Tag: memoir

Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life, by Yiyun Li

“A word I hate to use in English is I. It is a melodramatic word. In Chinese, a language less grammatically strict, one can construct a sentence with an implied subject pronoun and skip that embarrassing I, or else replace it with we. Living is not an original business.”

30211990I have had limited exposure to Chinese literature (or English literature about China, to be more accurate) but I’m sure I’ve read something in another book that conveys a similar sentiment about the letter “I”. I find truth in that statement. It startles me, as a realization, and yet, brings clarity at the same time.

Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in Your Life is a memoir in which Yiyun Li tries to decode life. She talks about her childhood in China, her mentally ill mother, and more. She wrote this memoir while battling suicidal depression and throughout, you feel, she is examining, sentence by rich sentence, about the point of life.

This is a complex narrative. I quite enjoyed the beginning, but in the later parts, although the prose was worth savouring, I found my mind wandering. This is essentially my problem and should not stop you from enjoying the book. Perhaps I felt she was going off tangent in certain places; I may be wrong about this though. There were several parts of it where I could not bring myself to agree with the author (much like Laura Esquivel’s memoir) but I still could see things from her point of view (unlike Laura Esquivel’s memoir, which I just gave up halfway)

Read it for the prose, read it for the quiet contemplation and wisdom, read it if, you too, are wondering what life is and where it’s going. She may not give you answers, but you will form your own.

Note: I received an ARC from Penguin UK/Netalley for review. My review is honest and unbiased.

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Orange is the New Black, by Piper Kerman

7989831So! Prison sounds like fun! Wait, what? No, that can’t be right. It’s prison; it’s not supposed to be fun.

Before I go any further, let me confess that I have not watched the popular TV series of the same name. Not one episode. But I have reason to believe (because I know people who are fans) that the plot of the show deviates sharply from the source material. So, if you are a fan of the show or are planning to watch it, I suggest you skip the book, because the book is such a let down.

At first, I thought the title was an attempt at being ironic or funny. But if Piper Kerman has a sense of humour, it doesn’t really come through and then the title starts to look shallow and unintelligent. We are not talking about a ramp show or color of the year. It’s prison, FFS.

It’s surprising how Piper Kerman describes a place that we assume (and more or less know) to be grim and gruesome in a way that it sounds like summer camp. You actually think, “So, it’s cool, then? Like, a dorm at college?” I understand that this is a memoir, and Kerman has every right to write the way she saw things happen, from her perspective alone and all that. But “her perspective alone” is so near-sighted and self-centred that I can’t believe this girl’s even being real. She has been arrested for smuggling drugs in her early twenties (something she seems to feel no guilt or remorse for anywhere in the book, by the way). The trial goes on for a decade because there are so many others involved (such as Kerman’s ex girlfriend because of whom she got caught in all of this), after which she goes into the Danbury prison. Everyone welcomes her with open arms because she’s (as she repeatedly reminds the reader) white, blond, upper middle class. All the wardens keep telling her how surprised they are that a nice white girl like her is in a “place like this”. If she was trying to make a statement against the racist attitudes inside the prison, she does not come off as convincing – she comes off sounding like a snooty, racist person herself. The other prisoners often stick to their own racial groups, but everyone is friends with Kerman, because, oh, so lovable blond Barbie.

Now, I know families can be deadly supportive. Hell, they’re there even when you don’t need them. But I find it hard to believe that all her family members were so supportive and loving when they came to know of her crime. Like they’re almost proud to have someone go to jail. Wait, that’s an actual statement, in fact. Paraphrasing from the chapter Mothers and Daughters, “My mother was proud, despite the fact that I was in prison, because the other inmates thought we were sisters.” I need a moment.

By the way, did you know that they made crafts and celebrated Valentine’s Day in prison, with homemade cards and all? Yeah, me neither. Sounds like fun though. In one chapter, Kerman refers to prison as a “rotten” place. I was, quite frankly, taken aback. So far, nothing she had written gave me the slightest indication that it is such a rotten place (apart from my own common sense regarding prisons). I am shocked! Maybe your writing should’ve reflected that more, instead of telling me how many lovely items and books you regularly get in the mail from people you barely know, and how much people envy your love life.

And may I offer some advice for your next book (although, I hope there isn’t a next book) – EDITING! I don’t think any editor saw a draft of this. In fact, I think this may well be the first draft!

And the worst, worst thing about this book – I swear to the heavens, it is SO boring. This is one of the most boring books I have ever read. It’s torture how boring this is!

Quite frankly, reading the book makes me want to watch the show. How could the creators take something so poorly written and turn it into something that’s become so popular. My curiosity is thoroughly piqued.

