Sunday, December 16, 2012

Jan 13, 2013: The Reeducation of Cherry Truong

Happy New Year 2013!

Let's start the year discussing the book "The Reeducation of Cherry Troung" by Aimee Phan - a novel based in the US and Vietnam.

Here's a Book Summary:
Cherry Truong’s older brother has been exiled to live with distant relatives in Vietnam. As Cherry journeys from Los Angeles to her family’s homeland to bring him back, she embarks on a quest to uncover the mysteries and lies in her family’s past—hidden loves, desperate choices, and lives torn apart by the march of war and currents of history.
Spanning three generations, The Reeducation of Cherry Truong tells the sweeping stories of the Truong and Vos families, their escape from Vietnam during the war, the forces that separated them, and the ties that bind them over three continents. Aimee Phan’s debut novel introduces readers to a fiercely defiant family who still yearn for reconciliation and redemption in each other’s hearts.

We'll be meeting at Cafe Sophie in the Castro neighbourhood on Sunday December 13 @ 2pm!

Books to read in 2013:
Feb 2013 - Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe)
Mar 2013 - Equal of the Sun - Anita Amirrezvanni (Iran)
Apr 2013 - Am American Radical - Susan Rosenberg

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dec 9, 2012 - Last Book Club Discussion: Travels in West Africa

From the 1950s to the late 1800s, we now travel to the UK and follow the diary of Mary Henrietta Kingsley as she writes about her "Travels in West Africa."

Here's a book summary:

Until 1893, Mary Kingsley led a secluded life in Victorian England. But at age 30, defying every convention of womanhood of the time, she left England for West Africa to collect botanical specimens for a book left unfinished by her father at his death.

Traveling through western and equatorial Africa and becoming the first European to enter some parts of Gabon, Kingsley' s story--as an explorer and as a woman--would become an enduring tale of adventure, ranking 18th on "Adventure magazine' s list of the top 100 adventure books.

You can read this book online for FREE - please copy and paste the following link:

Join us in the SOMA neighbourhood on Sunday December 9, 2012 and discuss our final book of 2012!

Next Books:

Jan 2013 - The reeducation of Cherry Truong by Aimee Phan (Vietnam)

Feb 2013 - Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe)

Mar 2013 - Equal of the Sun - Anita Amirrezvanni (Iran)

Apr 2013 - Am American Radical - Susan Rosenberg

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Next 5 Books for WOW Book Club (Dec 2012 - April 2013)

For our wonderful readers who would love to have time to read books in advance, we have selected the next five books for WOW Book Club:
Dec 2012 - Travels in West Africa by Mary Henrietta Kingsley
Originally published in 1895, and never out of print, "Travels in West Africa is Kingsley' s account of her dauntless travels, unaccompanied but for African guides, into Africa' s most dangerous jungles, where the tribes were reputed to be ferocious and cannibalistic.
Jan 2013 - The reeducation of Cherry Truong by Aimee Phan (Vietnam)
A young woman journeys back to Vietnam to uncover family secrets. Cherry Truong’s older brother has been exiled to live with distant relatives in Vietnam. As Cherry journeys from Los Angeles to her family’s homeland to bring him back, she embarks on a quest to uncover the mysteries and lies in her family’s past—hidden loves, desperate choices, and lives torn apart by the march of war and currents of history.
Feb 2013 - Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe)
Set in colonial Rhodesia during the 1960s, this book centers on the coming of age of a teenage girl, Tambu, and her relationship with her British-educated cousin Nyasha. Tambu, who yearns to be free of the constraints of her rural village, especially the circumscribed lives of the women, thinks her dreams have come true when her wealthy uncle offers to sponsor her education. But she soon learns that the education she receives at his mission school comes with a price.

Mar 2014 - Equal of the Sun - Anita Amirrezvanni (Iran)
In Equal of the Sun, Anita Amirrezvani’s gorgeously crafted tale of power, loyalty, and love in the royal court of Iran, she brings one such woman to life, Princess Pari Khan Khanoom Safavi. Iran in 1576 is a place of wealth and dazzling beauty. But when the Shah dies without having named an heir, the court is thrown into tumult. Princess Pari, the Shah’s daughter and protégé, knows more about the inner workings of the state than almost anyone, but the princess’s maneuvers to instill order after her father’s sudden death incite resentment and dissent.
Apr 2014 - An American Radical: A Political Prisoner in my own country - Susan Rosenberg
More than just a powerful memoir, "An American Radical" is also a powerful indictment of the U.S. prison system, in which Rosenberg recounts her journey from the impassioned idealism of the 1960s to life as a political prisoner in her own country.

Happy Reading!

Please post a comment if you have other recommendations for this book club.

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

From ancient bibilical times to the 1960s in Dominican Republican, we'll be discussing the book In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez.

