White Teeth delves into family history and dynamics: an unlikely friendship between two men, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal, and how this brought their families together. It explores what it’s like to be a person of color in London from the 70s to the 90s (though I am guessing even until today). It is the kind of book I’d recommend to readers who are more invested in characters than the plot, those who want to understand why people-are-that-way and who do not mind the lack of action in a book.
It took me a bit longer than usual to sort out my feelings about White Teeth.
I read this book based on a recommendation by someone in my professional network. This was one of three fiction books in a list of ten books, so I felt that the book would at least expand my reading horizons. It did; I have no regrets.
It could just be me, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado. I liked the way the writer incorporated different forms of media and literature, all of which eventually made sense as the story developed, into one cohesive work, but I was just … okay with it. It’s not a very long book, but it took me a while to finish. (This doesn’t mean I have nothing to say though. I have a bunch.)
Because I like my history, let’s first talk about the title, Ilustrado.
For context, the Philippines was colonized by Spain for 333 years (I am not making this number up) from 1565 to 1898. The word “Ilustrado” referred to people from the Philippines who obtained their education abroad, in Mother Spain. This exposed them to liberal ideas, and they came back seeking to reform Spanish colonial rule (to turn the Philippines into a Spanish province instead of just a colony). Think: Jose Rizal and Plaridel.
But why use a word so old that it was used in history books?
Fittingly, I have just moved out of my apartment and have commenced my couch-surfing life. (My friends are letting me stay in their living rooms during my last week in San Francisco and they set me up with a Harry Potter themed airbed. They are amazing.) Leading up to the final steps of my move, I read Book 7 as fast as I could and successfully included it in the box that I was sending home. Phew.
Book 7 has a lot of things going on: the search for horcruxes; the legend of the Deathly Hallows; the mystery that is Albus Dumbledore; the truth about Severus Snape; the Battle of Hogwarts; and so on. What stood out to me were the expressions of familial love throughout the book. I think these moments were quite important, as it was this love that ultimately brought down Voldemort.
Another ginormous book (but thinner than Book 5, which almost makes this book look quite thin), Book 6 was yet another great travel companion, which I took with me to coffee shops in San Francisco and Palo Alto. I actually breezed through this book—except when I took a break when I was 3/4 through because I didn’t want to relive the experience of reading about Dumbledore’s death, which I have never really recovered from.
Given that the Half-Blood Prince is a Slytherin, this (post) is a tribute to my Hogwarts house, Slytherin. I am not going to make excuses for the evil deeds of The Dark Lord here—nothing can ever justify his actions—however, I am going to talk about Slytherin-istic characteristics that I was not able to fully appreciate when I first read the series (and this book in high school) but that I do now.
There is a common misconception that all Slytherins are evil, especially because Voldemort came from this house. It also doesn’t help that Slytherins are snobby and tend to stick to their own. Whatever. Not everyone in the house is a blood-thirsty evil person, but people in this house are not known to be brave either. (Slytherin wasn’t known for his courage as Gryffindor was anyway.)
So I bring to light some Slytherins and their strengths. While not all of them are good, not all of them are entirely evil either. May we all appropriately appreciate the characteristics that makes one a Slytherin.
Despite being the largest book I have ever held (an exaggeration, but you know what I mean), Book 5 has been a great travel companion. Over the last two weeks, I would lug this ginormous book with me to the Caltrain and read a hundred pages or so on my way to work. I had forgotten how funny JK Rowling was until I found myself laughing alone while reading this book. This book is supposed to be dark, too, but I love that the characters were allowed to be teenagers still.
I have to admit: I’ve always found this to be my least favorite book in the series. I remember the first time I read this. I had borrowed it from the library absolutely sure I could return it in a week max, but I couldn’t get myself to pick up the book and to read it for longer periods that I had to rush reading through the book to return it by the time it was due. (Or maybe I didn’t finish and had to borrow another copy? Ok, maybe I don’t remember that well.) Fast forward to 15 (WOW, IT’S BEEN THAT LONG?) years later, and I definitely looked forward to reading on each morning. I didn’t mind lugging the gigantic book around, and I even brought it with me on days I knew I was going out with friends.
What’s changed? Good question. Obviously it’s not the book that’s changed but myself that has. I guess I have learned the meaning of maturity and empathy and other things as time went by. It also helped that I knew how things were going to end anyway, so I was able to focus more on the fun fun fun details that I didn’t focus on the first time around.