Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Reads – 2014 Edition


Asian Characters | morgueFile Free photos

Last year, I began recognizing various heritage months with a feature called Celebrating Authors. The inaugural section, Celebrating Asian – Pacific American Authors was a collaborative effort made by Candice P. of warmcuppatea. I managed to recognize two of my favorites – Jhumpa Lahiri and Amy Tan.
While this feature grew to include other author profiles, for 2014, I chose to showcase several books written by those of Asian and/or Pacific descent.
Just like Valentine’s and Easter, you can click on the covers, visit Jorie’s Store on Amazon, and shop for some great reading. Making purchases at Jorie’s Store funds future giveaways! 🙂
Samir and Yonatan  The Name Jar  Bindi Babes
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet  How My Parents Learned to Eat (Sandpiper Houghton Mifflin books)  Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
Never Let Me Go  Thousand Cranes  Girl in Translation
Interpreter of Maladies  The Piano Teacher: A Novel  The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic (Penguin Classics)
The Complete Persepolis  The Joy Luck Club  The Arabian Nights (New Deluxe Edition)
Doveglion: Collected Poems (Penguin Classics)  Monkey: Folk Novel of China  Millicent Min, Girl Genius
         

Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland


The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri | Jorie’s Store @ Amazon

 
Title and Author(s):  Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland
Release Date: September 24, 2013 

Publisher: Knopf 

ISBN: 978-0307265746
Pages: 352
Source: Shipment of Advanced Reader Copies (ARC) which arrived at Harris County Public Library 

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Reasons for Reading: Come on, this is Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest book! Check out my elation about getting my hands on the Advanced Reader Copy (ARC).

Summary: Subhash and Udayan Mitra are two brothers who grew up in Post-Partition Calcutta. Subhash, older by a mere fifteen months, and Udayan look alike. However, they’re very different people and have rather opposite destinies. In the 1960s, Udayan’s political fervor rises while Subhash seeks a scientific education in Rhode Island. In the midst of his studies, Subhash receives notice that Udayan was killed near their childhood home. Subhash returns to Calcutta to find the fractured Mitra family and Udayan’s widow, philosophy student Gauri haunted and stuck in those last moments of Udayan’s life. Subhash’s reaction and handling sets an extreme course for the lives Subhash, Gauri, and Mitra family.

One Thing I Learned from this book: Previously I’d heard of the Partition and of the Bengali people. However, I didn’t know much about the Partition of Bengal.

What I Liked: I was mesmerized by Lahiri’s writing style yet again. It’s as though she’s a Rembrandt of words! The way she understands her characters truly enthralls me. I was astonished by what a loving and caring man Subhash was. I’ve yet to visit India or Rhode Island but I have a clear idea of these settings.

What I Disliked: The story itself made me very weepy. I wanted to throttle characters. Most often, it was Gauri! However, Mr. and Mrs. Mitra weren’t my favorites, either. Also, it would’ve helped me if each section/chapter started with a date (at least the year) for when the action of the ensuing section took place.

RR - Orange

Rainbow Rating: Orange – Restricted from those under age 17 


Song:
The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby 

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For more, check out the following sites:

Seeing the Story – Life of Pi


Life of Pi | Jorie’s Store @ Amazon

Lee, A. (Director), Sharma, S. (Performer), Khan, I., & Hussain, A. (2012). Life of pi [Theater].

Reasons for Watching: I read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi a few years ago. I originally listened to the audiobook via HCPL and bought a copy of a paperback copy from the Freeman Bookstore.

Summary : Born Piscine Molitar Patel in idyllic Pondicherry, India takes on the nickname of Pi in order to avoid being called “Pissing Patel.”  Pi is the precocious son of a zoo keeper and becomes a Hindu, Christian, and Muslim simultaneously. As tensions grow in 1977, the Patels decide to immigrate to Canada via a Japanese freight boat. When the freighter wrecks, Pi finds himself in the middle of the Pacific on a 26-foot lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, all fighting for survival.

Book to Movie Adaptation : In the book, a few passages are narrated by an “author.” Mostly, the story was told by Pi himself. Early on, director Ang Lee lets viewers listen along with the author as Pi relates his story. For the sake of time, many things were condensed. While still living in India, Pi is old enough in the movie to have a love interest in the movie. Also, Pi’s mother , Gita (played by Tabu) was much less religious in the book. As a number of differences are spoiler-laden, I’ll refer the curious readers to 9 Big Differences Between The Life Of Pi Movie And Book.