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Book Release | a Smile in One Eye: a Tear in the Other, by Ralph Webster | Summary and Excerpt

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a Smile in One Eye: a Tear in the Other
The Third Reich is rising.  The creeping madness in the heart of Germany will soon stain the entire world.  This is the chilling account of one family as they flee for their lives.

Blurb

The Wobsers are prosperous, churchgoing, patriotic Germans living in a small East Prussian town.  When Hitler seizes power, their comfortable family life is destroyed by a horrifying Nazi regime.  Baptized and confirmed as Lutherans, they are told they are Jewish, a past always respected but rarely considered.  This distinction makes a life-and-death difference.  Suddenly, it is no longer a matter of faith or religion; their lives are defined by race.  It is a matter of bloodlines.  And, in Nazi Germany, they have the wrong blood.

Genres:  Memoir; Historical Novel; Biography
Page Count:  372 Pages
Release Date:  June 28, 2016
Paperback: $15.95  Kindle: $9.99
ISBN: 1533656924 (ISBN13: 978-1533656926)
Publisher:  CreateSpace

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About the Author

bRalph Webster is retired and lives with his wife Ginger on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  An enthusiastic world traveler, he is the son of immigrant parents; refugees who were forced to leave their homelands and families for reasons that defy comprehension.  Through this prism, he has a profound respect for those who must leave their lives behind, and whose only dream is to journey to a welcoming land where there is freedom and opportunity to create a better life.  This is his first book.

 

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Excerpt

We had no idea, no reason to expect that Father’s business would become a target, too.  There was no forewarning.  That morning, along the front of his building, in large red letters, was the message, “Udo Wobser is a Jew!”

I speak as an adult now, with the collected wisdom of age and hindsight.  I will always remember that Saturday through the eyes and mind of a ten-year-old boy.  That was the day Father became known as Udo Wobser, the Jew, no longer simply as Udo Wobser.  That was the day I learned that I could be both a Jew and a Lutheran at the same time, that being a Jew was about bloodlines and ancestors, that it was about race, not only religion.  That was the day I learned I was still a German, but now I was a German Jew.  That was the day I learned that my family was a member of a much larger family, a family that ran generations deep, a family that was viewed with disdain and contempt.

From that date forward, a line had been drawn.  It wouldn’t matter what we thought, how we had lived, what we believed.  Please don’t misunderstand.  We had never rejected the notion.  We simply had never been taught to embrace it.  Before April 1, 1933, I never entertained the idea that our family was Jewish, that I was a Jew.  It meant nothing to me.  If asked the question, I would have answered, “No, I am Lutheran.”

Ultimately, the answer was not ours to give.  Others told us who we were.  Both Mother and Father were descendants of Jews.  There was no denying.  There was no appeal.

At times, I wonder what Mother and Father really felt that day.  Given the choice, how would have they answered the question.  Did they consider themselves Jews?  Now I know their answer was obvious.  Our opinion did not matter.  There was no choice.  No one asked.  The question was not needed; the answer was evident.

 

 

Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh, was the only blog I used to follow back in the day when I was still a baby allie-brosh-hyperbole-and-half-sreesha-divakaran-rain-and-bookin the blogosphere. I stopped following it around the time I stopped blogging (2010-2011) and when I returned to the scene, I realized Hyperbole and a Half was not being updated as frequently as it used to be. Some of you know that I returned to blogging to help cure me of my depression (which it has, in large part) Around the time I had been away, Allie had shared her depression story, in her unique, trademark style accompanied by colourful MS Paint comics. Later, in the year 2013, she shared the story Depression Part Two, which really resonated with me. It gave words to that which I had been struggling with for so long, especially the following:

“I had always wanted to not give a fuck about anything. I viewed feelings as a weakness — annoying obstacles on my quest for total power over myself. And I finally didn’t have to feel them anymore. But my experiences slowly flattened and blended together until it became obvious that there’s a huge difference between not giving a fuck and not being able to give a fuck.”

Hyperbole and a Half – the book – is a collection of a few of the stories from the blog, with all the pictures. It is a hilarious take on life and – as Allie puts it – unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem and other things that happened. It has several laugh-out-loud moments, although the stories follow no particular order. Exactly in the style of the blog, they are non sequential. The best part about this colourful book is that it reaches a wider audience, to those who had not heard of the blog before this. And it is something that all of us would enjoy reading.

I was hoping to find some of my favourite stories from the blog that have not been included – such as the famous Alot, How A Sandwich Makes You Its Bitch, and The Year The Easter Bunny Died. But I am glad I have this beautiful, funny book in my collection. I do hope Allie returns to blogging soon. I miss reading her!

It’s a really quick read – I finished it in just under 3 hours, which is I think the fastest I have ever read a book – given my limited reading time and everything.

Get the book here: Amazon

I hope you like it as much as I did.