Archive for the ‘multi-cultural’ Category

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich

November 28, 2012

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse book coverTitle: The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

Author: Erdrich, Louise

Publication Date: 2001

Pages: 361

Geographical Setting: Ojibwe Reservation, North Dakota

Time Period: Present Day

Genre: Literary Fiction, Native American Fiction

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:  In the last days of his life, Father Damien Modeste sets out to make a final confession to the Holy Father, the Pope in Rome.  The least of these confessions is that Father Damien is actually Agnes DeWitt, a woman.  When a young priest comes to the remote Ojibwe reservation of Little No Horse to interview him about the possible sainthood of a nun from the reservation convent, Fr. Damien sees an opportunity to lay bare the truth about his past, the woman in question, and the people whom he has shepherded and loved for the better part of eighty years.  Told through multiple perspectives and dipping into different moments in time, the story unfolds slowly and poetically, the first pages building links to the later scenes of Fr. Damien’s life.  The people of Little No Horse may be familiar to readers of Erdrich’s other works, as this novel is one in a sequence of tales about the Kashpaws, Nanpushes, Pillagers, Morrisseys, and Lazarres who make up this Ojibwe tribe.  But the perspective of Agnes/Fr. Damien, the outsider who layers Catholic dogma with the old spirituality, pushes this story beyond the reservation and across cultural barriers.

Appeal Characteristics: Intricately plotted, moving, stylistically complex, lyrical, mystical, leisurely paced, haunting, spiritual, details of Catholicism, details of reservation life, elegantly written, poignant, reflective, reverent, elegiac, vivid characterization, poetic

Subject Headings: Ojibwe Indians, North Dakota, Indians of North America, Reservations, Priests, Male Impersonators, Miracles, Women Saints

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Moving, lyrical, spiritual

Similar Non-fiction:

Rez Life by David Treuer

Written by a member of the Minnesota Ojibwe tribe, this book offers a part memoir, part cultural history look at life on a reservation.  Treuer explores the life of present-day Native Americans as it has been shaped by decisions made long ago.  Politics, alcoholism, casinos, and tragedy are balanced by lesser known facets of Native American culture—walleye fishing, wild rice harvesting, Ojibwe language lessons—creating a narrative of sadness and beauty that characterizes contemporary rez life.

The American Jesuits: A History by Raymond A. Schroth

Schroth offers a comprehensive historical account of the order of priests who, more than anyone else, have brought America to Christ.  Beginning with the first, unfortunately murdered, Jesuit to touch the New World, Schroth details a 450 year history of serving the disenfranchised and the poor, building schools and universities, and making very public stands for social justice.  They are not always perfect, but for those who admire Father Damien in spite of his flaws may find more of the same here.

Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back Again by Norah Vincent

Agnes’s transformation to Father Damien is an integral part of Erdrich’s novel.  The reservation’s remoteness and the acceptance of the Native people made this easier.  In this book Norah Vincent makes her transformation in the thick of society.  In the guise of Ned, a somewhat nerdy salesman complete with crewcut and ever-present five o’clock shadow, Vincent lived for more than a year as a man, infiltrating and living every aspect of male-ness from the sacred to the profane providing an in-depth look at what is expected of male behavior and how women and men are truly different.

Similar Fiction:

The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende

Similar to Erdrich, Allende writes a generational saga of a family and a people who suffer from the decisions made far in the past.  The Trueba family live in an unnamed Latin American country crippled by political upheaval.  Though less overtly spiritual than Erdrich, readers will find mystical undercurrents and cultural conflicts that color the portrait of this family.

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

Another sweeping family portrait, this time of a Mexican American family, Caramelo is the story of Lala Reyes as she grows through the revelations of family stories and histories.  The interconnectedness of seemingly different narratives is reminiscent of Erdrich’s storytelling, as are the shared tragedies and raptures that have brought the family, and specifically Lala, to the place they are today.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

A set of short stories told from the inhabitants of the Spokane Indian Reservation, this is a complex picture of contemporary Native American life that juxtaposes the trappings of modern culture with the traditions of a proud, ancient, and crumbling people.

