After a demanding semester during which many life decisions were made over many cups of coffee, it’s great to be back on the blog 🙂 If you read my previous post Why I’ve Been Blog-Quiet, you’ll know that this book’s review was set for the presses in February (!). Then, the first of many rattling executive orders from the 45th president was announced. The Muslim Ban, targeting Iranian immigrants among others, was scarily relevant to this book’s protagonist. The event rattled me into a long state of pondering and critical evaluation.
Thanks to encouragement from friends, on and outside the blog world, I’ve decided to finally publish the review. As the work from the semester subsides, I am excited to re-start blogging.
With much love, I share with you a wonderful book:
Story can do many things, but its greatest capacity, particularly in this time of division, is the power to inspire understanding of lives outside our own. Some books are a deeply-felt, resonant encounter with another’s truth.
My first read of 2017 was one such book.
The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez is told from the alternating perspectives of the working-class residents of an apartment building, all immigrants from Latin America. The principal storyline follows the newest tenants: Alma and her husband Arturo, who seek a better future for their teenage daughter Maribel, who suffered a tragic accident in México. Once they arrive, a bond develops between Maribel and the neighboring family’s teenage son, Mayor – a closeness that skirts a first, blushing romance.
This is a story about the passions, fears, celebrations, and determination of immigrants to the United States.
“Today is my last chance to try to convince someone – or fate – to help me find a way to stay in America.
To be clear: I don’t believe in fate. But I’m desperate.”
High school senior Natasha has just twelve hours to find a way to keep her family from being deported to Jamaica. Daniel knows his Korean immigrant parents expect a lot of him; suit-clad, he’s on his way to a college admissions interview, on a train speeding him toward what he calls “adulthood (misery, predictability, absolutely no fun will be had by anyone)”. She’s a cool science nerd, and he’s a poet.
One chance encounter in New York City. One day. This isn’t your ordinary girl-meets-boy.
Intrepid readers, I am so excited to share this book with you all. It’s a book that deserves all of the hype that’s surrounded it since its release in November. Fate and physics converge in this intricately unfolding explosion of stories that highlight the intensity and interconnectedness of human lives.
Two sets of words.
It is impossible not to be entranced by Enchanted Air, a book that is as beautiful and buoyant as it is acutely observant. In this work of memoir in verse, Margarita Engle transports readers back to the early 1960s: Told in short free verse pieces, Enchanted Air follows Engle’s early adolescent years traveling between Cuba and the Los Angeles. When Margarita and her sister travel to see their mother’s family in Cuba, Margarita feels like a truer version of herself than the one who lives in smoggy Los Angeles – as if she had an “invisible twin who never left this island.”
The vacations are curtailed when the Cold War casts fear and suspicion in the United States. With their Cuban mother and Ukrainian American father, Margarita struggles with a profound sense of fragmentation. But in spite of tense sociopolitical relations, Engel shows how hope can always be found in books, writing, travel, and art.
And of course, since I’m always interested in the connections between literature and the real, lived experiences of immigration, I’ll be connecting this book to the experiences of transnational teens today: specifically, Palestinian American teenagers growing up in the U.S. during the Israel-Palestine conflict, just after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Engle’s book and the accounts of these American teens will hopefully shed light on each other and ever-evolving definition of “American.”
Today, I am so excited to share a book that instantly spoke to my own life – one of those rare, brilliant shimmers of belonging. You know the feeling. When a book knows you so well, it puts words to your inarticulate emotions. When a book is a beacon light of not-alone-ness.
Full disclosure: Advanced Readers copy obtained as a gift from a friend whose parents own a small bookstore. (I love this friend all the more for bringing this book into my life.)
Growing up, I didn’t think that Filipina girls were important enough to be the heroine. Happily, I was wrong. Read on, and maybe, in ways different from mine, this book will be a light for you, too.
Pull up a chai and get ready for Intrepid’s first book review for Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed!
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (2015)
First things first: The cover is a gem. A teenage girl with long, dark hair looks wistfully up at a crescent moon. She’s bordered by a stunning, jewel-toned blue and purple pointed arch.
“They will accept us one day,” I insist… “One day, we’ll show them there’s another way to look at all of this. I wasn’t exactly planning to fall for you. I just did. It’s going to happen to them too.”
By the end of senior year, 17-year-old narrator Naila has finally convinced her parents to let her go to college and become a doctor. Her parents, conservative Pakistani immigrants, have let their daughter make more or less her own choices, except for one: Years ago, they told Naila that while she could choose her clothes and her career, they would decide on her husband.
The one knot in the plan is that Naila has already fallen in love with Saif, the dreamy boy on the soccer team, and they have been secretly dating for a year.
When the secret gets out (in a spectacularly nasty blowup), Naila’s parents book a last-minute summer vacation to Pakistan. As the summer passes, Naila becomes slowly aware that her parents have an arranged marriage in mind – and that they don’t plan on her leaving Pakistan anytime soon.