Books · Thoughts · Uncategorized

Why Representation in Literature Matters

I grew up as the daughter of immigrants in a small white town in northern Utah that, according to Wikipedia, was 94% White in 1990. Though most of my childhood memories are happy ones that include luscious green grass, Aggie ice-cream (Aggie Blue Mint is the best!), Gossner’s cheese factory, and Pepperidge farm house cookies, I do remember feeling different from my peers. We lived in an apartment. We did not speak English at home. I looked, well, non-white. As different as I felt from them, I’m sure my neighbors and peers felt uneasy as well and did not know how to interact with my family. Although I didn’t blame them, it didn’t help me feel any less out of place.

I have always been an avid reader. I read everything including the Sweet Valley High series like any other girl of the 1980s and 1990s. The Wakefield twins were my idols, but there was never a time I could relate to them. White, rich, beautiful, and popular with other white friends. I soon grew out of my obsession with the Wakefield twins because they seemed too perfect to the point of being unrealistic. They were everything I was NOT. I wanted to read books and see myself more often, and I desperately wanted my peers to learn about ME so they could relate to my somewhat complicated life.

One Saturday morning, my mom took me to the library. I remember browsing around and picked up The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy’s Great Idea. I threw that book into my bookbag along with a few others from that series, not thinking much of it. But, The Baby-Sitters Club series changed my life and is still one of my favorite series to this day. For what felt like the first time, I noticed there were other girls out there just like me! I remember my twelve-year-old self wishing my peers would read books about immigrants or different ethnic groups so they would learn how to interact with me and respect me and my culture. Not only did The Baby-Sitters Club have an Asian-American character, Claudia, the series later introduced an African-American character named Jessie and diversified the series even more. But, there was another character in this series that made it special to me.

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Countless times I’ve been told I’m a walking miracle because I was born with multiple heart problems. Out of the several, I was born with, I have something called Single Ventricular Disease, which affects me the most. Since my heart must work overtime to pump blood, my oxygen levels are low which turns me blue, and I have difficulty breathing from time to time. Since my health condition isn’t visible, people often underestimate the toll it takes on me, and these limitations have made me feel out of place, and then I met Stacy from The Baby-Sitters Club. Stacy had Type I Diabetes, and in one story she wet the bed at a sleepover due to her health condition, and this occurrence makes her the laughing stock of her school. This one thing about Stacy impacted so many other parts of her life making forming friendships that much harder. Stacy’s story resonated with me so much because, like me, things beyond her control dictated so much about her quality of life. It’s hard to understand someone from the outside looking in, but I think books are a gateway to learning about others, gaining new perspectives, and learning how our differences should not make us withhold respect.

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I currently reside in Texas, and moving here from Utah has pushed me to expand my reading habits even more. I want to read books as diverse and colorful as the people who represent the community I now live in as well as those who are underrepresented. This means the inclusion of members of the LGBTQ community, all gender identities, people of color, and those who suffer from both physical and mental illnesses. It means to read their stories to learn of the everyday challenges they face and gain perspective of their lives and understand that though we are all different, we are all equal and deserving of all that is good.

Diana Eng is a blogger and lover of reading, teaching, writing, learning, and chocolate! She has spent most of her life in Utah and South Korea but currently resides in Dallas, TX with her best friend and husband of 5 1/2 years. You can find more of Diana on her book blog, Owl’s Little Library, as well as on Instagram.

 

Written by Diana Eng

Edited by My Lit Box (thank you!)

 

My original post can also be found on My Lit Box’s blog! There are also other great posts so check them out too!

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Book Review · Books

Recap of 2017: Book Flops

It pains me to write this post, but don’t worry, I will be writing a post about my favorite books next. Negative reviews about books. WHAT? But, some books (see below) left a bad taste in my mouth. So, let’s take a look of my least favorite books I read in 2017:

#5. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green: An extremely hyped up book that was a huge disappointment. I love how the author addressed a mental health issue. It’s something we all need to learn about and become aware of. However, although the author explored great topics, the flow of Turtles was extremely disjointed. I can’t really explain the plot because I don’t know what it was truly about. OCD/ anxiety disorder? Missing dad and his sons? Teenage love? The book as a whole felt jumbled up which ruined the flow. The writer goes all over the place with the themes in a really random order that completely threw me off. And the characters were not as developed as I’d hoped.  I know I am one of the very few that disliked this book. So, please let me know why YOU liked Turtles.