Name: Jessica

The Rag Doll Plagues

November 28, 2012

Title: The Rag Doll Plagues

Author: Alejandro Morales

Genre: Fiction, magic realism, historical, sci-fi, Chicano lit

Publisher: Arte Publico Press: Houston

Number of Pages: 200

Date of Publication: 1992

Geographic Setting: Spain, Mexico, California, Lamex

Time Period: 1788-1792, modern day, 2050

Summary: The plague called La Mona (what we would call AIDS today) is sweeping through Mexico during its colonial period, and no one knows what to do. The King of Spain sents his physician, Dr. Gregorio Revueltas, to try and help the colonists. Interwoven is the story of a doctor in California who falls in love with a woman who contracts AIDS from a blood transfusion; and the future story of Lamex, a collaborative state combining Mexico and the Southwest USA: where the people who once lived in Mexico City may finally develop the cure for the plague. The whole book is one cycle, as the main characters of books two and three are descended from the physician of the first, and that the spirit of the doctor returns to help guide them to the cure.

Subject Headings: communicable diseases–fiction

Appeal: drama, disease study, dystopian world, suspense, contemporary, Chicano, alternative history, deep, detailed, culture study, folk medicine, terse writing

My Three Appeal Terms: culture, detailed, disease study

Recommended Nonfiction Authors:

Santeria:The Religion: Faith, Rites, Magic by Migene Gonzales-Wippler. World Religion and Magic Series, 2002.
An in-depth look at Santeria, a religion that combines Catholicism and Yoruba African deities into a spell-binding package. Chosen because it plays a major role in Dreaming in Cuban.

The Wisdom of Whores by Elizabeth Pisani. Norton W. W. & Company. 2008.
An unconventional look into AIDS from angles people might not have considered, including political and autobiographic viewpoints. A little graphic in parts, but not meant to be gratuitous. Chosen because it deals with the main subject of Rag Doll.

Tales from Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx by Sam Quinones. University of New Mexico Press, 2001.
A book of nonfiction vignettes about contemporary Mexico collected while reporting in the area. Chosen for subject area and general format, as well as for setting, which ties it to the other recommended books.

Recommended Fiction Authors:

Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia. Ballatine Books: New York. 1992.
A family split by the revolution in Cuba and each takes their own way in life. Chosen because it falls under Latin American literature and history. It also is cyclically written and detailed in its settings like Rag Doll. Recommended for those who want another view on Hispanic culture, modern history or religion.

Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. Perfection Learning 1995.
The youngest daughter of a Mexican woman in the 20th century tries to find true love and independence from her overbearing mother and the rule that the youngest daughter cannot marry. Chosen because it is cyclical, deals with family and is extremely detailed. Recommended for those who like cooking, romance, history, culture and for those who like to get angry when they read ( trust me, you will!)

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. Harper Perenial Modern Classics: New York. 2006.
A cyclical view of the mythical town of Macondo, as told by the Buendia family. Chosen for being in the canon of Latin American Literature and lush, detailed settings. For those who like drama, family and Latin American culture studies.

Name: Jennifer

Night

November 28, 2012

Author: Elie Wiesel
Title: Night
Genre: Memoir
Publication: 2006
Number of Pages: 120 pages
Geographical Setting: Europe- Germany
Time Period: 1933-1945
Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

Wiesel writes what seems to be his own autobiography through the eyes of the narrator -Eliezer.  We get a first person narrative of events of the holocaust as Elies takes us through the Nazis invasion of Hungary in 1944.  To the rude awakening of the Jews, a lot of oppressive and stringent laws are created to oppress the Jews forcing them into the ghettos. From then, there are imposed restrictions and eventual massive deportation of the Jews as prisoners by cattle cars to Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.   On getting to camp, Elie is separated from his father during “selection”. From then on we get a detailed  account of the horror, hardship and inhumanity as suffered by Elie Wiesel and his family and the rest of the Jews. Babies are burned in the ditch, hundreds of Jews burned in the crematoria. Prisoners are stripped naked and exposed to extreme weather condition, most people die from malnutrition and disease.

