Wednesday, May 31, 2017

#BookReview: CRY ME A RIVER by Ernest Hill

Summary: An absentee father from a "no good" family, Tyrone Stokes was imprisoned for shooting a man in a convenience store. His wife saw her chance to end their marriage and raise their son, Marcus, on her own. Now Tyrone has returned to Brownsville, Louisiana, to discover that his boy needs help--help that Tyrone is desperate to give, if he can only figure out how.

Marcus has been convicted of the rape and murder of a young white girl. An execution date is set, and it's rumored that the Governor will refuse clemency. Tyrone is convinced Marcus is innocent, despite a stack of evidence against him--but he is also wracked by knowledge of all the ways he has failed his son. Against all odds, Tyrone sets out to keep Marcus alive--and perhaps put his family back together again.

Review: I downloaded Cry Me A River from the library on a whim and I'm glad I did. From the beginning, Hill draws the reader into the lives of Tyrone and Marcus Stokes and doesn't release them until the end. With descriptive narration of a small Southern town where everyone knows everyone and battle lines have long been drawn, it's difficult not to get caught up in the goings on of Brownsville.

Tyrone knows he wasn't a good man before he went to prison, and so does his wife's family. His love for his son and wife is palpable. Having been imprisoned, he knows and sees the defeat in Marcus' eyes and is determined to restore his innocence. Watching Tyrone struggle to prove to his wife and, more importantly, his son, that this time he's not going to let them down is heartbreaking. His wife and her family have no faith him in and neither does most of his family. But he uses the same connections that likely landed him in jail to find a way to clear his son.

The small town feel and the racial divide in a place where black people should know their place comes crashing down on the Stokes family and the reader. I could feel the hot blazing sun beating down on Tyrone as the clock to save Marcus wound down. His confrontations with white characters that were determined to put him and keep him in his place, denying his humanity, angered me. Ernest Hill gives the reader a lot to think about and opens up a few wounds lingering just beneath the surface of one's psyche. I'll definitely be working my way through his backlist in the coming months.

304 p.
Published: January 2003

Friday, May 26, 2017

2017 Carefree Colourful Women Beach Reads

Summer is just around the corner. I know the calendar says it doesn't start until June 20, but if you're like me, it starts somewhere around Memorial Day and doesn't end until Labor Day. While some people prefer mysteries, thrillers or biographies for their beach reading, I like to keep it light. I'm sharing some of my favorite reads that pair nicely with a refreshing pina colada or Bahama Mama. Or maybe you're not planning to hit the beach this summer, but you need a palate cleanser after some of the heavier books you've been reading. I've got you!

Some of my favorite books are about women of colour just having fun. Too often we get saddled down with other people's problems and take on the burden of the world. All you'll find in these selections are carefree, colourful women who sometimes get caught up in quirky situations, bad romances and silly schemes. All of the books are about women of colour from around the globe and were written by women from around the globe. Happy reading!

Beach Thing by D.L. White
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Dinner at Sam's by D.L. White
Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Release date: June 13, 2017)
I Left My Back Door Open by April Sinclair
Almost Single by Advaita Kala
The Perfect Find by Tia Williams
Because My Heart Said So by Nia Forrester, Jacinta Howard, Lily Java & Rae Lamar
The Sistahood of Shopaholics by Leslie Esdaile
Serving Crazy with Curry by Amulya Malladi
Miss Scarlet's School of Patternless Sewing by Kathy Cano-Murillo

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

#BookReview: RICH PEOPLE PROBLEMS by Kevin Kwan

Summary: When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside—but he’s not alone. The entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe to stake claim on their matriarch’s massive fortune. With each family member vying to inherit Tyersall Park—a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore—Nicholas’s childhood home turns into a hotbed of speculation and sabotage.

As her relatives fight over heirlooms, Astrid Leong is at the center of her own storm, desperately in love with her old sweetheart Charlie Wu, but tormented by her ex-husband—a man hell bent on destroying Astrid’s reputation and relationship. Meanwhile Kitty Pong, married to China’s second richest man, billionaire Jack Bing, still feels second best next to her new step-daughter, famous fashionista Colette Bing.

