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Sunday Salon: the Groggy Post

February 21, 2010

The Sunday Salon.comI woke up later than I intended to today, and I have a pretty full day planned, so I don’t have the luxury of waking up for an hour before writing this post. So if anything doesn’t make sense, blame it on residual sleepiness! I’m frantically drinking Earl Grey as quickly as I can, so let’s hope the caffeine kicks in soon. ;)

First up, leftover from books I finished last Sunday but was too lazy to write about, I’d like to talk about Kazuo Ishiguro’s When We Were Orphans. This is my fourth Ishiguro, and I’m an unabashed fan of his writing (which is why he’s in that sidebar over to the right). The unreliable narrator, whose true self is revealed through his overly precise voice, and the glimpses we see in his chats with people who knew him earlier in life, is perfect. And the mystery at the heart of this novel is much more obvious than his others that I’ve read so far: when Christopher was a boy, his parents disappeared from Shanghai. The first half, maybe two-thirds of this book I loved to bits and pieces. But then Christopher returns to Shanghai, now a renowned detective, and while Ishiguro does a great job of showing Christopher’s unbalance (he seriously thinks he’s going to find the house where his parents’ kidnappers took them to over two decades ago and that his parents will be still be there), I found myself not caring quite as much. And then there’s this extended quest through the war-torn streets of Shanghai, and I’m not much for war in fiction, so I mainly shut off my emotions and got through it. However, the ending picked back up, and while I don’t necessarily trust the simple, neat version Christopher hears, I did like seeing his writing as an older man. What does all that mean? To be honest, this is my least favourite Ishiguro I’ve read (the others are Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go, and A Pale View of Hills). But it was still a solid four-star experience, and Ishiguro is still one of my very favourite authors! The ‘slumps’ weren’t overly strong; I always wanted to pick the book back up and see what would happen next. And I feel that for readers who prefer more of a plot, with more of a tidy ending, this could be a great way to get to know Ishiguro. All of my favourite aspects of his writing were definitely present, and I always just revel in his novels, because he trusts me as a reader to figure out what he’s doing. It makes reading so much more fun!

I was excited when the library told me my ILLed copy of Hair Story by Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps had arrived. I love books about women’s body image issues, and this one traces African American hair from the tribal African roots of the first slaves up through the 90s (it’s an older book). I’ve always been jealous of my black friends’ hair; I have the kind of baby fine slippery hair that, two hours after I’ve curled it, has pretty much fallen straight again. So even when I was little, I remember thinking how awesome it would be to be able to curl my hair and have it last as long as I wanted it to! Plus, the braids just seemed like so much fun; one of my best friends in middle school would get to stay home from school sometimes so that her mom could do hundreds of braids all over her hair. Then, when I was in grad school, my roomie hot combed her hair on Saturday mornings, and I’d sit and chat with her during the *two hours* it took (she had long hair). I’d never seen a hot comb before, and when she refused to go to a hot tub one night because she’d straightened her hair the day before, I really saw the downside (of course, in college I’d learned more about how society’s expectations/messages devalue textured black hair). Anyway, my point is that I was definitely curious about the topic, and I began reading as soon as I got home. The the book is chock full of historical information, and I definitely learned quite a bit. However, it wasn’t what I had expected. The tone is quite academic, and it reminds me of my own research papers in college. There are some pictures, which is nice but almost no firsthand stories are included. I’m glad that I read it, because I feel more knowledgeable, and the history itself is interesting. But I love the kind of women’s issues books that feel as if a group of us are sitting around drinking tea & coffee and chatting. Hair Story isn’t that. I am impressed with how much information was presented in a small space, but it left me wanting to know more. So now I’m eyeing Tenderheaded: a Comb-Bending Collection of Hair Stories by Juliette Harris. All in all, a book I’d only recommend if you’re actually interested in the topic, because the writing won’t grab your attention on its own.

