Book Review: Praise Song for the Butterflies

Book Review: Praise Song for the ButterfliesPraise Song for the Butterflies
by Bernice L. McFadden
on August 28, 2018
Pages: 264
Published by Akashic Books
Genres: Diverse Spines, Literary Fiction, Multicultural
Goodreads

Abeo Kata lives a comfortable, happy life in West Africa as the privileged nine-year-old daughter of a government employee and stay-at-home mother. But when the Katas’ idyllic lifestyle takes a turn for the worse, Abeo’s father, following his mother’s advice, places her in a religious shrine, hoping that the sacrifice of his daughter will serve as religious atonement for the crimes of his ancestors. Unspeakable acts befall Abeo for the fifteen years she is enslaved within the shrine. When she is finally rescued, broken and battered, she must struggle to overcome her past, endure the revelation of family secrets, and learn to trust and love again.

In the tradition of Chris Cleave’s Little Bee, Praise Song for the Butterflies is a contemporary story that offers an educational, eye-opening account of the practice of ritual servitude in West Africa. Spanning decades and two continents, Praise Song for the Butterflies will break and heal your heart.

My Takeaway “Scars are proof of survival, they shouldn’t be hidden – it’s a story someone may need to see in order to believe that beyond their pain and suffering, there is healing.” Bernice L. McFadden, Praise Song for the Butterflies Praise Song for…

Book Review: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Book Review: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican DaughterI Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
by Erika L. Sánchez
on October 17, 2017
Pages: 344
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genres: Diverse Spines, Fiction, Multicultural, Young Adult
Goodreads

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

My Takeaway “Happiness is a dandelion wisp floating through the air that I can’t catch. No matter how hard I try, no matter how fast I run, I just can’t reach it. Even when I think I grasp it, I open my hand and it’s empty.” Erika…

Book Review: If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi

Book Review: If You See Me, Don’t Say HiIf You See Me, Don't Say Hi
by Neel Patel
on July 10, 2018
Pages: 224
Published by Flatiron Books
Genres: Fiction, LGBTQ, Multicultural, Short Stories
Goodreads

In these eleven sharp, surprising stories, Neel Patel gives voice to our most deeply held stereotypes and then slowly undermines them. His characters, almost all of who are first-generation Indian Americans, subvert our expectations that they will sit quietly by. We meet two brothers caught in an elaborate web of envy and loathing; a young gay man who becomes involved with an older man whose secret he could never guess; three women who almost gleefully throw off the pleasant agreeability society asks of them; and, in the final pair of linked stories, a young couple struggling against the devastating force of community gossip.

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi examines the collisions of old world and new world, small town and big city, traditional beliefs (like arranged marriage) and modern rituals (like Facebook stalking). The men and women in these stories are full of passion, regret, envy, anger, and yearning. They fall in love with the wrong people and betray one another and deal with the accumulation of years of subtle racism. They are utterly compelling. Ranging across the country, Patel’s stories -- empathetic, provocative, twisting, and wryly funny -- introduce a bold new literary voice, one that feels more timely than ever.

My Takeaway Up until around a year ago, I was not a huge fan of short story collections — they’re growing on me though. And when you read a collection such as, If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi you begin to truly appreciate short stories…

Book Review: Fruit of the Drunken Tree

Book Review: Fruit of the Drunken TreeFruit of the Drunken Tree
by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
on July 31, 2018
Pages: 304
Published by Doubleday
Genres: Diverse Spines, Literary Fiction, Multicultural
Goodreads

In the vein of Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a mesmerizing debut set against the backdrop of the devastating violence of 1990's Colombia about a sheltered young girl and a teenage maid who strike an unlikely friendship that threatens to undo them both.

The Santiago family lives in a gated community in Bogotá, safe from the political upheaval terrorizing the country. Seven-year-old Chula and her older sister Cassandra enjoy carefree lives thanks to this protective bubble, but the threat of kidnappings, car bombs, and assassinations hover just outside the neighborhood walls, where the godlike drug lord Pablo Escobar continues to elude authorities and capture the attention of the nation.

When their mother hires Petrona, a live-in-maid from the city's guerrilla-occupied slum, Chula makes it her mission to understand Petrona's mysterious ways. But Petrona's unusual behavior belies more than shyness. She is a young woman crumbling under the burden of providing for her family as the rip tide of first love pulls her in the opposite direction. As both girls' families scramble to maintain stability amidst the rapidly escalating conflict, Petrona and Chula find themselves entangled in a web of secrecy that will force them both to choose between sacrifice and betrayal.

Inspired by the author's own life, and told through the alternating perspectives of the willful Chula and the achingly hopeful Petrona, Fruit of the Drunken Tree contrasts two very different, but inextricable coming-of-age stories. In lush prose, Rojas Contreras sheds light on the impossible choices women are often forced to make in the face of violence and the unexpected connections that can blossom out of desperation.

My Takeaway “War always seemed distant from Bogotá, like niebla descending on the hills and forests of the countryside and jungles. The way it approached us was like a fog as well, without us realizing, until it sat embroiling everything around us.” Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Fruit of the…

Book Review: America for Beginners

Book Review: America for BeginnersAmerica for Beginners
by Leah Franqui
on July 24, 2018
Pages: 320
Published by William Morrow
Genres: Diverse Spines, LGBTQ, Literary Fiction, Multicultural
Goodreads

Pival Sengupta has done something she never expected: she has booked a trip with the First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour Company. But unlike other upper-class Indians on a foreign holiday, the recently widowed Pival is not interested in sightseeing. She is traveling thousands of miles from Kolkota to New York on a cross-country journey to California, where she hopes to uncover the truth about her beloved son, Rahi. A year ago Rahi devastated his very traditional parents when he told them he was gay. Then, Pival’s husband, Ram, told her that their son had died suddenly—heartbreaking news she still refuses to accept. Now, with Ram gone, she is going to America to find Rahi, alive and whole or dead and gone, and come to terms with her own life.

Arriving in New York, the tour proves to be more complicated than anticipated. Planned by the company’s indefatigable owner, Ronnie Munshi—a hard-working immigrant and entrepreneur hungry for his own taste of the American dream—it is a work of haphazard improvisation. Pival’s guide is the company’s new hire, the guileless and wonderfully resourceful Satya, who has been in America for one year—and has never actually left the five boroughs. For modesty’s sake, Pival and Satya will be accompanied by Rebecca Elliot, an aspiring young actress. Eager for a paying gig, she’s along for the ride, because how hard can a two-week "working" vacation traveling across America be?

Slowly making her way from coast to coast with her unlikely companions, Pival finds that her understanding of her son—and her hopes of a reunion with him—are challenged by her growing knowledge of his adoptive country. As the bonds between this odd trio deepens, Pavil, Satya, and Rebecca learn to see America—and themselves—in different and profound new ways.

My Takeaway “My mother is the reason that I love you, Bhim said simply. She is the reason I know what love is.” Leah Franqui, America for Beginners America for Beginners was a wonderful, quirky and heartwarming novel. And can we just admire the gorgeous book cover for…