In the end, we see a broken down man, his spirits crushed which causes him to question his faith in God and in his fellow men.
A gut wrenching read, will appeal to those curious about the holocaust.

Subject Headings:
God (Judaism), Wiesel,  Elie, 1928, Birkenau Extermination Camp, Auschwitz (Concentration Camp), Jewish teenage boys, Holocaust survivors, Belief and doubt, Loss, Holocaust, Jewish (1933-1945) – Personal narratives

Three Appeal Terms:
Moving, Disturbing, Gruesome

Appeal:
Reflective, Moody, Haunting, Menacing, Disturbing, Bleak, Gut wrenching, Engaging, Thoughtful, Descriptive, Compelling, Candid

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Gratitude by Kertes, Joseph

Another gripping account of the events of the holocaust, but this time the story is based in Hungary.  We learn more about the atrocities committed against the Jews but with a different story line and complex plot twists than the Night.  Will make a great read for those yearning for more holocaust stories.

Schindler’s list by Keneally, Thomas
Schindler’s story is retold by Keneally about his life how he – Schindler a German saved more than a thousand Jews working for him during the holocaust. For those interested in the events of the holocaust, this books brings a different perspective judging from Schindler’s  acts of goodwill.

The jade peony by Choy,  Wayson

A poignant tale of the recollections of an immigrant Chinese family in Chinatown – Vancouver before and during World War II.  The story is told from the eyes of the three young children about the difficulties, sorrows and loss they felt while growing up.  This is another alternative for readers interested in the theme of persecution, suffering and survival as in Night.

Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

The diary of a young girl: the definitive edition by Anne Frank
This book chronicles the personal experiences of Anne Frank and her family as they hide from place to place during the holocaust.  A more convincing account of the reality of the holocaust for those doubtful of the Night.

Maus: a survivor’s tale by Spiegelman, Art
Portrayed in a Graphic format, the author tells the story of his family’s experiences during the holocaust.  How they bounced from place to place, their hardship and survival.  Using animals in this format is a creative and effective way to depict such sorrowful events and will appeal to readers who love Graphic novels.

Holocaust: the events and their impact on real people by Wood, Angela
Find a collection of true stories of children who experienced first hand events of the holocaust.  Not only do we find each harrowing and gripping account of the suffering during this period, but we see  detailed analysis of events  leading up to this sadism and cruelty.  Great history collection.

The Help

November 28, 2012


Title: The Help
Author: Stockett, Kathryn
Publication Date:2009
Pages:464 pages
Geographical Setting: Jackson, Mississippi
Time Period: The Sixties (20th century)
Genre:Historical fiction
Series: N/A

Plot Summary:
The author tells a sombre story using three women’s perspective as they share their experiences in Jackson, Mississippi in the mid 60’s. Aibileen and Minny are African American women working as maids in white holds. Aibileen, though has had her own share of personal tragedies, however she is dutiful, loyal and loves the white children she takes care of. Minny on the other hand is sour, resentful and does not hesitate to speak her mind. Skeeter, a young white graduate has an inner struggle about finding who she is and settling down like all of her friends. As the story develops, Skeeter an aspiring writer, feels compassion for the plight of these black maids as they are mistreated while working for these families. She tries to convince the maids to tell their story about how it feels to cook, clean and take care of these white children under such degrading circumstances. As we learn about these women’s lives, we also get an insight into the racial prejudice and discrimination in the the south during the mid 1960‘s. The story moves very fast urging you to follow the characters they develop to find out what eventually happens.
Despite the evocation of sadness and melancholy in the story, the occasional interjections of humor help liven up the overall tone of the book.