I have read and loved Peter Hessler’s first two books about China (River Town and Oracle Bones), so I was delighted when a publisher offered me an ARC of his third, Country Driving. It’s released in hardcover now, so all of y’all will be able to get it. :) Country Driving is divided into three parts: first, Hessler discusses his Chinese road trips following the Great Wall, then he looks at a small village outside of Beijing where he rented a ‘cottage’ and became close with one of the families, and finally he examines a city down south that’s hoping to join in the economic boom, specifically following the fortunes of one factory that manufactures rings for bra straps. Honestly, while each of the three parts is strong, there isn’t really much of a connection between them (other than Hessler rents cars, I suppose), and no attempt is made at a transition. I felt this was especially jarring at the end of the second part, because for so many pages I’d been getting to know a family, and then suddenly they were gone. It took me awhile to adjust, and to bring myself to care about the new people Hessler introduced. So the format wasn’t my favourite. But Hessler’s wonderful writing, and his ability to bring people to life, was just as present as in his other two books, and it made Country Driving a delight! I am by no means an expert on China, so I can’t analyse Hessler’s broader looks at Chinese culture, but I will say that as an informed layperson, it never feels like he’s stereotyping or simplifying China for the sake of a sound bite. That’s what I really value in my nonfiction. :) And while Hessler’s prose always flows well and is quite readable, it always assumes the reader is intelligent. Country Driving helped put a more personal face on China’s development, which I really liked. In a newspaper story, or even a magazine one, there’s simply not space for someone to get to know a few Chinese people over years, to tell all of the day-to-day triumphs and disappointments that make up our lives no matter which country we live in. This is a large book, at over 400 pages of text, and I’m happy that Hessler took the time to give the subjects the treatment that they deserve. At this point, I think we established that I very much enjoyed the book, and that I’d definitely recommend it to anyone the slightest bit interested in other cultures (because Hessler’s writing will draw you in). That being said, I did have one other quibble while I was reading: Hessler seldom really addresses the status of women in China, and especially in the second section when he’s looking at the village family, his description of the wife seemed a bit off (every time she tries to do something to increase her independence, like get a drivers license or join the Party, her husband categorically forbids it; and yet Hessler refers to her more than once as taking an attitude of ‘I’ve washed my hands of it’ towards life). While I still very much enjoyed the book, I did find this a bit annoying as a woman reader. Still, Country Driving is a solid, fascinating nonfiction book that’s a joy to read.

I read Passing by Samaria by Sharon Ewell Foster for the Christy Awards Challenge. I’ve been hesitant to discuss it, because I don’t want anyone to think that I have it in for all Christian fiction or anything. And even though this was my first Christian lit (since I read Left Behind at the urging of a high school friend, anyway), I promise I’m not judging all Christian writers by my experience with this one book. So, with those disclaimers out of the way, this book really didn’t do it for me. It’s set in 1919, which is one of my favourite historical periods, but aside from historical events that occur in book, there was no sense of a separate time for me, which was disappointing. Also, none of the character rang true for me; they often did/thought things that didn’t feel like anything I’ve ever witnessed in real human beings, and as a result I couldn’t connect with them. The plot was rather scatter shot and all over the place. And there was a lot of preaching in the book, whole pages worth of monologues as one character preaches to another. As for the writing style, well, let me show you rather than tell you:

Alena liked the pressure. Liked the feeling. It was exhilarating. She did not resist the control Pearl exerted over her. Something about his self-assurance and the hand on her back made her feel protected, made her feel he was not afraid of anything.

Something about his hand made her feel small and fragile, petite, safe, rescued. It filled a place she had not known was empty.

She had always been the tallest one, the one who did not need protection. It was as though people assumed that her size, her height, correlated with her frailty, her neediness, or even her gentleness.

Alena had seen men and boys rush to open doors, carry packages, fight battles for more petite girls. But never for me, she often thought. She had seen men offer comfort, a shoulder, an arm, protection to women of smaller structure. Why not for me? Alena had asked herself.

There are a few more paragraphs that continue in the same vein, but you get the idea. For my reading tastes, that kind of repetition and beating an idea into the ground drove me a bit crazy. And then there’s these weird sections later in the book where the point of view switches to a white woman, and all of the other white woman talking to her are described as ‘the one with the blue eyes’ or ‘the one with the green eyes,’ and it just sounded so odd. Anyway, I honestly wouldn’t have finished the book if it hadn’t have been a challenge read. I’m not sure who I’d recommend this to; I suppose someone with completely opposite reading preferences from myself!

