Posts Tagged ‘metaphorical’

Are You My Mother?

October 24, 2012

Cover of Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

Author: Alison Bechdel

Title: Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama

Genre: Graphic Memoir

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 304

Geographical Setting: Mostly Pennsylvania and Vermont

Time Period: Present day with flashbacks

Series: Follow-up to Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006)

Plot Summary: Are You My Mother? is a densely-layered and thought-provoking exploration in graphic memoir form of author Bechdel’s complex, flawed relationship with her mother. Bechdel’s father, the subject of her earlier work, Fun Home, was a closeted bisexual who ultimately committed suicide, and her mother a frustrated poet and actress who sublimated her desires to those of her husband, submitting to the role of primary caregiver to their three children. Are You My Mother? depicts Bechdel, some five years after the publication of her critically-acclaimed book about her father, setting out to write a new book about her mother. Bechdel chronicles her process as an artist and writer, undergoing therapy and looking for analogies to her own life found in the works of favorite authors Virginia Woolf and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, as she attempts to shape a narrative that identifies the moments that wounded her mother and crippled the formation of a healthy mother-daughter bond. The artwork in Are You My Mother? is pen and brush with delicate grey and red washes, offering  a deceptively comic-strip-like simplicity that lightens the densely-written and sophisticated subject matter.

Subject Headings: Motherhood; Mothers and daughters; Teenage daughters—coming out; Parent and child; Suicide; Feminism; Psychoanalysis; Woolf, Virginia, 1882-1941; Winnicott, D. W. (Donald Woods), 1896-1971; Artists

Appeal: Detailed, dramatic, eccentric, intriguing secondary characters, introspective, well developed, character centered, complex, domestic, episodic, layered, literary references, sexually explicit, thought-provoking, contemporary, detailed setting, details of psychoanalytic theory, elaborate, metaphorical, sophisticated, unusual

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: introspective, layered, thought-provoking

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Projections: Comics and the History of Twenty-First-Century Storytelling (2012) by Jared Gardner

Readers who admire the scope and depth of Bechdel’s graphic storytelling will find much to explore in Gardner’s recent lively, yet somewhat academic, tome. Gardner offers an interpretation of comics as an art form which encourages interactivity in deciphering its contents and a model for contemporary modes of communication. There are multiple passages on Bechdel’s work which contextualize her place in the comics field.

Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland (2012) by Harvey Pekar

Bechdel works in the form known in graphic novel circles as autobiographical comics. Those who want to read more of this type of story may wish to acquaint themselves with Harvey Pekar, one of the seminal figures in this genre who helped define its contours. Where Are You My Mother? uses literary reference and psychoanalysis as a context for Bechdel’s self-exploration, Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland in rich detail describes the deep impact that place and history have in shaping identity. Cartoonish but heavily-rendered pen and ink drawings highlight both the grit and charm of urban Cleveland.

Donald Winnicott Today (2012) edited by Jan Abram

The work and life of child psychoanalyst and theorist Winnicott are front and center in the narrative of Are You My Mother?  Bechdel comes to terms with life-long insecurities and decodes her troubled relationship with her mother, relying heavily on Winnicott’s models of mother-child dynamics. Readers who want to explore Winnicott’s work further will find this an accessible and thoughtfully assembled overview of his contributions to the field of Psychoanalysis.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

To the Lighthouse (1927; various editions) by Virginia Woolf

Bechdel’s work is heavily influenced by the English writer Virginia Woolf. Although many of her books are discussed in Are You My Mother?, Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse receives particular attention for its story of self-discovery and coming to terms with the past, which mirrors Bechdel’s emotional journey. Believed to be the most autobiographical of all Woolf’s psychological fiction, To the Lighthouse, with its lyrical style and reflective tone, will surely appeal to readers intrigued by the glimpses of the novel found in Are You My Mother?

Stuck Rubber Baby (New Edition; 2010) by Howard Cruse

Newcomers to comics featuring LGBT protagonists and themes who wish to explore further will find an incredibly rich and varied tradition awaiting them. One of the first widely critically-acclaimed graphic novels dealing with gay themes to receive national attention was Cruse’s Stuck Rubber Baby, first published in 1995. Moving and reflective, and with a strong sense of place, the story follows the exploits of a young man named Toland Polk discovering his sexuality against the backdrop of the civil rights movement in the South during the 1960s.

