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Showing posts from September, 2008

Materialism as Identity

37. The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer Only one concept separates this book from a thousand others like it. Unfortunately, persecution is not a new or even relatively rare subject, and so it is often unnecessary to read more than a few of this genre before getting a taste of the pain often personally experienced by authors. The Septembers of Shiraz is fiction, but loosely based on the experience of the author's family. The year is 1981. The place, Iran. The father of a wealthy Jewish family is imprisoned, innocent of the accusation-Zionist spy. Sofer alternates between the father's musing and experience in prison, his wife's anguishing search, his nine-year-old daughter's thoughts, and the feelings of his nineteen-year-old son attending university in New York. Some of the coincidences are unbelievable, such as that Shirin, the daughter, discovers a file on her uncle at a friend's house and hides it. Sofer stretches credibility unnecessarily, the sheer intensi

Ever Want To Be Sleepless?

36. Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress I gave Kress another chance, and am so overwhelmingly glad I did. The Hugo and Nebula awards were well deserved. Beggars in Spain is the story of humans genetically modified to be Sleepless, awake 24/7, never tiring, and how the "Sleeper" majority population turns on them. Sleepless, due to the way they are engineered, are happier, more intelligent, and live longer than Sleepers. As the first generation begins to grow up, Sleepers become jealous of their superhuman abilities and slowly begin to prohibit them from competitions and businesses, de facto or de jure, because of their unfair or "inhuman" advantages. The main character, Leisha Camden, is part of that first generation and she is born in 2008. Kress deftly portrays the effects of American politics, ideals, and economics on the national social psyche. Americans strive to better themselves, thus the rise of the Sleepless, but a society based in individual achievement, wit

American Born Chinese Disconnect

35. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan The title is my own clever nod to the Indian-American ABCD acronym. If you're curious, read Born Confused by Tenuja Desai Hidier. There's lyric prose for modern youth if there is any. The Joy Luck Club was published in 1989 but it is a novel of 1940s China and 1950s and '60s U.S. More than a book, this is a collection of reflections from Chinese-born mothers and their American daughters. The New York Times Book Review, quoted on the back cover, used the word "vignettes." I like the sound of the word, and in this case the meaning is perfectly applicable as well. It is not so much the stories that are important, though the history and sense of displacement are, but the feelings of the characters toward each other. The crux of the book is the never even close to breached chasm between an immigrant mother and assimilated daughter. The book is amusing in places, certainly tragic, even hopeful, but it reminds readers (poignantly) of

Magic? Just Kidding

34. The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie You don't read Rushdie for historical accuracy. However, I do love how this novel encompassed the coexisting worlds of Renaissance Italy, Mughal India, Persia, and the just discovered New World. I happen to think it was one of the most fascinating times in world history. The novel is a series of stories within stories, with a charming disregard for chronology. You won't be able to keep track, especially at first, and it won't matter too much either, let Rushdie carry you gently from moment to moment. A yellow-haired stranger appears at the court of Akbar the Great (of India) with the tale that could loosely be called the Enchantress's. The cover asserts that this is a novel about women of the past reasserting themselves, and while this may be technically true, I wouldn't call this a book about female empowerment. The central female character forges her own destiny, yes, but she relies heavily on men, and seems to b