I had hopes for Journey Into Islam by Akbar Ahmed, which was my first selection for the World Religion Challenge. It’s about a Muslim Indian professor who travelled around the Muslim world post 9/11 with a few of his American anthropology students in tow. And it’s published by the Brookings Institute, so I expected it to be pretty academic. That it certainly was; this isn’t a travelogue by any stretch of the imagination, and oddly enough Ahmed never even introduces his students. They do appear in the book occasionally, but I don’t even know if they’re undergrad and grad. That being said, I found Ahmed’s analysis of Islam, and his approach of three separate ‘schools’ intellectually interesting. The first half of the book was like a lecture with a good professor; I certainly didn’t agree with it all, but it did make me think about things differently. But then, I got to Ahmed’s section on women in Islam. And I found it weak and apologist to say the least. This made me cranky. And then, I read his analysis of the US. It was ridiculous; he took the super far right, like Ann Coulter and the Savage Show, and treated it like that was mainstream. So all of his discussion of US politics focused on that far right, which missed much of the country. And his brief passages on American pop culture suffered from similar tunnel vision; I don’t know anyone who considers Paris Hilton a role model, personally. The way he approached the US made me question the way he had approached Islam, and I felt I could no longer trust what he said. So ultimately, I found this book disappointing, and I can’t say I’d recommend it to people.

Fortunately, I have more positive things to say about my next read: Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice. This isn’t a genre I usually read-contemporary American women’s lit-but I very much enjoyed it. First of all, Brice’s characters felt like they could jump off the pages, they were so real. It’s told in first person narrative, and it felt that way, with Shay’s biases and history colouring the way she told her story. I immediately connected with Shay, which is due to Brice’s strong writing, which I could just float along with. Also, a fun surprise for me was that the story was set in Denver! Since it’s contemporary, there are a lot of local references, and I’ve visited Denver enough to pick up on quite a few of them. Books and music are an integral part of the book, with real authors and musicians referenced, which I also really liked. Every time I put the book down, I couldn’t wait to get back to it, to see what would happen to everyone. All in all, this was a really fun book for me, and I fully intend to read more of Brice in the future. Sure, it’s not my standard fare, but when I need a change of pace, I’ll be reaching for her novels.

Almost there! Thanks to a Twitter conversation, I decided to pick up NurtureShock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman. It’s a fluffy nonfiction book that looks at assumptions American (white upper middle class) parents make about children’s behavior and the scientific studies that have proved them wrong. I liked reading about the scientific studies, and how they have or have not affected social policy (since much of the book is about schoolage kids, education comes into play). But there was this underlying current to the book, of how parents can make their kids the best possible in all different areas, that kind of disturbed me. Also, this is lighter nonfiction than I usually prefer…I would have liked to see more rigorous analyses and more details. It was an entertaining read, that went quickly, and gave me a bit of food for thought, and I think people who aren’t huge fans of nonfiction will definitely enjoy it.

And that’s all! The other books I read this week I’ve either already reviewed (Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and Tropical Fish by Doreen Baingana) or I’ll be reviewing over at Color Online (Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros and Unbowed by Wangari Maathai). It feels good to be caught up with all my reviews again, at least until I finish one of my current reads! ;)

62 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2010 11:10 am

    I didn’t really like the war part of When We Were Orphans, either. That whole segment disappointed me even if I could see why it happened. But I like everything Ishiguro writes and I appreciated that this one had more plot, so all in all not bad.

    Hope you have a great day!

    • February 24, 2010 11:47 am

      I’m glad we felt similarly about When We Were Orphans. :) Ishiguro definitely still rocks!

  2. February 21, 2010 11:17 am

    Thank you for the review of the new Hessler book on China. I, too, have read his other two books and can’t wait to get my grubby little hands on this new book.