#4. Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang: Summary of the book: “Centered on a community of immigrants who have traded their endangered lives as artists in China and Taiwan for the constant struggle of life at the poverty line in 1990s New York City, Zhang’s collection examines the many ways that family and history can weigh us down and also lift us up.”

I wanted to like this book– a collection of linked short stories about Chinese immigrants (from the children’s perspective) in NYC. However, these stories are extremely dark, intense, and twisted. I read about half of it until I was deeply disturbed after reading about sexual violence towards children and a female teacher. The words used to explain these scenes were almost degrading and derogatory, so, I took it to Half Priced Books (and received a generous amount, woohoo!) This book is a prime example of why there are still so many negative stereotypes against Asians.

 

#3. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn: Summary of the book (from the actual book):  “In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.”

If the story had focused Eve, the spy during WW1, this book had the potential to be AMAZING. I LOVED Eve’s story so much. She was an unsung hero during WW1 and I found her story to be so heartbreaking. However, I disliked Charlie’s character so much the book as a whole felt as a disappointment. Charlie was irresponsible, immature, and risque. I applaud her for standing up for herself and keeping the baby she will have out of wedlock, but, she continuously calls herself “easy, slut” out of pity, yet makes the same choices by practically throwing herself onto the first man she meets. Second, I did not understand the emotional connection she had towards her cousin Rose. If Rose were her sister, maybe? I started skipping Charlie’s chapters only to stop when I realized I couldn’t read Eve’s story without reading about Charlie since their stories are intertwined. I wanted to like this book, but Charlie’s character completely ruined my experience with this book.

#2. On Beauty by Zadie Smith: I had really high expectations for this book. I LOVE Chimamanda Adichie and Smith is often compared to Adichie. I know both write about similar topics, but I found Smith’s writing too complex for no reason. I can’t really put my finger on why I didn’t like this book except for the fact that the characters and the plot did not draw me in. There was little to no character development so they fell flat, and the book begins with some sort of tension between the two families without the explanation. Therefore, I put it down after 1/3 of the book and have no desire to go back to it.

#1. Fates and Furies by Lauren Goff: I do not like the word hate, but I HATED this book. Surprisingly, I did finish it. Usually, if I don’t like a book, I’ll stop reading. (Offended? I know! Sorry!) Our dear President Obama said this was his favorite book of 2015. So, I went ahead and picked up a beautiful copy in England, only to be tortured by a book about marriage at its worst. Told from two different point of views – Lotto (Fates) and Mathilde (Furies). Both characters were so selfish, unrealistic, and disturbing. The author tears away at marriage from all different angles, and describes sex in overly grotesque ways (why use the word f**king when describing something so beautiful and sacred?). I did not understand the plot, too slow-paced, and there were not enough twists or turns to make it an enjoyable book. When I read a book, I always ask myself, “what is the author trying to prove?” Goff tries to prove that she is anti-marriage —  all men are sex-addicts that cheat, and all women have daddy-issues with insecurities. Although the writing was beautiful, and I enjoyed the Greek mythology elements, it was not enough to redeem this book.

Question: What were some of your 2017 book flops?

 

Book Review · Books

Book Review: The World In Half

My most recent read, The World In Half  by Cristina Henriquez was a heartwarming novel I read over Christmas break.

“I believe the earth has a memory. That everything that’s ever happened throughout the time has left its trace in fine, featherweight particles that fell and sank back into the earth like dust. […] Humans forget everything eventually. Memories march out. They march away. But the universe keeps it all – in a rock, in the ocean floor, in the inner reaches of a mountain, in the fault lines in the crust – millions of years packed into the dirt. The universe holds on.” – The World in Half

Miraflores Reid attends the University of Chicago and studies Geology with a minor in Spanish. She lives with her mother, who unfortunately has early onset Alzheimer’s disease whose health is rapidly declining. Mira has never met her father, who is Panamanian. She’s always assumed her father broke her mother’s heart and willingly is not a part of her life. That is until she finds a small stack of letters from her father, Gatun, while she goes through her mother’s belongings. Upon reading the letters, Mira learns that her father not only loved her mother, but was also determined to join her mother in the States to raise their child together. Once Mira finishes the letters, she instantly decides to visit Panama to find the other half of the human that she’s made of. She lies to her mother by telling her she was invited on a trip to the Cascades Volcano Observatory (by her Science Department) in Vancouver, Washington for three weeks and instead flies off to Panama with little to no plans with the exception of the name and location of her hotel, Hotel Centro. Once Mira is in Panama, she befriends the doorman Hernan and his nephew, Danilo. With the help of Danilo, they search for Mira’s father.  Mira also searches for her identity and tries to bridge her two worlds into one.