A sweeping novel that takes us from the elegantly appointed mansions of Manila to the secluded private islands in the Sulu Sea, from a kidnapping at Hong Kong’s most elite private school to a surprise marriage proposal at an Indian palace, caught on camera by the telephoto lenses of paparazzi, Kevin Kwan’s hilarious, gloriously wicked new novel reveals the long-buried secrets of Asia’s most privileged families and their rich people problems.

Gemma Chan
You'd think that the third book into the series, Kevin Kwan might run out of outrageous plot lines and over the top characters, but nope. Rich People Problems is just as entertaining as Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend were. He's brought back the same cast of characters, though we do see less of some and more of others, for a delightful romp through the lives of the well monied members of China and Singapore society.

Constance Wu
As always, Nicholas is the one character that remains steady and down to earth. Along with his wife, Rachel, and cousin, Astrid, he continues to be my favorite character of the series - the wealthy man with a heart of gold. On the flip side, his cousin Eddie continues to be the absolute worst person in the world. While Nick and Astrid are concerned about their grandmother, Eddie is only concerned about what he has coming to him and he pulls out every trick in the book to keep his cousins from inheriting what he believes is rightly his.

Henry Golding
So I loved the book and the characters, but right now I'm most excited about the news that Crazy Rich Asians, the book that started it all, is making its way to the big screen. While we don't know all of the cast, my favorite characters have been announced. Constance Wu, whom I love, love, LOVE on Fresh Off the Boat, will take on the role of Rachel, Nick's wife. Nick will be played by Henry Golding. And Gemma Chan will play Astrid. It's been announced that Ken Jeong will join the cast as well, but so far which character he'll play hasn't been announced, though I think he's be absolutely perfect as clothes horse and perfectionist Eddie.
Ken Jeong

Well what do you think readers? Are you excited about the movie? Excited to join in on the next adventures of this crazy clan? I certainly am.

416 p.
Published: May 2017
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher; opinions are mine.

Friday, May 19, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, May 23, 2017

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
416 p.; Fiction

When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside—but he’s not alone. The entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe to stake claim on their matriarch’s massive fortune. With each family member vying to inherit Tyersall Park—a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore—Nicholas’s childhood home turns into a hotbed of speculation and sabotage.

As her relatives fight over heirlooms, Astrid Leong is at the center of her own storm, desperately in love with her old sweetheart Charlie Wu, but tormented by her ex-husband—a man hell bent on destroying Astrid’s reputation and relationship. Meanwhile Kitty Pong, married to China’s second richest man, billionaire Jack Bing, still feels second best next to her new step-daughter, famous fashionista Colette Bing.

A sweeping novel that takes us from the elegantly appointed mansions of Manila to the secluded private islands in the Sulu Sea, from a kidnapping at Hong Kong’s most elite private school to a surprise marriage proposal at an Indian palace, caught on camera by the telephoto lenses of paparazzi, Kevin Kwan’s hilarious, gloriously wicked new novel reveals the long-buried secrets of Asia’s most privileged families and their rich people problems.

A Good Country by Laleh Khadivi
256 p.; Fiction

Laguna Beach, California, 2009. Alireza Courdee, a fourteen-year-old straight-A student and chemistry whiz, takes his first hit of pot. He inhales; exhales. In an instant he is transformed from the high-achieving son of high-achieving immigrants into a happy-go-lucky stoner. He loses his virginity, takes up surfing, and sneaks away to all-night raves in Palm Springs. Alireza becomes Rez, and starts high school as a popular kid who can still keep up his grades, lie to his father, and surf like a pro

Ras Al Ayn, Syria, 2013. Rez, now Reza al Alawah, stands in a valley with two hundred ISIS fighters and prays. Reza has come a long way for this moment and now he cannot remember the words of the prayer. He has left behind his entire life—mother, father, sister—traveled across continents and oceans, and pledged himself to a god he cannot, at this instant, call down.