  3. February 21, 2010 11:33 am

    Eva, you’re better groggy than many folks are wide awake :-). I had the pleasure of hosting Carleen Brice at my library yesterday, and she was a really engaging speaker, had lots to share about her own process and lots of ideas & encouragement for aspiring writers. Nice to know an author you like is a nice person, too!

    • February 24, 2010 11:48 am

      Aww-thanks! I follow Brice’s blog White Readers Meet Black Authors, and she seems so nice online. That’s neat you met her in person!

  4. February 21, 2010 12:04 pm

    It’s funny, but the war section of When We Were Orphans was the most memorable and powerful part of the book for me. I enjoyed the entire book, but I still think about that one section from time to time, I think because of its nightmarish, almost surreal quality. Regardless, Ishiguro is always a writer who packs a wallop.

    • February 24, 2010 11:48 am

      That is funny! It definitely was *memorable* for me, but just not that enjoyable.

  5. February 21, 2010 12:13 pm

    As usual, I am in awe of your reading. I appreciate how much non-fiction you read. There are very few of us regularly reviewing non-fiction, my book club refuses to read any. I know just what you mean about not trusting a book like Journey into Islam once you see how wrong it gets the parts of the world you know.

    • February 24, 2010 11:49 am

      Thanks CB! I love nonfiction, but I know that’s pretty rare among book bloggers. :)

  6. Vishy permalink
    February 21, 2010 12:15 pm

    It was interesting to read about Peter Hessler’s new book ‘Country Driving’. I loved Hessler’s ‘River Town’ and it looks like he is continuing his journey in China and writing about his experiences.

    It was also interesting to read your comment on what Hessler says about women in China. I had some interesting experiences on this respect. When I went to the home of one of my Chinese friends in a small town in China, a few years back, to take part in a family celebration of his, I saw something interesting. One day after dinner the women in the house – my friend’s mother, his mother’s aunt and another relative – got together, had a smoke and started having a conversation. His dad started clearing the table and mopping the floor. To me watching the happenings at his home during those few days, was an eye-opener. To me during the course of those few days, it looked like my friend’s mother was the one who was running the household. On another occasion, I remember a friend of mine giving a piece of her mind to a coworker of hers, who had done something which he was not supposed to do. So, I am not at all sure about the popular perception of women in China – that women are denied their independence and are lesser equals. I think the popular perception might have been true half a century back, but I think the China of today is very different and women in China have come a long way since then (in a positive sense). I have seen women work in most professions in China – from being a taxi driver, a shop assistant and a restaurant waitress to being head of a trade delegation, running their own businesses and being part of the top management of a big company. So I am a bit surprised that Hessler seems to think otherwise.

    It was interesting to read your thoughts on ‘Journey into Islam’. Paris Hilton as a role model? – Is that what the book says? I can’t stop laughing :)

    • February 24, 2010 11:50 am

      Obviously I’ve never been to China, but all of the fiction I’ve read by Chinese male authors from all time periods (including recently published) portrays/talks about women in ways I find offensive. And from the nonfiction I’ve read by women living in China, it’s still better to be a guy. (And should we talk about the huge discrepancy in baby boys born vs. baby girls?) I’m glad that things seem to be changing, though.

      • February 25, 2010 12:19 pm

        I didn’t know about the discrepancy in the baby boys born vs baby girls born. That is really sad. Maybe my generalization, based on a few people I have seen, is weak. But I would definitely say that things are changing :)

  7. bethfishreads permalink
    February 21, 2010 12:23 pm

    I tried to read Remains of the Day years ago and couldn’t finish it; I didn’t even like the movie (not sure I got through the whole thing) and I love the actors in it. Am I the only one? I keep thinking I should give it another try, but I can’t muster up the interest.

    Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice sounds very good — I love very real characters. I’ll have to look into that one day when I catch up with what I have going.

    • February 24, 2010 11:52 am

      I loved every page of Remains of the Day, so I can’t help you! I haven’t seen the movie; I’m a big fan of Thompson and Hopkins, but I don’t want the movie images in my head when I reread the book. ;) Orange Mint and Honey is a light, fast read, so it shouldn’t take you too much time!

