A genre-defying four-book documentary that captures the raw lives of refugees surviving war in Chechnya, the deadly sex-trade along the Burma/Thai border, globalization in Mexico, and AIDS in Malawi. Sometimes, the jaw just drops in utterly devastated awe at the loss of humanity in the world …
Review: “TBR’s Editors’ Favorites of 2008,” The Bloomsbury Review, November/December 2008
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Immortalized by Deborah Kerr, Anna Leonowens – yes, that Anna, the one who taught the children of the King of Siam – was, without a doubt, a remarkable character. Unfortunately, her story remains buried in Susan Morgan’s overwritten Bombay Anna: The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of the ‘King and I’ Governess.
Previous biographies have presented Leonowens as a genteel, upper-class British woman who faced tragic loss before she became the beloved governess to the children of the King of Siam. Leonowens herself held fast to those claims throughout her life.
But Anna’s “factual origins,” Morgan explains, were hardly genteel or even very British. She was born Anna Harriett Emma Edwards on November 26, 1831, in Ahmednuggar, India, to a British soldier and his teenaged Anglo-Indian orphan wife. Leonowens grew up in Army barracks amid a multicultural mix of many races and languages. … [click here for more]
Review: Christian Science Monitor, September 16, 2008
Even with a protagonist who shares the author’s name, as well as various biographical similarities, Mischa Berlinski’s first book is indeed a work of fiction: “None of this stuff happened to anyone,” he insists in the book’s endnote. Never mind that Berlinski proves to be such an effortless conjurer of convincing details that I kept trying to Google for further information. (The meticulous footnotes alone are an enticing literary feat!) But the cover confirms it’s “A Novel.” How ironic that this disclaimer follows the title Fieldwork – what anthropologists call their real-life primary research.
Having arrived jobless in Thailand to follow his teacher girlfriend, Mischa Berlinski (the character) supports himself writing articles on subjects he knows little about. He observes the Westerners around him, commenting: “There is something about the life as a foreigner in Thailand that draws those who find themselves unwilling or unable to think about their 401(k)s; and in the leisure, freedom, and isolation that the Far East provides, these types swing inexorably toward the pendulum-edges of their souls.” When an expat buddy takes Berlinski out for a meal and entices him with hearsay about a dead woman’s life, he cannot let the skeletal details go: “My soul, too, began to swing. Such is the power of a good story.”
A really, really good story is exactly what Fieldwork is. …[click here for more]
Review: The Washington Post, February 28, 2007
Although the main character is just 9, the book is definitely for an older audience. Kati’s happy life with her grandparents is disrupted by a visit to her mother, whom Kati has not seen for almost five years. Suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, Kati’s mother wants to spend the last days of her short life with her beloved daughter, whom she left in her parents’ care because she feared for Kati’s safety with her debilitating condition. Even while she is bewildered by her mother’s death, Kati is well-loved by many nurturing relatives, and is able to peacefully let her mother go.
Review: “In Celebration of Asian Pacific American Month: A Literary Survey,” The Bloomsbury Review, May/June 2006
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult