Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tis the Season

This is one of my favorite times of the year--when it's cold and rainy. (No, I'm not pining for my hometown of Chicago. ) When the weather outside is unfriendly, though, I get to sit on the couch, the sound of rain on the roof, a fire in the fireplace giving out warmth, and just read. I've read some fun stuff this past month...

The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly took me a really long time to get through because it was so rich, the words so full of poetry, so lovely to savor. The story takes place in Burma (Myanmar), and is the tale of a young political dissident singer/songwriter in prison, in the lizard cage. Connelly does an amazing job of putting the reader right there in the hot prison cell--I've never felt so hungry or beaten or thirsty or dirty. It's a beautiful book with a poignant ending, winner of the Orange Prize for New Writers and a finalist in the Kiriyama Book Prize. And, I have to brag a bit....My Half of the Sky is alongside The Lizard Cage as required reading at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Somebody's Daughter by Marie Myung-Ok Lee is a touching story about an adopted Korean who travels from America to Seoul to try to learn about Korean culture (because it wasn't discussed growing up), to learn the language of her biological parents, to try to find her mother. The story is at times very humorous, at times very sad. The ending is not warm and fuzzy, but very thought provoking.

Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris. I had the chance to do a Salon with Zoe at the Book Group Expo two weekends back. Her story takes place in the Middle East. It's a murder mystery with the fascinating backdrop of a life and culture foreign to anything I could imagine. An interesting read.

Blood of Paradise by David Corbett. David was also part of the Salon at Book Group Expo. In fact, he was the moderator. But, I first met David when he was one of the keynote speakers at East of Eden. I bought his book, started reading, and realized right away that this is normally not the kind of book I read. It's the story of a young American man, living in El Salvador and working as security for a water company. It's peppered with thugs and violence and macho soldier types. But I was drawn in not only by the main character (who is not too macho), but by the history and culture of El Salvador.

As I'm on a roll with Salon members, the third party in our Salon was John Nathan, author of Living Carelessly in Tokyo and Elsewhere. I've already talked on and on about this book. I loved it. It was fun to hear of all the places in Japan---twenty years before I got there. For anyone it's an interesting peek into Japan during the 60s, the world of a filmmaker, author, and translator.

Dewey by Vicki Myron and Brett Witter. My book club is reading this, and thus so was I. This is also not the type of book I normally find myself picking up. It's got a cute cat on the front and looks so warm and fuzzy from the beginning, you might as well buy a Hallmark card as a bookmark. I was pleasantly surprised, though. Myron discusses her battle with cancer, the loss of her brothers from cancer and suicide, the struggle to keep her marriage going with an alcoholic husband, the struggle to keep communication going with her teenager. And in the midst of all of these struggles came healing in the oddest form--a cat. A fast read. A fun book.

Finally, I want to tell you about a book that comes out next week by author, Jean Naggar: Sipping From the Nile: My Exodus From Egypt.
As I haven't read it yet, let me share what the publisher, Stony Creek Press, says. "Powered by the explosive impact of the Suez crisis this memoir brings to vibrant life the elegance and serenity of a life bathed in the customs and traditions of a community held together by a common past and faith. It is the story of an exotic childhood spent in the opulent surroundings of Giza, Aswan, Zamalek, the Gezira Sporting Club and the Alexandria beaches of Sidi Bishr, in a world that seemed as if it would endure forever but was in fact about to explode."
Jean is witty, intelligent, and inciteful, so I imagine her book will be the same. If you have a chance, read it with me....


diana raabe said...

I found you through Komenar Publishing when looking to see what's up-and-coming. After reading this particular blog entry, I thought you might be interested to learn (if you don't already know) that Meryl Streep will be playing the librarian in the forthcoming movie, Dewey. It probably won't be out for awhile, but if you liked the book, you might be inclined to see the movie. Then again...maybe not!

Jana McBurney-Lin said...

Thanks. I didn't know. Before I do Dewey, though, I've got to see Marley & Me.:)

Lynn said...

Wow, you have some interesting sounding books here. You've been a busy little reder. Thanks for the recommendations. :)

What People Are Saying About My Half of the Sky

My Half of the Sky was the BookSense Pick for August 2006 as well as a Forbes Book Club Pick.

"McBurney-Lin tells a wonderfully entertaining story with the traditional coming-of-age theme (which is experienced universally)...weaving in the cultural challenges of growing up in China's rapidly changing social system."
Mary Warpeha, co-President of the Minnesota Chapter of US-China Friendship Association
March 2010

"The novel ...includes many of the tales and the folk ways of the people living in the rural areas of South China, still followed provincially. The story takes place in current China, but could relate the dilemma of any young woman in rural China through the ages."
Kitty Trescott, National Board of the Midwest Region of US-China Friendship Association. March 2010

"A lot is expected of a young Chinese girl. My Half of the Sky by Jana McBurney-Lin is the story of Li Hui, a young girl who has just achieved marriageable age. She seeks to make the most of herself, but the expectations all around her make it difficult, as her parents seek to use her as pawn to their advantage, she is faced with what she believes to be true love. She must balance career, romance, and family, all to somehow make everyone happy, a tough endeavor indeed. An engaging and entertaining read from beginning to end, "My Half of the Sky" is a poignant tale of the modern Chinese woman, and recommended for community library collections.
--Midwest Book Review November, 2008

“It is a rare women’s novel that sensitively describes the life of a young educated woman in modern-day China in its full complexity, without resorting to unnecessary sentimentalism. Jana’s deep knowledge of the realities of life in China and Singapore makes the reading extra rewarding. In fact, with every new page the novel gets harder to put down and you find yourself gobbling it up before you know it. Finally, the author has given a voice to the Li Hui in all of us, as we struggle for the golden middle between tradition and the modern momentum of our world.”
Isabella Sluzek
Friends of the Museum Book Review 2008

You'll be rooting all the way for Li Hui as she struggles, ahead of the curve, to be her own woman in an emerging, modern China. Jana McBurney-Lin's My half of the Sky is a beautiful, witty, touching debut novel.
Thomas B. Sawyer
Head Writer TV Series "Murder, She Wrote,"
Author - The Sixteenth Man

A complex and mesmerizingly original tale of a young Chinese woman caught between the modern world and the pull of her ancient culture. McBurney-Lin’s intimate portrait of China sparks with insights and is peopled with characters so rich and alive, they seem to breathe on the page. Dazzling and unforgettable.
Caroline Leavitt,
Author - Girls in Trouble

McBurney-Lin's debut novel is a gift. Li Hui is a memorable heroine, a young woman torn between her heart and her culture.Her daunting journey is a trip into China's complicated soul, and a deeply moving exploration of love, honor, duty, and loss." Frank Baldwin, Author - Balling the Jack

My Half of the Sky is a wonderfully-crafted story that was obviously written with a piece of McBurney-Lin's heart. A masterpiece."
Lee Lofland, Author - Howdunit: Police Procedure and Investigation

My Half of the Sky heralds the arrival of a fantastic new storyteller. With artistry and precision, Jana McBurney-Lin's clear-eyed prose takes the reader on a new journey into a past world that speaks to a modern sensibility, a modern world, a modern woman. This is a book to be treasured.
Emily Rapp, Author - The Poster Child

Through vivid descriptions of sights and smells, Jana McBurney-Lin's My Half of the Sky is a haunting, emotional journey of what it means to be an honorable female in modern China. Jill Ferguson, Author - Sometimes Art Can't Save You