A Good Country is a coming-of-age novel set in a world where this means choosing a side and devoting yourself. Rez transforms from the carefree American teen to a radicalized Muslim and ISIS fighter and finally, after capture by the Kurds, a defender of the land and cities his grandfather and great grandfathers sought to protect. What we are left with at the dramatic end is not an assessment of good or evil, east versus west, but a lingering question that applies to all souls: Does a person decide how to live in this world or is their life decided for them?

Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America's Campuses by Lawrence Ross
288 p.; Education

From Lawrence Ross, author of The Divine Nine and the leading expert on sororities and fraternities, Blackballed exposes the white fraternity and sorority system, with traditions of racist parties, songs, and assaults on black students, and the universities themselves, who name campus buildings after racist men and women. It also takes a deep dive into anti-affirmative action policies and how they effectively segregate predominately white universities, providing ample room for white privilege.

A bold mix of history and the current climate, Blackballed is a call to action for universities to make radical changes to their policies and standards to foster a better legacy for all students.

Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances by Leland Melvin
256 p.; Biography

Leland Melvin is the only person in human history to catch a pass in the National Football League and in space. Though his path from the gridiron to the heavens was riddled with setbacks and injury, Leland persevered to reach the stars.

While training with NASA, Melvin suffered a severe injury that left him deaf. Leland was relegated to earthbound assignments, but chose to remain and support his astronaut family. His loyalty paid off. Recovering partial hearing, he earned his eligibility for space travel. He served as mission specialist for two flights aboard the shuttle Atlantis, working on the International Space Station.

In this inspirational memoir, the former NASA astronaut and professional athlete offers an examination of the intersecting role of community, perseverance, and grace that align to shape our opportunities and outcomes. Chasing Space is not the story of one man, but the story of many men, women, scientists, and mentors who helped him defy the odds and live out an uncommon destiny.

Chemistry by Weike Wang
224 p.; Fiction

Three years into her graduate studies at a demanding Boston university, the unnamed narrator of this nimbly wry, concise debut finds her one-time love for chemistry is more hypothesis than reality. She’s tormented by her failed research—and reminded of her delays by her peers, her advisor, and most of all by her Chinese parents, who have always expected nothing short of excellence from her throughout her life. But there’s another, nonscientific question looming: the marriage proposal from her devoted boyfriend, a fellow scientist, whose path through academia has been relatively free of obstacles, and with whom she can’t make a life before finding success on her own.

Eventually, the pressure mounts so high that she must leave everything she thought she knew about her future, and herself, behind. And for the first time, she’s confronted with a question she won’t find the answer to in a textbook: What do I really want? Over the next two years, this winningly flawed, disarmingly insightful heroine learns the formulas and equations for a different kind of chemistry—one in which the reactions can’t be quantified, measured, and analyzed; one that can be studied only in the mysterious language of the heart. Taking us deep inside her scattered, searching mind, here is a brilliant new literary voice that astutely juxtaposes the elegance of science, the anxieties of finding a place in the world, and the sacrifices made for love and family.

Augustown by Kei Miller
256 p.; Fiction

11 April 1982: a smell is coming down John Golding Road right alongside the boy-child, something attached to him, like a spirit but not quite. Ma Taffy is growing worried. She knows that something is going to happen. Something terrible is going to pour out into the world. But if she can hold it off for just a little bit longer, she will. So she asks a question that surprises herself even as she asks it, “Kaia, I ever tell you bout the flying preacherman?”

Set in the backlands of Jamaica, Augustown is a magical and haunting novel of one woman’s struggle to rise above the brutal vicissitudes of history, race, class, collective memory, violence, and myth.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Summary: There are good moms and bad moms-and then there are hot-mess moms. Introducing Ashley Keller, career girl turned stay-at-home mom who's trying to navigate the world of Pinterest-perfect, Facebook-fantastic and Instagram-impressive mommies but failing miserably.