Review :

Four Out of Five Pearls 

Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth


Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri | LibraryThing

Lahiri, J. (2008). Unaccustomed earth. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 9780307265739

Reasons for Reading : I’m not a big fan of short stories. However, as I’ve enjoyed Lahiri’s The Namesake, I pulled Unaccustomed Earth off the shelf at the HCPL branch where I work.

Summary: Lahiri tells eight stories of first generation Bengali Americans.  All these stories deal with the ups and downs of families and relationships.

Unaccustomed Earth is broken into two parts. Part I is comprised of the first five stories. Among them are “Unaccustomed Earth,” “Hell-Heaven,” “A Choice of Accommodations,” “Only Goodness,” and “Nobody’s Business.” The book is the namesake of “Unaccustomed Earth” tells of Ruma, a young mother in Seattle. When Ruma hosts her visiting widower father, she prepares for him to live with them. While her father tends to her garden and bonds with her son, he has his own ideas about what he wants to do. “Hell-Heaven” confronts the topics of social strata in both old and new worlds.  “A Choice of Accommodations” shares the nearly failed attempt of a husband to turn an old high school friend’s wedding into a romantic weekend for his wife. Lahiri tells of a sister who doesn’t know what to do about her alcoholic brother in “Only Goodness.” Part I ends with “Nobody’s Business,” a lovesick grad student watches his lovely Bengali roommate’s life implode.

Part II is called “Hema and Kaushik.” These three stories – “Once in a Lifetime,” “Year’s End,” and “Going Ashore” focus on two characters – Hema and Kaushik. Teenage Kaushik and his family stay with young Hema’s family. While they go on to lead very seperate lives, circumstances reunite them twenty years later.  

What I Liked : Lahiri’s writing style compels me to continue reading her work. I found myself empathizing with the jerkiest of jerks and understanding their plights. Lahiri’s talent shines from within Unaccustomed Earth.

What I Disliked : By the time I’m absorbed and enthralled in the story, it has ended! I especially wanted to read more about Hema and Kaushik.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: Nicola Conte – Dossier Omega – YouTube

Setting: Cambridge Massachusetts, Seattle, India, Italy, Thailand

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For more on Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth, check out the following sites:

Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot


The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides | LibraryThing

Eugenides, J. (2011). The marriage plot. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 9780374203054

Reasons for Reading : Yippee!!! Jeffrey Eugenides wrote another book. When I saw The Marriage Plot on the bestseller’s list, I added my name to the waiting list for a copy from HCPL

Summary: Starting the morning of Class of 1982’s graduation from Brown University, Madeleine Hanna faces the cold, hard reality of her breakup with Darwinist biologist Leonard Bankhead and very little promise of grad school in the near future. Her take on the marriage plot and Jane Austen’s novels hasn’t exactly wowed Yale Grad School. More immediately, she must deal with her parents. As the Hannas treat Madeleine to breakfast,  Mitchell Grammaticus, a student of Christian mysticism, who believes Madeleine is his soul mate. As Madeleine and Leonard make up and head out to a lab on Cape Cod, Mitchell takes a world tour, aiming to forget Madeleine.

What I Liked : Author Jeffrey Eugenides describes everything so well. I could see these dysfunctional characters. While I am a generation behind them, I still recognized the confusion of life beyond graduaton. Characters such as Madeleine and Mitchell were quite familiar because all three of us over-analyze practically everything.

The ending, which I will not reveal, was to my liking as well.

What I Disliked : One of my friends who read the book before I did warned me about some extra descriptive passages within the book. Going in with my eyes open, I found this book to have high cringe factor.

Also, I wished for more breaks – such as chapters. The Marriage Plot definitely is broken down into parts. However, these sections were, well, stealthy. With these Ivy League alum, much intertextuality can be found with the covers. That’s cool, especially the mention of Ludwig Bemelman’s Madeline. While this techniques offers context, it also made the book with the long sections seem infinitely longer. I’m not even going to touch the semiotics within, either.