Subject Headings: African-American women, Civil Rights Movement, College graduates,
Domestic workers, Housekeepers, Interracial friendship, Race relations, The Sixties (20th century)

Three Appeal Terms: Fast-paced, Compelling, Thought Provoking,

Appeal: Touching, thought-provoking, humorous and compelling, provocative, lively, dialect-rich, upbeat, moving, strong sense of place, engrossing, captivating, Fascinating

Fiction Read-Alikes:

The healing by Odell, Jonathan
A historical fiction – a personal account of a former slave’s experiences during pre civil rights movements in the south. This is a great read alike for those who truly enjoyed The Help and are curious about the lives of the slaves and how they coped.

We are all welcome here by Berg, Elizabeth
Here again, like the The Help we find three women but facing different types of struggles and survival – a bedridden mother, a teenager looking for freedom and an African American caregiver. The author portrays the relationship between race and class during the civil rights movements. This book would appeal to those interested in women’s quest for survival under grave circumstances, but with a lighter tone than in The Help.

Roots: the saga of an American family by Alex Haley
This award winning novel takes you right into the authentic story of slavery portrayed by this African American family. You follow the protagonist Kunte Kinte directly from capture in Africa, his resistance and eventual arrival and forced into slavery. This story spans seven generations of this family recounting their history through work in plantation, civil war and reconstruction period.

Non-Fiction Read-Alikes:

Song in a weary throat: an American pilgrimage by Murray, Paulie
Find a real personal account of Pauli Murray on the civil rights movement, women rights and advocacy. This will appeal to those who would like to learn more about race integration and major works on women’s rights.

Civil rights movement: people and perspectives by Michael, Ezra
For those who are interested in civil rights movements and its effect on the nation, this is a great resource. The book is comprehensive and gives various perspectives on the events of the civil rights era.

W.E.B. DuBois: biography of a race, 1868-1919 by David Levering Lewis
The biography of DuBois is an intelligent and detailed work. It is a great resource with in-depth account and analysis of the history of racism, civil war and civil rights movements. A well researched book and a credible source. Those intrigued by the level of racism and prejudice as portrayed in The Help would appreciate this resource.

When the Emperor Was Divine

November 27, 2012

Author: Julie Otsuka

Title: When the Emperor Was Divine

Genre: Historical Fiction, Multi-cultural

Publication Date: 2002

Number of Pages: 144

Geographical Setting: California

Time Period: 1942-1945

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: This is a historically detailed story about a family that was in the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. The novel, which is written in third person, begins with the mother and two children still at home after their father was arrested. This was a few months before the rest of the family goes to the internment camp. The rest of the novel the characters reflect there unfortunate journey and lives while in the Japanese Internment Camp and their lives after the war. Even though living in the internment camps for over three years was horrible, it was bittersweet because they have pleasant moments and dreams. This family-centered novel provides the readers with a character-driven perspective of the lives in the internment camps in the United States during the Second World War

Subject Headings: Japanese-Americans – Mass internment, 1942-1945; World War II – California; Japanese-American families; concentration camps — California

Appeal: atmospheric; bittersweet; character-driven; closely observed; detailed setting; emotionally intense; family-centered; historical details; leisurely paced; multiple points of view; nostalgic; reflective; richly detailed; strong sense of place; thought-provoking

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: bittersweet; family-centered; historical details

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

– Davenport, John C., The attack on Pearl Harbor: The United States enters World War II (explains the historical details of how and why the Japanese were put into the internment camps)

– Grant, Kimi Cunningham, Silver like dust: one family’s story of America’s Japanese internment (an actual individual family-centered account of the internment camps)

– Grapes, Bryan J., Japanese-American internment camps (several articles and stories of people who were in the internment camps)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

– Appanah-Mouriquan, Nathacha, 1973-, The last brother (bittersweet, family-centered, World War II story)

– Finney, Ernest J., California time (family-centered story about a Japanese American families relationship with Portuguese and Italian families, and how World War II affected the relationship)

– Salisbury, Graham, Eyes of the emperor (thought-provoking, Japanese American story during World War II, story through the eyes of individual who fought in the war and was still discriminated against)