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I did find some parts of the novel too far-fetched:

  • Mira lying to her mother about her three week trip. Even though her mother does have Alzheimer’s, no parent out there is going to send you off to a trip unless you provide proof and list of contacts.
  • I’ve been a college student – young and reckless, but, I would NEVER EVER fly off to a country I’ve never been in with little to no plans like Mira did. And, we do live in the 21st century (novel was published in 2009), so she could have done a bit of research of her father. She solely relies on the hotel phone book and by asking people that once worked at the Panama Canal.
  • Hernan and Danilo- again, I was young and reckless. But, staying with two MEN in an unknown country, NO. And, she just happens to fall in love with one during her brief stay in Panama (like her mother once did)? Though Mira does end up making a different decision than her mother once did, so I applaud her from learning from her mother’s mistake.

The Panama Canal, where Mira’s father once worked, splits the world in half, the Pacific ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, and is often used as a metaphor of Mira’s own life. I loved this metaphor of the Panama Canal as it is something we can all relate to as we face and triumph through our own trials and tribulations. What I found most interesting and heartbreaking was how one’s decision (Mira’s mother) made a rippling effect across continents. I can’t say I understand Catrina (Mira’s mom), but I found her past to be a reminder to myself of how one’s choices have the potential to define another person’s life. Though The World in Half was filled with implausibilities, it was overall heartwarming. I also found this novel informative and learned lots about the Panama Canal. It was the perfect novel to read over Christmas break as it brought clarity to the priorities in my own life.

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

*Question: In the book, Danilo, who is Panamanian states that there are eight continents: Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, Antartica, North America, South America, and Central America. Isn’t it funny how we learn differently depending on the place of education? In Korea, I learned that we had six because Europe and Asia were one continent – Eurasia. What did YOU learn?

Book Review

Book Review: These Violent Delights

“Don’t you find it interesting that these types of crimes against women- whether it’s violence, sexual assault, rape — are the kinds where we force the victim to make a case about their own innocence before even investigating?” – These Violent Delights  by Victoria Namkung

What a timely book! This book is about Caryn, a young intern journalist that goes public with an unfortunate event that happened during her years at Windmere (private all girls HS) when a very well-respected married English teacher approaches her in a very inappropriate sexual way. Once the article is published, more women come forward with similar experiences they had with the same teacher. Caryn, with the help of a well-renounced journalist, starts investigating and soon teams up with other victims to bring justice. IMG_1984.JPG

Though this book is relatively short, it is not an easy book to read since it deals with a heavy topic. When I pick up a novel, I love it when I can relate to the characters or the plot. However, with this book, I felt sick to my stomach knowing so many, too many, girls could relate to being taken advantage of.

Dr. Copeland, a well-liked and respected English teacher only preys on girls that are already in a vulnerable state. He instigates not only inappropriate but also illegal relationships with these girls (that are minors) in a really sly, creepy, manipulative way by feeding them the attention and compliments they need. He pretends to care about them, proclaims that he loves them, and even declares to leave his wife. That is, only until the girl stops showing interest, or, until his sexual desires are fully satisfied.

I, as well as you, know many women that have been in this unfortunate situation. They are afraid and ashamed to speak up, may even blame themselves. Some might even think it wasn’t significant enough to mention. These Violent Delights came out in such a timely manner, especially with the current turn of events (i.e., Harvey Weinstein). When countless actresses went public with the sexual allegations towards Harvey Weinstein, these women, all these beautiful, successful women were broken. It says a lot about our society when these women said they could not go public with the allegations because they were afraid no one would believe them, and by saying “no,” it could affect their career. I cannot recommend this book enough. Because even though it is heartbreaking and painful to read, people need to know how women suffer afterwards. More importantly, people need to understand that it has the potential of destroying one’s life.

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Q. What are your thoughts / opinions on the recent sexual allegations (in Hollywood)?