I wanted to throttle, above all other characters, Leonard and Madeleine’s sister, Alwyn. Amongst a strange and disillusioned and delusional cast, these two deserved the padded cells and straight jackets the most.

Lastly, I liked both The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex better. Eugenides’ previous novels offered, above all else, unique narrators. The former spoke in the form of a group of men reflecting upon something from their adolescence while the latter had the incomparably omniscient Cal Stephanides. The Marriage Plot had ordinary third person omniscient points of view.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Talking Heads – “Once In A Lifetime” – YouTube

Setting : Providence, Rhode Island; Detroit, New York City, New Jersey; Portland, Oregan; Cape Cod, Boston, Provincetown, India, France, Ireland, Greece

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Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love


  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert | LibraryThing

    Gilbert, E. (2006). Eat, pray, love: [one woman’s search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia]. New York: Penguin Audio. 9780143058526

As I sought more material for the 2011 Non-Fiction Challenge, I requested Eat, Pray, Love through HCPL.  While I hardly recommend watching the movie before reading the book, I saw the film just a month or so before requesting the audio.

Thirty-something Elizabeth “Liz” Gilbert seems to have everything. She’s a successful writer and she’s married. Yet, she is completely miserable. So, after a bitter divorce and a tempestuous relationship with a younger guy, Liz seeks out pleasure and spiritual devotion. She treks through Italy, India, and Indonesia (Bali) during one year and journals her self-discovery.

There were some points I didn’t care for in the book but I’m really pleased that I checked out this audiobook. The book seemed natural and authentic, especially since Liz also narrated. It even led me to check out what is considered a sequel to Eat, Pray, Love. While I don’t agree with her on some spiritual aspects, I appreciated Liz relating her views.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Places: United States, Italy, India, Indonesia, Southeast Asia

Song:  YouTube – ‪Florence + The Machine – Dog Days Are Over (2010 Version)‏

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    • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
    • Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert
    • Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

 For more on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, check out the following:

 

 

The Infinite Possibility of Life of Pi


 

Life of Pi by Yann Martel | LibraryThing

* 1001 Books Book

Martel, Y., & Woodman, J. (2002). Life of pi a novel. Minneapolis, MN: HighBridge. 9781565117792

I remember when Good Morning America announced it’s next book club read was Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Life of Pi is a novel in three parts with one hundred chapters Since then, I have seen Life of Pi repeatedly listed among my friends’ favorite books. I decided I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about and I was in for a treat. I checked out the audiobook version of Life of Pi (it’s citation is provided above) and enjoyed it immensely.

Part One begins with a wandering author in search of a story. While in Pondicherry, the capital of what was French India, the unnamed writer meets the elderly Francis Adirubasamy. Adirubasamy mentions the great story of Pi Patel. This is one that “will make you believe in God.” The author says that only Pi can tell this story. On the audio, there are two voices: the one of the author and that of Pi.

We first meet Piscene “Pi” Molitor Patel as a middle-aged man living with his family in Canada. He double-majored in Religion and Zoology. He voices the question that this is such an odd pairing. From there, the audience discovers that Pi was the son of a weary zoo keeper and a follower of Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. His affinity for both animals and loving God is expressed fervently by Pi. He’s also quite witty; forming the nickname of Pi so he deals less with classmates destroying his given name. All of this is in the midst of the Indian period called “The Emergency.” Due to political instability experienced in 1977 India, Pi’s father makes the hard decision to sell the zoo and its animals and immigrate with his family to Canada.

So, the Patels and numerous animals who once resided at the Pondicherry Zoo, sail upon a Japanese cargo ship to Canada. Part Two presents the sinking ship. Jumping into the water, Pi pulls himself into a lifeboat. Soon, he finds himself on board with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan called Orange Juice, and Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger. As the back cover mentions, it takes Pi’s knowledge of animals and his faith to survive. When he does, can anyone really believe that he managed within such a menagerie?

I have learned much from this book. I learned all kinds of things about animals such as tigers can make a sound referred to as  “prusten” which means no harm. Another thing I found within Pi’s ordeal was that it would take a Kierkegaardian leap of faith not only to survive but to believe.  Allegorical or not,  Life of Pi is now one of my favorite books, too.

Places: India, Pacific Ocean, Mexico, Canada

4  1/2 Pearls.