Book Review | Go Home! edited by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Edited by:
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Format:
Trade Paperback
Publication date:
March 13th, 2018
Publisher:
The Feminist Press at CUNY
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:

“My idea of home is a verb. Home is a straining towards belonging. For me the feeling of wanting to go home is home. For others, home is a place they want to escape, a place that doesn’t exist, a place that exists only in time, a place that exists in the breath of a parent, or the mouth of a lover. For some, home is geographical, but they cannot return because of political, financial, or personal reasons. Others are seen as foreigners in their chosen home…” (p. 2)

When I told one of my managers at work I was planning to visit Vietnam this summer she asked me if I was excited to “go back home”. Let me preface this by saying she meant no harm when she asked me that yet I found myself a bit taken back. Vietnam has never been “home” to me it’s been many things, like that boiling, hot country where my cousins and father’s siblings live, and the country where I never felt like I belonged despite speaking the language since apparently I walk and talk like a “foreigner” but it’s never been “home” to me.

Like with any collection, there are some pieces that speak to you while others you fail to connect with. When I first heard that there was going to be an anthology of Asian-American writers with pieces centering on the theme of “home” I was beyond excited! Even more so when I saw the list of featured writers. As it’s difficult to review an anthology as a whole, I’d thought I focus on a few pieces that truly stood out to me and share my thoughts on them.

First up is the foreword by Viet Thanh Nguyen which was both thought-provoking and powerful. I loved his writing in his short story collection The Refugees, and it is his foreword truly sets the tone as well as a high standard for the rest of the book.

“My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” by Mohja Kahf is a story that all of us children of immigrants can relate to, as it’s so much easier to look down on our parents and grandparents for what we think are odd traditions than to defend them against the scrutiny of others. The simultaneous feelings of embarrassment of your parents and shame of not being to stand by them are definitely feelings I can relate to. It the end it was a hauntingly, relatable story that remains in my mind well after I finished this anthology.

“Elegy” by Esmé Weijun Wang was my favourite piece in this anthology. It’s a nonfiction piece about how the writer discovers she’s gluten intolerant and her journey of coming to terms with the implications it has on her family and culture. I liked how she and her husband were able to create their new feeling of “home” for her by adding their own twists to her favourite foods so that she may be able to continue to enjoy them,.

Finally, while I am not a diehard poetry fan yet I did enjoy Jason Koo’s “Bon Chul Koo and the Hall of Fame”. As someone who also has a father who is an immigrant, I could definitely relate to this poem about the awkward attempts to bond with your father as an adult. Both my siblings and I do ask our dad more about what his life was like back in Vietnam as we are now old enough to appreciate these stories that he is more than happy to share with us.

As a whole, Go Home! felt a bit lackluster. However, there were several standout pieces in this anthology, and I do believe that all the voices and stories in this collection are important additions to Asian Literature that do need to be heard.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Am I There Yet? The Loop-de-Loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood by Mari Andrew

Authour:
Mari Andrew
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
March 27th, 2018
Publisher:
Clarkson Potter Publisher
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“If you stumble,” she said, “that’s a great sign. It means you found your edge. You tried something that didn’t work, and now you know.”  (p. 15)

If you are on Instagram, you may be familiar with the name, Mari Andrew or have seen illustrations her Instagram account, bymariandrew where she posts meme like illustrations that are incredibly relatable, especially if you are in your twenties and still struggling to find your way through life. However, not only is she a talented artist, she is also a writer!

Am I There Yet? The Loop-de-Loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood is her first book, a memory graphic novel that collects her illustrations alongside essays that give readers insight into the stories behind her drawings. Of course, the main draw for me was the drawings, however, I did find a few of her essays interesting and they do perfectly compliment the illustrations.

Divided into eight sections, my favourite is her section on “Finding Purpose” in addition to the one titled, “Finding Yourself”  as I love the travel illustrations and stories and the advice contain in both chapters. I also enjoyed the chapter called, “Love and Dating” since it contained the most entertaining and hilarious illustrations. I loved sharing the illustrations with my friends as there were several drawings that they felt truly captured their life and feelings in their twenties.

Am I There Yet? is the perfect book for anyone who feels as if they should have had all their sh*t figured out by their twenties and are stressed to find that this not the case now that they are in their late twenties. By sharing her own (ongoing) journey to adulthood, filled with heartbreak, love, loss, rejection and of course adventure, Andrew creates a comforting read assuring readers that they are not alone in this feeling of confusion. And that’s where ever you decide to go or whoever you decide to be, you’re going to be okay.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Shrewed: A Wry and Closely Observed Look at the Lives of Women and Girls by Elizabeth Renzetti

Authour:
Elizabeth Renzetti
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
March 6th 2018
Publisher:
House of Anansi Press
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
I had seen Elizabeth Renzetti’s Shrewed: A Wry and Closely Observed Look at the Lives of Women and Girls on social media for a while, however it wasn’t until I saw Kaley from Books Etc. rave about it that I was intrigued enough to pick up a copy.

A collection of feminist essays by Globe and Mail columnist, Elizabeth Renzetti Shrewed is a timely read given the current social climate. Shrewed was also one of those books that I immediately devoured as soon as I snagged a copy owing to the fact that it was exceptionally well-written. While there are countless books being released that focus on issues facing women and feminism, it was refreshing to read one from a Canadian perspective. I appreciated this given that despite being geographically right by each other, there remain some significant differences between Canada and the USA.

