Wednesday, August 23, 2017

THUG gets all the stars



The first thing that hit me when I started reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was voice. This book has VOICE, and that is difficult for a lot of writers to achieve.

The second thing that I don’t think anyone can miss unless his or her head is deep in the sand (or elsewhere) is how relevant this story is. I can imagine that some readers will take issue with some of Starr’s choices while others will be cheering her on and shouting, “About time!”

No matter what color your skin or where you stand on politics there is one fact about this story that cannot be denied: It is honest. This is the reality for many people living in America.

Briefly, in case you don’t know, the book begins with a bang when Starr is in a car with a childhood friend who is shot right in front of her by a cop, not because the boy has a gun or is otherwise threatening, but because he turns to ask Starr if she is okay. Starr’s journey through trauma and scary decisions about testifying propel the story on.

The question, as always, is what can we do about racism and inequality? The answer is we must all be like Starr and learn to speak out if society is to ever change. Here is something to cheer about: The Hate U Give has been on the NYT best seller list for something like 24 weeks already and is being made into a movie.

 Angie Thomas deserves the accolades she is receiving and all the stars.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Orphan Island is a place between here and there

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder hooked and reeled me in. This middle-grade novel is lyrical, haunting, and unflinchingly honest as it navigates the waters between childhood and puberty.


A mysterious island, which is somewhere between here and there, is home to nine very self-sufficient children who live with no adults and an odd assortment of handed-down rules. These kids have distinct personalities and sometimes grate on one another, but they listen and learn, understanding that their survival depends on working together.

Once a year, a self-propelled, little green boat arrives with a new young one and takes away the oldest. The new child, barely out of babyhood, is soon schooled in how to collect eggs, gut a fish, find fruit, and even read.

Among the mysteries of the island is how and why they have a collection of tattered children’s books, which give them a window about life beyond their island. None of them remembers the time before and has no idea where the oldest one is taken when he or she must leave.

 The protagonist Jinny is torn apart when her best friend, Deen, is taken by the boat, and she is shaken to know she is now the oldest, the one who will go next. Jinny clings to memories of Deen, to their quiet moments and adventures. She has always loved him and this island with its fantastical sunrises and winds that catch a jumping child and set them down again. She doesn’t want to leave the joy and security of her childhood for the unknown.

What she does about it turns the safe and providing island inside out. In the process, Jinny’s eyes are opened to truths about herself.

This book is wondrous and profound. I recommend for all ages.

Here’s a snippet from the moment after Jinny tries to stop Deen from getting in the boat, after he tells her he’s ready to go, wants to find out what’s out there:

As he sped off, Deen turned to look back at her over his shoulder. He called out something. But what? Jinny could see his mouth open and close. He threw a hand sharply into the air, but whatever he said was lost in the spray and mist as they swallowed him.
 Jinny watched the boat disappear. Until all she could see was water and distance. It happened so fast. She found herself standing, reaching out both arms, in the direction the boat had gone. Both hands with outstretched fingers, grasping. As if there was something in the air she might be able to clutch.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

haiku in green

the forest sets to
building its own fence, year to
year, log upon log





green as far as eyes
can see in the forest, layer
upon layer, breathing


There is a Japanese practice called forest bathing, which is not simply hiking but is a kind of being aware and at peace in nature. I think I've done it naturally for a long time without knowing there was such a practice. I relax in the woods. I inhale with purpose, look up with joy, reach out with wonder.

It is amazing how often I am renewed after a walk in a forest. Some people joke about tree-huggers, but I find a kind of awe and strength around trees. They live long and anchor in earth while reaching for sky and sun.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Creation myths and story love




It’s been some time since I fell as deeply into a story as I did with N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Strangely, I say that even though I started reading it on vacation and had to put it aside for a couple of weeks after I got home. But when I picked it up again I fell right back in. That’s how much I retained my love of the characters and storyline.

This adult fantasy is a fresh take on creation myths and gods. I adore the volatile Nahadoth the Nightlord, and the child-like Sieh the Trickster. The “I” telling the tale is Yeine, a girl who at first seems to be a pawn in a deadly struggle but she turns out to be key to something entirely new. And she is badass through and through.

The story opens when Yeine is commanded to come to the city of Sky where her maternal grandfather, who is uncrowned king of the world, names her one of his heirs, much to her shock and the fury of others. She learns quickly that only one of his three heirs will succeed him, but she doesn’t find out what that entails for quite some time.