When Ashley gets the opportunity to participate in the "Motherhood Better" boot camp run by the mommy-blog empire maven she idolizes, she jumps at the chance to become the perfect mom she's always wanted to be. But will she fly high or flop?

Review: A lot of mothers would have you believe that they're super women. You see the Facebook posts, the Pinterest pins, right? They really look like they have it all together. Seeing humble brags in your timeline on a regular basis when you're struggling can lead to a crisis of conscience. If they can do all that, why can't I? Because you're not Wonder Woman, Super Woman, Magnificent Mom or any other perfect caricature floating around the internet. Ashley Keller learns that lesson the hard way in the hilarious new book from Bunmi Laditan.

Most readers will know Laditan and her funny style of writing from her tweets at @HonestToddler. In Ashley, she's created a smart woman with a great husband and a good career until having a baby threw a wrench in it all. Now she's striving to be Martha Stewart. Competing against mothers from around the country to spend a weekend with the mother of them all, buying furniture she doesn't need (and can't afford) to impress people she doesn't even know, there's a lot going on.

As Laditan takes us on a journey, she covers all of the emotions and turmoil that can come with being a new mom. Though she does it with humor, the message she sends is real. You don't have to be perfect to be a mom, you don't even have to try to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, moms included. It's all in how you recover from them.

336 p.
Published: May 2017
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

Friday, May 12, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, May 16, 2017

My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet
168 p.; Poetry

My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter is poet Aja Monet’s ode to mothers, daughters, and sisters—the tiny gods who fight to change the world.

Textured with the sights and sounds of growing up in East New York in the nineties, to school on the South Side of Chicago, all the way to the olive groves of Palestine, these stunning poems tackle racism, sexism, genocide, displacement, heartbreak, and grief, but also love, motherhood, spirituality, and Black joy.

Sting Like a Bee: Muhammad Ali vs. the United States of America, 1966-1971
by Leigh Montville
368 p.; Non-fiction

With the death of Muhammad Ali in June, 2016, the media and America in general have remembered a hero, a heavyweight champion, an Olympic gold medalist, an icon, and a man who represents the sheer greatness of America. New York Times bestselling author Leigh Montville goes deeper, with a fascinating chronicle of a story that has been largely untold.

Muhammad Ali, in the late 1960s, was young, successful, brash, and hugely admired—but with some reservations. He was bombastic and cocky in a way that captured the imagination of America, but also drew its detractors. He was a bold young African American in an era when few people were as outspoken. He renounced his name—Cassius Clay—as being his ’slave name,’ and joined the Nation of Islam, renaming himself Muhammad Ali. And finally in 1966, after being drafted, he refused to join the military for religious and conscientious reasons, triggering a fight that was larger than any of his bouts in the ring.

What followed was a period of legal battles, of cultural obsession, and in some ways of being the very embodiment of the civil rights movement located in the heart of one man. Muhammad Ali was the tip of the arrow, and Leigh Montville brilliantly assembles all the boxing, the charisma, the cultural and political shifting tides, and ultimately the enormous waft of entertainment that always surrounded Ali.

Josephine Baker by Jose-Luis Bocquet & Catel Muller
496 p.; Biography

Josephine Baker (1906–1975) was nineteen years old when she found herself in Paris for the first time in 1925. Overnight, the young American dancer became the idol of the Roaring Twenties, captivating Picasso, Cocteau, Le Corbusier, and Simenon. In the liberating atmosphere of the 1930s, Baker rose to fame as the first black star on the world stage, from London to Vienna, Alexandria to Buenos Aires.

After World War II, and her time in the French Resistance, Baker devoted herself to the struggle against racial segregation, publicly battling the humiliations she had for so long suffered personally. She led by example, and over the course of the 1950s adopted twelve orphans of different ethnic backgrounds: a veritable Rainbow Tribe. A victim of racism throughout her life, Josephine Baker would sing of love and liberty until the day she died.

He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty by S Jonathan Bass
432 p.; Non-fiction

Caliph Washington didn’t pull the trigger but, as Officer James "Cowboy" Clark lay dying, he had no choice but to turn on his heel and run. The year was 1957; Cowboy Clark was white, Caliph Washington was black, and this was the Jim Crow South.