Name: Samantha Biegel

One Better by Rosalyn McMillan

November 27, 2012

Author: Rosalyn McMillan

Title: One Better

Genre: African American Literature, Women’s Lives and Relationships

Publication Date: 1997

Number of Pages: 360

Geographical Setting: Detroit, MI

Time Period: 1990s

Plot Summary:  Having come from a life of abuse, drugs, prostitution, and poverty in Mississippi, the Witherspoon family and their friends have succeeded in creating thriving restaurant and development businesses in Michigan. The author eloquently tells the story of the lives of Spice, Sterling, Mink, Otis, Carmen Enriquez, and Golden Westbrook as they struggle with their successes and failures, addictions to drugs and alcohol, tragic accidents and death. Individuals interested in reading about the redevelopment of Detroit may really like this book. However, there is a lot of explicit sex and drug dealing, so it is not recommended for teenagers.

Subject Headings: Family, Detroit, MI, Illegal Drugs, African American Women, Restauranteurs, Domestic Fiction, Love Stories

Appeal terms:  measured pace, dramatic, episodic, realistic, detailed, melancholy, well-developed, explicit sex, family-centered, urban, literary, details of drug and alcohol addiction

Three appeal terms: family-centered, urban, details of drug and alcohol addiction

Similar Authors and Works:

Fiction:

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston- This book is about the life and marriages of an African American Woman in the 1930s.

The Interruption of Everything by Terry McMillan- Terry McMillan is Rosalyn McMillan’s sister. Both authors write about the lives of African Americans. This book is about a woman, her marriage, and her family as she struggles with the idea of being a perfect wife and mother. Terry McMillan is best known for her books, Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker- This is the story of 20 years in a woman’s life as she experienced abuse and rape by her father and husband.

Non-Fiction:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou- This is the autobiography of the poet, Maya Angelou. The book is about the painful stories that she experienced as a child.

Terry McMillan by Bruce Fish- This is the biography of Rosalyn McMillan’s sister. It tells the story of how she survived a violent childhood to become a bestselling author of books and the screenplays for the movies.

The Honeymoon’s Over: True Stories of Love, Marriage and Divorce edited by Andrea Chapin and Sally Wofford-Girand- This is a book of essays by female authors, including Terry McMillan, about love marriage and divorce.

Name: Rachel Fischer

Mama Black Widow

August 15, 2012

Author:  Iceberg Slim

Title: Mama Black Widow: A Novel

Genre: African-American, Urban Lit, GLBTQ

Publisher/Publication Date:  Old School Books, 1998

Number of Pages:  240

Geographical Setting:  Southside Chicago

Time Period:  1930s-1970s

Plot Summary:  Mama Black Widow tells the tragic tale of Otis Tilson, a 40-year-old gay drag queen living on Chicago’s south side during the racially turbulent 70s.  Much of the novel is told in a realistic way by Otis about how his family moved to Chicago from the south in the 1930s, and the hard times they had to endure from then on.  Most of the novel is spent examining Otis’s mother “mama,” a vile, manipulative, downright evil woman who basically destroys every member of the Tilson family.  She drives her husband away, coerced one of her daughters into prostitution, and a lot of innocent people suffer greatly by her hands.  The author of this novel, Iceberg Slim (former pimp) writes in a way that is both shocking and insightful.  The language is often blunt, candid, and very, very offensive.  Sex scenes are described in explicit detail, and tone often changes from jovial to deadly serious.  Issues such as integration, trade unions, Chicago’s underground gay scene, police brutality, and hatred for the white man are discussed at length throughout the novel.  Slim even admits in the introduction that he is not the greatest writer, but he writes for the common people, and “tells it like it is.”