She is only half-blood of the powerful Arameri people. They are tall and pale. She is short and dark. The Arameri consider her people in Darr to be barbarians and treat her with disdain.

 The truth is Arameri are the most ruthless of all the lands. They are worshippers of the Bright Itempas, the god who created the world with the now-enslaved Nahadoth and now-dead Enefa.
We learn slowly with Yeine as she navigates Sky what the true histories of these gods and mortals are, their secrets and lies, their betrayals and bonds, their despair and hope, their rage and love.

This is the first book (and it was a debut!) in a trilogy. I definitely want to read the rest.

Here, have a few excerpts for voice and style.
 *
There were three gods once.
Only three, I mean. Now there are dozens, perhaps hundreds. They breed like rabbits. But once there were only three, most powerful and glorious of all: the god of day, the god of night, and the goddess of twilight and dawn. Or light and darkness and the shades between. Or order, chaos, and balance. None of that is important because one of them died, the other might as well have, and the last is the only one who matters anymore. 
*
"I cannot hope that your mother taught you duty," Dekarta said to me over this man's back. "She abandoned hers to dally with her sweet-tongued savage. I allowed this--an indulgence I have often regretted. So I will assuage that regret by bringing you back into the fold, Granddaughter. Whether you live or die is irrelevant. You are Arameri, and like all of us, you will serve."
*
Trickster, trickster, stole the sun for a prank. And apparently because it was pretty. The Three had borne many children before their falling-out. Sieh was immeasurably old, another of the Arameri's deadly weapons, and yet I could not bring myself to dash the shy hope I saw in his eyes.
*
It would do no good to run. So I said, "Good evening, Lord Nahadoth." I was proud that my voice did not quaver.
He inclined his head to me, then just stood there smoldering and looking ominous at the foot of my bed. Realizing that a god's sense of time was probably very different from a mortal's, I prompted, "To what do I owe the honor of this visit?"

Friday, April 14, 2017

A gorgeous, windy day for exploration and words

wind whips across the
Sound, carrying deep-water
chill and flinging gulls


brrrrrr. Haiku while walking at low tide along Puget Sound


Monday, February 20, 2017

hints of spring haiku

a gathering of
juncos dethrones a plump robin
from the budding peach tree

pair of woodpeckers--
female and jaunty-capped male
share the suet feeder

Saturday, February 4, 2017

YA for our times

In a time when being an immigrant is politically charged and when some people want to retreat behind walls of fear and hate, I read two excellent YA books that I highly recommend for people who prefer to explore and be open to other cultures. These aren’t happily-ever-after stories. They are bittersweet and do not flinch from spotlighting what makes any of us mistrust the “other”.

 In THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR, Nicola Yoon (National Book Award finalist) writes the love story of two really smart teenagers who, in the space of a day, discover deep truths about themselves, their families and culture, and the world they exist in.

Natasha is a girl who has faith in numbers, science and facts, probably solidified in reaction to her father. His dream of becoming a famed actor has left her family in poverty. But worse, his DUI leads to the discovery they are illegal immigrants from Jamaica who must leave the US immediately.

Daniel, a poet, is Korean American. His immigrant parents demand the best grades and professions from their sons. He is supposed to be interviewed for Yale when a series of events lead him to Natasha. For him, it’s some kind of sign or destiny.

She has no time for that, but something keeps drawing them closer together. Sure, there’s physical attraction but their budding love has more to do what they discover in the heart and soul of the other. They both know there will be no welcome for them as a couple in their families or communities, even if Natasha somehow finds a way to stop the deportation.

I listened to The Sun is Also a Star on audiobook, so I don’t have a way to quote lines, but I’ve listened to it twice now. That’s how much I love it.





WRITTEN IN THE STARS by Aisha Saeed had me turning pages at all hours as I became more and more terrified for the protagonist, Naila, a Pakistani American.

Even though she is raised in the US and has excelled in school, her parents keep the old ways, strict and unbending. Not only is she not allowed to date, they will choose her husband. But, as things go in both stories and in real life, Naila bends the rules and sets in motion an alarming series of events.

We’ve read news stories about forced marriages and honor killings, but what the author has done is take the reader into the life of a girl suddenly confronted with those horrors, a girl who had no idea this could happen to her.

At the same time, the story finds moments of hope and love.

The copy I purchased has a discussion guide at the end. This makes it an excellent choice for schools and book clubs.

 Of interest, too, is the distinction between forced marriage and arranged marriage. The author states she is happy in her arranged marriage. As well as being an author, she is a lawyer and founding member of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books.