book review, memoirs/biographies, reading recommendations

Review: Persepolis part one

The revolution is like a bicycle. When the wheels don’t turn, it falls.

Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi

persepolis

Click image to purchase on Amazon. 

Okay, I don’t read graphic novels. Like, ever. But when I was required to read this book for English class, I basically fell in love. I am not saying that I will continue to read graphic novels in the future, but I might make an exception for Persepolis’ sequel.

AUTHOR: Marjane Satrapi

GENRE: Coming-of-Age, Autobiography, Graphic Novel

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: Amazon

RATING: 5/5

THOUGHTS: So Persepolis is a novel about Marjane Satrapi’s early life growing up in Iran; this is an autobiography, but it is written from the perspective of someone who is both Western-educated but also deeply familiar with the culture of Iran. When Marjane, or as she is referred to in the book, Marji, encounters the Islamic Revolution during her childhood, she is forced to reconcile some adult themes with her young and inexperienced age. Marji’s parents are quite liberal and quietly stand up against the Revolution in their own way. Marji herself takes after her parents, reading radical doctrines such as Marx’s Dialectical Materialism and staging government coups in her backyard with her friends.

However, Marji also encounters the horrors of war and revolution in her daily life. She loses friends, whether to distance or to death, she watches family friends get arrested, tortured, and sometimes killed, etc. She tries to grasp a lot of it but often the events around her become filtered through her childlike worldview. Persepolis is ultimately a deeply moving, honest, and enlightening look at what a typical Iranian’s life might have looked like during the Revolution, and perhaps what it would look like now.

Satrapi does an excellent job of making this book accessible to a Western audience by incorporating Western motifs such as citing Michael Jackson and jean jackets. She also destroys many Western stereotypical assumptions about Iranians, which is quite useful especially when relations between the West and Iran are tense.

As much as the plot and the dialogue are skillful, what is more important to me is the way that Satrapi’s art can evoke emotion and move a story along so that sometimes no words are needed. She draws minimally, so as not to overwhelm the reader, and she draws with purpose. Most of her illustrations are beautiful, and those that lean to the abstract side and are probably of the same caliber as your run-of-the-mill metaphors and similes are some of my personal favorites. The layout is aesthetically pleasing as well.

Maybe the best part about this book is that it can be accessible at any age and isn’t necessarily directed towards one audience; adults and children alike can devour Persepolis, momentarily step into a world that is not their own, and leave with a better understanding of Iranians, Iranian culture, and the Iranian revolution. I would highly recommend this book.

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book review, reading recommendations, short story sunday

Short Story Sunday: Killings


For those of you who find it hard to set time aside to read, but still love the pull of a good novel, I introduce to you Short Story Sundays! Basically, I will review a short story or even an essay that I loved each Sunday (most of them will be recommendations) instead of a full length novel or play that you can easily pick up, read, and digest in the span of an hour.

This week’s short story is Killings by Andre Dubus, and it is from a genre I rarely read and probably rarely will talk about, and that’s thriller. If you enjoy this work, I would recommend that you read other works by Dubus who is simply put, a genius.

SUMMARY: Matt Fowler is a husband and father who is grieving the loss of his son. His son, Frank, was murdered by Richard, who was the ex-husband of the girl that Frank was involved with. Matt cannot stand to see that Richard is out and about in town while his wife and he are in tremendous pain. And so, Matt sets out on a mission and enlists a buddy of his to seek revenge on Richard. I won’t say what it is Matt does, but the title probably gives you a good enough idea of what happens.

REVIEW: Okay so even though the title is pretty explicit, I was still taken aback by the events of the story, especially those at the end. Why? Because Dubus does an excellent job of humanizing Matt, of making the reader feel for his grief, his anger, and his overall sense of dissatisfaction. Dubus makes one fall in love with Matt’s backstory, and even can provoke some readers to feel that Matt was justified in his actions. And that is the mastery of fiction writing at its best: when readers find themselves sympathizing with those who commit heinous acts and are horrified when they realize what a strange place that is to be in too late. So even though the events of the story seem almost inevitable, it comes as a surprise just because Matt is so much like you or me.

RATING: 5/5 stars; if you are a fan of thrillers, I would especially recommend this to you.

 

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book review, classics, reading recommendations

Review: Little Women

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

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Click the image above to purchase on Amazon.

If you don’t know by now, I’m a sucker for a good classic. And this happens to be one of my childhood favorites.

AUTHOR: Louisa May Alcott

GENRE: Coming-of-Age, Realistic Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: I got it so long ago…I don’t exactly remember.

RATING: 5/5 stars.