Here's a Book Summary:

Set during the waning days of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1960, this extraordinary novel tells the story the Mirabal sisters, three young wives and mothers who are assassinated after visiting their jailed husbands.

From the author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents comes this tale of courage and sisterhood set in the Dominican Republic during the rise of the Trujillo dictatorship. A skillful blend of fact and fiction, In the Time of the Butterflies is inspired by the true story of the three Mirabal sisters who, in 1960, were murdered for their part in an underground plot to overthrow the government. Alvarez breathes life into these historical figures--known as "las mariposas," or "the butterflies," in the underground--as she imagines their teenage years, their gradual involvement with the revolution, and their terror as their dissentience is uncovered.

We'll be meeting in SOMA Neighborhood on Sunday November 18, 2012! Post a comment if you want to join us or have input on this book!

Dinah - the sole daughter of Jacob, finds her own way when she cuts off her own family

I've been told number of times to read this book for the WOW Book Club, and finally it happened and no regrets!

We all enjoyed The Red Tent, which highlights the story of Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob, son of Issac and grandson to Abraham (the one who almost sacrificed his elder son Issac to prove his loyalty to God). Dinah is raised by her mother and three sisters - all of them married to Jacob, and spends her time in the red tent, exclusively for women who have their menstruation (hence the name). But with Dinah they make an exception and we get to see her perspective of her family from child to young woman.

She becomes visible to Jacob and her brothers once the prince Shalem of Shechem falls in love with her and she loves him back. Jacob and her brothers afraid to lose their control over Dinah, who they hadn't even cared for before, sets upon a horrific tragedy that leads Dinah to curse her family and escapes to Egypt.

It is in Egypt where Dinah's life becomes more optimistic and empowered, where she finally finds her own way to become the best midwife in town.

Of course many more things happen throughout the whole story, such as the character of Werenro, a redhead eccentric messanger of Dinah's grandmother, whose life is heartbreaking and yet the saviour of Dinah in Egypt; Meryt, Inna and Rachel - all midwives who influenced Dinah to set her on a path to become the best midwife she can be; Benia - a beautiful man who gives Dinah a chance to love freely and find peace in the rest of her days.

It was powerful to see this one character who's mentioned 8 times in the bible, a complex and resilient woman of her times in Anita Diamant's incredible book.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

This book was highly recommended to me when I first initiated this book club and it felt like a good time to read it. We'll be discussing The Red Tent by Anita Diamant in October 2012.

Here's the Book Summary:
Told in Dinah's voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood--the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers--Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah--the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah's story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past.
Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women's society.

We'll be meeting at the new coffee shop Flywheel Coffee Roasters in the Haight neighbourhood on Sun Oct 21!

Next Books:
November 2012 - In the time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Honor Lost: Love and Death in Modern Day Jordan

We'll be traveling to Jordan to read our next book choice for September 2012: Honor Lost: Love and Death in Modern Day Jordan by Norma Khouri.

Here's a book summary:
Dalia was a young, beautiful Arabian Muslim living with her family in Amman, Jordan. At the age of twenty-five, she unexpectedly fell in love with Michael, a major in the Royal Army, and a Catholic. For a Muslim woman, any relationship with a Catholic man is forbidden, and Dalia was only too aware that flouting this rule could cost her her life.
But they were deeply in love, and with the help of Dalia's lifelong friend, Norma, with whom she ran a hair salon, they went to extraordinary lengths to meet in secret. Dalia and Michael were only alone on a handful of occasions, and their relationship remained entirely chaste. Although they covered their tracks meticulously, one of Dalia's brothers became suspicious and she was suddenly gripped by the terrifying reality of what might happen to them all.
Shocking and dramatic, "Honor Lost" will strike a chord with women everywhere and is a testimony to the courage and strength of women who are prepared to defy generations ofmale dominance.

We'll be meeting at Blue Danube Coffee House in the Richmond neighborhood on Sunday Sept 23 at 2pm.

Next Books:
October 2012: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
November 2012: In the time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

Sunday, July 22, 2012

August 2012: Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness

Moving now to the African continent, we'll read about the story of Nicola Fuller and her journey through the book "Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness" by Alexandra Fuller.

Here's a Book Summary:
In this book Alexandra Fuller returns to Africa and to her unforgettable family. At the heart of this family, and central to the lifeblood of her latest story, is Fuller’s iconically courageous mother, Nicola. Born on the Scottish Isle of Skye to a warlike clan of highlanders and raised in Kenya's perfect equatorial light, Nicola holds dear the values most likely to get you hurt or killed in Africa: loyalty to blood, passion for land, and a holy belief in the restorative power of all animals.