  8. February 21, 2010 12:29 pm

    All because of you, I went out and bought my first Kazuo Ishiguro book. I purchased A Pale View of Hills and I can’t wait to read it! I promise to like it more than White is For Witching!

    • February 24, 2010 11:52 am

      Um, is this when I tell you that A Pale View of Hills is pretty experimental too? And most of the threads are left open-ended when the book ends? I loved it, but a lot of readers who loved Remains of the Day didn’t like Pale View of Hills. So if you don’t like it, definitely give Ishiguro another chance!

  9. February 21, 2010 12:54 pm

    Interesting to read your thoughts about When We Were Orphans. Kazuo Ishiguro is one of my favorite authors as well, and this book has been on my to be read list for a while now. I´m guessing I won´t love the war part too much either but I have a thing for unreliable narrators :)

    • February 24, 2010 11:53 am

      I have a thing for unreliable narrators too! It’s just so fun. :)

  10. February 21, 2010 1:50 pm

    I have Nurture Shock in my TBR pile but was kind of avoiding it because I was under the impression that it was condescending. I’ll have to give it a try soon.

    • February 24, 2010 11:53 am

      Nope-I wouldn’t call it condescending! :)

  11. Chelsea permalink
    February 21, 2010 2:25 pm

    I, too, didn’t really flip for When We were Orphans, but I think that’s because I found Christopher’s delusions (as you mentioned, about finding the same house his parents were taken to, finding them still alive) to be a bit too far fetched to relate to in any way. It’s the only Ishiguro I’ve read, although I’ve been tempted to pick up something else by him because there was something enchanting about his prose.

    Everything else you recommended sounds fantastic, and I just saw that my university library got a copy of Hair Story, so I’ll have to make sure to pick it up sometime soon!

    • February 24, 2010 11:54 am

      You should try Remains of the Day! :) I love Orphans before he went back to Shanghai…I kind of wish Ishiguro had kept him in England and focused more on his adopted daughter.

  12. February 21, 2010 2:32 pm

    Yay, I’m excited to read When We Were Orphans! I also enjoyed all the Ishiguros you mentioned, my least fave being Never Let Me Go. Am also interested to see what you thought of Caramelo. :D

    • February 24, 2010 11:55 am

      I loved Caramelo! (As you know now-I need to get better at replying to comments quickly, lol.) Ishiguro is so amazing, isn’t he? :)

  13. February 21, 2010 2:39 pm

    I read When We Were Orphans awhile ago (before I began blogging I believe) and remember liking it but not loving it. I really need to give his other books a try. And Orange Mint and Honey sounds really good so I’ll have to give that one a try as well. Enjoy your week!

    • February 24, 2010 12:04 pm

      I hope you enjoy Orange Mint and Honey! Definitely read Remains of the Day before deciding on Ishiguro. :D

  14. February 21, 2010 3:07 pm

    Wow, what a great long post! So many good books and interesting thoughts. I haven’t read any of Ishiguro’s books, but I really want to!

    • February 24, 2010 12:04 pm

      Thanks Becky! I’d recommend starting w/ Remains of the Day. (It’s where I started!)

  15. February 21, 2010 5:29 pm

    So many interesting reviews, Eva. I’m still consistently envious at how much you read. :D

    I definitely need to explore Ishiguro’s work. I’ve had Never Let Me Go on my shelves for a ridiculously long time after Bookmooching it a couple of years ago. Maybe I should put it on my “definitely this year” stack.

    Hair Story also sounds really good. I hope my library has it. Crossing my fingers and toes!

    • February 24, 2010 12:05 pm

      I had to ILL Hair Story, but it was pretty easy to get a hold of. :) I read Never Let Me Go right after War and Peace, and I totally loved it!

  16. February 21, 2010 7:15 pm

    I love Kazuo Ishiguro, too, and really liked this one and wouldn’t mind rereading it. I think my favorite, though, has to be The Remains of the Day! I love the blog’s new look (has it been like this for a while and I’ve just not not come out from Google Reader to see it?). By the way I’m glad you liked The Far Traveler–I loved it as well!

