more focus, miss mori

I'm a cinematic addict but I like books, too.

Kafka on the Shore - Philip Gabriel, Haruki Murakami

Extremely confused about this book -- will try to collect my thoughts in a review eventually.

No-No Boy

No-No Boy - John Okada Wow. This book took an effort -- not because it dragged on or anything, but because it's one of the most intensely introspective and observant books I've ever encountered.

I can very clearly see why No-No Boy was unpopular in the AsAm community when it was first published -- John Okada specifically and unflinchingly addresses topics that are almost invariably uncomfortable for AsAm readers (myself included) to pick through. The byproducts of the model minority myth. The generation gap. Immigrant self-preservation. Anti-black prejudice. Self-hate. The constant need to prove ourselves American and "not the enemy." Many of the things we AsAms are intimately familiar with, and yet are almost never adequately addressed in the mainstream texts and discourse of American history and race relations.

In a nutshell, no-no boy Ichiro Yamada's brooding, raging introspection rolls all of this into one tumultuous account of the fallout from the internment, at times self-hating, at other times confused, and at all times cynical in the way that only a postwar man in his twenties could be. Veteran Kenji Kanno takes over a portion of the novel as a sorrowful characterization of the lives of Nisei and the crushing disconnect between 2nd-generation AsAm children and their parents. Despite Kenji's mellow and resigned manner, both men have visibly suffered (physically, socially, sexually, mentally) at the hands of the injustice of the internment, their identity crises, and the hatred and isolation from other Japanese American men.

Okada dissects the things AsAms felt we had to historically do and still feel that we have to do (to ourselves, to our AsAm parents and brothers and sisters and friends, even to other PoC) in order to give up parts of our precious cultures and assimilate, even while the ugly perpetual foreigner stereotypes continue to carve and brand themselves onto our (very American) souls.

It's not a pretty picture at all, but Okada doesn't try to make it one. That's exactly what makes this novel so powerful.

Vietnamerica: A Family's Journey

Vietnamerica: A Family's Journey - GB Tran ATTN: THIS WILL BE THE WORST, MOST EMOTIONALLY DISTRAUGHT REVIEW YOU WILL EVER READ
perfect perfect perfect
i know exactly how g.b tran felt when he wrote this
the golden spiral panels were so genius in this book
somebody please get me a tissue or two or two hundred
2nd generation hurts
i will re-read this and then re-read it again and again
AND THAT LAST SCENE. WHEN THEY FLEE SAIGON AND THERE'S A FADE TO BLACK. MORE TISSUES, PLEASE.
the colors -- why do i suddenly have an emotional investment in colors?
this book is so stylistically true to itself
the artwork is perfectly elaborately chaotic

(it's so confusing and you lose track of characters and storylines a lot, yes, but that's exactly how it feels like to be the child of refugees, just as he and i are, and he expresses it so painfully and precisely without even saying it)

IN SUMMARY:
I cried a lot.
I also laughed sometimes.
But mostly I cried.
I will probably write a better review in the future. Maybe, maybe not.
G.B Tran, I need to read more from you.

Borderliners

Borderliners - Peter Høeg, Barbara Haveland This book intrigues me.

This book confuses me.

(And I think that's okay.)

Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again - Thanhha Lai This was a beautiful poem. Everything about the way Thanhha Lai shares her story rings genuinely heartbreaking. When she shows us Vietnam through the eyes of Ha, with her temper and her sharp innocence, the family portrait that's unwrapped before us is one that is lightly and lovingly sketched, even amidst the confusion that surrounds Ha in this immediately post-Saigon setting. You promptly understand the depth of Ha's brothers and mother and father and neighbors and their emotions with the placing of a handful of phrases each, even while Ha is just discovering this. For me this was profound -- as an author, Lai shows how simple it could be to peer into one other's emotions, even in a scary or unpredictable world.

Ethan Frome (Penguin Classics)

Ethan Frome - Elizabeth Ammons, Edith Wharton The introduction was totally worth it. The rest of the novel was a super-depressing male & socioeconomic version of Kate Chopin's The Awakening, complete with the obligatory suicide-attempt ending.

I get why it's good. Starkfield is portrayed as true to its name as it gets. I'm supposed to pity sympathize with Ethan -- and I did -- but this book succeeded a bit too much in making his situation miserable for him, so much so that his situation was miserable for me to read.