Uncategorized

Thoughts: Families and Holidays

I love listening to either podcasts or audiobooks during my commute. For the past few months, I’ve had the chance to work with and befriend a lot coworkers that come from a Hispanic background. Thus, I’ve been listening to NPR’s Latino USA and recently listened to their December 15th episode “Being Apart,” featuring Diane Guerrero (actress / author). She shares the story of her parents who moved to US seeking better jobs and overall, a better life, but were deported back to Colombia when she was just 14 years old. She even mentions how she attempted to end her life. It was a heartbreaking episode. I find immigration-related stories just so fascinating so I went ahead and borrowed her memoir from my local library and have been enjoying it since. Her memoir is about loss, hardships, poverty, immigration, hope, and mostly, family.

On that note, I wanted to talk about family. Though Christmas is meant to be spent with family, there are many that are unable to do so. Including myself. So, as we celebrate this holiday season, let us not only remember those that are far away from us, but also reach out to them to remind them of the love and gratitude we have for them.

“Remember that the greatest gift you can ever own is not found in shops or under the Christmas tree. It is found in the hearts of your loving family and your true friends.”

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Merry Christmas to everyone. It’s still shocking knowing that we only have one week left and it’ll be TWENTY-EIGHTEEN. Where has the time gone?

Happy Holidays! ❤

Book Review

Book Review: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Thank you, My Lit Box for sending this book my way. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez was just the book I needed to get out of my reading slump.

A perfect Mexican daughter listens and obeys her parents, she attends a community college near their home. A perfect Mexican daughter knows how to cook tortillas. A perfect Mexican daughter does not leave home. A perfect Mexican daughter never abandons family. This was never the case for Julia, an aspiring writer who dreams of moving away to NYC to become a famous author. Though Julia was never the perfect Mexican daughter, she had no need to worry since her older sister Olga fulfilled that role: quiet, lived at home and attended a community college, helped with cleaning and cooking, and had a job to help her family. Olga was the perfect Mexican daughter until she unexpectedly passes away in a sudden tragic accident in the busiest streets of Chicago. Julia, over-stricken with grief and guilt, must choose whether to step in to fulfill the role or follow her dreams, which also means she must move away from her family.

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My favorite part of this book was when Julia visits her parent’s hometown in Mexico. Julia and her mother have an extremely rocky relationship especially after Olga passes away. Julia’s mother discovers that Julia may be having sex, so off she goes to Mexico. (As if she can’t have sex in Mexico. Ha!) This trip to Los Ojos, MX is the turning point for Julia. Not only does this visit to Mexico help her understand her motherland, a glimpse of her parents’ past helps Julia truly understand the sacrifices her parents made for the children to have a better life in America. Also, it helps Julia understand why her parents are the way they are. This book touches on so much more than just race. Written from a teenager’s perspective, Julia tells her story/opinion on immigration, finding oneself, grief, love, roots, and family. You may find the main character a tad bit annoying— selfish and obnoxious. But, what teenager isn’t, right? The love story, though short, didn’t feel forced. It was the teen love we’ve all experienced, short yet intense. And the ending, it was a satisfying ending. A happy medium. I loved this book so much! It was the perfect YA book to read, especially children of immigrants.

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I fell in love with the author when I read the Acknowledgments! I hope to read more of her work soon!

“I would also like to acknowledge all the immigrants who have risked their lives to come to this country. And the children of those immigrants. You are what make America great.” –Erika Sanchez

Question: If you are children of immigrants, what are some of the biggest trials / challenges you’ve had to face?

Book Review

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. If you are even somewhat into books, you’ve seen this on social media. It’s extremely popular. Even Reese Witherspoon selected Little Fires Everywhere for her September bookclub.

Meet Mia Warren, a nomadic artist and her daughter Pearl. They both hope to put an end to their nomadic lifestyle and settle down in Shaker Heights, OH. They rent out an apartment from the perfect Elena Richardson, who is the other main character. Since Shaker Heights is all about routines and perfections, the arrival of the nomadic bohemian mother-daughter duo are impossible not to notice. Pearl quickly befriends Elena Richardson’s children: Trip, Moody, Lexie, and Izzy. The Richardson children are fascinated with Pearl and she quickly becomes a “member” of their group.

