Posts Tagged ‘immigrants’

2nd February
2009
written by Steph
Trust me... you'll be accustomed by the end of it

Trust me... you'll be accustomed by the end of it

Generally speaking, I am not a fan of short story collections or anthologies.  I’m not sure what it is about them, but I’ve never found them very enjoyable to read, perhaps because by the time I’m involved in a given story it ends and then I have to get invested in another one.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  I think I generally find short stories too, well, short to be fulfilling, and so when it comes to my reading, I tend to focus on novels instead.  For this reason, if it were not for the Tournament of books, I probably would never have picked up Unaccustomed Earth, no matter how much acclaim it has received. And Unaccustomed Earth has gained a lot of acclaim.  It first came to my notice back in July when it made headlines for snagging the Frank O’Connor award.  Now winning an award will generally earn you a headline in the book world, but what really made this story interesting was the fact that Lahiri’s collection was dubbed the unanimous winner so early on that the judges jumped from long-list to winner.  They did not pass Go, they did not collect $200, and they did not declare a short-list in the process either.  In their opinion, Unaccustomed Earth was so superior relative to the competition that there was no point pretending anyone else was in the running, and subjecting the other authors to unnecessary stress.  Add this to the fact that Lahiri has pretty much been an untouchable literary superstar ever since the publication of her first collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, and you can see why despite my normal aversion to short stories, I had pretty high expectations for this ToB entrant. (more…)
26th January
2009
written by Steph

Sigh.  My first book read for this year’s Tournament of Books, was fairly atrocious, so despite the rocky start, I was at least optimistic that the next book would have to be better.  It’s the law of averages!  So I picked up Fae Myenne Ng’s Steer Toward Rock, and dove in hoping I was going to land in a somewhat deeper pool. Steer Toward Rock is largely about a Chinese man name Jack Moon Szeto who, during his youth, is sold into another family so that they can have a son.  When he is older, he is sent to San Francisco so that he can work off his debt to his non-blood father, and also act as a decoy husband for the second wife said father wants to also bring into America (hoping to get a true blood son out of her).  This is around the time of the Chinese Confession Program, when the INS were trying to weed out individuals who had lied to bring other Chinese immigrants into the country, and when Chinese immigrants were treated extremely poorly.  The novel examines the trials and tribulation of Jack, primarily focusing on his relationships with three pivotal women in his life: Joice, his first love; Ilin, his fake wife; and Veda, his daughter by Joice.  It examines what an individual is willing to undergo for love, as well as the role of family (both in terms of one that is formed versus one that we are tied to through blood), and of course the immigration experience and the struggles to habituate as well as the struggle for later generations to understand their heritage.  Through this exploration, Steer Toward Rock also addresses the issue of self-identity. (more…)