Here we are again, folks! I’m catching up on reviews before the end of the year, and while I’d much rather that each book had its own individual post, sometimes we have to cram in our reviews any way we can. After this post, I’ll be caught back up, so that’ll be nice. (Until I’m behind again, which wouldn’t happen if people would stop needing me to do things other than read and blog…)
Let’s get this wrapped up!
The Chai Factor by Farah Heron (Harper Avenue, 2019). This is what I was reading when my hellacious migraine struck, so it took me longer than I wanted to get through. Amira Khan has moved back in with her grandmother, mother, and much younger sister to finish up her final paper for engineering grad school. She wasn’t expecting to have to share the basement with a barbershop quartet, nor was she expecting to get caught up in their drama. This is a lovely multicultural romance; Amira is Indian-Canadian and Muslim, and the book has a lot of great scenes that deal with issues from and which expose the reader to her particular community (and will have you scrambling to place an order from your favorite local Indian restaurant, because Ms. Heron’s constant mentions of food did exactly that for me. I’d rather eat Indian than any other cuisine in the world). Amira and Duncan’s relationship is super cute, and while Amira is kind of a prickly and defensive character, the reasons for that are entirely valid. I enjoyed this.
Before They Pass Away by Jimmy Nelson (teNeues, 2013). This is a stunning book of photography, with a little bit of text in multiple languages, about isolated cultures that are struggling to survive and exist as the world encroaches on them. The photos are intense and beautiful, showcasing different traditions of dress (and occasionally lack thereof; keep this in mind if you have curious children to whom you’re not ready to explain differences in genitalia and cultural expectations of who should keep what covered and when) and bodily decoration, as well as the landscapes, some of them daunting, where these groups each live. This is an utterly enormous book, to the point where it was somewhat painful to carry, so maybe have an extra set of arms or a wagon if you’re going to check this out of your local library.
Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman by Abby Chava Stein (Seal Press, 2019). Abby Chava Stein grew up in a Hasidic community in Brooklyn, one of the most gender-segregated communities out there. Born a boy, she knew from a young age that she was actually a girl, but she received the message early on that acting anything other than what was considered typical for a boy in her community was unacceptable. She struggled her whole life, trying to cram herself into the role her community demanded of her, but ultimately made the decision to live as the person she is and not who others wanted her to be. This is a very life-affirming book; I was in awe of her strength, both to survive in such a constricting community for as long as she did, and for finally making the painful choice to leave. The book covers more of her early life, while only briefly alluding to how she left and what the aftermath of that looked like, so I’m extremely hopeful that there will be a follow-up memoir.
What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon (Lake Union Publishing, 2019). A time travel romance set against the backdrop of Ireland’s struggle for independence from England in the 1920’s. I didn’t know much about this subject, so this was a delight, and I’m absolutely in awe of Ms. Harmon’s research skills. Ireland is as much of a character as anyone else in the novel, and I love that Michael Collins is a large presence in the book. This would make for a fabulous book club read; the romance is never explicit, and the focus of the novel is far more set on the historical aspects of the story and the complex emotional relationships between all of the characters, past and present. I’m very curious about Ms. Harmon’s other novels after reading this!
And that’s it! I’m now caught up and will *crosses fingers* hopefully stay that way, although no promises! The treadmill of life just keep speeding up and I can’t quite manage to keep up the pace…