Tag Archives: Assimilation

Not My Girl by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

Not My GirlChristy Jordan-Fenton and her mother-in-law Margaret Pokiak-Fenton began publishing stories in 2010 about the older Pokiak-Fenton’s difficult childhood as a young Inuit child growing up in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Their four books in four years are comprised of two titles for middle grade readers, Fatty Legs and A Stranger at Home, which were then adapted into two complementary picture books, When I Was Eight and this, Not My Girl, which debuted earlier this year.

Now 10 years old, Margaret finally returns to her family from the faraway “outsiders’ school” where “I had grown tall and very thin from two years of hard chores and poor meals.” Virtually unrecognizable, her mother’s reaction is wrenching: “‘Not my girl!’ she called in what little English she knew … everything she remembered of me” had been ‘educated’ out of young Margaret, including her native Inuit language, culture, and even her name.

“Olemaun,” her father reaches out to her: “I had not heard my Inuit name in so long I thought it might shatter like an eggshell with the weight of my father’s voice.” Tight in his embrace, her mother, too, finally reaches out and “sheltered me in that safe place between them.” In spite of their love and attention, Olemaun’s return to her family proves to be a difficult challenge: her stomach is unable to digest the family’s traditional foods, the sled dogs no longer recognize her scent, she only understands her father’s translations, and she has “lost the skills [she] needed to be useful … [to] help feed the family.” She’s even rejected by her only friend whose parents forbid her to play with another “outsider.” Slowly, Olemaun must find her place with her family once more, comforted by her favorite book and a helpless puppy.

Artist Gabrielle Grimard again illustrates the duo-generational collaboration; again, her open, nothing-hidden expressions enhance Olemaun’s experiences – her father’s gentle gaze, her disappointed worry over tangling the family fish net, her dare-to-be-hopeful glance as her mother guides her hands in using the traditional knife, her single tear that matches the single drop of rice water as she nurses her puppy. The trio again transforms painful, unfortunate memories into another enduring story of resilience, tenderness, and unconditional love.

Readers: Children

Published: 2014

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Memoir, .Nonfiction, Canadian, Native American

World Class: Poems Inspired by the ESL Classroom by J.C. Elkin

World ClassComprised of just 27 pages which hold 14 poems, this collection feels more like a pamphlet than an actual book. That said, the spare verses by J.C. Elkin, a Pushcart Prize-nominated ESL teacher at a Maryland community college, are not without complexity and depth, inspired by her actual students’ lives: “Their names, nationalities, and some occupations have been changed, but their circumstances in these narratives are real. The quotations are as exact as memory permits,” Elkin explains in her introduction.

“My students arrive in dust storms of change,” Elkin’s first poem opens in “Foreign Soil.” She empathizes with their struggles in “World Class,” herself once an ex-pat abroad who “know[s] how it feels to be the alien.”  The “‘Tribal’, ‘slanty-eyed’, / Slavic, ‘rag-head’ strangers” in her class are her “heroes and friends / who put their lives on hold for twelve long hours a week, / asking probing questions, aiming for the A.”

She writes of Hala, who was once a superintendent of girls’ schools in Pakistan, where nine million girls are denied an education. She bids “Vaya con Dios” to Fernan who returns south of the border to bury his mother. She regrets not letting JoySong keep the textbook that wasn’t hers, especially when she returns the next day with bruised signs of spousal abuse. She commiserates with Verdad whose son’s English is not expanding with quite the right vocabulary. She’s left speechless by Young who can’t connect words into comprehensible sentences, but knows exactly how to show his appreciation towards her.

“I’m proud to say I help,” Elkin writes. “Ashamed I don’t do more.” Yet, what she accomplishes here is perhaps that most important ‘more’: giving voice to the newest generation of Americans-in-the-making. Her ‘help’ is never blind, as she knows when to be firm with chronic latecomers, because “[t]he wait list is full of contenders.” She is uncompromisingly honest, ready to expose her own insensitivities; she admits to her own ‘them/us’-mindset as she, too, once thought “‘[t]hey should speak our language or just go back home.’” She confesses without guilt that when she sees one of her students bearing the suffocating weight of her hijab while Ramadan-fasting in steamy August heat, she realizes”… watching her melt in submission, I hate her religion today.”