Chairs in the Rafters (Kindle Single)

Let Me Write: Key Words Reading Scheme 3c - Ladybird Publishing A bit overt with the symbolism, but a very atmospheric, elegant, and tragic story all the (short) while, too.

The Awakening

The Awakening - Kate Chopin Eh.

I mean, I could see Edna's suicide coming from around chapter 4.

Soy Sauce for Beginners

Soy Sauce for Beginners - Kirstin Chen This book was foodie heaven and a nearly gospel-like tribute to its settings.

Also Gretchen is pretty cool. She clearly needs to get her life together at the beginning, but even so you can tell through her narration that she's trying her best to keep calm despite the fact that her problems are so hard for her -- or anyone -- to solve. She goes from being 100% dedicated and faithful to her (white, American professor) husband to divorcing him for cheating on her with a much-younger Japanese girl to finding a Singaporean boyfriend to wavering to having to decide between the two men to "SCREW IT, I'M JUST GONNA TAKE CARE OF MY MOM AND RUN MY DAD'S SOY SAUCE BUSINESS."

American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese - Gene Luen Yang I've been looking forward to reading ABC for a while, given the depressing lack of lit for an Asian-American teenager like myself to read about...well, being Asian-American. And I'm glad to say that I'm completely satisfied and faith-restored by it. This graphic novel really, really touched me. While I realize that it's telling the story of Asian-American guys (which is, patently, a very different experience from my own as a girl), Yang was still able to perfectly illustrate and articulate every frustrating instance I've personally had with casual racism and stereotype-based snubbing that I might not even have been able to vocalize or even notice, sometimes.

Part of its appeal was the storytelling that was profoundly and self-deprecatingly witty in a very similar manner to one of my favorites, Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

As with True Diary, I enjoyed this so much that it took me a half hour to dissect this from cover-to-cover.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn : An Authoritative Text Contexts and Sources Criticism (Norton Critical Edition)

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn : An Authoritative Text Contexts and Sources Criticism (Norton Critical Edition) - Mark Twain 3.5

Kiss of Death (Scarlett Wakefield Series)

Kiss of Death - Lauren Henderson Decent, tight plot observant enough to make great points about British aristocracy (in my humble and likely misinformed opinion, anyway) but not self-aware enough to make any point a subtle one. Also it starts to get annoying when descriptions of the characters' personalities go downhill from class struggle backstory study to depending on physical characteristics to make a point.

Like, one moment Scarlett talks about how her looks mark her as a Wakefield and thus doomed to her family legacy, which was definitely a valid point... and then she talks about how her aunt doesn't look like a Wakefield and thus is so horrible and inheritance-jealous and she wears orthopedic shoes, too, MAJOR UGH! Ticked me off.

Telex from Cuba

Telex from Cuba - Rachel Kushner Let me begin with a disclaimer that I know exactly cero about the Cuban Revolution, despite the American school system's attempts at educating me on the Bay of Pigs... (All I know is that Guantanamo used to be a 50s American heyday small town before it became what it is now.)

...which would explain my confusion at who the heck Clavelito, Gonzalez, and La Maziere (if he was even real? idk, i read that he was based on some other revolutionary arms dealer) were, which in turn detracted from my reading experience.

But other than that, I love, love, love Rachel Kushner's prose in this novel. Brilliant stuff.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike - Christopher Durang Hilarious play! I can really imagine basketball-swish-over-the-shoulder Sigourney nailing this part, but I really wish I saw the magic happening onstage *in person* this year.

Clybourne Park: A Play (Tony Award Best Play)

Clybourne Park: A Play (Tony Award Best Play) - Bruce Norris A wonderful play that addresses double standards and the evolution of racism conclusively and, more importantly, enjoyably. I felt a lot of influence from Death of a Salesman in particular, as well, which made this work feel well-choreographed and extremely thoughtful.

The Scourge of Muirwood (Legends of Muirwood: Book 3)

The Scourge of Muirwood - Jeff Wheeler This was a satisfying ending to a great series. However, though I more or less expected it, parts of the story made it a bit too obviously messianic for my tastes.

Currently reading

Blindness
José Saramago
The Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper
The Economist
The Economist Group