    • February 24, 2010 12:06 pm

      Thanks Danielle! I think I gave it a makeover about a month ago. No biggie though! :) Remains of the Day and A Pale View of Hills are tied for my very favourite. I definitely wouldn’t mind rereading Orphans either…though I’d probably skim the war bits. ;)

  17. February 21, 2010 9:16 pm

    You managed to be amazingly coherent early this morning. :-)

    I thought Nurture Shock was well done. You’d be amazed how many parenting-oriented books have absolutely no documentation of anything.

    • February 24, 2010 12:09 pm

      Thanks Ali! :) You’re right-I don’t really read that many parenting books (unless they’re more directly related to education stuff…the only other one I can think of is Queen Bees and Wannabes), so I don’t have a frame of reference. That’s crazy most of them have no documentation!

  18. February 22, 2010 7:13 am

    Thanks for posting your thoughts on the Ishiguro! I read The Remains of the Day a few weeks ago and was completely blown away by its loveliness and fell helplessly in love with it. I didn’t have great luck with Never Let Me Go, but now I want to read more Ishiguro and have been wondering where to go next! It probably won’t be this one, but I’m thinking Pale View of Hills…

    • February 24, 2010 12:11 pm

      I LOVED Pale View of Hills (and Remains), but it’s much more experimental and doesn’t tie up any loose ends. Just warning you now! ;)

  19. February 22, 2010 8:25 am


    This is Lori Tharps, one of the authors of Hair Story. First off, as an author, I have to say thank you for reading so much. You’ve got a great blog here.

    Second, thanks for posting about Hair Story. It always amazes me to find out what makes people pick up our book. I’m glad you found it informative, which was our main goal in writing it, but if you’re looking for more stories about Black women and body image, you might want to read, Naked: Black Women Write About their Hair, Lips, Skin etc…it’s edited by my co-author Ayana Byrd and Akiba Solomon. It is an amazing collection of first person essays all relating to body image issues — both positive and negative.

    Also, if you’re looking for more books by authors of color, you should check out Orange Mint & Honey author Carleen Brice’s website, She has created a new website that introduces White readers to authors of color they might not have heard of. It’s really a useful resource.

    Thanks again and I’ll def. be coming back to your site.

    • February 24, 2010 12:12 pm

      Hi Lori! Thanks for popping by and for your gracious comment. :) That Naked book sounds so interesting; I’ll have to ILL it at some point. I’ve had Brice’s blog in my reader for a few months-it’s definitely a great resource!

      Oh, and I originally discovered Hair Story after reading so many great reviews of your book Kinky Gazpacho. I definitely intend to read that one this year too!

  20. February 22, 2010 10:09 am

    Wow you have some great titles here. Hope you enjoy them and your week!

  21. February 22, 2010 12:55 pm

    funny. I have naturally very curly thick hair. I get it chemically straightened and spend 30 minutes in the morning (when I go out) drying it properly so it will stay straight all day.

    Why are we never happy with what we have?!

    • February 24, 2010 12:14 pm

      That is funny! The grass is always greener right? :) My ideal hair would be wavy-then I could straighten it or curl it relatively easily, and it would look great naturally too. But my mom & sis both have that style hair, and it drives them crazy! lol

  22. February 22, 2010 6:12 pm

    Hi Eva,

    I’ve come to your blog via Marg’s. I’m an Australian author & book blogger (although I have a relatively well known yoga blog, too). However,in my real, working life, I’m an anthropologist, and I find myself reading almost every book thru an anthropologists’ eye, absorbing and analyzing the cultural nuances of the characters, the setting and the writer.

    Thus, I really enjoyed your sharing of Hair Story and also Nurture Shock with us. This latter book is of great interest to me, as I’m a Gen-x mum (not a mom). My experience as a mother is of being made to feel guilty because of doing or not doing certain things, and even that I needed to be naming, clothing and socialising my children in certain ways, mainly to make them better consumers! My response was to opt out of playgroups, mothers’ groups, school-based groups because I just couldn’t stand the rubbish my cohorts were going on with (oooohhh, Trini, you must have a Peg Perago, Osh Kosh, send little William to toddler opera lessons).