As brief as Elkin’s Class may be, her universal lessons are many … and each a learning experience ready to share.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Adult Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Poetry, Nonethnic-specific

How Do I Begin? A Hmong American Anthology edited by the Hmong American Writers’ Circle

How Do I Begin“For any serious artist, it is a terrible feeling of surrender when you realize there is no place in the world for your voice, when all that you express seems marginalized or in vain … But this isn’t a story about defeat. This is about survival.” So begins Burlee Vang‘s compelling introduction to this dynamic anthology of Hmong American prose, poetry, and art.

Founder of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle (HAWC) which, since 2004,”has served as a forum to discover and foster creative writing within the Hmong community,” Vang explains that artists of Hmong descent are “born into a people whose written language has long been substituted by an oral tradition.” In spite of a substantial cultural history, “there are no novels, plays, or collections of poems, essays, or short stories. There is no account of Hmong life preserved in writing by a Hmong hand and passed down through the centuries.” As newer Asian Pacific Americans whose initial immigration wave happened in the late 1970s into the 1990s, Hmong Americans used English to begin the shift from oral to written literary traditions. “It is exciting to be Hmong these days,” Vang celebrates, “and to finally write. But as pioneers, these are challenging times.”

Vang and 16 other HAWC members explore their Hmong American heritage, each defining his or her own identity as artist, Hmong American, both, neither, other – embracing and eschewing labels and expectations. One writer, Anthony Cody, stands out as the lone non-Hmong (at least not ethnically); a self-defined Mexican American, Cody “attempts to echo the tragedies, routines, and reality of the life I share” among the Hmong American community in their co-hometown of Fresno, California.

Of the 13 prose and poetry writers, Vang – as the leading ‘pioneer’ – has the indisputable standout piece: his short story, “Mrs. Saichue,” about a childless woman who helps her husband find a younger, fertile second wife, elicits comparisons to Ha Jin’s Waiting, in its sharp, spare evocations of small details amidst a difficult situation that create poignant depth and understanding.

Other notable prose pieces include Ka Vang‘s “Pao Dreams of Bodyslams, André the Giant, and Hulk Hogan” about a filial son with untraditional ambitions, and Ying Thao’s “The Art of Fishing,” about the distant relationship between two brothers, one of whom is gay.

Among the poets, Soul Choj Vang‘s works open the collection, giving it its title from “Here I Am,” about a new generation of American poets: “Now, here I am, adopted citizen, / not rooted in this land … How do I begin my song / Where do I enter the chorus / when my part is not yet written …” While many here ponder leaving and belonging, explore history and identity, May Lee-Yang plays with language, as she writes for “Hmong Americans who are bilingual”; her poem, “Endings,” warns of the importance of endings in Hmong words, how a single last letter can turn “Fish … into salt / Horse into human / Sour into penis.”

In addition to text, two fine artists (including Seexeng Lee whose “Hmong Woman Sewing a Paj Ntaub” graces the cover) and a photographer take center page in full color.

As is often the verdict in diverse collections, How Do I Begin is important more as significant literary history than for the quality of its uneven contents. Not surprisingly, the accomplished contributions are mingled with as many amateur pieces. But as the title implies, this is still a beginning, as Hmong American voices continue to develop, intensify, and multiply into this new century.

“There are no infrangible boundaries here. We have persevered through war, persecution, and exile. Through ethnical, cultural, and language barriers,” Vang bears witness. “We have survived the elements, the invisible. We have overcome ourselves. Our writing attests to this. Legitimizes us. After all these centuries, we are still standing.” Dreaming, producing, thriving, too.

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2011

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Adult Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Memoir, .Nonfiction, .Poetry, .Short Stories, Hmong American

The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith

Frangipani Hotel*STARRED REVIEW
What is most haunting in Kupersmith’s nine multi-layered pieces are not the specters, whose tales are revealed as stories within stories, but the lingering loss and disconnect endured by the still living. With an American father and a Vietnamese “former boat refugee” mother, the author channels her bicultural history to create contemporary, post-Vietnam War glimpses of reclamation and reinvention on both sides of East and West.