SUMMARY: This story follows four sisters (Jo, Beth, Amy, and Meg) and their mother, Marmee. Their financial situation is tight since their father is gone to fight in the American Civil War. Meg and Jo must work in order to support the household. Each sister has a specific and distinct personality: Jo is the tomboy who dreams of being a writer with a best friend named Laurie, Meg is the most maternal out of all the sisters and is a natural beauty, Beth is the musical and shy sister, and Amy is the baby of the family. These four girls must face the challenges of poverty, the challenges of maturation, and above all, preserve their sisterly bonds in the face of tragedy and even happiness.

THOUGHTS: I love, love, love this novel. I read it as a child, and I aim to read it again as soon as I get through the monstrosity that is my TBR list. Alcott’s writing is clear and touching, so much so that I’d be surprised if you could make it through the novel without being choked up or crying.

The strongest part of this book is the characterization, both individual characterizations and the characterizations of friendships, in this novel. The four sisters are all unique and all flawed, but still love each other unconditionally. Each sister possesses a strong voice in the story, and anyone with a sister will recognize the origins of their bickering and the cause for their affections towards each other. This book is all about women supporting women, which I am HERE for.

Even though this book can be consumed by children easily, it still approaches the mature themes that coming-of-age novels often approach. The subjects of career, marriage, child-rearing, illness, death, love, and courting are all touched on in this novel. Alcott creates real portraits of real women that any female reading can relate to and any male reading can recognize.

So, enough of my prithering. Go read this classic if you haven’t already!

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book review, memoirs/biographies, nonfiction, reading recommendations

Review: Bossypants

Some people say, “Never let them see you cry.” I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.

Bossypants, Tina Fey

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Click the image above to purchase the book on Amazon.

I love Tina Fey. I have seen Mean Girls more times than I can count and I have seen every episode of 30 Rock. Also, how can I forget her unforgettable performances and writing on Saturday Night Live? If something has Tina Fey involved, I will probably be there.

AUTHOR: Tina Fey

GENRE: Memoir, Humor

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: local library

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

BACKGROUND: Tina Fey: writer, actress, humorist. This is her memoir, which follows her from an awkward high schooler to the comedian trying to make it in Chicago to the female head writer at SNL and beyond. Always witty, and always funny, she relays the events in her life and her thoughts on feminist topics, such as the use of Photoshop, the morality of abortions, and more, but always maintains a lighthearted tone. Quirky, humorous, and honest, this memoir offers a deeper insight into the events of Fey’s career and the thoughts that occupy Fey’s mind.

THOUGHTS: I think Tina Fey has a very specific kind of humor in her command. It is the same kind that branded 30 Rock. It is a kind of humor that speaks to me and entertains me, but of course, it is not for everyone. 30 Rock, while critically acclaimed, never caught on to mass popularity with the general public. So, this book may or may not tickle your funny bone, but I thoroughly enjoyed the humor of it.

It was cool to gain the insider’s perspective of all the media that I had been a fan of for so long- Mean Girls, 30 Rock, working with Tracy Jordan and Alec Baldwin, and how she was introduced to Amy Poehler. I also liked learning about what Tina Fey, who has stood up for women in the entertainment industry multiple times, thought about the certain debates in feminist thinking as well. However she didn’t lecture on the morality or the rightness or wrongness of certain feminist perspectives, which I appreciated.

Fey’s writing is captivating, as as quirky as her own personality. Many of her insecurities throughout the year are more relatable to me than would be most actress’ memoirs; Fey is a comedian, is not classically attractive, and was somewhat socially awkward in her early twenties. All of these qualities, and the experiences that accompany them makes Fey much more relatable to the average reader than other actresses or celebrities that may write memoirs.

If you are a fan of Tina Fey and her work, and if you enjoy a good laugh, I would highly recommend this read!

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book review, reading recommendations, short story sunday

Short Story Sunday: The Story of an Hour


For those of you who find it hard to set time aside to read, but still love the pull of a good novel, I introduce to you Short Story Sundays! Basically, I will review a short story or even an essay that I loved each Sunday (most of them will be recommendations) instead of a full length novel or play that you can easily pick up, read, and digest in the span of an hour.

This week’s short story is titled The Story of an Hour, written by Kate Chopin, who also authored The Awakening. You can read it at American Literature online, through this link.

SUMMARY: Louise Mallard, a wife with heart issues, learns that her husband had passed away. Instead of screeching and loudly mourning his loss, she prefers instead to sit by a window and ponder the thought. Josephine, her sister, is worried sick about Louise, but Louise seems rather calm, even excited. An hour later after the news is broken to Mrs. Mallard, however, a surprise comes to her unexpectedly and troubles her weak heart.

THOUGHTS: I absolutely adore how Kate Chopin manages to take a particularly cliched story with a predictable ending and turn it completely on its head. She does what she does best in this story: she examines the assumptions about femininity, finds the strength in what is supposed to be soft and yielding, and coaxes it unashamedly out of all her characters.

Louise Mallard is no different, and in the span of only a couple thousand words, the reader is invited into the most intimate parts of her life, and she is instantly recognizable. The use of time throughout the story is also cleverly used; you only get a glimpse of one hour of Louise Mallard’s life, but it is enough for you to piece the entirety of her story together.

