Sunday, April 3, 2022

MORE THAN I LOVE MY LIFE by David Grossman














Historical Fiction < Croatia-Israel >

2019

Israel

About

 More Than I Love My Life is the story of three strong women: Vera, age ninety; her daughter, Nina; and her granddaughter, Gili, who at thirty-nine is a filmmaker and a wary consumer of affection. A bitter secret divides each mother and daughter pair, though Gili—abandoned by Nina when she was just three—has always been close to her grandmother.

 
With Gili making the arrangements, they travel together to Goli Otok, a barren island off the coast of Croatia, where Vera was imprisoned and tortured for three years as a young wife after she refused to betray her husband and denounce him as an enemy of the people. This unlikely journey—filtered through the lens of Gili’s camera, as she seeks to make a film that might help explain her life—lays bare the intertwining of fear, love, and mercy, and the complex overlapping demands of romantic and parental passion.
 
More Than I Love My Life was inspired by the true story of one of David Grossman’s longtime confidantes, a woman who, in the early 1950s, was held on the notorious Goli Otok (“the Adriatic Alcatraz”). With flashbacks to the stalwart Vera protecting what was most precious on the wretched rock where she was held, and Grossman’s fearless examination of the human heart, this swift novel is a thrilling addition to the oeuvre of one of our greatest living novelists, whose revered moral voice continues to resonate around the world. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

THE ORCHARD by Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry










 


5.5

Historical Fiction

Translated Fiction


Inspired by Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry’s The Orchard powerfully captures the lives of four Soviet teenagers who are about to lose their country and one another, and who struggle to survive, to save their friendship, to recover all that has been lost.


Coming of age in the USSR in the 1980s, best friends Anya and Milka try to envision a free and joyful future for themselves. They spend their summers at Anya’s dacha just outside of Moscow, lazing in the apple orchard, listening to Queen songs, and fantasizing about trips abroad and the lives of American teenagers. Meanwhile, Anya’s parents talk about World War II, the Blockade, and the hardships they have endured.

By the time Anya and Milka are fifteen, the Soviet Empire is on the verge of collapse. They pair up with classmates Trifonov and Lopatin, and the four friends share secrets and desires, argue about history and politics, and discuss forbidden books. But the world is changing, and the fleeting time they have together is cut short by a sudden tragedy.

Years later, Anya returns to Russia from America, where she has chosen a different kind of life, far from her family and childhood friends. When she meets Lopatin again, he is a smug businessman who wants to buy her parents’ dacha and cut down the apple orchard. Haunted by the ghosts of her youth, Anya comes to the stark realization that memory does not fade or disappear; rather, it moves us across time, connecting our past to our future, joys to sorrows.

Friday, August 27, 2021

THE DRAGON THE GIANT THE WOMEN by Wayétu Moore











5.5. 💗💗💗💗💗💗💗💗

Greywolf Publishing

Available now

About

 In this beautiful memoir of dislocation, a young girl flees war-torn Liberia with her family to America. Moore (She Would Be King) begins with herself as a five-year-old living with her sisters, grandparents, and father in Monrovia. When the 1990 civil war erupts with terrifying massacres by rebels overthrowing president Samuel Doe (who Moore imagines as “the Hawa Undu dragon, the monster in my dreams, the sum of stories I was too young to hear”), the family heads for Sierra Leone, hoping to get to America. Moore describes this desperate trek in the lyrical voice of her younger self, a dreamy girl who filters the danger through a folktale lens. The middle section tracks her childhood after her family resettles in Texas, then her trauma-plagued young adulthood in Brooklyn (“nightmares were old friends”), and racially fraught romances (“I never feared my blackness, until the men,” referring to the black men she first dated in college). The book’s final section holds a mirror to the first, describing in her mother’s voice her mother’s journey from New York back to Africa to rescue her lost family. Building to a thrumming crescendo, the pages almost fly past. Readers will be both enraptured and heartbroken by Moore’s intimate yet epic story of love for family and home. 