In “Skin and Bones,” two Houston sisters visit their Ho Chi Minh City grandmother “to rediscover their roots” but more realistically because “Vietnam Was Fat Camp.” In “Guests,” a pair of American expat lovers have diverging expectations. A dying youth tries to steal another’s body in “Little Brother,” and an insistent knock at the door demands retribution 40 years after the war in “One-Finger.” In “Reception,” set in the titular Frangipani Hotel, the clerk’s family’s past overlaps with the coming new brand of the ugly American.

Verdict: The wunderkind moniker will soon enough be attached to the 1989-born Kupersmith, who wrote most of these stories as a Mt. Holyoke undergraduate. Her mature-beyond-her-years debut deserves equal shelf space with other spare, provocative collections, such as Paul Yoon’s Once the Shore, Lauren Groff’s Delicate Edible Birds, and Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge.

Review: “Fiction,” Library Journal, January 1, 2014

Readers: Adult

Published: 2014

1 Comment

Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Short Stories, Hapa, Southeast Asian, Southeast Asian American, Vietnamese, Vietnamese American

Smoke & Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen by Edward Lee

Smoke and PicklesIn case you haven’t planned your Turkey Dinner coming up in exactly a week (who, me? menu? what’s that?), here’s a collection filled with irreverently toothsome suggestions. Having grown up eating kimchi with every chestnut-stuffed bird or surreally spiraled pink ham (or both), I couldn’t help especially salivating over the Koreanized southern creations – how about Collards and Kimchi or Kimchi Rémoulade or Kimchi Poutine (“This recipe falls under the category of ‘everything tastes better with kimchi’”!)? Admit it … your taste buds are totally perking up!

Meet Chef Edward Lee. If you’re a television watcher, you may know him from Iron Chef or Top Chef. If you’re southern, you might have visited his James Beard Foundation three-time finalist-ed restaurant, 610 Magnolia, in downtown Louisville, Kentucky; if you’re a theater addict headed to the legendary Humana Festival of New Plays, perhaps you’ve imbibed at his smaller venue, MilkWood, installed in the Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Brooklyn-raised Lee grew up surrounded by multiple cultures – “The great thing about Americans is not the identity we’re born with but our reinvention of it.” His beloved grandmother who cooked daily at home “refused to make ‘American food.’” If he wanted a PB&J sandwich, he had to make it himself. Her ability to recreate “all the Korean dishes she had learned before she immigrated to America … [as] a Korean widow yearning for a homeland that had been destroyed before her eyes,” would become the foundation for Lee’s eclectic palate: his worldly culinary training led him right back to the memories of his grandmother’s meals and inspired Lee to create his unique brand of award-winning Asian-enhanced southern cooking.

Moving to Louisville in 2003, Lee “reinvent[ed his] identity, both culinary and personal, through the lens of tobacco and bourbon and sorghum and horse racing and country ham … Over time, Louisville, and by extension, the American South, embraced me as an adopted son … What I didn’t expect was how I would come full circle and rediscover myself as a child of Korean immigrants.”

Blended with family memoir (his own and his German Catholic Midwestern wife’s – his mother-in-law apparently makes killer sauerkraut which she hides in a secret cupboard!), tidbits and anecdotes from the kitchen and beyond, friendly neighborhood gossip, and, of course, the outrageous recipes, Smoke & Pickles is a cookbook to read cover-to-cover, word-for-word. The immense (shocking) variety of dishes (Grilled Lam Heart Kalbi in Lettuce Wraps, Beef Bone Soup with Kabocha Dumplings, Curry Pork Pies, Bourbon-Ginger-Glazed Carrots, Rhubarb-Mint Tea with Moonshine) are really just a delicious bonus to an already savory, delectable read.

One cautionary reminder: just in case you’re ever tempted, don’t ever use the word ‘fusion’ around Chef Lee! “I can’t stand the word … not only because it is dated, but also because it implies a kind of culinary racism, suggesting that foods from Eastern cultures are so radically different that they need to be artificially introduced or ‘fused’ with Western cuisines to give them legitimacy.” I’m just agreeing: ‘everything tastes better with kimchi’!

