National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – Amy Tan


Amy Tan | LibraryThing

This post is part of a feature at Jorie’s Reads called “Celebrating Asian – Pacific American Authors! that Candice P. of WarmCuppaTea and I are doing this May.

I recall going with my mom and her friends to see The Joy Luck Club which was based on Amy Tan’s bestselling novel of the same name. While I heard afterwards that the movie greatly differed from the book which inspired it, I looked forward to reading the book someday. Later on, as I read Tan’s books, I became riveted by these relationships. Tan really shines when it comes to rendering a portrait of the mother-daughter relationship.

As the Literature Resource Center says:

Novelist Amy Tan was born in 1952, in Oakland, California, to Chinese immigrant parents. Her father, John Tan, emigrated to the United States in 1947 and worked as an engineer before he became a Baptist minister. Tan’s mother, Daisy, came to the United States after her first marriage crumbled due to spousal abuse; although she had three children by her former husband, Chinese law at that time would not permit a divorced woman to gain custody of her offspring and Daisy kept her first family a secret from her American-born children for many years. It was only after she lost her oldest son, Peter, and her husband to brain cancer that Daisy would reveal her past. Still a teen at the time of the death of both her father and brother, Tan grew up with her younger brother in her mother’s home, a fact that is reflected in the primacy of mother-daughter relationships within her fiction.

Of course, these elements rise to the surface in Tan’s writings. It’s been a while since I’ve read The Joy Luck Club or The Kitchen God’s  Wife. Still, these characters and situations remain with me. They became the standard in my future reading. Tan’s writing has been rather formative in my reading life.

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National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – Jhumpa Lahiri


Jhumpa Lahiri | Goodreads

This post is part of a feature at Jorie’s Reads called “Celebrating Asian – Pacific American Authors! that Candice P. of WarmCuppaTea and I are doing this May.

My first memory of Jhumpa Lahiri was of the author talking about her new novel The Namesake with TV hostess Martha Stewart back in 2003. Lahiri’s description of Bengali immigrants having a son in Boston compelled me to request this book at HCPL. When her novel arrived, I could hardly put it down to eat or sleep.

According to the Gale Literary Database, Lahiri:

Born 1967, in London, England; daughter of a librarian and a teacher; married Alberto Vourvoulias (a journalist), January 15, 2001; children: two. Education: Barnard College, B.A.; Boston University, M.A. (English), M.A. (creative writing), M.A. (comparative literature and the arts), Ph.D. Addresses: Home: New York, NY.

As I’m not a big fan of short stories, I held off on reading her other books for years. Nonetheless, I gave in and was pleased with both of these collections. My only complaint was that I wanted to know more about these characters.

So, why am I making such a fuss? These characters, most of them of Bengali descent, are so different from me but I can identify with them. That’s Lahiri’s magic. Just give her a try and you’ll be mesmerized as well.

For Candice’s profile on Tite Kubo, check out her post “National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – Tite Kubo – Creator of Bleach“.

 

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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