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review 2017-07-20 02:40
The Return Journey - Maeve Binchy 
The Return Journey - Maeve Binchy

Adventures of the timid. Bunch does a thing where two people meet, strike up an immediate friendship, and proceed to give one another excellent advice about managing their lives. She does that here,and it is really good, pragmatic advice. Anyway, stories about middle class adults and their working class parents, with some affairs included to keep things dramatic, to amusing effect in Excitement. And no one else has done a better job of portraying just how tiring it can be to be a modern woman trying to keep everyone else happy.

Library copy

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text 2017-04-18 02:24
The New BookExpoAmerica Immigration... er, Vetting Process- yeah, That's What I Meant

With this year's BEA returning to New York- where it should stay- I went to the site to secure my place in these three days of literary nirvana.  My euphoria was short lived when I ran into what can only be described as applying for papers to enter East Germany. Now I know there's been issues in the past of knuckleheads and lowlifes using the BEA to load up on freebies and pawn them off on eBay and all, so I've no problem with them taking steps to curb that bullshit.  I get it.  But...

 

 

Dafuq, y'all? 

 

Who came up with this shit- Homeland Security?!?  My first thought upon seeing all this was "but I already live in the US!!!"  I work in the Security fieldand I've had less stringent job applications than this! 

 

So now I'm actually sitting her crafting responses to this nonsense, because it's already to the point of morbid curiousity just to see if I get clearance... I mean, approved- nah, fuck it- clearance!- to attend the damn thing. 

 

Unbelievable.

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review 2017-02-26 20:16
Beautifully written story of a lost in translation version of the American Dream
Behold the Dreamers - Imbolo Mbue

Thanks to NetGalley and to Harper Collings UK, 4th State for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily review.

This novel, written by an author hailing from Cameroon, like her characters, tells us the story of the Jongas, a family of emigrants trying to make a go of life in the USA, more specifically in New York. Jende strikes it lucky at the beginning and gets a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a big executive for Lehman Brothers. That seems to open many opportunities for Jende and his family, paving the way for all their dreams to come true. Unfortunately, the undoing of Lehman, some personal issues in the Edwards family and the pressure of their unclear immigration status (Jende arrived with a 3 months’ busy that he’s overstayed, his wife has a student visa but they might not have enough money to finance her studies to become a pharmacist and their son would have to go back if the father does) change all that.

The story, written in the third person alternating the points of view of Jende and his wife, Neni, is full of details of the subjective experience of the characters, from the worries about their immigration status, the variety of connections with people from home (from parties, to disinterested advice, emotional support…), their feelings about New York (their favourite places, the cultural shock of confronting new rules, prices, weather, standards and extremes of poverty and richness), their initial shock and later better understanding of the Edwards lifestyle, the educational opportunities and the effect of the stress of their situation on their personal lives.

Both characters are credible, engaging and easy to empathise with, even when we might not agree with their actions and/or decisions. They also have dreams and wishes for their future and their family. To begin with, they both think the USA will change their lives and open up avenues they’d never be able to pursue back home. Jende couldn’t even marry Neni back home and his wife had to live with her parents and had no chance to study. Everything seems possible in the USA, but slowly it becomes clear that things aren’t as straightforward as they thought at first, that being white and rich in America doesn’t equal happiness, and that not everyone is prepared to give them a chance.

There are funny moments and also very sad ones (especially when the couple disagrees and their relationship becomes difficult) and one can’t help but become invested in the story and the future of the couple and their children, who become ersatz members of our family. If at times the Jongas appear as victims of circumstances and a system that they don’t understand, at others they take things into their own hands, and, whatever we might think about what they do, they act. The book is beautifully written and offers an insight into lives that might be different to ours but we can easily share in.

On a personal note, I was a bit disappointed by the ending, not so much by what happens but by how it comes about, and I wasn’t so sure the reactions of the main characters towards the end of the book were totally consistent with the personality they’d shown so far, although it might be possible to see it as a result of the extreme pressures they experience. What that would suggest of the likelihood that their Cameroonian dream will end up becoming a reality is the crux of the matter but something left to the imagination of the readers. The scene towards the end of the book between Clark Edwards and Jende Jonga where they share their future plans (both of them moving on to a future more in keeping with family values and less with work), makes us think of how differently the women of the book see things compared to their men. Gender relations are one of the most interesting and troubling aspects of the novel.

A solid book with great characters that deals with important issues (domestic violence, family relations, cultural differences, immigration, asylum seeking, race relations, the Lehman Brothers and the economic crisis following its fall, the American Dream…), is a joy to read and it will make you consider many those topics from a different point of view.  

 

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review 2017-01-27 18:18
For those who waited
Islanders - Teow Lim Goh

Some people associate Ellis Island with immigrants viewing the Statue of Liberty on their way to debarkation. The words at the statue’s base read, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

 

On America’s western shore, however, there was no statue to greet new arrivals when they disembarked on Angel Island. Because immigration laws can change, and because they can do so while passengers are still at sea, some Chinese immigrants spent months waiting on Angel Island while their cases were being decided. Some, after their long waits, were forced to return home.

 

Some Chinese immigrants passed the time writing poetry upon the walls of their prison. Although many of the poems the men’s poems were preserved, the woman’s barracks burned down and none of the women’s poems remain.

 

Colorado author, Teow Lim Goh, has re-imagined their poetry in her book, Islanders. Her poetry is stark, inciteful, and very sad. Her notes at the volume’s end provide a short history of Chinese immigration to the United States. Recommended.

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review 2017-01-06 19:35
ARC Review: The Radius of Us
The Radius of Us: A Novel - Marie Marquardt

They don't know what you know. Boring. That was the first word that came to mind when I started reading this book. However, I was only 40 pages in. I cleared my mind and came back to reading it, which I am so glad that I did. This book is amazing. The characters are well described from their physical features to their personalities. The author sure does have a way with words. I felt like I was there with Gretchen and Phoenix the whole time. Don't even get me started about the pupusas. I need to try one of those immediately! To see how much Gretchen has evolved and moved forward in her life made me so happy. The readers can definitely see the drastic change in her character. She went from weak, damaged, shy to strong, powerful, and brave in a matter of 290 pages. The relationship between Gretchen and Phoenix made me tear up, it was so beautiful. I agree with the blurb on the back of the book: Ninety seconds can change a life. I normally don't read books that touched on the topics of immigration or gang violence but I was truly blown away by this piece of work. The only thing I did not like about the book was the constant use of Spanish language. I know some Spanish, but only the basics. When Phoenix was saying phrases and words in Spanish, I felt like I was missing a huge chunk of the situation that was occurring at that time. It's like I needed to have the google translate website on standby while I read this. Other than that, it was an overall success. I love the book.

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