As He Calls Me by Lightning painstakingly chronicles, Washington, then a seventeen-year-old simply returning home after a double date, was swiftly arrested, put on trial, and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. The young man endured the horrors of a hellish prison system for thirteen years, a term that included various stints on death row fearing the "lightning" of the electric chair. Twentieth-century legal history is tragically littered with thousands of stories of such judicial cruelty, but S. Jonathan Bass’s account is remarkable in that he has been able to meticulously re-create Washington’s saga, animating a life that was not supposed to matter.

Given the familiar paradigm of an African American man being falsely accused of killing a white policeman, it would be all too easy to apply a reductionist view to the story. What makes He Calls Me by Lightning so unusual are a spate of unknown variables—most prominently the fact that Governor George Wallace, nationally infamous for his active advocacy of segregation, did, in fact, save this death row inmate’s life. As we discover, Wallace stayed Washington’s execution not once but more than a dozen times, reflecting a philosophy about the death penalty that has not been perpetuated by his successors.

Other details make Washington’s story significant to legal history, not the least of which is that the defendant endured three separate trials and then was held in a county jail for five more years before being convicted of second-degree murder in 1970; this decision was overturned as well, although the charges were never dismissed. Bass’s account is also particularly noteworthy for his evocation of Washington’s native Bessemer, a gritty, industrial city lying only thirteen miles to the east of Birmingham, Alabama, whose singularly fascinating story is frequently overlooked by historians.

By rescuing Washington’s unknown life trajectory—along with the stories of his intrepid lawyers, David Hood Jr. and Orzell Billingsley, and Christine Luna, an Italian-American teacher and activist who would become Washington’s bride upon his release—Bass brings to multidimensional life many different strands of the civil rights movement. Devastating and essential, He Calls Me by Lightning demands that we take into account the thousands of lives cast away by systemic racism, and powerfully demonstrates just how much we still do not know.

Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life by Jonathan Gould
544 p.; Biography

When we think of Otis Redding, we remember his classic hits, from “The Dock of the Bay” and “Shake” to “Try a Little Tenderness” and “Respect,” a song we often forget that he penned before Aretha Franklin made it famous. We know his music, yet we know very little about his life, which ended tragically at the age of 26, at the height of his career. According to Jonathan Gould, that knowledge gap is a shame because, while Redding might not have been as gifted as Ray Charles or as smooth as Sam Cooke, Otis—not Marvin Gaye, not James Brown, not Stevie Wonder—is “the purest distillation of what we talk about when we talk about ’soul.’”

Now, in this biography, we’ll finally get a fitting look at the unfinished life of the man some call “the King of Soul.” That said, this book is not just about Redding and his music; it is also about the times from which they emerged. Gould never lets us forget that the boundaries between black musicians and white listeners were becoming porous at precisely the moment that racial tensions were at their highest—a theme that remains relevant today. His portrait of Redding is both a remarkable look at a long-misunderstood artist and a fascinating exploration of race and music in America in the 1960s.

Friday, May 5, 2017

New Books Coming Your Way, May 9, 2017

My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir by Jessica B. Harris
272 p.; Memoir

In the Technicolor glow of the early seventies, Jessica B. Harris debated, celebrated, and danced her way from the jazz clubs of the Manhattan's West Side to the restaurants of the Village, living out her buoyant youth alongside the great minds of the day—luminaries like Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison. My Soul Looks Back is her paean to that fascinating social circle and the depth of their shared commitment to activism, intellectual engagement, and each other.

Harris paints evocative portraits of her illustrious friends: Baldwin as he read aloud an early draft of If Beale Street Could Talk, Angelou cooking in her California kitchen, and Morrison relaxing at Baldwin’s house in Provence. Harris describes her role as theater critic for the New York Amsterdam News and editor at then burgeoning Essence magazine; star-studded parties in the South of France; drinks at Mikell’s, a hip West Side club; and the simple joy these extraordinary people took in each other’s company. The book is framed by Harris’s relationship with Sam Floyd, a fellow professor at Queens College, who introduced her to Baldwin.