    I think I will get this book and give it a read!

    • February 24, 2010 12:16 pm

      Hi Amanda! Marg is great, isn’t she? :) I’m not sure Nutureshock is going to overly appeal to you; as I mentioned in my post, a lot of the book still seemed focus on parents ‘maximising the potential’ of their kids, which I find odd. If I ever have children, I’ll opt out of the yuppy craziness too! ;)

  23. February 22, 2010 6:41 pm

    Whoa, I think I read When We Were Orphans, and then completely forgot about it, because the plot sounds familiar. I’m not sure if I want to give it another try, given that you weren’t crazy about it, though I have been thinking of reading a new Ishiguro book. (I save them for myself as treats.)

    • February 24, 2010 12:17 pm

      lol! I did really enjoy it, and I LOVED the first two-thirds. I just didn’t want to marry it and have its babies, which is how I’ve felt about the other Ishiguro novels I’ve read. ;) (And I’m like you-I save them for treats too!)

  24. February 22, 2010 7:07 pm

    I love the idea of Hair Story, such a fascinating topic. It’s going on my list of books to buy once I get rid of about 50 books from my shelves…so hopefully sometime late this year. :)

    • February 24, 2010 12:17 pm

      Good luck clearing out your shelves! It’s an awesome cover, isn’t it?

  25. She permalink
    February 22, 2010 7:25 pm

    The topic of Hair Story just seems so neat!

  26. February 24, 2010 9:23 am

    “But I love the kind of women’s issues books that feel as if a group of us are sitting around drinking tea & coffee and chatting.”

    Given your comments on Hair Story (and I have to say that I love the pun in their subtitle), I think you might enjoy Jennifer Baszile’s memoir; there is one scene in there, in particular, that I think you’d appreciate, but I think you’d respond to the “feel” of the work overall. My thoughts on it are here. As always, I’ve enjoyed your summaries.

  27. February 24, 2010 9:54 am

    Your review of Hair Story reminded me that I want to see Chris Rock’s documentary “Good Hair” that came out last year. He talks to celebrities and non-celebrities about various issues related to African American women’s hair. It’s not just interviews though – I think he goes around to places connected to the subject (e.g. salons). It’s on DVD now, I believe.

    Also, I read Passing by Samaria when I was in high school. I think I was happy to find Christian fiction in my library that wasn’t about white people, but the flaws that you mention I noticed too. There’s the one character who goes on and on and on about the dangers of a slippery male acquaintance. Also yeah, the switch in perspective to white women who are known by the color of their eyes – that was weird.

    • February 24, 2010 12:19 pm

      I REALLY want to see that documentary. My library doesn’t have it yet on DVD, but I’m impatiently awaiting it! I’m glad you feel similarly about Passing By Samaria; the way the player was written about almost as a serial killer kind of cracked me up. lol

  28. February 26, 2010 5:44 pm

    I too am a devotee of Ishiguro (Remains of the Day has got to be one of the most profoundly teachable books I have ever read, and every time I read it it gets better and better), but When we were Orphans is the only book of his I actively disliked. It was many years ago, so I have now blocked out/forgotten the exact nature of my dislike, but I think it was that for me (as you said) nothing ever cohered into meaningfulness. All of his other works (that I have read – I still haven’t read a few) are remarkable cohesive – you can count on them being remarkably carefully structured to produce a final tableau of possible meanings, even if that structure isn’t evident for much of the novel. But it just never happened with WWWO, for me.

    Meanwhile, I was interested to read your thoughts on NurtureShock. I had been wondering about it since reading good reviews in “Bookmarks.”


  1. sunday salon the groggy post a striped armchair  Forums discussion updates in 2010 |
  2. Black North American Authors « Diversify Your Reading
  3. Asian European Authors « Diversify Your Reading
  4. When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro « The Sleepless Reader
  5. Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar (thoughts) « A Striped Armchair
  6. When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro « The Sleepless Reader

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