Pearl’s mom Mia, uncomfortable and unfamiliar with this change has access to the Richardson’s estate when they employ her as a maid. Though an awkward set up, Mia does not oppose since this will grant her access to the Richardson estate so that she can supervise her daughter and her new friends. While we read about the Warrens and the Richardsons, Elena’s best friend Mrs. McCullough is going through the process of adopting a Chinese baby that was abandoned. However, the birth mom Bebe Chow shows up (mysteriously) and finds the soon to be adoptive parents and attempts to regain rights to her daughter (that she says she was FORCED to abandoned. Ahem). This custody battle becomes extremely ugly and shakes up the idyllic suburban town of Shaker Heights.

During the custody battle, we learn that Mia also has a dark past, Elena and her youngest daughter Izzy have a abnormal mother-daughter relationship, and the teenagers Trip, Moody, Lexie, and Pearl have their issues / drama of their own.

Though Little Fires Everywhere introduces a lot of characters, it mostly circles around Mia Warren, a nomadic artist and picture perfect Elena Richardson. The author explores the following themes: motherhood, adoption, abortions, surrogacy, family secrets, and the blurring lines between right and wrong.

I couldn’t understand the characters and the impulsive decisions they made. Like her other book <Everything I Never Told You>, the beginning starts with the ending. Little Fires Everywhere starts with a fire that burns down the Richardson estate. Then, we learn about all the events, decisions, family secrets that lead up to this giant fire.

There is not a protagonist nor an antagonist in this book. But, I disliked almost all characters. They seemed one-dimensional and fell flat (maybe with the exception of Elena). There were too many characters, too many subplots that seemed to blur the main theme of this book. It was interesting to see how Mia and Elena were parallel opposites, yet they judged each other,  only to realize there really is no right or wrong when it comes to motherhood.

The other reason I did not love the book is a bit personal. I’m extremely happy for Ng and the success of her book. However, because she’s an Asian-American author, I’d hope that she would use her name, talent, and her voice to raise more interest in the Asian society. The few Asians that are mentioned in this book are the stereotypical immigrants the media portrays: illegal, struck with poverty, lack of education, and of lower class with the exception of Edward Lim, the lawyer. And this was disturbing. Especially with the current turn of events in our country, I’d wish that she would use her talent as a platform to dispel the common Asian stereotypes.

Though I did not personally love the book, I would recommend this book. The writing was beautiful. Ng also weaves in a good amount of controversial choices (that the characters make) throughout the book. These decisions seemed to be thought-provoking which will make Little Fires Everywhere the perfect book for bookclub. You cannot finish this book without having strong opinions.

Now, time for my question. There was one particular scene that really got me thinking:

“You and your husband don’t speak Chinese or know much about Chinese culture or history. You haven’t, by your own testimony, even thought about that entire aspect of May Ling’s identity. Isn’t it fair to say that if May Ling stays with you and Mr. McCullough, she will effectively be divorced from her birth culture?” – Edward Lim
“It’s not a requirement that we be experts in Chinese culture. The only requirement is that we love Mirabelle.  And we do.  We want to give her a better life.” -Linda McCullough
‘Mirabelle would have a good life with Mark and Linda. But, would there be something missing from her life if she were to grow up with them?’ – Elena Richardson

I have many friends whose parents did NOT teach them their mother-tongue and tried hard to learn of the American culture so they would fit in. I have a few friends that speak a non-Asian language (other than English) better than Korean. My own husband did not have to learn Chinese until he served a religious mission. But he is nowhere near being fluent as a native. The only way my parents kept us in touch with our native roots was to speak Korean at home, and of course, the food. But I can confidently say I was only able to fully learn and understand my motherland when my family moved to South Korea. And, being married to a non-Korean, I do not know what I will do to keep my children connected to Korea and its culture.


So, question for all, especially readers that are minorities in this country, what did your parents do to keep you connected to your native culture? What will YOU do to keep your children connected to your native roots?


I enjoyed this interview of Celeste Ng: B&N Podcast: Celeste Ng

Overall Rating:  3.5 / 5

Book Review

Book Review: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

If I had to name my absolute favorite book I read in 2017, it would be Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It was so beautiful, intimate, and extremely heartbreaking.

