RECENTLY READ: MARCH 2020
BY THRITY UMRIGAR
The bestselling and award-winning Indian-born American novelist, Thrity Umrigar, published her ninth novel, Everybody's Son, in 2017.
The story is about a mixed-race little boy, Anton, whose mother is a crack-addict. The mother, Juanita, leaves her nine-year-old son locked in an airless apartment for a week with no food. Anton breaks out through a window, the police find him, as they find his mother, passed out in a nearby crack house. A prominent couple adopts Anton. He is raised with all the advantages, wealth and love of a privileged family and grows up to be a man of distinction. Then, he discovers the truth: his adopted father manipulated his biological mother into giving him up.
It's a story about race, privilege, and corrupt morality, with a great flow that keeps you hooked until the end. Rating 5/5
BY CINELLE BARNES
Cinelle Barnes is a creative non-fiction writer and educator from Manila, Philippines. Monsoon Mansion is her debut memoir published in 2018.
The author was barely three years old when her family moved into Mansion Royale, a stately ten-bedroom home in the Philippines. Living in a mansion may sound like heaven, but life quickly turned into hell because of some family problems. Life got especially complicated when the family lost their luxurious lifestyle after the Gulf War had pushed them into poverty. After Cinelle's father left and her mother's cruel and domineering lover moved in, things got even worse.
It is a painful riches-to-rags story with an admirable amount of hope and resilience, written in a poetic and lyrical style. Rating 5/4
CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN
BU SAYAKA MURATA
Sayaka Murata is one of the most exciting up-and-coming writers in Japan today. Ubiquitous and abundant, convenience stores in Japan are a big part of modern life, and inspired by her own experiences working at a convenience store, Murata published the Convenience Store Woman in 2018.
The story is about Keiko, a friendless and single 36-year-old who has worked in Smile Mart for 18 years--that is 17 years more than any other worker. Social pressure is strong and every day her co-workers tell her to get married, or at least a real job. But for her, simply following the rules and feeling genuine joy when the milk cartons line up neatly is easier than to have more complicated human contact.
It is a short and quirky novel, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, written from personal experience and with a novelist’s keen observation skills. Rating 5/4
BY MARCELA SERRANO
Marcela Serrano is an award-winning Chilean novelist. Well-known and widely published in Chile, her first novel translated into English was Ten Women, published in 2014.
The book is made up of monologues of nine women, all patients of Natasha, their therapist who has arranged a meeting for them to talk about their lives in an open forum. The women come from all walks of life, they are young, they are older, they are rich, they are poor, and each one has a story to tell.
The stories are multi-layered and moving, and the author lets each character shine. Rating 5/5
THE GERMAN GIRL
BY ARMANDO LUCAS CORREA
Armando Lucas Correa is a Cuban writer who resides in New York. The German Girl, published in English in 2016, was his debut novel.
It is a heartbreaking story of the lives of the passengers of the MS Saint Louis, a ship carrying over 900 German Jews that were seeking asylum in Cuba during World War II. Only 28 passengers were allowed to disembark after the shocking refusal by Cuba and the US to accept these people. The story is told though one of the alternating narratives of two twelve-year-old girls, one in Berlin in 1939 and one in New York in 2014.
His second novel, The Daughter’s Tale, published in 2019, continues that story, but this time it turns to the passengers who ended up back in France.
It is a well-written, emotional story about a tragic piece of history. Rating 5/4