Wandering Son, Book 1 (2011) by Shimura Takako

Are You My Mother? explores the thematic territory of gender identity and coming of age as does the moving and character-driven manga Wandering Son.  Two fifth graders on the cusp of puberty share a secret: Shuichi is a boy who wishes he were a girl and Yoshino a girl who wishes she were a boy. Shimura’s spare and evocative art will likely appeal to fans of Bechdel’s stylized and emotionally expressive drawings.

Name: John Rimer

The Book Thief

October 24, 2012

Author: Zusak, Markus

Title: The Book Thief

Genre: Audio Book, Juvenile Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 560; number of compact discs: 11 (13 hr., 50 min)

Geographical Setting: Molching (outside of Munich) fictional town outside of Munich in Germany

Time Period: 1933-1945

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: The Book Thief written by an Australian writer, received numerous literary awards, and is one of the most originally written novels of the 2000s. In its audio book version, narrator Allan Corduner, an actor with extensive theatre experience on London’s West End and on Broadway, gives an extraordinary performance by using his voice. The main character, 9 year old Liesel, known as a book thief, is sent by her mother who later on disappears to live with her new foster family. During the journey, her little brother dies on the train; she buries him with her mother and steals her first book, The Grave Digger’s Handbook. However, Liesel cannot read. The most original aspect of the novel is its narrative –Death itself, who tells the story of Liesel. Her adoptive father Hans, who she calls Papa, quickly becomes her friend and teaches her writing and reading. Her stealing adventures with a boy named Rudy, the dark and paranoid living situation of a young Jew, Max, who the family hides in their basement, and a few other strong characters that live in this fictional small town, somewhere outside of Munich, are shown with the philosophical aspects of dehumanization during the World War II. Therefore, there is another side of Germany shown, not the Nazi, fanatic country, but Germans who in spite of the consequences of immediate death, hide in their homes other Germans – Jews and sympathize and help them. And Liesel, a brave and intelligent girl, discovers instantly what a treasure for a human soul a book truly is and learns instantly what  Main Kampf did to one country.

Subject Headings: Books and Reading, Death, Nazi Germany, History 1933-1945, Historical Fiction, Holocaust, Jews Rescue, Juvenile Fiction, Storytelling, World War II.

Appeal: emotional; hopeful; philosophical portray of Germans and Jews during World War II; undeniable proof for power of written word; insightful characters; realistic aspects of human dignity; inspiring acts of courage.

Three Terms for Book:  hopeful, superb and innovative narrative, and important enlightening novel.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

  1. Orlev, Uri, The Island on Bird Street – the story of the 11 year old boy      during the Holocaust, in a Warsaw ghetto in      Poland.      His faith for his father comes back, courage, and reading makes the      horrifying conditions inexplicably able to endure. The author is      internationally known for his books focusing on the subjects of the      Holocaust and the lives of Jews throughout WWII.
  2. Pausewang, Gudrun, Traitor – during the last year of WWII, the 15 year old Anna      must decide about hiding a Russian soldier in her native town in Germany,      while risking their  lives and      certain death if being exposed. The book inspires further dialogue about      the difficult choices Germans had to make in these evil times.
  3.  Peet, Mal, Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal – available      also as an audio book, narrated by two authors, male and female. Tamar is      15 years old and lives in England.      It is 1995 when his beloved grand-father commits  suicide, and Tamar will learn about his      secret past life during WWII in Netherlands under the Nazi      occupation. It is a compelling and suspenseful book about fear, finding      one’s own identity, and once again strength.

Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

  1. Frank, Anne, The Diary of a Young Girl – an audio book published in 2010 as      a new edition for new generation of young people about the worldwide known      testament of the Holocaust and Jewish people hiding to survive the war’s      atrocities. Anne died in 1945 as a young girl, leaving her diaries as      evidence of her short life-vulnerable but dignified and in spite of      circumstances full of young, rebellious spirit.
  2. Gross, Leonard, The Last Jews in Berlin – based on the real story, the      survival of twelve Jews in the heart of Nazi Berlin. It’s the middle of      the war, 1942, genocide of Jews, concentration camps, and twelve very      brave women and men against the human degradation called extermination of      Jews. The perspective of a people living in constant fear of being exposed      to sure death among good Germans who wished to help. Moving and      informative.
  3. Friedlander, Saul, Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945: The Years of      Extermination – well researched, revisited sensitive subject of lives      of Jewish people in Europe under the      regime and fear of death. The author, an American professor of history,      focuses on subjects, such as anti-Semitism and its motives.

Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table

August 8, 2012

Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table

Author: Ruth Reichl

Title: Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table

Genre: Nonfiction; Memoirs; Autobiographies (Best Seller)

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 282

Geographical Setting: New York and Connecticut

Time Period: 1950’s

Plot Summary: Ruth Reichl, Gourmet magazine’s editor-in-chief and restaurant critic for The New York Times, writes memoirs about her childhood written under the umbrella of food and cooking. Cooking was her escape from her dysfunctional family, but especially in dealing with her mother who suffered from a mental illness. Although it sounds like this book should be sad and tragic, the stories are told in an amusing and heartwarming way. This novel is set at a relaxed pace as you get to know Ruth as well as the many other descriptive and engaging characters.

Subject Headings: Reichl, Ruth; Cooking; Growing up; Food habits-United States; Recipes

Appeal: character-driven, relaxed pace, amusing, bittersweet, heartwarming, inspirational, nostalgic, candid, conversational, descriptive, dialect-rich, engaging, lush, hopeful, thoughtful, imaginative, clever, colorful, metaphorical

3 terms that best describe this book: heartwarming, descriptive, and character-driven

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber – If you enjoy reading memoirs about food and culture and liked the relaxed pace and amusing nature of Tender at the Bone, you may enjoy this book.

2.    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver- If you enjoy reading memoirs about food and are interested in finding out more about locally grown foods, you may enjoy this read alike.

3.      Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell – If you enjoy reading autobiographies about food and cooking,and appreciate a book with a conversational and humorous tone just like Tender at the Bone, you might want to try this book. (Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs – If you like reading humorous stories about a chefs and cooking set in a relaxed pace, you may enjoy this book.

2.      Corinna Chapman Mysteries by Kerry Greenwood – If you enjoy reading engaging mysteries about food and cooking, this series might appeal to you. (First book in the series is Earthly Delights.)

3.      The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender – If you liked the character-driven nature of Tender at the Bone, but would like to try something a little bit more offbeat and lyrical, you might want to try this book.

Name: Patty Prodanich

The Shack

April 11, 2012

Author: Wm. Paul Young

Title: The Shack         

Genre: Inspirational fiction

Publication Date: 2007

Number of pages: 252

Geographical Setting: Oregon

Time Period: Present day

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack is a novel that takes readers on a journey from heartache and despair through metamorphosis into acceptance and joy. Mackenzie Allen Phillips, a family man who makes his home in the state of Oregon, has a faith in God that is nearly obliterated beyond recognition because of a great and unexpected tragedy in his immediate family. However, by going into and through his worst fears, both figuratively and literally, he is able to finally find peace and an infinitely more satisfying and wonderful life than he had ever dreamed possible. His faith in God thus becomes a living, growing relationship between the Savior and the saved.

Subject Headings: God, Christianity – The Trinity, Serial murderers, Faith, Family relationships, Friendship, Oregon

Appeal: compelling, engrossing, detailed (characters), introspective (characters), well-developed characters, familiar (characters), inspirational, issue-oriented, resolved ending, thought-provoking, tragic, bittersweet, detailed setting, mystical, philosophical, suspenseful, graceful, metaphorical, thoughtful

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: inspirational, thought-provoking, bittersweet

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.) Christianity: the First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch – MacCulloch takes a long and detailed look at Christianity from its beginnings to modern times. Includes influences that helped it to develop as well as discusses differences among today’s Christian sects or denomination.

2.) Founding Faith: the Birth of Religious Freedom in America by Steven Waldman – This text explores the beginnings of faith from the founding fathers on into early America. Waldman debunks popular myths as well as largely discussing what America is most famous for regarding religion – freedom of belief and faith.

3.) Lasso the Wind: Away to the New West by Timothy Egan – Egan takes us on a journey into the rich history of the pacific northwestern United States and carries us on into today’s struggles, adventures and possibilities for the future of the area and its inhabitants. This text is at once moving and depressing, but always realistic.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

.) For One More Day by Mitch Albom – Charles Benetto, a grief-stricken alcoholic, comes to terms with himself and the loss of his mother in this moving, inspirational novel. The author takes us on a journey back into time to truly repair Benetto’s relationship with his deceased mother.

.) Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed stranger: New and Selected Stories by Lee Smith – A collection of bittersweet short stories with a distinctly southern feel, these tales are ones of love, forgiveness, adaptation, and redemption. Smith includes both new tales and old favorites here also.

.) Where No Storms Come by John F. Deane – This Christian love story is at once a poet’s delight and a thought-provoking romance. It tells the tale of two individuals who each pursue a life in religious vocations – lives filled with brutal awakenings and other eye-opening spiritual revelations.

Name: Melissa

When the Elephants Dance

August 17, 2011


Title:  When the Elephants Dance

Author: Tess Uriza Holthe

Genre: Multicultural, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2002

Number of Pages: 368

Geographical Setting: Philippines

Time Period: 1941-1945

Format:  Hardcover

Plot Summary:  Tess Uriza Holthe has written a family story like no other. She tells the tale of the Karangalan family in the Philippines during World War II. The Japanese are rounding up and interrogating people and waging a fierce battle against the Americans. In order to survive, this family along with their friends and neighbors crowd together in a cellar and tell spellbinding tales based on Filipino myth and legend. These magical passages of Filipino culture absolutely transport the reader to a place and time far away but only for a short period of time until you are forced back into the fear and unknowing that this family faces every day. Within this book is a wonderful mix of history, humor and magical conversation that will have you wanting more as it comes to a close.

Subject Headings:  History, Fiction, Philippines, Japanese occupation, Folklore, War

Appeal:  engrossing, dramatic, heartwarming, hopeful, humorous, magical, eccentric, detailed, inspiring, vivid, cinematic, character-centered, historical details, detailed setting, conversational, metaphorical, unusual, poetic

3 Terms That Best Describe This Book: metaphorical, dramatic and heartwarming

Similar Authors and Works

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Captured: The Japanese Internment of American Civilianns in the Philippines, 1941-1945 by Frances B Cogan-For any reader of When the Elephants Dance who is interested in the history behind the story.

Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission by Hampton Sides- This gripping tale will illuminate the struggle with Japan in the Philippines during WWII. This nonfiction book that reads like fiction will have readers captivated by this personal story of struggle.

Philippine Folk Tales by Mabel Cook Cole-This collection of traditional folk tales will interest readers of When the Elephants Dance who want to delve into the background of some of the tales they read about in Holthe’s novel.

 3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Camera Soldiers: The Philippine Odyssey by James Russell Stephens-The fictional story of a team of soldier whose job it is to take photographs to document the war. It is set in the Philippines in 1942 during World War II.  It would appeal to readers of When the Elephants Dance who are looking for a story from the other side’s point of view.

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat-A harrowing story that includes political violence and the supernatural. The ideas of tradition, suffering and the history of a people will resonate with readers of When the Elephants Dance.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz-A fantastical story with a conversational narrative that is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. The story tells the tale of a family from the Dominican Republic and their life during and after the time of dictator Rafael Trujillo.

Name:  Mary Othic

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

April 13, 2011 Gene Luen Yang

Title: American Born Chinese

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: September 2006

Number of Pages: 233

Geographical Setting: American suburbs

Time Period: Present day 21st century

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary:

This tells the story of three different characters:  the Monkey King, Jin Wang and Chin-Kee.  Yang takes these three different tales of struggle and acceptance and weaves them together in a seamless and unexpected way that produces a surprising ending that leaves you thinking.  First, we meet the Monkey King, who is one of the oldest and most famous of Chinese fables.  Here Yang tells the story of the Monkey King and his wish to be respected and revered by all.  In order for him to garner respect and acceptance, he changes his appearance from a monkey to a man.  Next, we meet Jin Yang, a young boy whose family moves from San Francisco’s Chinatown to a community where he is one of two Asian Americans in his class.  His story is also one of struggling to blend in and be accepted and finding his place in a mostly white community.  Finally, we meet Danny, an all-American blue-eyed high school jock and his Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee.  Chin-Kee represents the ultimate negative stereotype of Chinese people, and Danny is so ashamed of Chin-Kee’s lack of Americana that he feels forced to change schools every year to evade the embarrassment of being associated with Chin-Kee.  As these three stories unfold, we learn about the struggle of what it means to be Asian in America.  This metaphorical story is a poignant, humorous and authentic look at overt and covert racism in America.