This daring debut novel starts in Ghana during the slave trade and follows the parallel paths of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, and their descendants spanning 300 years. The structure of this novel is absolutely fascinating. Each chapter is a story of a new generation of Effia and Esi’s descendants. I am not the biggest fan of short stories because of the lack of character development. But, not Homegoing. Though each chapter may be short, the story just flows and flows and flows. Homegoing is written in chronological order starting from the 1700s in Ghana then goes back and forth between Ghana and America. I enjoyed how the linked short stories all came together to tell us how slavery affected those during the time of actual slave trade and how the aftermath of slavery affects us now. Homegoing then ends in present day on a hopeful note.

According to Yaa Gyasi, during the slave trade, slaves believed death meant that their soul would return to their native home in Africa. And this is why she named her novel Homegoing. Homegoing is a stunning, breath-taking, heart-breaking, mind-blowing novel that will stay with you forever. Read it. I mostly loved it because it was raw reminder how choices can have a rippling effect across time and generations. Yaa Gyasi inspired me to know more about my own roots: my ancestor and their choices, my motherland and its sufferings during the colonization period. {Thus, I found Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. More to come soon!}

”  We believe the one who has power, he is the one who gets to write the story. So, when you study history, you must ask yourself, whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there, you get a clearer, yet still imperfect picture.”

– Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Why, you ask, do I, an Asian girl that seemingly was untouched by the effects of slavery, love this book so much? Well, slavery, though it is such a horrific past of America, it is a part of our history. I recently overheard an acquaintance say how she tries to shy away from books about slavery because it makes her uncomfortable. This made me upset. Yes, it is a horrific and shameful past of America. But no, it was not a million years ago. Yes, we can forgive, but, no, we cannot and should not forget. I believe we are still affected by slavery. Segregated communities, housing and education discrepancies… We all have something in our past we are too ashamed to speak of, but, how can we better our future without acknowledging our past?

I loved this interview of Yaa Gyasi: Barnes and Noble Podcast: Interview of Yaa Gyasi

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Q. Do you think the aftermath of slavery still lingers in present day America? If so, how? 

Book Review

Book Review: Behold the Dreamers

<Behold the Dreamers> by Imbolo Mbue was the 2017 winner of the Pen / Faulkner Award for fiction. This book takes place in New York City, the Big Apple set right before and during the Financial Recession in 2008.

Behold the Dreamers is about Jende and Neni Jonga, immigrants from Cameroon. They have one dream, to become American citizens and live the American Dream in the America that they so dearly love. They want to give their children a better future in America, the land where all is possible. Jende repeatedly mentions throughout this book that in his country, Cameroon, unless he has money or a known family name, he will never have the chance to become someone.

“Because in my country sir, for you to become somebody, you have to be somebody first. You do not come from a family with money, forget it. You do not come from a family with a name, forget it. That is just how it is, sir. Someone like me, what can I ever become in a family like Cameroon? I came from nothing. No name. No money. My father is a poor man. Cameroon has nothing.”
“And you think America has something for you?”
“Ah, yes, sir, very much, sir! America has something for everyone sir.” -Jende from Behold the Dreamers

Do you agree with the statement above? I recently listened to Elizabeth Warren’s <A Fighting Chance> and in the book, she tells the story of how back in her time, the American Dream was achievable. She, the daughter of a maintenance worker was fortunate enough to go to college and then law school and eventually become a Harvard Law Professor. This was possible because the cost of tuition was somewhat affordable. She states that nowadays, it’s almost impossible and asks if we think the American Dream is something that is still attainable? What are your thoughts?

Going back to Jende and Neni, the couple that lives and breathes so that they can one day become American citizens and achieve the American Dream. They are soon employed by the wealthy Edwards and soon, their families intertwine. Their hopes and their dreams eventually influence them into making decisions which creates lots of secrets between the two families and spouses.  Then, the 2008 financial crisis hits and all hell breaks lose.  Jende and Neni, through odd jobs must make controversial decisions and see how far they are willing to go to achieve the American Dream. While facing constant obstacles, they end up asking themselves if the American Dream is even attainable.

Themes: Immigration, Family, Marriage, American Dream 

I absolutely loved this book because it depicts the life of immigrants in such authentic ways and makes you emotionally invested in the characters. I cannot say I understand the depths of trials and hardships immigrants go through to live in America. However, the author did an amazing job depicting their lives as immigrants, the tremendous amount of weight that comes from being an immigrant, as wells as the everyday trials they face, and the small spark of hope they have that keeps them on their feet. I’ve only been to New York City once and did not like it one bit . But this book made me miss the Big Apple and all its glory.

