KINDER THAN SOLITUDE by Yiyun Li

“Perhaps there is a line in everyone’s life that, once crossed, imparts a certain truth that one has not been able to see before, transforming solitude from a choice into the only possible line of existence.” For four friends, that line was crossed during their late teenage years, when one of them was poisoned, perhaps deliberately, perhaps accidentally, lingering in a physical limbo state until she finally dies years later. The young man, Boyang, remains in China; the two young women, Ruyu and Moran, move to the United States. Each ends up living in what the author describes as a “life-long quarantine against love and life.”

March 21, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: California, Character Driven, China, Contemporary, Literary, US Midwest, World Lit

ALL OUR NAMES by Dinaw Mengestu

Mengestu’s third novel—another about the immigrant experience—is his most accomplished and soulful, in my opinion. He returns again to the pain of exile and the quest for identity, as well as the need for a foreigner from a poor and developing country to reinvent himself. In addition, he alternates the landscape of post-colonial Uganda with the racially tense Midwest of the 1970s, and demonstrates that the feeling of exile can also exist in an American living in her own hometown. The cultural contrast of both countries, with a narrative that alternates back and forth, intensifies the sense of tenuous hope mixed with shattered illusions.

March 13, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Class - Race - Gender, Reading Guide, US Mid-Atlantic, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

THE UNAMERICANS by Molly Antopol

A title such as THE UNAMERICANS begs this question: what is an American? Or more specifically, what is an American in Molly Antopol’s world? A traditional answer might be to have a personal sense of identity and to be unencumbered to pursue one’s most shining hopes and dreams in a land where anything is possible.

Molly Antopol’s characters are mostly Jewish and they are mostly alienated – from spouse or kids, from past ideology and beliefs, and often, from their most authentic selves. Each story is a little gem onto itself.

February 26, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 5 under 35, Short Stories, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

HAPPINESS, LIKE WATER by Chinelo Okparanta

Chinelo Okparanta came to my attention after her story, America, was a finalist for the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing. It tells the touching story of a very special friendship between two young women that challenges Nigerian traditions and social conventions… America has been published as one of ten stories in this, her first collection, Happiness, like Water. Okparanta is without a doubt becoming a promising representative of the new generation of Nigerian and African writers who are giving growing prominence to the field of African short fiction writing.

January 12, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Short Stories, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

WE NEED NEW NAMES by NoViolet Bulawayo

NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut novel, WE NEED NEW NAMES, is the story of Darling, a young Zimbabwean girl living in a shantytown called Paradise. She is feisty ten-year old, an astute observer of her surroundings and the people in her life. Bulawayo structures her novel more like a series of linked stories, written in episodic chapters, told loosely chronologically than in one integrated whole. In fact, the short story “Hitting Budapest,” that became in some form an important chapter in this “novel,” won the prestigious 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing.

In addition to Darling, the stories introduce her gang of close friends. They are vividly and realistically drawn and we can easily imagine them as they roam free in their neighbourhood and also secretly walk into “Budapest,” a near-by district of the well-off…

January 5, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Coming-of-Age, Man Booker Nominee, Short Stories, US Midwest, World Lit

EVERYTHING WAS GOODBYE by Gurjinder Basran

In her debut novel, EVERYTHING WAS GOODBYE, Gurjinder Basran tells the story of one happy-unhappy family, seen through the eyes of Meena, the youngest of six sisters. Set against the backdrop of suburban British Columbia, Basran paints a richly coloured portrait of a close-knit Punjabi community, caught between the traditions of “home” in India and their Canadian home, where their community is surrounded by a predominantly white, rather laid-back English-speaking society. With an impressively confident approach to a complex subject matter and a lively and engaging writing style, the young Indian-Canadian author explores the emotional turmoil, faced by a girl/young woman like Meena, experiencing the two cultures intimately. Traditional family values are assessed against the young heroine’s need for independence and emotional fulfillment.

October 3, 2011 · Judi Clark · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Canada, Class - Race - Gender, Debut Novel, World Lit, y Award Winning Author