Subject Headings: Chicago (Southside)–Police (Brutality)–House of Corrections–Plantations–Trade Unions–Black Power–Bars (Gay)–Drag Queens–Cross-dressing–GLBTQ–Pimps–Drugs–Guns–Prostitution–Religion–False Preachers–Sex–Erotica–Rape–Pedophiles–Martin Luther King, Jr.–Street Cars–The El

Appeal: Realistic, Shocking, Character-Driven, Blunt, Candid, Erotic, Frantic, Intense, Dramatic, Serious, Political, Steamy, Graphic, Comical, Gut-Wrenching, Tragic, Sad, GLBTQ, Sexy

3 Appeal terms that best describe this book:  Serious, Steamy, Graphic

3 Similar Non-Fiction works and authors:

Soul on Ice, Eldridge Cleaver

This non-fiction memoir by Eldridge Cleaver will appeal to Iceberg Slim fans for its ability to shock, outrage, and question the readers’ ideas of what it means to be black in America.  His memoir is both sincere, raw, and very engaging.  He says at one point, “I’m perfectly aware that I’m in prison, that I’ve been a rapist, and that I have a higher Uneducation.”  Cleaver made indeed be too offensive to some, but he always savagely honest.  He tells the truth and he knows it.

Manchild in the Promised Land, Claude Brown

Claude Brown is a young, streetwise criminal growing up in Harlem in the 1940s and 50s.  This novel does an excellent job of describing northern black ghettos in New York in a turbulent, thrilling way.  Everything from pimps, drugs, street vendors, local shop owners, police brutality, gangs, sex and violence, and the gay underground are discussed in this book.  This book is however, quite inspiring and affirmative because Claude Brown is one of the lucky few who “made it” in this brutal world.

Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City’s Gay Community,  Tracy Baim

This handy reference book guides the reader through Chicago’s long and rich history of the gay community.  Those interested in Slim’s descriptive scenes of obscure bars and drag clubs will enjoy the multiple photographs presented within these pages (both in color and black & white).  The book draws on many scholarly, historical, and journalistic sources and covers time periods from pre- WWI to WWII-1960s, and 1970s to the present day.

3 Similar Fiction works and authors:

Blow Your Mind, Eric Pete

The description of the book reads,”In this erotic novel of sex and revenge, Eric Pete takes the consequences of dark sexual fantasies one step further.”  This story is about Tanner Coleman, his wife Bianca, and her wild sister, pumpkin.  When a man named Henry shows up and blackmailed Tanner, their lives are changed forever in a truly twisted way.  Not for the squeamish, this hardcore erotic, steamy, violent novel will appeal to Slim fans for its challenging dialogue, absurd situations, and the pessimistic world view that “we all die, and it will probably be sooner rather than later.”  Very popular!

Drag Queen, Robert Rodi

Considering the titles mentioned above, Rodi’s novel Drag Queen is a bit more light-hearted and comical, but also very engaging.  One review describes it as “The Parent Trap meets Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert.”  Gay attorney Mitchell Sayer has just found out from his mother that he has an identical twin, who happens to live not far from him in Northern Chicago.  The thing is, Mitchell’s brother is now named “Kitten Kaboodle,” gown-wearing, stillet0 strutting star of Tam-Tam’s “All-girl” review.  Furious, Mitchell tries to force Kitten into “the real world,” but Kitten feels she has a few lessons to teach as well.  Comical, insightful, and full of the Chicago landmarks Slim famously paints throughout his books.

Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby, Jr.

This graphic, brutally raw novel of characters living in Brooklyn during the 60s and 70s examines the anger and rage of many diverse individuals in a time where justice seemed non-existent.  Considered a classic of modern American writing, this book, as Slim would describe it, “tells it like it is.”  There are crooks, hoodlums, pimps, prostitutes, drag queens, gay men and women, police riots, and strikes galore.  Gritty and serious, blunt and brutally honest.  Truly essential.

The Color of Water

August 14, 2012

Author:  James McBride

Title:  The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother

Genre:  Nonfiction, Multicultural, Biography, Memoir

Publication Date:  1996

Number of Pages: 285

Geographical Setting:  Suffolk, Virginia, New York City

Time Period:  1930s-1990s.

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  “God is the color of water. Water doesn’t have a color.”