We see Nicola as an irrepressible child in western Kenya, then with the man who fell in love with her, Tim Fuller. The young couple begin their life in a lavender colored honeymoon period, when east Africa lies before them with all the promise of its liquid honeyed light, even as the British empire in which they both once believed wanes. But in short order, an accumulation of mishaps and tragedies bump up against history until the Fullers find themselves in a world they hardly recognize.

A story of survival and war, love and madness, loyalty and forgiveness, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is an intimate exploration of the author’s family and of the price of being possessed by this uncompromising, fertile, death-dealing land.

We'll be meeting in the Van Ness area at the Quetzal Cafe on Sunday August 19 at 2pm!

Next books to read:

September 2012 - Honor Lost: Love And Death In Modern Day Jordan by Norma Khouri
October 2012 - The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

July 2012 Book: Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

For the heart of the summer, I thought it would be nice to read a light summer read for a change and go through the travels of cuisine with "Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertant Education of a Reluctant Chef" by Gabrielle Hamilton.

Here's a book summary:
Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Gabrielle Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; the soulless catering factories that helped pay the rent; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family—the result of a difficult and prickly marriage that nonetheless yields rich and lasting dividends.

Blood, Bones & Butter is an unflinching and lyrical work. Gabrielle Hamilton’s story is told with uncommon honesty, grit, humor, and passion. By turns epic and intimate, it marks the debut of a tremendous literary talent.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Next 3 book choices: July to September 2012

Many of you have requested to have a list of books beforehand to have more time in advance to read the books that we'll be discussing in the next three months. Here are the choices:

July 2012: Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton - Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: from the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in hand to the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey. This is what I would consider a light read for our book club that involves traveling and food!

August 2012: Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller - A story of survival and war, love and madness, loyalty and forgiveness, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is an intimate exploration of the author’s family and of the price of being possessed by this uncompromising, fertile, death-dealing land (Zimbabwe). This book is a sequel to the book "Don't Let go to the Dogs Tonight" which I highly recommend, if you want to try reading it before this book.

September 2012: Honor Lost: Love And Death In Modern Day Jordan by Norma Khouri - Norma Khouri's book is a gift to the memory of her friend, in which she recounts a powerful love story that ends in an appalling tragedy, and also attempts to bring to the world's attention the continuing practice of honor killing in Jordan -- an ancient tradition that encourages the murder of women considered to have dishonored their families. 

Feel free to share your book suggestions in the comments of this blog posting. See you all soon!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

June Book: The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

After a stop in the Middle East, we are heading over to China, as we'll be discussing our next book "The Woman Warrior; Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts" by Maxine Hong Kingston.

Here's a book summary:
The Woman Warrior is a pungent, bitter, but beautifully written memoir of growing up Chinese American in Stockton, California. Maxine Hong Kingston (China Men) distills the dire lessons of her mother's mesmerizing "talk-story" tales of a China where girls are worthless, tradition is exalted and only a strong, wily woman can scratch her way upward.
The author's America is a landscape of confounding white "ghosts"--the policeman ghost, the social worker ghost--with equally rigid, but very different rules. Like the woman warrior of the title, Kingston carries the crimes against her family carved into her back by her parents in testimony to and defiance of the pain.

We will be meeting on Sunday June 3rd at 2pm.
Stay posted for next book to read in July!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Bread of Angels by Stephanie Saldana - May 6th

Let's travel to Damascus, Syria! Our next book club will meet to discuss the book The Bread of Angels by Stephanie Saldana.

Here's a Book Summary
In 2004, twenty-seven-year old Stephanie Saldaña arrives in Damascus with a broken heart and a haunted family history that she has crossed the world to escape. She has come on a fellowship to study the role of Jesus in Islam, but speaks very little Arabic, has no friends in the city, and has no place to live. Nor is it an ideal time to be in the region—the United States has recently invaded neighboring Iraq, and refugees are flooding into the streets of Damascus. Still, Stephanie does the only thing she can think of: she begins knocking on doors in the Christian Quarter, asking strangers if they have a room to rent.

So begins The Bread of Angels, the unforgettable memoir of one woman’s search for faith, love, and the meaning of her life in the place she least expects to find it.

We're meeting on Sunday May 6th at 2pm at the Epicenter Cafe in the SOMA neighborhood.

Next Book:
June 2012 - The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Coming from a consensual interest from the book group, we'll be discussing People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks in our next book club meeting.

Here's a book summary:
Inspired by the true story of a mysterious codex known as the Sarajevo Haggadah, People of the Book is a sweeping adventure through five centuries of history. From its creation in Muslim-ruled, medieval Spain, the illuminated manuscript makes a series of perilous journeys: through Inquisition-era Venice, fin-de-siecle Vienna, and the Nazi sacking of Sarajevo.

