Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mini reviews - Possibly a failed attempt at randomness

I haven't felt like writing blog posts, this week, and sometimes that means I should walk away but sometimes it means I need to stop allowing myself to feel confined by what I usually do. So, I attempted to make this post structureless. I'm not sure I succeeded but at least it helped me knock out a few more reviews, if only for the sake of personal record-keeping.

The recent read that I think I've found most difficult to even begin writing about (apart from a couple of books I loved so much I feared I couldn't do them justice) is Life in a Box is a Pretty Life by Dawn Lundy Martin, a book I read during the #flashreadathon in June. It's poetry but it's not necessarily for the everyday reader who has difficulty understanding poetry (me, for example, haha). It's complex, choppy, the kind of poetry that requires you to completely shut off expectation and stop trying to understand. I found it easier to "get" after I quit, metaphorically, squinting so hard at its ideas. I think the best way to describe the book would be to go back and look at what I said on Facebook, just after I finished reading:

Life in a Box is a Pretty Life was rough. I had to keep walking away from it after I began to "get" it (poetry - not the easiest) because it's about being black, being a woman, being victim-blamed, racially profiled or judged based on color or sexuality, etc. Apropos given recent headlining stories. I wouldn't say it's for everyone and I'm not even sure it was entirely for me but I got something out of it and at times it absolutely took my breath away. 

Bottom line - A hard read about rough topics but very timely. It does deserve a language warning as sometimes it's graphic.

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka is not a book I ever anticipated having difficulty writing about, but it's one that I pulled off my personal shelves so I just didn't feel obligated to say anything, at least at first. I keep a running draft of books completed and when I post about them I add a link to what I've written and then I have a post of "books read" for the year, complete with links, ready to go at the end of the year. The items on that list that don't contain a link bug the hell out of me. Weird, but true.

The topic of When the Emperor was Divine (a novel) is one I've read about before and would like to read more about: Japanese internment during WWII. There's a museum that's dedicated to an internment camp in Arkansas, not all that far from us -- maybe two hours' drive, I'd guess, possibly a bit longer. No physical remnants of that camp now exist. I can't recall which camp the family in When the Emperor was Divine was taken to, but that doesn't matter. From other reading, I know that the sites of those camps were chosen specifically for the fact that they were terrible -- too hot, too cold, too dry . . . places you wouldn't choose to live. That alone is enough to tell you the experience could not have been a comfortable one. And, yet, I've read real-life stories that convince me the culture of Japanese Americans sustained them in a way that not every culture might have.

The title alone gives hints that change has occurred in a family's beliefs in When the Emperor was Divine. But, it's less about the specific culture (although that's a factor) than a story of a family's horror at being shunned, having to quickly dispose of pets and possessions, knowing they were to be forcibly taken from their home but not where and, of course, deeply dismayed at a life they never would have chosen. It's also about a torn family, what it was like living in camp without the husband and father, the head of the family having been taken away before the rest of the family was forced to move. It's well-written and plausible but the one thing I thought the book lacked was a view of the positives. As I said above, I've read some remarkable stories of courage, creativity and determination, much of which rested in the culture itself. I'd have liked to see a few glimpses of beauty within the text. But, I did think the book was a good one, reflective and with a tone that is sad, but for good reason.

Julia's Cats by P. Barey and T. Burson is one I've mentioned but not elaborated upon and that's because I closed it thinking there wasn't much to say. That doesn't mean I didn't think it was a good read; I did enjoy it. I have to admit I am fascinated with Julia Child but haven't bothered to learn much about her. In Julia's Cats, the authors have placed her love of felines and the tales of the cats in her life within the context of her cooking life. So, it serves as a casual biography of her marriage and her life in the kitchen, both before and after she was professionally trained and became a well-known personality.

I enjoyed the reading but the one thing I felt lacking in Julia's Cats was a satisfactory wrap-up to the lives of each feline. Because of her lifestyle, her travel, and the sheer number of places she called home, her cat ownership was equally transitory. Some cats were "rehomed" when she moved and some were shared with neighbors or friends. All had similar names, so it also became difficult to distinguish between one cat or another -- definitely not the fault of the authors. Because they were often left behind as Julia moved into a new phase of life or someone else took over the care of a cat, you seldom know what became of any one particular animal. One of the nicest things about the book is that there are photographs. I didn't realize Child's husband was a photographer. The photos are, for the most part, fabulous and the book is entertaining. Here's a peek inside:

And something definitively random to end the post . . . books and Minions!

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  1. Jane Austen and Minions! What could be better! LOL

    1. I knew someone would appreciate that. ;)

  2. Where to begin?! I love the title of this post and I love the thought behind it. I'm at that point as well- reviews need to be written but I can't rally my brain to do them. The way you simply shared thoughts was marvelous.

    The Emperor novel sounds really interesting. I know I've read something else recently about the Japanese internment but the above brain mush is keeping me from remembering it. I think it may have been Lisa See's most recent novel, China Dolls.

    1. Thanks! I guess it's a summer slump thing, you think? I know a lot of people who are having trouble focusing to read or blog or both. I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

      When the Emperor Was Divine is a good read. I hadn't heard anything at all about Japanese internment till maybe 5 or 6 years ago, which implies to me that it's a bit of history conveniently left out of textbooks. I've read 3 or 4 books about it, now. The best was a children's book called Imprisoned by Martin Sandler. It explained a lot about how the internment came about. It's really shocking -- as far as I know, they were all American citizens, mostly business owners and farmers. Also of interest is the fact that George Takei (Sulu in Star Trek) was held in an internment camp as a very small child. I think he's written a book about it. Thanks, you just reminded me I need to look that up. :)


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