Subject Headings: Chinese-Americans, Identity (Psychology), Misfits (Persons), Racism, School, Social Acceptance, Stereotypes (Social psychology), Chinese folklore, Monkey King, Adult books for young adults.

Appeal: character-driven, intricately plotted, funny, engaging, thoughtful, fast-paced, moving, authentic, episodic, resolved ending, contemporary, metaphorical, easy, coming of age.

3 Terms that best describe this book: thought-provoking, authentic, metaphorical.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Bento Box in the Heartland:  My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America by Linda Furiya – Asian-American experience, memoir, adult book for young adults, childhood memories, food, cultural identity, United States, racism, Midwest America, childhood struggles of trying to be accepted, conflicting feelings concerning her ethnicity, identity, and her parents’ arranged marriage.

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming – graphic novel, adult book for young adults, biographical, China’s greatest magician, racism in Hollywood, Asians, Asian Americans, captivating, moving, triumphing over adversity.

Yellow:  Race in America Beyond Black and White by Frank H. Wu – history writing, Asian-American experience, racism, personal account of his own childhood experiences with racism and stereotypes of Asian-Americans, United States.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Monkey:  A Folk-Tale of China by Wu Cheng’en – Chinese fiction, folklore of the monkey king, quests, friendship, magic and morals.

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine – graphic novel, Japanese-Americans, Korean-Americans, race relations, self-discovery in men, California, friendship, interracial dating, reflective, honest, racial politics, struggles with race issues, relationship issues, and coming of age.

Yellow: Stories by Don Lee – Asian-Americans, United States, California, collection of short stories, multiple points of view, final story brings together all of the topics and struggles each character has dealt with, racism.

Name: Jeannine Kropski

Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez

April 13, 2009

Author: Richard Rodriguez


Title: Hunger on Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez


Genre: Latino (Hispanic)


Publication Date: 1982


Number of Pages: 195


Geographic Setting: California


Time Period: 1950’s through 1970’s


Plot Summary: In this vivid and honest autobiography, Mexican-American, Richard Rodriguez, describes his life growing up in a newly immigrated family during a racially and politically changing United States.  With intimate detail, Richard relays his childhood and how he was taught to be private, remain strictly religious, and be untrustworthy of the American “gringo”.  However, as Richard moves from his private life at home to the public life at school, his desire for education and longing to be accepted quickly elevates him to the head of the class, the pride of his teachers, and the interest of America’s leading universities.  Richard soon realizes that it is possible to achieve the American dream, but it may cost him his Mexican heritage, his family, and himself.


Subject Headings: Mexican Americans – California – Biography, Mexican Americans – Education, Education, Bilingual – United States, Affirmative action – programs – United States, English language – Acquisition, Bilingualism


Appeal: compelling, engrossing, unhurried, engaging, intriguing, introspective, vivid, episodic, inspirational, issue-oriented, thought-provoking, heartening ending, intimate, thoughtful, candid, polished, metaphorical, unembellished, direct


Similar Authors and Works:


Non-Fiction Works:


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou – (autobiographical, honest, touching, overcoming obstacles, childhood experiences, inspirational)


When I Was Puerto Rican, by Esmeralda Santiago – (vivid, autobiographical, Latino literature, transitioning into United States, family relationships)  


Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans, by Ronald Takaki – (fascinating, personal experiences, immigrant struggles, thought-provoking)  


Fiction Works:

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, by Sherman Alexie – A thought-provoking story about a young Native American man who is trying to hold onto his ancestors’ proud and awe-inspiring heritage while at the same time he must come to terms with the fact that his people’s present situation is one of defeatism, alcoholism, and a life of squalor on an Indian reservation.


Growing Up Latino: memoirs and stories, introduction by Harold Augenbraum and Iian Stavans – Written by several authors from different Latino backgrounds, this collection of short stories deals with the struggles that young Latino Americans face as they balance their Latino heritage with American society.


The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros – Through eloquent poetry and emotional storytelling, this is a coming of age story about the harsh realities a young Puerto Rican girl must face as she tries to overcome the obstacles she faces from being a Latino in the United States.