“Even in New York City, even in a place of many nations and cultures, men and women, young and old, rich and poor, preferred their kind when it came to those they kept closest. And why shouldn’t they? It was far easier to do so than to spend one’s limited energy trying to blend into a world one was never meant to be a part of. That was what made New York so wonderful. It had a world for everyone.” – Neni from Behold the Dreamers

Every immigrant story is different. Many are told. Sadly, few are heard. But, every story matters. I cannot recommend this book enough. My mom always told me to be grateful we were born in America. Though I strongly disagree with the current leadership and their unfortunate choices (ahem), I would be taking so much for granted if I did not express my gratitude for being a citizen of this great nation.  Though imperfect, this nation does offer more freedom and better opportunities. 

If you have not read this book, hurry and pick it up! I feel like it is a much-needed book especially with the turn of current events. What I loved most about this book was the ending. It was a both a bittersweet, yet satisfying ending! 

Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What is YOUR definition of the American Dream? And do you think it is still attainable? 

Book Review

Book Review: Stay With Me

First of all, thank you so much My Lit Box for sending this book along with other bookish items. My Lit Box promotes authors of color and I have to say, every single book they sent my way, has been such a great tool for me to learn of other countries and cultures. They are all inspiring and I cannot thank you enough!

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo!!  This debut novel was intense. Though the topics mentioned are heavy, it was not a difficult book to read. The main themes are: marriage, infertility, sex, conception, deceit, betrayal, and motherhood.

Welcome to Nigeria, in the 1980s- 90s! Meet Akin and Yejide, a couple that has been trying to have a child for years. Yejide has one goal, to conceive. She feels that it is her main duty as a wife, but she fails to do so for four years. Under her husband’s (Akin) family’s pressure, she seeks out help and does everything that may help her get pregnant. She still fails to conceive so her mother-in-law brings in a second wife {apparently, polygamy is still acceptable in Nigeria} for Akin, hoping that the second wife can give her the grandchildren she so desperately wants. Both Akin and Yejide oppose and want to stay in a monogamous relationship. However, as Yejide continues to fail to conceive, we are introduced to Akin’s second wife Funmi and Dotun, Akin’s brother. Both Funmi and Dotun play a huge part wrecking Akin and Yejide’s marriage. While we read of their story, we also read of political turmoil that takes place in Nigeria. This too, affects them as well.

As you go further into the book, you are faced with many twists and turns. Though it was a quick read, this book left me with a lot of questions such as :

  • 1) Ultimately, whose fault was it that ruined their marriage, Akin for being dishonest? Or Yejide for her infidelity (if we can call it that)?
  • 2) Was Yejide’s infidelity really morally wrong? Or, did she really have no other choice?

Me personally, I can’t blame Yejide for the choice she made. Because I, myself deal with infertility {hmm, I’m unsure if infertility is the correct word, but, I cannot have my own children due to heart-related issues}, I understood Yejide and felt her pain. All of it. I weeped with her because even now, a woman’s self-worth is still tied with motherhood. I know it is not my fault and I try to enjoy life as it is, but the constant pressure from friends, family, and our society sometimes kills me. Nowadays, it is not the pressure I deal with. But the single question that can lead me into a good cry, “when are you going to have kids?” As if it is MY choice. So, I understand Yejide all too well. On my insecure days, I feel worthless.  I’m unable to fulfill that one responsibility all woman have and bring a child into this life, so yes, on my worst days, a small part of me dies. So, I can only imagine how Yejide felt when a second wife was brought in to “fulfill her wifely duties.”  It would have destroyed me as well. So, if Akin truly loved Yejide and understood how infertility was slowly killing her, he could have swallowed his pride and addressed “the issue.” I don’t agree with all the choices Yejide made, but I can understand her. Akin, on the other hand, I have no sympathy for him.

Though Stay With Me takes place in Nigeria, the Korean in me could relate all too well with the old traditions, customs, expectations from in-laws mentioned throughout this book. Especially Nigeria (and Korea) being a deeply patriarchal country and how women still have little to no voice in these countries. Ugh.

Other than the book ending feeling a bit unresolved and wanting more character development of Dotun, I truly loved this book. Infertility, it HURTS. All I wish is for people to be more sensitive towards others that may be dealing with it. Though both made irreparable choices, I’m sure that the constant pressure from others was a deciding factor as well. Be more mindful, please.

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