Readers: Adult

Published: 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Memoir, .Nonfiction, Korean American

Here I Am by Patti Kim, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

Here I AmI haven’t seen Patti Kim‘s name on a book cover in quite a while … more than 15 years have passed since her still-resonating debut novel, A Cab Called Reliable, was published in 1997. But who’s counting – all the good things in life are worth waiting for, right?

In a most memorable example of ‘show, don’t tell,’ Kim’s so-worth-the-wait picture book has nary a word in sight. Whimsically captured in artist Sonia Sánchez‘s dazzling panels-in-constant-motion, Here I Am is an exquisite book to be savored again and again … each ‘reading’ promises to reveal yet another delightful, thoughtful detail.

A young boy boards an airplane with his family and arrives in a dark new city. When he enters a virtually empty apartment, he longs for his brightly lit family home somewhere far away. He treasures his one memento, a red seed that holds within its tininess all the wonderful, comforting memories of back home.

His new life is strange and unfamiliar, marked with words he can’t comprehend and conversations he doesn’t understand. One day, leaning out the family apartment window watching the world go by, he drops his precious seed, and watches with dismay as a little girl picks it up and skips away. He rushes out in a mad chase … and after a few moments of initial worry, he finally begins to glimpse the many delights of his new neighborhood: delicious smells, finding a lost coin, trying his first soft pretzel, laughing at a bullseyed pup, wandering through a vast new park … and best of all, finding his first friend and discovering the limitless joys of sharing.

Kim’s only words appear on the final page as a letter to “Dear Reader,” in which she reveals her own immigration story that began “almost 40 years ago.” Drawing on her memories – “I have to admit, moving was scary … But it was also exciting …” – Kim explains that Here I Am “is about leaving a beloved home, coming to a different place, and taking on the tremendous task of creating a new life for yourself.” Overcoming the fear of the unfamiliar was the turning point for Kim, which she duplicates for her young protagonist: “What happens to us when we forget to be afraid? We loosen our firm grip on what belongs to us. We open our hands. We share. We give.”

Surely, this is Kim and Sánchez’s gift … not just to recent immigrants, but as Kim says, to anyone “facing something new and different in your life.” Unfettered by specific language requirements, Here is truly a universal story for all. No translations are ever necessary, as Kim “encourages you to live out your own story of arriving to that place where you can say, ‘Here I am.’”

Readers: Children

Published: 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, Korean, Korean American, Latino/a

Together Tea by Marjan Kamali

Together Tea“In the car, Mina turned on the news. ‘Iran’ was mentioned in the same breath as ‘terrorist’ and ‘rogue.’ Just once, Mina wanted to hear the name of her old country mentioned in the same breath as ‘joy’ or ‘freedom’ or ‘gentle goodness.’” What Mina longs for is exactly what readers receive in Marjan Kamali‘s toothsome debut novel about an Iranian American mother and daughter, and their “Life on the Hyphen.” [Don't, by the way, read with empty belly!] If you choose to go audible, comedian Negin Farsad (The Muslims Are Coming!) adds pitch-perfect authenticity (except not so much with the Korean names, not that I’m quibbling, ahem!).

In 1982, the Rezayi family escapes their native Tehran, and arrives in Queens to begin their immigrant lives: doctor Parviz makes pizzas, ordered about by entitled teenagers, until he’s able to pass the exams for his U.S. medical license and reclaim authority; math professor wannabe Darya bends over a sewing machine in the window of “Wa-g Dry Cleaning” until her love of numbers (and Parviz) leads her to start a Saturday math club which eventually helps her find number-crunching employment at a local bank. Their children are their successful American dream: their doctor oldest son, their lawyer younger son, and their youngest Mina, who is in the midst of getting her MBA, even as she longs to be an artist.

In 1998, Mina at 25 is still unmarried, and Darya is not above creating complicated spreadsheets that should reveal the perfect permutation for a perfect husband for her precious only daughter. “‘Together tea,’” Mina’s mother Darya says “in her Persian way of speaking English. ‘You come, Mina, and we’ll have together tea.’” In spite of her matrimonial objections, Mina is somehow convinced once more to meet the latest suitor who flies up from Atlanta for a sumptuous lunch and stilted conversation. Mr. Dashti’s matched relief when their visit is over gives Mina a sudden new idea: after 15 years away, Mina wants to visit Iran … and Darya surprises both husband and daughter by announcing she’ll be accompanying Mina ‘home.’

