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REVIEW: HEART BERRIES

I have an ongoing commitment that I will exclusively read women writers this year. Full disclosure, I’ve only read two books this year.

By some fluke or mix-up I received HEART BERRIES by Terese Mailhot last week (a whole week before publication). I read this poignant memoir in one heart-wrenching sitting. On the surface, it seems odd for me to say that this is the most vulnerable memoir that I have ever read. But it is the truth. HEART BERRIES is raw and powerful. Mailhot’s words and journey have stayed with me.

The writer is very deliberate and open about her mental illness, the loss of her son, familial trauma,  and her tumultuous affair and relationship with her former teacher. The parts that were about her relationship were particularly striking to me as I think there are people like me who can relate and understand the sort of desperation she felt about this particular love.

It’s a difficult book because it tackles abuse and mental illness. It never strays from honesty. The writer neither vilifies herself nor presents herself as saintly. Mailhot also rejects indigenous stereotypes but also makes it clear that this is her journey and not necessarily a depiction of every woman from the rez.

This poetic and compelling memoir has received and continues to receive rave reviews and the praise is well-deserved. I urge everyone to pick up this slim but powerful memoir.

Review: I AM NOT YOUR PERFECT MEXICAN DAUGHTER

This year I’ve successfully finished reading one book. I am not sure yet what my goal is this year as I do want to set a lofty goal but I also want to be realistic. Mulling it over, I think my goal is going to be 26 books. If I go over it? Even better.

Another literary goal I set out for myself is to exclusively read women writers this year.

Last night, I finished reading I AM NOT YOUR PERFECT MEXICAN DAUGHTER by Erika L. Sanchez. I’d venture to say that I finished it in almost one sitting. This book is a beautiful and powerful read. The protagonist, Julia, is multi-dimensional and incredibly well-written. It’s been a decade since I was Julia’s age but her teenage attitude and perspective is completely realistic and it very much took me back to being that age.

Overall, most of the characters in I AM NOT YOUR PERFECT MEXICAN DAUGHTER are fleshed out–even Olga who is the deceased sister. However, Connor fell flat to me. His character initially left a sour taste in my mouth after he asks Julia where she’s really from. I find Connor two-dimensional because I never got a good idea of what his wants or desires were and he was simply a rich kid with not much else.

However, characters like Lorena, Juanga, and of course Julia liven this novel. It’s a wonderful coming-of-age novel and what that can mean in the context of Mexican-American culture. I deeply wish this book had existed when I was a teenager because Julia’s family and mine were very similar.

Furthermore, I love that this book did not shy from mental illness especially because it is often such a taboo subject among Latin American culture. I also appreciated that Julia’s parents did not react in a stereotypical manner to Julia’s depression and anxiety.

In the end, I’d recommend this marvelous novel to anyone both young adult and older.

Holiday Introspection

It’s funny how we anticipate Christmas week by week after Thanksgiving then the day arrives and it’s over quicker than you can ask for leftovers. We have plastic bags packed with torn cardboard boxes and ripped wrapping paper we were diligent in making look “perfect”.  Kids’ toys are strewn across the couch and the floor until you stuff them in a gift bag and set them in their bedroom–the onus on the child to now find the toys a home.

The holidays haven’t quite felt as magical or full of merriment in several years. I still had a great holiday weekend with my immediate and extended family. J bought us a dining room table which means we can longer zone-out on the couch while we balance plates on our laps. It’s one of the gifts I am most excited about because I grew up having dinner at a table as a family. J on the other hand says they only ate at the table for special gatherings like Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Last night we ate at the table for the first time and we put out new placemats. It’s such a minor thing, but it made me feel like we’re getting our life together. We struggle with tidiness and organization but this seems to be moving us in the right direction.

The most meaningful gift I received this year was from J. A few weeks back we had bought a set of hardback notebooks that have this beautiful dark design that resembles marble. Anyway, he handwrote about 8 months worth of writing prompts for me. The gesture was incredibly appreciated because he’s not much of a reader and we don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye when it comes to creative endeavors but I like that he’s making an effort to support me and my goals.

I really am looking forward to 2018. I hope everyone had a great holiday and stay safe for the next one.

 

 

Review: LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This post is long over-due. In early August I posted about how I was looking forward to LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng. I did in fact receive it the day it came out (thanks Amazon Prime!). Within two days I had finished this stunning novel.

Celeste Ng quickly became one of my favorite writers after I read her debut EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU. From there I sought out her short stories and anticipated her second book.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE is set in a small town in Ohio and follows the intertwining of the lives of two families. One family is comprised of lifelong residents with a matriarch who adheres and loves the unwritten rules of the town. The other family is a pair–a mother and daughter who appear to be more eccentric. There is also a custody battle playing out in the town between a white family, a Chinese baby, and the baby’s biological mother.

One of the elements I enjoy about Ng is that she writes characters that feel incredibly real–they are not 100% likeable nor 100% dislikeable. I am nothing like Elena Richardson, the matriarch, nor would I likely be friends with someone with her views but there were still moments where the reader could sympathize with her and not demonize her. Though it easy to love Mia Warren are her free-spirited way there are moments we recognize her as deeply flawed.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE is a compelling novel about motherhood, secrecy, race, and even–to an extent–moral ambiguity.

What will you be reading?

2018 is just around the corner which is incredible! This year has been a packed year for me for many personal reasons both good and bad. I think 2018 will be another exciting and filled year including wedding bells!

There are several books that I am looking forward to reading in 2018. Frankly, the book I am most anticipating is SUICIDE CLUB by Rachel Heng. I am a huge of dystopian fiction and have already read some of Rachel’s short fiction. It doesn’t debut until July but it’s on my list to pre-order.

In February, we have HEART BERRIES: A MEMOIR by Terese Mailhot to look forward to. Roxane Gay has already said wonderful things about this memoir. It’s exciting to see people of color including indigenous folks have a voice and tell their stories.

As a writer who writers short stories, I do love short story collections. I wish that there was more attention given to short stories. Though “Cat Person” became quite a viral short story so hopefully that opens up the dialogue and more people will show interest in our niche. BACK TALK a collection by Danielle Lazarin is set to debut in 2018 as well! It’s a collection of stories about women. I’m making a conscious decision to read more fiction about and by women.

It’s evident I am most focused on emerging writers in contemporary fiction. And there are still several books on my reading shelf that I need to read but it won’t stop me from buying more!

There are of course a plethora of other fiction and nonfiction being published in 2018. I’d love to hear what you are looking forward to reading in 2018!