The language is introspective, as much of the story takes place inside of Louise’s head. The constant shifts of emotion, the sudden urges of excitement, and all the other feelings are captured in Chopin’s graceful, stream-of-consciousness prose. And of course, no one can resist the excitement of a surprise ending.

If you are the kind of person who likes forward, feminist writing and a story with a twist, then I would highly recommend this short story to you.

RATING: 5/5 stars.

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book review, reading recommendations, young adult

Review: Uglies

…when Peris and I would go into town, we’d see a lot of them, and we realized that pretties do look different. They look like themselves. It’s just a lot more subtle, because they’re not all freaks.

Uglies, Scott Westerfield

uglies

I, as much as anyone, love a good dystopian, young adult novel. And this series by Scott Westerfield, with the first book being named Uglies, is one of my favorite that fits that genre.

AUTHOR: Scott Westerfield

GENRE: Young Adult, Dystopian Future

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: Barnes and Noble

RATING: 4/5

SUMMARY: Years into the future, humans become subject to a surgical operation that transforms them from “uglies” into “pretties”. This operation is performed by the government, and completely transforms your physical appearance as well as enhances your body with other technological functions. Tally, our protagonist, excitedly waits the day that she is old enough to receive this operation and finally become attractive, and not like the “ugly” subhuman she currently is. Tally’s friend Shay runs away before she can get the operation to join the Rusties, a rebel group in hiding that refuses to undergo the operation. The government brings in Tally for questioning about Shay, and blackmail her into giving them Shay’s location, otherwise she would never be turned into a Pretty. Tally agrees, but along the way finds out the government has not entirely been truthful to her and finds herself in the middle of a mess far larger than herself and her vanity.

THOUGHTS: I read this book in middle school, but none of the prevalence of this story has been lost on me throughout the years. And I have read the rest of this series as well-Westerfield is a master story teller and manages to avoid those same pitfalls that a lot of dystopian literature can often run into. He writes a compelling universe and although it is set far into the future, it is still eerily recognizable.

Tally is a sympathetic narrator, in which she longs to be what society tells her she ought to be. In a materialistic, consumer-driven world, it is easy to see how Tally got so swayed into naively believing the lies that were being fed to her, even though it is clear to the reader that something fishy is up. This important balance between fantasy and reality holds up an interesting mirror to our own society, which is exactly, in my opinion, is what a good dystopian novel should do.

The language is simple, but that can be explained through the fact that this book’s target audience is younger. The characterization of relationships between characters, especially between Tally and David and Tally and Shay, is so beautifully done. All the intricacies and subtext lies beneath and between Westerfield’s words so that one can never really be certain of how certain characters are going to react to one another. It is as much suspenseful as it is masterful.

If you are a fellow reader who enjoys a good, original dystopian plot line, then this book is for you.

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book review, nonfiction, reading recommendations

Review: Common Sense

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason

Common Sense, Thomas Paine

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Click the image above in order to purchase it at Amazon.

In honor of it being Thanksgiving here in the United States, and because I am so very thankful that I reside in the United States, I decided to do more of a patriotic super-short review today.

AUTHOR: Thomas Paine

GENRE: Nonfiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: local library

RATING: 4/5 stars

BACKGROUND: This was a pamphlet essentially published in order to convince the colonists that the solution to their issues with Britain was to break off and declare independence rather than try and make amends with King George III. Paine’s writing was quite influential at this time.

THOUGHTS: I was inspired to read this book as a result for my love for Hamilton: An American Musical. It is a quick read, amounting to around sixty pages, but considering that this was a propaganda pamphlet that was widely spread, that is quite a lengthy argument. The thing that I loved best about Paine’s writing is that the line of logic that it follows is clear and yet complex, making it quite difficult for anyone to argue against him. He approaches the argument for America’s independence from many sides- a religious approach, a moral approach, an economic approach, a political approach, etc; this demonstrates that the American Revolution was not just another war to be fought, but also a question of identity, of values, and of ideas.

Paine’s writing tends to be a little disorganized, but I suspect that is because I read a version that had been edited many times in order to address counterarguments that arose from his critics. One of my favorite parts of the pamphlet is when Paine mercilessly calls out those who deemed themselves pacifists; essentially, he asked those who opposed war to his side, and his arguments for why they should enter a bloody revolution were actually quite compelling. There is no argument that Paine could not morph until it fit his own agenda, and it is easy to see why colonists were so compelled by his words.

The language is dense and sometimes tedious to get through, but this is more a product of the time that has elapsed between the time it was published and now rather than a product of Paine’s lack of writing abilities. For any of you fellow American history buffs, or fellow fans of Hamilton, I would recommend this as a quick, patriotic read that will allow you to learn a little more about the values that America was founded on.

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