Yes, for the quickest description, Tea is something akin to Iranian American chick lit. But given Iran’s history and ‘axis of evil’ relationship with the U.S., Kamali is well aware of the challenges and tragedies on both sides of Mina’s ‘hyphen’: in Iran, revolution and war destroy parts of Mina’s extended family – including her beloved grandmother – while the vicious new regimes suffocate its citizens; in the U.S., Mina is silenced by a bully who lumps her with hostage-taking terrorists even as he literally gobbles up her Darya-packed meals. Darya’s closest American friends are originally Indian and Korean nationals who can empathize about being immigrants, but are also all too familiar with violently torn-apart homelands.

While Mina’s brothers advise her “‘make it easy for yourself’” by associating their heritage “‘with good stuff – like fancy rugs and fat cats,’” her father insists on a longer history filled with “‘astronomy, science, mathematics, and literature, and … a leader, Cyrus the Great, who had the gumption to free the Jewish people and declare human rights!’” Even as Kamali never loses sight of that longed-for ‘joy’ or freedom’ or ‘gentle goodness,’ she also makes sure to bolster her narrative with memorable, substantive heft.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Audio, .Fiction, Iranian, Iranian American

Black Flower by Young-Ha Kim, translated by Charles La Shure

Black FlowerEarlier this year, I received an email from a Chinese Canadian author, May Q. Wong, inquiring about “a shipload of Koreans who sailed to Mexico to find a better life.” Clueless, I forwarded her request to a few of my scholar friends and colleagues … but ‘lo and behold, I actually had the answers (the fictionalized version, anyway) sitting on my shelves!

Black Flower, longlisted for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize, is the latest novel to arrive Stateside from Young-ha Kim, one of Korea’s most acclaimed contemporary writers. Kim creates identities, relationships, conflicts, disappointments, and hopes, to reclaim a nearly lost moment in transnational immigration history.

You could read Black Flower as fascinating historical record: 1,033 Koreans left the port of Jemulpo (today’s Incheon) in 1905 on the Ilford, a British merchant ship, and arrived (after two deaths, one birth) in Mexico’s Yucatán as indentured laborers to be parceled out to henequen plantations. The Koreans believed they were escaping a homeland in the midst of shifting powers and Japanese colonization; instead, they were sold into slave-like servitude. Abandoned by their faltering government, the Koreans has no choice but to stay … and survive any way they could. Within the Koreans’ experience, Kim also bears witness to local Mexican history, including the abuses of colonial Christianity, the mistreatment of the indigenous Mayans, and the Mexican Revolution, which eventually (surprisingly!) involves a small band of Korean nationals.

You could also decide that Black Flower is – as the cover proclaims in small print – “a novel,” and revel in the interrelated lives of the passengers. At the end of the grueling Ilford journey, the unintentioned immigrants emerge stripped of status, all equal slave-laborers in the eyes of their would-be masters. Kim breathes life into a diverse cast, including a set of star-crossed orphan and aristocrat lovers, a deserting officer who falls in love with the wrong boy, a priest who abandons his faith, a thief who becomes a voice of god, a last surviving son whose facility with languages grants him access to unquestioned debauchery. If you choose to go audible, Rupert Degas (who narrates many of Haruki Murakami‘s titles) is as clumsy with the Korean language as he is with the Japanese, but his vocal agility adds convincing, haunting layers to Kim’s prose.

In an interview accompanying the PR materials (with similar information included in the printed “Author’s Note” at title’s end), Kim explains that the genesis of Black Flower is rooted in a second-hand airplane conversation that seemed “too mythical,” and eventually led Kim to Mérida in Mexico’s Yucatán, then Tikal and Antigua in Guatemala, to research this “forgotten historical moment.” He named his resulting novel Black Flower because “[b]lack is a color created by combining all the other colors. Similarly, everything is mixed together in this novel – religion, race, status, and gender … But there is no such thing as a black flower; it exists only in the imagination. In the same way, the place that the characters in the novel hoped to go to is a utopia which does not really exist in reality.” With elliptical snapshots that move between place and perspectives, Kim navigates that proverbial fine line between truth and fiction; his Black Flower proves ever elusive and wholly intriguing.