In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed manuscript, which has been rescued once again from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with figurative paintings. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding—an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair—she becomes determined to unlock the book’s mysteries. As she seeks the counsel of scientists and specialists, the reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its creation to its salvation.

We'll be meeting at a coffee shop in the Russian Hill neighborhood on Sunday April 8 at 2pm.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Country under my Skin; A memoir of love and war

Let's discuss our next book based in Nicaragua with the book "The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War" by Gioconda Belli.

Here's a book summary:

An electrifying memoir from the acclaimed Nicaraguan writer and central figure in the Sandinista Revolution.

Her memoir is both a revelatory insider’s account of the Revolution and a vivid, intensely felt story about coming of age under extraordinary circumstances. Belli writes with both striking lyricism and candor about her personal and political lives: about her family, her children, the men in her life; about her poetry; about the dichotomies between her birth-right and the life she chose for herself; about the failures and triumphs of the Revolution; about her current life, divided between California (with her American husband and their children) and Nicaragua; and about her sustained and sustaining passion for her country and its people.

Looking forward to meeting you at the Coffee Bar in Potrero neighborhood on Sunday March 11, 2012 at 2pm.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean

Next book club we're discussing about women from Russia with The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean.

Here's a book summary:
Bit by bit, the ravages of age are eroding Marina's grip on the everyday. An elderly Russian woman now living in America, she cannot hold on to fresh memories—the details of her grown children's lives, the approaching wedding of her grandchild—yet her distant past is miraculously preserved in her mind's eye.

Vivid images of her youth in war-torn Leningrad arise unbidden, carrying her back to the terrible fall of 1941, when she was a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum and the German army's approach signaled the beginning of what would be a long, torturous siege on the city.

Join us in Nob Hill on Sunday February 12 at 2pm at La Galleria Cafe.

Next Book:
The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War by Giaconda Belli

The Lacuna - Mexico and US not blending in each other

Let's start the new year in Mexico City and discuss the book The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver.

Here's a book summary:
In her most accomplished novel, Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. The Lacuna is a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities.
Born in the United States, reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico, Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.
Meanwhile, to the north, the United States will soon be caught up in the internationalist goodwill of World War II. There in the land of his birth, Shepherd believes he might remake himself in America's hopeful image and claim a voice of his own.
With deeply compelling characters, a vivid sense of place, and a clear grasp of how history and public opinion can shape a life, Barbara Kingsolver has created an unforgettable portrait of the artist—and of art itself. 

We will meet in Portrero Hill neighborhood on Saturday January 21, 2012 at 2pm.

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Come join our last book club discussion of the year! We will be discussing our December WOW Book Club on The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. 

Here's a book summary:
The double bind that torques women’s lives is Divakaruni’s key theme in lambent novels and short stories about women who immigrate to America from India, and the curious ways the deep past seeps into the present. Divakaruni often weaves glimmering threads from the Hindu sagas into her fiction. 

Now, in her twelfth book, she goes directly to the source, the Mahabharat, India’s most magnificent epic, and boldly retells this Homeric tale of a battle for supremacy between two branches of a ruling dynasty––and dramatization of the internal war between emotion and reason––from the point of view of its central female character. Smart, resilient, and courageous Panchaali, born of fire, marries all five of the famously heroic Pandava brothers, harbors a secret love, endures a long exile in the wilderness, instigates a catastrophic war, and slowly learns the truth about Krishna, her mysterious friend.
By rendering the women characters as complexly as the men, and fully illuminating the “insanity of war” and the fragility of civilization, Divakaruni’s historic and transporting variation adds new and truly revelatory psychological and social dimensions to the great epic’s indelible story of sacrifice and spiritual awakening. Divakaruni has triumphantly fulfilled a profound mission. 

We'll be meeting at the Haight neighborhood!
Happy Reading!

Sky Burial - A love story of Tibet

Reading a short book (161 pages), as we have short time to read for November - Sky Burial, an Epic Love story of Tibet by Xinran.

Here's a book summary:
It was 1994 when Xinran, a journalist and the author of The Good Women of China, received a telephone call asking her to travel four hours to meet an oddly dressed woman who had just crossed the border from Tibet into China. Xinran made the trip and met the woman, called Shu Wen, who recounted the story of her thirty-year odyssey in the vast landscape of Tibet.
In the haunting Sky Burial, Xinran has recreated Shu Wen’s journey, writing beautifully and simply of the silence and the emptiness in which Shu Wen was enveloped. The book is an extraordinary portrait of a woman and a land, each at the mercy of fate and politics. It is an unforgettable, ultimately uplifting tale of love loss, loyalty, and survival.

We'll be meeting in the Folsom/Mission area at Stable Cafe on Saturday (not Sunday) Nov 12 @ 2pm.