I absolutely love this memoir ❤



Thursday, June 24, 2021

DEAR SENTHURAN A Black Spirit Memoir by Akwaeke Emezi

5.5

Available now

Summary,

How does a spirit child drawn from Nigerian tribal cosmology negotiate modern life? That's the metaphysical conundrum at the heart of this highly personal and unusual memoir. Emezi grew up in Aba, Nigeria, and identifies as ogbanje, an “Igbo spirit that’s born to a human mother, a kind of trickster that dies unexpectedly only to return in the next child and do it all over again.” In order to ameliorate their feelings of “flesh dysphoria” or “metaphysical dysphoria,” the author underwent multiple surgeries, including breast reduction and a “hysterectomy with a bilateral salpingectomy.” As Emezi writes, they chose “to mutate my body into something that would fit my spiritself.” Structured as a series of far-ranging letters written to friends, lovers, exes, family members, and others, the narrative raises questions about the author’s "embodied nonhuman" existence and Igbo conceptions of reality. While Emezi’s personal and professional travels have taken them around the world—Trinidad, Berlin, Johannesburg, Vietnam, Tanzania, and homes in Brooklyn and New Orleans—this book is not a travelogue. Although conventional elements of memoir reoccur—a painful breakup, estrangement from family members, career ups and downs—the author presents them as manifestations of a deity's "deeply traumatic" embodiment as a human being. Emezi attributes much of their meteoric rise—multiple literary award wins and nominations, National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” honoree, etc.—to the casting of the right spell. The author is crystal-clear in their focus on "writing for people like me, not for a white gaze,” and seen through the prism of Igbo ontology, this adventurous life story is undoubtedly compelling. For some readers, getting past Emezi’s "outrageously arrogant" demand "for attention, for glory, for worship" as a self-described "bratty deity" may require a leap of faith and a modicum of empathy, a merely human trait.
Tribal spiritual beliefs meet contemporary literary acclaim in a powerful memoir.

Thank you to Kirkus for the Summery.

A powerful author, a powerful book I immensely enjoyed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

LE PARFUM DES FLEURS LA NUIT by Leïla Slimani














5.5

Available now ( French language )

Summery

Comme un écrivain qui pense que « toute audace véritable vient de l’intérieur », Leïla Slimani n’aime pas sortir de chez elle, et préfère la solitude à la distraction. Pourquoi alors accepter cette proposition d’une nuit blanche à la pointe de la Douane, à Venise, dans les collections d’art de la Fondation Pinault, qui ne lui parlent guère ?


Autour de cette « impossibilité » d’un livre, avec un art subtil de digresser dans la nuit vénitienne, Leila Slimani nous parle d’elle, de l’enfermement, du mouvement, du voyage, de l’intimité, de l’identité, de l’entre-deux, entre Orient et Occident, où elle navigue et chaloupe, comme Venise à la pointe de la Douane, comme la cité sur pilotis vouée à la destruction et à la beauté, s’enrichissant et empruntant, silencieuse et raconteuse à la fois.

C’est une confession discrète, où l’auteure parle de son père jadis emprisonné, mais c’est une confession pudique, qui n’appuie jamais, légère, grave, toujours à sa juste place : « Écrire, c’est jouer avec le silence, c’est dire, de manière détournée, des secrets indicibles dans la vie réelle ». 
 
C’est aussi un livre, intense, éclairé de l’intérieur, sur la disparition du beau, et donc sur l’urgence d’en jouir, la splendeur de l’éphémère. Leila Slimani cite Duras : « Écrire, c’est ça aussi, sans doute, c’est effacer. Remplacer. » Au petit matin, l’auteure, réveillée et consciente, sort de l’édifice comme d’un rêve, et il ne reste plus rien de cette nuit que le parfum des fleurs. Et un livre.