Book Review: All You Can Ever Know

Book Review: All You Can Ever KnowAll You Can Ever Know: A Memoir
by Nicole Chung
on October 2, 2018
Pages: 240
Published by Catapult
Genres: Diverse Spines, Memoir
Goodreads

What does it mean to lose your roots—within your culture, within your family—and what happens when you find them?

Nicole Chung was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From early childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hopes of giving her a better life; that forever feeling slightly out of place was simply her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as she grew up—facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn’t see, finding her identity as an Asian American and a writer, becoming ever more curious about where she came from—she wondered if the story she’d been told was the whole truth.

With warmth, candor, and startling insight, Chung tells of her search for the people who gave her up, which coincided with the birth of her own child. All You Can Ever Know is a profound, moving chronicle of surprising connections and the repercussions of unearthing painful family secrets—vital reading for anyone who has ever struggled to figure out where they belong.

My Takeaway“Family lore given to us as children has such hold over us, such staying power.”Nicole Chung, All You Can Ever Know All You Can Ever Know resonated with me on several levels. Chung’s story and writing captivated me from the get-go. Although…

Book Review: The Air You Breathe

Book Review: The Air You BreatheThe Air You Breathe
by Frances de Pontes Peebles
on August 21, 2018
Pages: 464
Published by Riverhead Books
Genres: Diverse Spines, LGBTQ, Literary Fiction, Multicultural
Goodreads

The story of an intense female friendship fueled by affection, envy and pride--and each woman's fear that she would be nothing without the other.

Skinny, nine-year-old orphaned Dores is working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when in walks a girl who changes everything. Graça, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron, is clever, well fed, pretty, and thrillingly ill behaved. Born to wildly different worlds, Dores and Graça quickly bond over shared mischief, and then, on a deeper level, over music.

One has a voice like a songbird; the other feels melodies in her soul and composes lyrics to match. Music will become their shared passion, the source of their partnership and their rivalry, and for each, the only way out of the life to which each was born. But only one of the two is destined to be a star. Their intimate, volatile bond will determine each of their fortunes--and haunt their memories.

Traveling from Brazil's inland sugar plantations to the rowdy streets of Lapa in Rio de Janeiro, from Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood back to the irresistible drumbeat of home, The Air You Breathe unfurls a moving portrait of a lifelong friendship--its unparalleled rewards and lasting losses--and considers what we owe to the relationships that shape our lives.

My Takeaway “Her beauty was not a physical trait. Her beauty was an influence you fell under . . . infusing you with bravery and wit and affability that you never knew existed inside yourself until she coaxed it out.”Frances de Pontes Peebles, The Air You Breathe The Air You…

Book Review: A River of Stars

Book Review: A River of StarsA River of Stars
by Vanessa Hua
on August 14, 2018
Pages: 289
Published by Ballantine Books
Genres: Diverse Spines, Literary Fiction, Multicultural
Goodreads

In a powerful debut novel about motherhood, immigration, and identity, a pregnant Chinese woman makes her way to California and stakes a claim to the American dream.

Holed up with other moms-to-be in a secret maternity home in Los Angeles, Scarlett Chen is far from her native China, where she worked in a factory job and fell in love with the owner, Boss Yeung. Now she's carrying his baby. Already married with three daughters, he's overjoyed because the doctors confirmed he will finally have the son he has always wanted. To ensure that his son has every advantage, he has shipped Scarlett off to give birth on American soil. U.S. citizenship will open doors for their little prince.

As Scarlett awaits the baby's arrival, she chokes down bitter medicinal stews and spars with her imperious housemates. The only one who fits in even less is Daisy, a spirited teenager and fellow unwed mother who is being kept apart from her American boyfriend.

Then a new sonogram of Scarlett's baby reveals the unexpected. Panicked, she escapes by hijacking a van--only to discover that she has a stowaway: Daisy, who intends to track down the father of her child. They flee to San Francisco's bustling Chinatown, where Scarlett will join countless immigrants desperately trying to seize their piece of the American dream. What Scarlett doesn't know is that her baby's father is not far behind her.

A River of Stars is an entertaining, wildly unpredictable adventure, told with empathy and wit. It's a vivid examination of home and belonging, and a moving portrayal of a woman determined to build her own future.

My Takeaway “Here in America, she might change the world — but she had to hurry before someone else did.” Vanessa Hua, A River of Stars Before reading A River of Stars, I had no idea birthing centers or “maternity hotels” (as they’re known…

Book Review: The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Book Review: The Love & Lies of Rukhsana AliThe Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali
by Sabina Khan
on January 29, 2019
Pages: 336
Published by Scholastic Press
Genres: Diverse Spines, LGBTQ, Multicultural, Young Adult
Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?

My Takeaway I believe this young adult novel can be relevant and important to certain adolescent girls. I continuously mention I grew up with extremely religious (Pentecostal) parents. Numerous things were prohibited and taboo — for certain being gay was (and remains) an enormous sin. According to hardcore Pentecostals, being…

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…