Tidbits: For further reading, check out some of these links. Now I know why we were able to find decent Korean food in La Antigua Guatemala!

Readers: Adult

Published: 2003, 2012 (United States)

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Audio, .Fiction, .Translation, Korean, Latin American

A True Novel by Minae Mizumura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter and Ann Sherif

True NovelA Japanese writer, also named Minae Mizumura, recalls her privileged expatriate New York childhood, then witnesses her family devolve in adulthood. A Tokyo-based editor takes a countryside vacation and meets an older woman who shares fantastical memories of some of the inhabitants. A village girl becomes an indispensable maid to two intertwined families and spends decades in their service.

These narratives converge to reveal the “real story” of enigmatic businessman Taro Azuma, who overcomes impoverished origins and achieves international wealth but remains forever desolate because societal pressures separate him from his only love. Sound familiar? Mizumura affirms some 150 pages in that Azuma’s story “recalled…a literary classic set on the wild Yorkshire moors and written…by the Englishwoman E.B.,” clearly Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.

Verdict: Buried in almost 900 pages of unnecessarily convoluted layers is a sharper, worthier novel about class, gender, mixed-race issues, postwar Japan, generational metamorphoses, cultural influences and exchanges, the definitions and limits of fiction, and more. Though the book won the prestigious Yomiuri Literature Prize – Mizumura is considered one of Japan’s most important novelists – few readers will have the patience or stamina for this double-volume challenge.

Review: “Fiction,” Library Journal, September 1, 2013

Readers: Adult

Published: 2002, 2013 (United States)

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Translation, Japanese

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

We Need New Names“We are on our way to Budapest,” 10-year-old Darling announces as NoViolet Bulawayo‘s 2013 Booker longlisted debut novel opens. ‘We’ includes “Bastard and Chipo and Godknows and Sbho and Stina,” banded together with plans to steal guavas as they sneak out of Paradise, the ironically named shantytown home the children refer to as a “kaka toilet.” In spite of warnings, the children regularly, longingly, venture to London, Los Angeles, Paris, in addition to Budapest – all the nearby wealthy neighborhoods where they will never be welcomed. Already Darling is determined she will be “blazing out of this kaka country” – Zimbabwe, although never named, where Bulawayo was born and raised.

Darling comes of age living with her grandmother (who still keeps Queen Elizabeth-visaged British money hidden in her Bible under her bed long after only U.S. dollars and South African rands have any buying power), her traveling mother who needs to support three generations of women, and her deadbeat father who unexpectedly returns from South Africa as a barely recognizable near-skeleton. Sundays are spent perspiring on a mountain, where “that crazy Prophet Revelations Bitchington MBorro” one week climbs on top of a screaming woman to exorcise her demons, and Chipo – silenced by her mysterious pregnancy at age 11 – reclaims her voice to reveal she was raped by her grandfather.

Before Chipo’s baby is born, countrywide violence will send Darling to the other side of the world. Degraded by colonial legacy and trapped in murderous unrest, survival means escape: “Look at the children of the land leaving in droves, leaving their own land with bleeding wounds on their bodies and shock on their faces and blood in their hearts and hunger in their stomachs and grief in their footsteps.” Darling is one of the lucky few who has an Aunt Fostalina who arrives to take her away, seemingly to safety as her grandmother laments the “ruin” of their country. Even as she is buffered by new family and friends, Darling’s immigrant rebirth comes at a high price: “They will never be the same again because you just cannot be the same once you leave behind who and what you are …”

Labeled “A Novel” on the cover, Bulawayo’s chapters read more like short stories that could easily stand alone. The result is effectively jarring, creating a sense of disconnect that jumps from story to story, as if echoing Darling’s disjointed coming-of age – her African childhood defined by inequity and horror, and the subsequent adaptations she must make as a stranger in a strange land. Stuck in the ears, narrator Robin Miles imbues Darling’s journey with resonating tension, regret, and hope.

The Booker shortlist debuts in a couple of weeks, on September 10, when this year’s “Booker dozen” of 13 will drop to five or six titles. I’m betting Names will stay in the running … at least until October 15 when Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland will remain the last one standing. Stay tuned.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Audio, .Fiction, African, African American