I am so happy to talk about the following three books! Usually I have a variety of scores, but this month I have three high-rated books that I would highly recommend.
These are all books I’ve read over the past month. This monthly feature is hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy.
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley – Hannah Tinti
After living like nomads for years, Samuel Hawley and his daughter Loo have finally settled down in the small seaside town of Olympus, MA., home of Samuel’s late wife. As Loo tries to find a place in this new town, not only is she haunted by her mother’s memory but her father’s past.
All over Samuel’s body are bullet wounds, and the stories behind them start bleeding into Loo’s life. As the secrets unfold, will Loo stand by her father or drift further away?
Twelve Lives is basically two different stories, Samuel’s and Loo’s, that come together by the end of the book. I really loved Samuel’s background and how each bullet is a layer of his life. While Loo’s coming of age story was fine, it was slightly upstaged by Samuel being a badass. Even though I knew Samuel would make it through each vignette, the action was tight and was close to a thriller.
The think the only fault for me was that the ending just felt a little off, can’t really put my finger on why. I think the vibe just felt different from the rest of the book. Nothing to ruin the book for me, just kind of knocked it down a peg.
Aside from that I think readers should give this book a chance, as I was really hooked by the relationship between father and daughter, and their different stories.
American Born Chinese – Gene Luen Yang
Three stories that seem unrelated…
Young Jin Wang only wants to fit in, but when his family moves to a new town, he can’t escape the constant racism and bullying from other kids. Jin’s desire to fit in intensifies when he falls from an all-American girl…
The powerful Monkey King wants more than to rule over his subjects, he wants to be accepted as a god by the other Chinese gods. Through he is a master of kung-fu and sees himself as their equal, they laugh at him. The Monkey King goes on a journey to be accepted as a god…
Chin-Kee is a horrible living embodiment of a chinese stereotype, followed by the laughs of a studio audience. His cousin Danny just sees him as an embarrassment that’s ruining his social life, as he has to switch schools every time Chin-Kee visits him…
These stories come together in an unexpected twist, a larger story about not forsaking one’s own identity.
I was a huge fan of Yang’s Boxers and Saints. At the time I wasn’t really reading non-superhero graphic novels. I loved my Marvel, but I was blown away by the story and the illustrations of Boxers and Saints. Immediately I put American Born Chinese on my TBR and I’m so happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed.
The three stories were heartbreaking, especially seeing Chin-Kee the stereotype, because I know that how bigots see people different from them. And how that character plays into the overarching story was a gut punch.
I was unsure how everything was going to come together, but I thought it was perfect. The ending might be the breaking point for some, as reality and fantasy come together. Honestly, I can’t see how it could have ended better.
Not only should adults read this book, but if you feel like your child can handle it (probably a mature middle grader would), then it’s more important that they read American Born Chinese.
Born A Crime – Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, recounts growing up under apartheid in South Africa where his birth was considered a crime. Trevor’s mother was a black Xhosa and his father was a white expat from Switzerland, and under apartheid they weren’t allowed to have relations, let alone a child. His parents could go to jail for five years.
Noah discusses his first years of hiding his true parentage, feeling like an outsider in South Africa, and how the deep racism of apartheid shaped his homeland.
I am so glad that I chose to read Born a Crime. This memoir was fantastic and I wanted more.
I’m not a huge fan of memoirs, or to be honest non-fiction in general, but I’ve been pushing myself to go outside my comfort zone with reading. I have a hard distancing myself from non-fiction, since the subject matter is real. But I don’t want to miss out on an important story because it affects me more than fiction.
After watching Noah on TV for a couple years and laughing at his political commentary, I saw an interview on CNN with him and I was surprised by his serious, introspective side. I’m happy that this side dominated the memoir. While the humor was stitched throughout, it took a backseat.
If you have any interest in the subject matter I would recommend getting a copy of Born A Crime ASAP!