Growing up, James McBride noticed his mother did not look like him or his eleven brothers and sisters.  She didn’t look like anyone in the New York projects where they lived.  He would repeatedly ask her why she does not look like they do; she’d reply she was light skinned, that was she was a human being and not to worry about it, anything to not talk about it.  None of that matter to her; what mattered was school and church.  As an adult, James persuaded his mother, Ruth to tell her story.  She shared the story of a Jewish girl born in Poland to a Rabbi and her loving mother, immigrating to the United States, and raised in the south.  When she was twenty, she escaped to Harlem, where she married a black man in the 1940s, and converted to Christianity, thereby renouncing her Jewish background and family.  This biographical memoir takes the readers into Ruth’s world, growing up in the 1930’s to the present, while also taking readers into James’s upbringing in Ruth’s household in the 1960s.

Subject Headings:  Racially mixed people – New York (State) – New York – Biography, Mothers – New York (State) – New York – Biography, Whites – New York (State) – New York – Biography, Racially mixed people –Race identity, New York (N.Y.) – Biography.  Family and Relationships – Families.  Biography – Everyday People.  Christianity.  Judaism.

Appeal:  Inspirational, character-driven, heartwarming, thoughtful, leisurely-paced, steady, compassionate, flawed, realistic, sympathetic, family-centered, intimate, thoughtful.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  Inspirational, character-driven, thoughtful.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He was Black by Gregory Howard Williams.  The author recounts the shocking experience of learning his father’s relatives in Indiana were poor and Black and the resulting prejudice him and his brother experienced from both sides.  Like Color of Water, these two memoirs address a young man’s search for his racial and ethnic identity while growing up with a white mother and an African-American father.

The Color of Love: A Mother’s Choice in Jim Crow South by Gene Cheek.  This memoir presents a story surrounding the year 1963 in during the Jim Crow era, where the author was removed from his mother’s custody because she has a half-mixed baby.  While the exact circumstances differ, both books are moving accounts of the southern United States, racial tension, poverty and the struggle for identity and feeling of belonging.

The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South by Eli N. Evans, Willie Morris.  This is a classic portrait of Jews in the South.   Authors Evans and Morris takes readers inside the nexus of southern and Jewish histories.  This book gives the reader a closer look to what it was like to be Jewish in the south, straddling the line between black and white, that Ruth McBride Jordan experienced.

 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors (why they are similar):

Stopping for Green Lights by Alyce Miller.  This coming of age book set in the 1960s is about a cynical young white woman, yearning to fit in with her Black friends, falling in love with a nineteen year old Black man, who teaches her a hard lesson by his betrayal.  This fictional account shares similar subject and appeal terms, like coming of age, racial identity and the sixties, which was part of the back drop in The Color of Water.

Joshua’s Bible by Shelly Leanne. Philadelphia minister Joshua Clay is sent to South Africa, to be the first black minister in years.  He struggles to minister during the apartheid-era 1930s.  This story shares the Christianity tones, racial struggle and adversity during a time period that was featured in The Color of Water.

The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank. This fictional tale follows observations by Sophie Applebaum of her Jewish Pennsylvania family over the course of twenty years.  This story is a readalike because it features the dynamic of a Jewish family.

Name:  Olivia Button

American Born Chinese

August 13, 2012

American Born Chinese

August 13, 2012

American Born Chinese

Author: Gene Luen Yang

Title: American Born Chinese

Genre: Multi-Cultural Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 233

Geographical Setting: San Francisco, California

Time Period: Modern/Mythical Time

Plot Summary: This is a graphic novel that blends traditional Chinese mythology with racial stereotypes and understanding identity. This novel has three separate stories. The first is the tale of the Monkey King, a Chinese Myth. The second story follows a Chinese boy named Jin Wang who moves from China-Town, in San Francisco, to an all white suburb and his struggles to fit in. The third story follows a white-American boy named Danny whose Chinese cousin comes to visit. “Chin-Kee,” his cousin, displays all the racial stereotypes of Chinese peoples. This novel won numerous awards including the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album.

