Thursday, September 22, 2011

In the Name of Salome by Julia Alvarez

Leaving Asia and heading over to Latin America, we will be discussing the book In the name of Salome by Julia Alvarez.

Here's a summary of the book:
The Dominican Republic's most famous poet and her daughter, a professor in the United States, are the remarkable protagonists of this lyrical work, one of the most moving political novels of the past half century. Born in 1850, Salom called a revolution into being with her fearless poetry. Even as an adolescent, she saw her pseudonymous poems inspire bloodshed in the streets. Camila, born in 1894, followed the fortunes of her famous family into exile, first in Cuba, then on her own in the U.S., where she became an academic's academic.
The novel's protagonists are based on real characters, yet by offering history through the lenses of both the poet and the scholar, as well as by portraying male-dominated events from the perspective of female activists, Alvarez conveys purely Latin American revolutionary idealism with an intellectual sensuality that eschews magical realism. 

We're meeting on Sunday October 30th at 2pm at Cumaica Cafe in the SOMA/Van Ness neighborhood.

Next Book (November):
The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

History of Korea... indeed

An amazing immigrant story, tracking her lineage from Korea, Anna decides to leave her unsettled shaky life in New York City to go find her connection to her family to her mother's country of birth. 

Even though there were mixed reviews with whether the story was compelling and different people seem to either get or not get into it, the one consensus was the effective and informative story telling of the history of Korea. It was here that we discovered the Japanese imperialism reigning in Korea leading to WWII where Korea eventually gets split by the 38th parallel line dividing Communism and Capitalism, as well as families. 

Anna's mother and grandfather lend their lens in their survival in a chaotic Korean landscape where everything they knew was taken away from them. Going through high and lows throughout their lives in terms of political standing and economic opportunities, the story ends up with the eldest daughter winning a chance to go to the USA and ultimately settles there. 

Connection to one self's identity and discovering where you feel belonged is at the core of this book.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

One Thousand Chestnut Treets; A novel of Korea by Mira Stout

Our next book will trasport us to Korea, we'll be discussing "One Thousand Chestnut Trees; A novel of Korea" by Mira Stout.

Here's a book summary:
Mira Stout's protagonist is Anna (based loosely on Stout herself), a young artist who lives in New York and feels lost. Knowing little about her Boston Irish father and her Korean mother, and less still about Korea, she decides to journey to Korea, as Mira Stout herself did, to try to make sense of the random jigsaw pieces of her background--tidbits like the story of her great-grandfather, once the ruler of Kangwon Province, who was stripped of land and title by the invading Japanese and ordered a temple be built atop the highest mountain amidst 1,000 chestnut trees.
In the novel, Anna's Korean curiosity begins as a teenager, when Uncle Hong-do arrives from Korea to visit Anna's mother, the sister he never met. Years later, Anna turns to Korea as an answer to her feelings of existential angst, retracing her mother's steps in an effort "to see my family undie." Told in her voice as well as her mother's and grandfather's, what you get is a stirring novel that combines Korea's epic history with a family legacy and a personal exploration.

Hope to see you on Sept 18 at the Bean Bag Coffee House on Divisadero!

Next book to read:
October - In the name of Salome by Julia Alvarez