Among all the essays contained in Shrewed the first essay, “The Voice in Your Head is an A**hole” stood out to me, as it was truly relatable since I have often passed on applying for jobs for the reason that I felt I did not meet enough of the qualifications even though I know my colleagues especially male ones or even my father or brother wouldn’t hesitate if they were me. Likewise, her essay on how encouraging “fearlessness”, especially in our girls, can be a foolhardy concept was equally compelling. The essay was incredibly honest in explaining how a little fear and anxiety is necessary for humans, and that not letting your fear rule, this does not mean that you shouldn’t be smart about your choices. Finally, I also enjoyed her essays that were framed as letters to her daughter, son, and even to her younger self as they were full of truth and authentic wisdom.

Funny at times, and always frank, and inspiring Shrewed made me self-reflect a great deal about my life so far and about what the future has in store not just for me but for women in general. This is why I love that the Renzetti’s Shrewed ends with a message on how women and girls should not be afraid to be “loud” and “take up space” and that men shouldn’t be fearful of sharing these “spaces”. After all, there is more than enough room for us all.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Midweek Mini Reviews #13


Love Me True: Writers Reflect on the Ins, Outs, Ups and Downs of Marriage edited by Fiona Tinwei Lam &  Jane Silcott 

This collection of essays and poems edited by writers Fiona Tinwei Lam and Jane Silcott focuses on the various stages of marriage. From the decision to get married to the struggles to partings to celebrations and everything in between, there is a good variety of “stories” contained in this collection. Two of the pieces that stood out to me were Luanne Armstrong’s The Evolution of Marriage as it was the first piece to truly speak to mean and Betsy Warland’s Dear Son as it’s a letter filled with both wisdom and love to her son. And of course, I also enjoyed the Ayelet Tasbari piece as I’m a huge fan of her writing. Love Me True: Writers Reflect on the Ins, Outs, Ups and Downs of Marriage is a heartfelt collection and I definitely appreciated the diversity in the pieces that were selected to be part of the book. However, the biggest draw of Love Me True was the fact that the writers featured in this book were predominantly Canadian. In addition to familiar names like of Mandy Len Catron, Ayelet Tasbari, and Yasuko Thanh readers will be introduced to several other talented and diverse Canadian voices.

Would You Rather: A Memoir of Growing Up and Coming Out by Katie Heaney

At this point, I’ve basically read all of Katie Heaney’s books and I’d have to say that I think she is a stronger essayist than she is a fiction writer. Would You Rather is a follow-up to her début book and first memoir, Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date and let’s just say, her relationship status has changed significantly in between the two books. The main change has been the fact that Katie has realized that she is no longer attracted to men and is now content in a long-term relationship with her girlfriend, Lydia. I was intrigued by this book since I was looking forward to reading about how Heaney coming to terms with her sexuality. As always, her writing is quirky, honest and accessible due to its conversational tone. And while it took me some time to become invested in the book since not much actually happens, I did enjoy a few of the essays in Would You Rather. “OkCupid Redux” which is about Katie finally finding love with her girlfriend, Lydia was sweet and both “Roommates” and “Something New” easy to relate to. Would You Rather is an interesting exploration of what comes after you “come out” late in life and that along with all the usual confusion and changes, there is also the realization that somehow there will always be stuff to figure out. But isn’t that the case for all of us?

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Winter/Spring 2018 Preview (Raincoast Books)

Back in September, I got the opportunity to attend the Toronto session  at the Bloor/Gladstone Library. Hosted by Vanessa and Laura from Ampersand Inc. as well as Jenn from Lost in a Great Book, the event was a fun, snack-filled chance to watch the live stream with other book lovers of the actual preview event that was taking place in Vancouver, BC.

Since the end of November is much closer to 2018, I thought that now would be the perfect time for me to share with you guys my top four picks from all the titles that were showcased at the preview event.

1. Busted by Gina Ciocca (on sale January 1st, 2018)

This was the very first title that was presented during the preview. Pitched as “Veronica Mars meets 10 Things I Hate About You”, Busted is definitely a must read for contemporary YA fiction lovers. If you love Jenny Han and Morgan Matson then this one is recommended for you! Seeing as I’ve loved several books by both of those authors, I immediately added this one onto my TBR list. This book features spying and a protagonist who finds herself falling for the guy who she shouldn’t as not only is he unavailable he’s also her “mark”. Stay tuned for my review of this book in early 2018!

2. Wires and Nerves, Volume 2 by Marissa Meyer, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin (on sale January 30th, 2018)

Like many book bloggers, I’m a HUGE fan of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series. The graphic novels are set after the events of the main series, and they follow Iko who’s known as Cinder’s android best friend. The graphic novels find Iko teaming up with some familiar faces and I definitely can’t wait for the second and final volume to come out!

3. Brazen by Pénélope Bagieu (on sale March 6th, 2018)

The past year and a bit I’ve be really getting into feminist and empowering reads like The Mother of All QuestionsWonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History and Kelly Jensen’s Here We AreBrazen is the latest book to follow the trend of female empowering reads. The book features profiles of 29 different women and unlike the books before it, this one is told in graphic novel format! Combining with my love of comics with my growing interest in women’s history and stories, this book has made it high on my list of must reads for 2018!

4. How I Resist: Activism and Hope for the Next Generation by Maureen Johnson and Tim Federle (on sale May 1st, 2018)

Since this book doesn’t come out until May 2018, there’s not cover for it yet. Anyways lately given all that’s happening in the world right now, it’s no surprise to see an increase in books talking about human rights and activism. How I Resist features essays about activism and hope (which many of us can use during these times) from many well-known YA authors and actors that’s meant to inspire everyone not just the young people it’s targeting!

So what 2018 titles, are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below.