Subject Headings: Chinese – Graphic Novel; Chinese Mythology — Graphic Novel; Race identity– Fiction; Chinese Stereotypes – Graphic Novel

Appeal: Thoughtful, Engaging, Honest, Candid, Detailed, Engrossing, Complex, Realistic, Mythical, Thought-Provoking, Multiple- Points of View, Artistic

Three appeal terms:  Candid, Mythical, Complex

Three fiction read-alikes:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This book is a look at Junior, a teen-ager, who is a Spokane Indian. He lives on the reservation with his family, but decides to go to an all-white high school. This book contains wonderful illustrations and deals with race-identity and racial stereo types.

Black and White by Paul Volponi

This book looks at the disparities in the justice system between blacks and whites in America.  It follows the story of two friends, one black and one white: Marcus and Eddy. They both play basketball and are best friends, but one day they both commit the same crime, will one be treated differently than the other because of race?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This novel is a classic in American Literature. It is a story about a black man who is wrongly accused of a crime and the white lawyer who goes against the “norm” to represent the accused.  It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.

Three related non-fiction titles:

Chinese Mythology: An Introduction by Ann M. Birrell

This book includes over three-hundred Chinese myths translated by Anne Birrell. The reason this book is so amazing is that many of the myths are from classical texts that have never been translated for the west.

Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah

This novel is a true account of Adeline Mah’s childhood told as the classical Cinderella story. Her father re-marries after her mother dies in child-birth and the life she and her siblings have to endure at the hands of their “wicked” step-mother. She is treated the worst of all.

Driven Out: The Forgotten War against Chinese Americans by Jean Pfælzer

This is a look at the shocking truth behind the systematic purging of Chinese people from 1848 till the 1900s in the West. This is a true story of triumph over adversity as the Chinese did not sit still for this treatment and fought back for their civil-rights.

– Charles Ford

Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary

August 8, 2012

Author: Keshni Kashyap   Illustrator: Mari Araki

Title: Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary

Genre: Coming of Age Stories; Multicultural; Graphic Novel (format)

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 242

Geographical Setting: Southern California

Time Period: Modern

Plot Summary: This engaging graphic novel tells the coming of age story of an East Indian American teenager named Tina as she struggles with the bigger questions in life. As an English honors assignment on existentialism, Tina begins to keep a diary of letters she writes to philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Keshni Kashyap, an East-Indian-American herself who struggled with her own racial identity as a teen, is the author of this novel. The black and white illustrations by Araki help to convey the charming and mellow tone of the story. The writing is amusing yet realistic and authentic. The diaries are candid thoughts on growing up and philosophy that are cleverly intertwined.

Subject Headings: Teenage girls-Southern California; Individuality; Diaries; East Indian-Americans; High schools

Appeal: leisurely-paced, candid, humorous, philosophical, thoughtful, engaging, quirky, realistic, authentic, diaries, clever, smart, charming, amusing, mellow

3 terms that best describe this book: engaging, philosophical, authentic

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Tete-aTete: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre by Hazel Rowley – If you’d like to learn more about Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophies as well as more about his personal and unusual relationship with Simone de Beauvoir, you may want to read this book.

2.    Leaving India: My Family’s Journey From Villages to Five Continents by Minal Hajratwala – If after reading Tina’s Mouth, you would like to find out more about East Indian culture, immigration, and history this may be a book you would enjoy.

3.    Being and Time by Martin Heidegger – If after reading Tina’s Mouth you would like to learn more about existentialism as a philosophy, you may enjoy reading this book about human existence.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Too Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson – If you enjoy coming of age graphic novels that are reflective in nature like Tina’s Mouth, you may also enjoy this.

2.      Action Philosophers! by Fred Van Lente – You may enjoy this book if you like reading graphic novels about philosophy like Tina’s Mouth. This graphic novel that is part of the Action Philosophers Series (Book 2) takes a humorous approach to the expansive field of philosophy.

3.      The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani –If you would like to read another fiction book about East Indian culture and racial struggles in the United States, this book about an arranged marriage might appeal to you.

Name: Patty Prodanich