More than a memoir of friendship and first love My Soul Looks Back is a carefully crafted, intimately understood homage to a bygone era and the people that made it so remarkable.

The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father by Kao Kalia Yang
288 p.; Memoir

Following her award-winning book The Latehomecomer, Kao Kalia Yang now retells the life of her father Bee Yang, the song poet, a Hmong refugee in Minnesota, driven from the mountains of Laos by American’s Secret War. Bee lost his father as a young boy and keenly felt his orphanhood. He would wander from one neighbor to the next, collecting the things they said to each other, whispering the words to himself at night until, one day, a song was born. Bee sings the life of his people through the war-torn jungle and a Thai refugee camp. But the songs fall away in the cold, bitter world of a Minneapolis housing project and on the factory floor until, with the death of Bee's mother, the songs leave him for good. But before they do, Bee, with his poetry, has polished a life of poverty for his children, burnished their grim reality so that they might shine.

Written with the exquisite beauty for which Kao Kalia Yang is renowned, The Song Poet is a love story—of a daughter for her father, a father for his children, a people for their land, their traditions, and all that they have lost.

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee
400 p.; Mystery

Calcutta, 1919. Captain Sam Wyndham, former Scotland Yard detective, is a new arrival to Calcutta. Desperately seeking a fresh start after his experiences during the Great War, Wyndham has been recruited to head up a new post in the police force. He is immediately overwhelmed by the heady vibrancy of the tropical city, but with barely a moment to acclimatize or to deal with the ghosts that still haunt him, Wyndham is caught up in a murder investigation that threatens to destabilize a city already teetering on the brink of political insurgency.

The body of a senior official has been found in a filthy sewer, and a note left in his mouth warns the British to quit India, or else. Under tremendous pressure to solve the case before it erupts into increased violence on the streets, Wyndham and his two new colleagues—arrogant Inspector Digby and Sergeant Banerjee, one of the few Indians to be recruited into the new CID—embark on an investigation that will take them from the opulent mansions of wealthy British traders to the seedy opium dens of the city.

The Song and the Silence: A Story about Family, Race, and What Was Revealed in a Small Town in the Mississippi Delta While Searching for Booker Wright by Yvette Johnson
336 p.; Autobiography

“Have to keep that smile,” Booker Wright said in the 1966 NBC documentary Mississippi: A Self-Portrait. At the time, Wright spent his evenings waiting tables for Whites at a local restaurant and his mornings running his own business. The ripple effect from his remarks would cement Booker as a civil rights icon because he did the unthinkable: before a national audience, Wright described what life truly was like for the Black people of Greenwood, Mississippi.

Four decades later, Yvette Johnson, Wright’s granddaughter, found footage of the controversial documentary. No one in her family knew of his television appearance. Even more curious for Johnson was that for most of her life she’d barely heard mention of her grandfather’s name.

Born a year after Wright’s death and raised in a wealthy San Diego neighborhood, Johnson admits she never had to confront race the way Southern Blacks did in the 1960s. Compelled to learn more about her roots, she travels to Greenwood, Mississippi, a beautiful Delta town steeped in secrets and a scarred past, to interview family members and townsfolk about the real Booker Wright. As she uncovers her grandfather’s compelling story and gets closer to the truth behind his murder, she also confronts her own conflicted feelings surrounding race, family, and forgiveness.

Told with powerful insights and harrowing details of civil rights–era Mississippi, The Song and the Silence is an astonishing chronicle of one woman’s passionate pursuit of her own family’s past. In the stories of those who came before, she finds not only a new understanding of herself, but a hopeful vision of the future for all of us.

