Novel Reactions: White Teeth

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.

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This One’s for You—Happy Mother’s Day!

It’s Mother’s Day! If you haven’t sent your mom a nice text or call or bouquet yet, there’s still time. I’m really glad my Mother’s Day orders were delivered to my mom and my aunt first thing in the morning (at 8:30am as opposed to the estimated time slot of between 9am to 7pm—I’m quite relieved), so they had the pleasure of receiving the bouquet while having morning coffee.

In the spirit of Mother’s Day, here are five reads I would share with my mom:

My mother has a fun and fiery spirit, and I thought she would enjoy lighthearted books with happy endings. Although most of the female characters in the books are a little on the reserved side, I think she would appreciate the grace in which they conduct their operations.

Let me give a quick reason for each book—I’ll dedicate one sentence per book:

  • Tina from The Assistants is scrappy—she found an opportunity and grabbed it.
  • Anne, who is just trying to be her best self, is entangled in some fun drama in By the Book.
  • The community of Broken Wheel is a bit odd but well-meaning all the same.
  • Crazy Rich Asians—the book—has more crazy and more glamour than it did in the movie.
  • Conscious Business has some good points when it comes to self-awareness.

I hope all the mothers out there enjoy their day! I am proud to say that I no longer incur late fees from the library, which my mom never gave me a hard time about.

Bookish Plug: I wrote an entry on By the Book! It’s here.

Short Bites: What It Means When a Crowd in a Faraway Nation Takes a Soldier Representing Your Own Nation, Shoots Him, Drags Him from His Vehicle and then Mutilates Him in the Dust

A short but intense read, “What It Means When a Crowd in a Faraway Nation Takes a Soldier Representing Your Own Nation, Shoots Him, Drags Him from His Vehicle and then Mutilates Him in the Dust” from Dave Eggers’ How We Are Hungry is about one man’s reaction upon learning about the very incident that is the title of the story.

Now, there is no indication this man actually knows the soldier, but the man is deeply affected by the occurrence—it feels personal. All we know is that when we have a fellow countryman perish at the hands of another nation on that nation’s soil, it is the greatest injustice of all time.

You know what, I’m am outraged as well. How dare anyone to anything to anyone anywhere?

To me, this story is an intricate piece because, despite its length, it is thought-provoking. I acknowledge the fear that warfare instills—it’s one that you can’t really shake off—but I also ask: why think less of violence in one’s own homeland? Doesn’t it bring up feelings of uneasiness when you realize I was just there—that could have been me? Here we have Dave Eggers, who is making us think about the reality we live in. Do we speak up, or do we simply move on?

Short Bites: The Epizootic

After reading Kurt Vonnegut’s “The Epizootic,” the second story in his posthumously published collection, While Mortals Sleep, I wanted to bring to light the hushed up epidemic that ravaged America a few decades ago: the epizootic. Of course, actions have since been taken to rid America of this disease, so let me tell you about it because I thought it was an interesting read.

Please be aware of the epizootic, a disease that drove down the age of mortality among American men from 68 to 47 years old. Family men, men with wives and children to support, were most prone to contracting this disease especially in times of financial crises.

The epizootic was a terminal illness, and it spread through thoughts and words. Unless one covered his eyes and ears and lived far removed from society, there seemed to be no escape. Research has shown that the epizootic cases were correlated to increased instances of crashing planes and falling from heights.

“Modern communications are wonderful, aren’t they?” he said. “Almost as wonderful as life insurance.”

Kurt Vonnegut, “The Epizootic” in While Mortals Sleep

Thankfully, fine print has aided in eradicating the epizootic epidemic. For good measure, I suggest reading “The Epizootic” for a first-hand account of the covered up epidemic. The hope is that all breadwinners, no longer limited to family men, do not ever have to succumb to this disease.

Novel Reactions: Ilustrado

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?

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