Bookishness

[Book Review] Incarceration Nations

dreisinger_incarcerationnationsI don’t know how much time the average person spends thinking about prisons. It usually crosses my mind when I have a patient who is brought from prison – which happens a lot less now that I’m working only with kids. Every once in a while there will be a report of a jail break, and in high school we had a few debate topics around prisons (This House Supports The Right To Vote For Prisoners, etc). Every year at the anniversary of my aunt’s murder I think about prison, and wonder whether her murderer is still incarcerated.

Besides that, prison doesn’t cross my mind too often, and I’d wager it’s the same for those who don’t work with inmates, or don’t have a close relative currently imprisoned.

Baz Dreisinger’s Incarceration Nations dares to coax us from this comfort in a multi-national exposé of prisons around the world, and the justice/punitive systems within which they function. Continue reading “[Book Review] Incarceration Nations”

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Bookishness

[Book Review] The Lion in the Living Room

29430840Did you know that housecats are classified as one of the world’s 100 Worst Invasive Species?

Or that one of the earliest cat shows was won by a ring-tailed lemur?

Or perhaps that house cats have made virtually no evolutionary changes to adapt to a human environment? Continue reading “[Book Review] The Lion in the Living Room”

Bookishness, Current Affairs

What If Slavery Never Fell: Underground Airlines [Book Review]

I’ve been on a bit of an alternate-history kick recently, which has led me to believe that it is possibly one of the most challenging genres an author might tackle. Call it the Butterfly Effect or Domino Effect or just plain Jenga, but changing a single event in history causes a cascade of changes, and if the author misses even one of those, the book loses its believability.

23208397Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters is an alternate reality in the present day where slavery was never outlawed in the USA, and is still practiced in four major states. It is a horrifying thought and an important topic in light of current race-relations in the USA and much of the world.

World-building is important in alternative-history fiction, but must be subtle. If the world is different to the way we know it, the reader must be able to understand why that is. Winters did this fairly well, in referring to trading sanctions which, for example, result in CDs not yet reaching American markets. Continue reading “What If Slavery Never Fell: Underground Airlines [Book Review]”

Bookishness

The Translation of Love [Book Review]

30362775During the American occupation, the citizens of Japan were encouraged to apply directly to General MacArthur – “if you have a problem, write a letter, this is what democracy means” – and so write they did. MacArthur received over 500,000 letters, letters of entreaty, rage, gratitude, complaint, even adoration.

Twelve-year-old Fumi Tanaka has a problem – her beautiful and beloved older sister, Sumiko, has disappeared. Determined to find her, Fumi enlists the help of her new classmate Aya, forcibly repatriated with her father from Canada after the war. Together, they write to MacArthur and deliver their letter into the reluctant hands of Corporal Matt Matsumoto, a Japanese-American GI whose job it is to translate the endless letters.

Before reading The Translation of Love by Lynne Kutsukake, I had no idea about post-war Japan’s American occupation. I had even traveled to Japan, so I don’t know how I missed the enormity of the changes that occurred in Japan during the period of occupation. Continue reading “The Translation of Love [Book Review]”

Bookishness, Travelbug

Learning Through Fiction: Fiji in “Kalyana” [+Infographic]

learn through fictionLast year I made an infographic for Black Dove, White Raven, and although it hardly interested as many readers as I had hoped, it was something I immensely enjoyed doing. So I am thrilled to share a new infographic, this time about Fiji and the novel I read, Kalyana by Rajni Mala Khelawan.

Spanning the early 1960s to more or less the present day, Kalyana tells the story of a young Indo-Fijian girl – her parents’ only daughter, and just a little spoiled. Continue reading “Learning Through Fiction: Fiji in “Kalyana” [+Infographic]”

Bookishness, Current Affairs

Fifteen Lanes by S.J. Laidlaw [Book Review]

25893705Writing an “issue book” for young adults can be dangerous. Writing an issue book that incorporates diversity and a non-Western setting can be disastrous. It can be shallow. It can be whitewashed. It can be a pity-party. It can be subtly racist. Issue books are hard to write because we all have unwitting biases, and they can reveal themselves in our writing, despite our very best intentions.

Fifteen Lanes by S.J. Laidlaw is nothing like that.

Besides being teenage girls in Mumbai, Noor and Grace seemingly have nothing in common. Noor (which by the way is one of my favorite names!) is the eldest child of a prostitute. She was raised in the red-light district of Kamathipura. Education is her refuge, but she lives in constant fear of following the fate of her mother. Continue reading “Fifteen Lanes by S.J. Laidlaw [Book Review]”

Bookishness, Travelbug

Book Review: Cambodia Noir

25814249Phnom Penh, Cambodia: the end of the line. Lawless, drug-soaked, forgotten—it’s where bad journalists go to die. For once-great war photographer Will Keller, that’s kind of a mission statement: he spends his days floating from one score to the next, taking any job that pays; his nights are a haze of sex, drugs, booze, and brawling. But Will’s spiral toward oblivion is interrupted by Kara Saito, a beautiful young woman who shows up and begs Will to help find her sister, June, who disappeared during a stint as an intern at the local paper.

* * * 

If Cambodia Noir were just another crime thriller, it would disappear back into the woodwork among the millions of other sex-drugs-rock-and-roll thrillers with fallible heroes and sultry women that could be turned into a generic B-grade action film. Continue reading “Book Review: Cambodia Noir”