After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara
328 p.; Fiction

Lily Takemitsu goes missing from her home in Toronto one luminous summer morning in the mid-1980s. Her daughter, Rita, knows her mother has a history of dissociation and memory problems, which have led her to wander off before. But never has she stayed away so long. Unconvinced the police are taking the case seriously, Rita begins to carry out her own investigation. In the course of searching for her mom, she is forced to confront a labyrinth of secrets surrounding the family’s internment at a camp in the California desert during the Second World War, their postwar immigration to Toronto, and the father she has never known.

Epic in scope, intimate in style, After the Bloom blurs between the present and the ever-present past, beautifully depicting one family’s struggle to face the darker side of its history and find some form of redemption.

An Extraordinary Destiny by Shekhar Paleja
384 p.; Fiction

It’s 1947 in Lahore, and the Sharma family is forced to flee their home during the violence of the Partition of India. As the train tracks measure the ever-growing distance between Varoon and his mother, who vanished during the panic to escape, the boy is thrust towards an uncertain future.

Forty years later, Varoon’s grown son, Anush, desperately tries to disentangle himself from his father’s demands, which are mired in grief and whiskey. Compounding the pressure is Anush's unusually auspicious kundali—a Vedic birth chart—which threatens to suffocate Anush with lofty expectations. But when he meets Nasreen, Anush feels he may finally be experiencing the incredible fate foretold by the stars. Until his father threatens to block his chance at true happiness.

Threading artfully through three generations of an Indian family, An Extraordinary Destiny crafts an intricate narrative that reveals, in layers, how decades-old grief rooted in the trauma of history, and couched in familial duty and custom, threaten to sever the sacred connection between ancestors and descendants.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

#BookReview: THE COLOR OF OUR SKY by Amita Trasi

Summary: India, 1986: Mukta, a ten-year-old girl from the lower caste Yellamma cult of temple prostitutes has come of age to fulfill her destiny of becoming a temple prostitute. In an attempt to escape this legacy that binds her, Mukta is transported to a foster family in Bombay. There she discovers a friend in the high spirited eight-year-old Tara, the tomboyish daughter of the family, who helps her recover from the wounds of her past. Tara introduces Mukta to a different world—ice cream and sweets, poems and stories, and a friendship the likes of which she has never experienced before.As time goes by, their bond grows to be as strong as that between sisters. In 1993, Mukta is kidnapped from Tara’s room.

Eleven years later, Tara who blames herself for what happened, embarks on an emotional journey to search for the kidnapped Mukta only to uncover long buried secrets in her own family.

Moving from a remote village in India to the bustling metropolis of Bombay, to Los Angeles and back again, amidst the brutal world of human trafficking, this is a heartbreaking and beautiful portrait of an unlikely friendship—a story of love, betrayal, and redemption—which ultimately withstands the true test of time.

Review: As The Color of Our Sky opens, Mukta's mother is determined to save her daughter from the life of prostitution that she and her mother before her have known. But Mukta's grandmother long ago accepted that serving as a temple goddess or prostitute is their family's lot in life. After all, much like a crown is passed down in royal families, your caste and/or employment options are passed down through your family in Mukta's world. And while readers are well aware of what Mukta's fate will likely be, an innocent child such as she is is not.

Tara is a child of privilege in that she is never in danger of living the kind of life Mukta has been or will be subjected to, but when the two are brought together, they become sisters of the heart. It is only Tara's selfishness and hurt that drives a wedge between the girls and leads to their separation, or so she believes. As an adult Tara searches for the woman she once shared secrets with, she matures and learns that not only was she keeping secrets, Mukta was also.

I loved the story of Tara and Mukta. Tara's growth from the time she leaves America and finds herself back in India is wonderful to watch. Mukta's faith in Tara, even after she shunned her in the past, and holding on to the belief that her friend, her sister, her confidante would find her and rescue her was moving. Amita Trasi does a great job of moving back and forth between Tara and Mukta's story lines and keeping readers interested and engaged. Even though I guessed early on about the outcome of part of the story, it didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of the book. Fans of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Shilpi Somaya Gowda or Thrity Umrigar will definitely enjoy The Color of Our Sky.

416 p.
Published: April 2017