Book Review: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

Book Review: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African ChildhoodBorn a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
by Trevor Noah
on November 15th 2016
Pages: 304
Published by Doubleday Canada
Genres: Memoir, Multicultural, Non-Fiction, Short Stories
Goodreads

The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime New York Times bestseller about one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

My Takeaway “My mom did what school didn’t. She taught me how to think.” Trevor Noah, Born a Crime This phenomenal and fascinating memoir gets all the stars and all the love! Noah’s candid and humorous storytelling completely captivated me from beginning to end. Noah grew…

Book Review: A Cup of Water Under My Bed

Book Review: A Cup of Water Under My BedA Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir
by Daisy Hernandez
on September 9th 2014
Pages: 185
Published by Beacon Press
Genres: LGBTQ, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Short Stories
Goodreads

A coming-of-age memoir by a Colombian-Cuban woman about shaping lessons from home into a new, queer life  In this lyrical, coming-of-age memoir, Daisy Hernández chronicles what the women in her Cuban-Colombian family taught her about love, money, and race. Her mother warns her about envidia and men who seduce you with pastries, while one tía bemoans that her niece is turning out to be “una india” instead of an American. Another auntie instructs that when two people are close, they are bound to become like uña y mugre, fingernails and dirt, and that no, Daisy’s father is not godless. He’s simply praying to a candy dish that can be traced back to Africa. 

These lessons—rooted in women’s experiences of migration, colonization, y cariño—define in evocative detail what it means to grow up female in an immigrant home. In one story, Daisy sets out to defy the dictates of race and class that preoccupy her mother and tías, but dating women and transmen, and coming to identify as bisexual, leads her to unexpected questions. In another piece, NAFTA shuts local factories in her hometown on the outskirts of New York City, and she begins translating unemployment forms for her parents, moving between English and Spanish, as well as private and collective fears. In prose that is both memoir and commentary, Daisy reflects on reporting for the New York Times as the paper is rocked by the biggest plagiarism scandal in its history and plunged into debates about the role of race in the newsroom.

A heartfelt exploration of family, identity, and language, A Cup of Water Under My Bed is ultimately a daughter’s story of finding herself and her community, and of creating a new, queer life.

My Takeaway “Generally speaking, gay people come out of the closet, straight people walk around the closet, and bisexuals have to be told to look for the closet. We are too preoccupied with shifting.” Daisy Hernández, A Cup of Water Under My Bed A Cup of Water Under My…

Book Review: Radical Hope

Book Review: Radical HopeRadical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times
by Carolina De Robertis, Junot Díaz, Faith Adiele, Parnaz Foroutan, Chip Livingston, Mohja Kahf, Achy Obejas, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Cherrie Moraga, Kate Schatz, Boris Fishman, Karen Joy Fowler, Elmaz Abinader, Aya de León, Jane Smiley, Luis Alberto Urrea, Mona Eltahawy, Jeff Chang, Claire Messud, Meredith Russo, Reyna Grande, Katie Kitamura, iO Tillett Wright, Francisco Goldman, Celeste Ng, Peter Orner, Cristina García, Aliciz Garza, Roxana Robinson, Lisa See, Jewelle Gomez, Hari Kunzru
on January 1st 1970
Pages: 272
Published by Vintage
Genres: Non-Fiction, Short Stories
Goodreads

Radical Hope is a collection of letters--to ancestors, to children five generations from now, to strangers in grocery lines, to any and all who feel weary and discouraged--written by award-winning novelists, poets, political thinkers, and activists. Provocative and inspiring, Radical Hope offers readers a kaleidoscopic view of the love and courage needed to navigate this time of upheaval, uncertainty, and fear, in view of the recent US presidential election.

My Takeaway  “But language is malleable, and it is not always on the side of truth. This is something every writer knows. Words make and unmake the world with terrifying rapidity, and they do so without moral distinction…There is a battle going on right now over the words we…

Book Review: The Refugees

Book Review: The RefugeesThe Refugees
by Viet Thanh Nguyen
on February 7th 2017
Pages: 224
Published by Grove Press
Genres: Literary Fiction, Multicultural, Short Stories
Goodreads

With the coruscating gaze that informed The Sympathizer, in The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to lives led between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration.

This second piece of fiction by a major new voice in American letters, The Refugees is a beautifully written and sharply observed book about the aspirations of those who leave one country for another, and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.

My Takeaway  “For all refugees, everywhere” – Dedication in The Refugees “In a country where possessions counted for everything, we had no belongings except our stories.”  Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Refugees Holy moly! What an incredible, emotional and remarkable book! I am honestly having a hard time coming up with the…