Multicultural Reading Suggestions

Zora Neale Hurston, beating the hountar, or ma...

Zora Neale Hurston.Image via Wikipedia

Since I spent yesterday lamenting my love/hate relationship with the AA section, I wanted to spend today helping people diversify their reading list. I will be the first to admit that the AA section of most bookstores is not overflowing with great literature. You may have to go to Amazon, Overstock, or a bookstore website to get the books I would argue are worth reading, but it’s worth the extra effort (I recommend the library, as well. They usually have great exchange programs with other libraries if they don’t carry the book you want).

The selections that I am going to give you are composed from two sources: books I’ve read and books on my to be read list. I encountered many of them through classes such as Native American Literature, Women in Literature, African-American Literature, and through my own stumbling attempts to find other works by authors of short stories I liked from class. I will give you a very brief overview of what each book is about (what I remember). Feel free to take up any suggestions, and add your own in the comments section. *Note: These list is multicultural in that several cultures are represented here. No other claims of multiculturalism are being made.

  • The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston: I’ve read this book for classes at least three times, from junior year of high school to Women in Literature, this one keeps cropping up, and for good reason. Maxine Hong Kingston is the child of Chinese immigrants, born in America. She’s also edited a Best American Short Stories collection and written other books. This is a memoir.
  • There Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: This is the only book on the list I’ve read more than The Woman Warrior. I’ve read this ins Great American Books, African-American Literature, Zora Neale Hurston Major Author Study, Women in Literature, high school–everywhere, and once just for fun. This has some of my favorite literary quote. If you have issues trying to read vernacular, it can be tough going in spots, but Hurston’s prose it beautiful.
  • How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez: The story of a Spanish family (Puerto Rican, I think), whose daughters go through the identity crises brought up being raised in America in a different culture. The girls struggle to identify themselves and be acceptable to both their family and society.
  • The Godfather by Mario Puzo: Yes, I actually read this for a class. It is a novel about Italians and Italian-Americans, primarily in New York. Aside from some harsh language and violence, the story portrays the life of struggling immigrants, a little race relations in the poor areas of town, certain ideas that are associated with the Italian-American culture (loyalty and family), and the rise of mob/crime families.
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys: I’m sure many of you have read (and loved) Jane Eyre. If you’re like me and wondered about the wife in the attic (and thought she was done a disservice in that book), you may be interested in Wide Sargasso Sea. WSS tells the story of that wife, from her upbringing in the Caribbean to the fateful fire in Jane Eyre.
  • Love Medicine by Louise Erdich: A Native American novel encompassing generations of a Native American tribe. It’s a complicated one to try to explain, but well worth a read. It’s interesting to follow the evolution backwards and forwards in time and see the impact of losing their ancestral lands and their quickly disappearing languages and culture. Erdich’s writing is lyrical and crisp.
  • Persepolis by Majane Satrapi: The story of a woman’s early life to adult growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. Satrapi’s narrative shifts to her schooling in France as well. Told as a graphic novel in black and white, there are two books/parts to the tale. I bought the complete Persepolis. It’s a fast read and a rare look into a much maligned or misunderstood culture.

I’m going to have to break this up a bit. I’ll add more in the next post.

Happy Reading!

New Books: Optimism & Disappointment

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir at Bal...

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Image via Wikipedia

I’m nearing the end of the editing process on my dad’s book, after many exchanges of emails, drafts, corrections and etc. In celebration, I went out and bought a few books, even though I have a quite a few books in the to be read pile already. I walked away with some that called for optimism, and one that turned out to be a disappointment.

First, the disappointment. I bought a book of intimate letters between lovers. What I was hoping to find were actually the letters between Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre, and I did find a few in this book. However, I was also hoping to find other love letters that I had heard of and perhaps find some passages I may like to quote for the marriage kit book. The problem is, this book was totally wrong for that. Most of the letters weren’t from the nineteen hundreds. Secondly, many of the letters were to mistresses and extramarital lovers, not between actual spouses, and I don’t want to promote extramarital affairs in a book about what it takes to stay married! Not only were they letters between lovers, but there was one woman who was in there writing letters to three different lovers, both male and female! She really spread the love around. Another set of lovers met because they both loved the same woman, whom one of them was married to. It is not at all suitable for the work I’m trying to create, and the letters between Simone and Jean-Paul are skimpy. *Sigh*

The second book is one I think will come in handy. It’s called Woe is I. It’s a grammar book for a grammarphobe. I’m not a grammar phobe, but I’d like to keep my editing skills sharp, and I’m one of those geeky English people who gets excited reading about subject-verb agreement and when to use that or which. I also want to acquire Eats Shoots and Leaves (this was an independent book reseller, and I didn’t see it there), which I hear is phenomenal.

The third and final book was a book that I’ve heard praised from the rafters and is being made into a movie. No, not Water for Elephants (someone already gave me a copy of that one…and it’s in the to be read  pile). This one is a little debut novel called The Help. I want this type of buzz for my debut, and I can’t wait to read it.

Even though I had to leave a copy of The Known World behind, as well as some other books I would like to own, I’m proud of my restraint, and think 2/3 I chose were really good picks. I have to find the friends of the library bookseller here. I need cheaper Harlequin’s at a good price, and I love supporting the libraries!

What’s on your to be read list? Has your writing taken presidence over reading lately? Are you researching? If so, what are you reading? Just don’t make it sound too good; I just may have to add it to an already full list of my own!

Let’s Talk Books

I’ve been spending so much time lately going over my current projects that I haven’t said a word about books or reading in quite some time. Reading is an essential part of my day, no matter what it is that I’m reading. I read several times a day. In the last few days, three Harlequins have met their match (all very good, by the way ;-)). But I have also been reading other books.

During my lunch break, I’ve been reading One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead (I think; going off memory). This book is all about consumerism and the wedding industry. I still have a little bit of book left, so I can’t give a full review, but I will say that Mead’s reasearch is thorough, and some of her findings are startling, to say the least. She also raises some big questions about why weddings are now so expensive, what we’ve been trained to think about them, and what big, expensive weddings are supposed to replace. I can’t wait to finish and review.

Also sitting on my shelf at the moment: Pledged: another nonfiction, investigative reporting style book investigating sororities. From the cover and introduction, it seems she focused on white sororities (that, and most non-white sororities are less likely to talk to her about their rituals and ways, seeing as though she is Caucasian, a non-member, and a member of the media); a book about a woman’s 40 day & night solo sojourn into the desert after a divorce (this is non-fiction as well); What Frenchwomen Know About Love, Sex and Men–pretty self explanatory, I should think; Faith Evans’ memoir, and; Heather Hunter’s attempt at fiction.

As you can see, their isn’t a lot of fiction; in fact, it leans heavily to investigative reporting style exposés and memoirs. While this is easier to jump back into (I usually read at lunch, while waiting, and in the evenings at home when I can), I can only guess the reason why I focused so heavily on these is because I’m going to be working on an investigative reporting style similar to Mead and others for the Marriage Kit book, and I’m going to be working on  a memoir of my college years. I’m taking a look at what works and doesn’t work in the genres, I guess you could say.

Does what you’re looking to write ever change what you are primarily reading? Are you a writer who stays away from all romance novels while you’re writing romance, or does your readership in the genre you are attempting to write in increase? How do you work reading into your day and not end up crowding out writing?