves, but I still find it an important book to read and discuss. Perhaps it would make a great book club memoir because it does bring in questions of race on several fronts and it could open conversations about sex in adolescence, the effect of divorce and/or neglect on a child's upbringing and other important issues that Walker goes through that still plague us.

The downside to that, of course, is that using the book that way invites criticism of Walker and her parents as people who were theoretically doing the best they could. I don't mean to sound like I doubt that anyone was doing their best but I also don't want to make it sound like I'm making assumptions about what could/should have been done. The point is simply that getting judgey about someone's life and story like this would miss the point of reading the book.

Despite what others might think, I found this book engaging, even at it's lowest moments. I appreciated the way it was a little episodic, moving through periods in her life and only stopping to fit in the moments that best sums up the time-frame for her rather than dwelling on incidentals. As mentioned above, what I loved the most was the way she relates what it is like to not fit succinctly into any single category of race, to be a part of something and not a part of it at the same time, close and yet removed from it. I have felt these things so many times in life when I am in Hispanic or not Hispanic depending on the way whoever I'm talking to feels about it and it rarely seems up to me to let them know who I am and how I fit into these categories and whether or not I even want to.

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review 2017-05-25 12:25
A Golden Age ★★★☆☆
A Golden Age - Tahmima Anam

All in all, this book was just okay-to-good. It tells the story of an apolitical widow who is caught up in the 1971 Bangledesh War of Independence, and of her reluctant contributions as her son and daughter join the resistance. And it really is her story, as the author shows us her grief and fear and longing, but once war begins, we are kept removed from events and even, to some extent, from the emotions. Still, the story is populated with refugees and soldiers and citizens who must choose where their loyalties lie, so it kept my interest through the end.

 

Hardcover version, which I picked up as a discard from a Friends of the Library sale. I read this for the 2017 Booklikes-opoly challenge, for the square Adventureland 24: Take the Jungle Cruise. Read a book set in Africa or Asia, or that has an exotic animal on the cover. This book fits because it is set in East Pakistan, in Asia.  

 

Previous Updates:

5/13/17 http://sheric.booklikes.com/post/1562356/a-golden-age-progress-7-276-pg

 

5/20/17 http://sheric.booklikes.com/post/1564032/a-golden-age-progress-17-276-pg

 

5/20/17 http://sheric.booklikes.com/post/1564145/a-golden-age-34-276-pages

5/21/17 http://sheric.booklikes.com/post/1564253/a-golden-age-77-276-pages

 

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text 2017-05-21 14:00
A Golden Age: 77/276 pages
A Golden Age - Tahmima Anam

Rehana often wondered if she could help loving one child better. She had a blunt, tired love for her daughter. It was full of effort. Sohail was her first-born, and so tender, and Maya was so hard, all sympathy worked out of her by the throaty chants of the street march, the pitch of the slogan. 

 

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text 2017-05-20 22:49
A Golden Age: 34/276 pages
A Golden Age - Tahmima Anam

Sohail loved Bengal. He may have inherited his mother's love of Urdu poetry, but it was nothing to the love he had for all things Bengali: the swimming mud of the delta; the translucent, bony river fish; the shocking green palette of the paddy and the open, aching blue of the sky over flat land. 

 

 

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text 2017-05-20 13:49
A Golden Age - progress 17/276 pg
A Golden Age - Tahmima Anam

They were not children anymore. She had to keep reminding herself of this fact. At nineteen and seventeen, they were almost grown up. She clung greedily to this almost, but she knew it would not last long, this hovering, flirting with adulthood. Already they were beings apart, fast on their way to shedding the fierce hungry mother-need. 

 

I'm glad I'm reading this in a bound version, because there are some descriptions that I'm already stopping to savor, but also because there is so much that I don't understand. I actually stopped reading for a bit while I did some internet searching on the Bangladesh War of Independence and on East Pakistan, of which I knew nothing whatsoever. So now I think I know enough to at least get a sense of the historical, political, and social issues that affect the human story, although I'm sure most of it will still go over my head.

 

This book is beginning as a sweet, sad story of a widowed mother who lost and recovered her children, but clearly it's about to descend into some real horrors. 

 

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