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writing of readerly reviews of writings

Tag: :Global Women of Colour:

Review: Merlinda Bobis’ “White Turtle”

merlinda bobis white turtlePurchased because of Bobis’ splendid novel Fish-Hair Woman. I’m not very fond of short stories as a genre – I find them too neat, too writing-school trim to be truly emotive; I also love narrative absorption, which the genre cannot by definition [‘short’] provide. I think this collection is competent enough, interesting in terms of cultural awareness of the Philippines and a Filipina experience in Australia, but I’m not enamoured. If you’re planning to read Bobis, I’d recommend putting your energies into the above novel first.

Where it came from: Mega-opshop-books
Time and manner of reading:
A couple of lie-down reads
Where it went: SJD
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: —
Who I’d recommend it to:
Culturally curious
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön; The Gutenberg Elegies by Sven Birkerts; In-Human by Anna Dusk

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Review: Larissa Lai’s “When Fox is a Thousand”

larissa lai when fox is a thousandHypnotic and provoking. Lai takes Chinese folktales about Foxes (mystical tricksters), blends them with historical accounts of women poets, and leads those stories into the lives of a group of queer Chinese Canadian young women in contemporary Vancouver. It’s a highly sophisticated diaspora novel, questioning identity, race, sexuality and gender in classic 90s fashion, but with genuine and innovative flair. I found the 20-somethings’ dramas a little wearing – thank god for age — but that would be the author successfully reaching her intended audience. A really interesting book, worth chasing down.

Where it came from: Mega opshop book section
Time and manner of reading:
Pre- and post-yoga reads
Where it went: Keeper Shelf
Best line of the book: “She was crying with new eyes made of brown glass, beautiful and smooth as polished wood, so perfect that she almost believed she had her own eyes back” (p.193)
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:
Seekers of something curious & modern & gender- and genre-bending
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

Review: Jackie Kay’s “Trumpet”

jackie kay trumpetEC and SL had both highly recommended Jackie Kay’s writing and/or humour, so I snaffled this on my latest library shelf-trawl, and what a good (first!) novel this one was. In a chorus of voices – widow, son, mother, hack journalist, etc. – characters respond to the death of jazz trumpet great Joss Moody: ta-da, Joss was actually Josephine Moore but had been living as a man for at least 40 years. Sensitive, matter-of-fact, written with delicacy and aplomb, it’s a very good, very absorbing novel. Highly recommended. PS Love the sly titling.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
Gallery cafe, bed and bath reads over one evening
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: If memory serves, Rose Tremain wrote a first-person parallel in Sacred Country
Who I’d recommend it to:
Curious, lit-lovers – but especially those interested to learn about other genders’ experiences
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Peeling the Onion by Günter Grass; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; Moments of Desire edited by Susan Hawthorne and Jenny Pausacker

Review: “Where to Now?: Short Stories from Zimbabwe” edited by Jane Morris

jane morris ed. where to nowAn anthology of contemporary Zimbabwean fiction which offers slices of life of Zimbabweans at home and as migrants in the UK and South Africa. Well written, most informative, I’m glad I read it – no matter how terrible some of the scenes of daily life were, what with backyard abortions, family-sponsored rapes, murders, theft and pillage of prosperous farms. Recommended.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
Bed and waiting reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: Shopping for sadza meal in the Cuernavaca market
Who I’d recommend it to:
Cultural explorers
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Peeling the Onion by Günter Grass; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; Moments of Desire edited by Susan Hawthorne and Jenny Pausacker

Review: Monica Hejaiej’s “Behind Closed Doors: Women’s Oral Narratives in Tunis”

monia hejaeiej behind closed doorsI wouldn’t say I enjoyed this book but I found parts of it most interesting. Hejaiej, Tunis born and bred, returns to her home city as a Western-trained ethnologist to study the Beldi women’s oral storytelling tradition and its cultural role. (The Beldi are the old-world rich, educated upperclass of the city of Tunis, proud of their culture and refinement.) Hejaiej got access to three mistress storytellers, recorded their performed stories – that’s the bit that readers really miss out on – then conducted an ethnographic analysis of the content, meaning, linguistics, audience, etc. The ~100pp analysis which introduces the book I found fascinating, but the stories (like most written folktales divorced from their true, oral ambiance) I found dull and repetitive – not to mention horrifying, what with all those long-suffering women doing the right thing and letting their husbands kill their children to test the women’s fortitude. Etc. Culturally interesting and terrible, probably particularly useful for researchers.

Where it came from: Market book stall
Time and manner of reading:
A few days of armchair, waiting, bed and train reads
Where it went: Keeper Shelf
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: Ana Castillo’s theory that women’s repression in Mexican culture can be traced to Muslim Arabic traditions in the Spanish colonisers’ culture
Who I’d recommend it to:
Culturally curious
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Peeling the Onion by Günter Grass

Review: Nawal El Saadawi’s “The Circling Song”

nawal el sadaawi the circling songEl Saadawi prefaces this “novel” (read: novella) by explaining about a particular child’s game which involves singing and dancing in a circle, holding hands with other children, losing sight of beginnings and endings and who is whom. I would have done well to remember that as I read her little piece, which swirls between the twins Hamida (girl) and Hamido (boy), who live and die and kill and are beaten and raped and genitally mutilated and what exactly is happening to whom has little to do with what I knew the previous paragraph and even less bearing on the following one. That is, I think I need to reread this one day as poetry, because it is remarkably fluid, and quite powerful emotionally in terms of the horrors visited on the preadolescent twins in (we are given to understand) daily Egyptian life in the early 1970s. I would recommend it for cultural insight and its emotive power.

Where it came from: UPB
Time and manner of reading:
Generally bewildered, bookended bed reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: You shouldn’t rush reading poetry
Who I’d recommend it to:
Cultural explorers
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Stella Miles Franklin by Jill Roe; Life on Earth by David Attenborough

Review: Yoko Ogawa’s “The Housekeeper and the Professor”

yoko ogawa housekeeper + professorContemporary Japanese novel. A housekeeper is to attend to a mathematics professor whose brain damage leaves him an 80-minute span of memory. But it’s so sweet, ‘cos the housekeeper and her son can bond with him over maths problems! Ergh. Initially kind-of-but-not-quite novel (see Reminds me, below), but then just boring to one not enchanted by mathematical elegance. Abandoned not even half-way through. Sigh. I thought I’d make some inroads on the Global Women of Colour Challenge, but not with this title I won’t.

Where it came from: Opshop
Time and manner of reading:
An increasingly bored armchair read
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World – neither could hold my attention for very long
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Stella Miles Franklin by Jill Roe; Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan; Life on Earth by David Attenborough