Archive for June, 2020

Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz

June 23, 2020

[Tricia]

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and this is her first novel. It is a warm and absorbing book that looks at the lives of several generations of working class women (and the men in their lives) in a small town in Ohio. The book mostly revolves around Ellie, who comes of age in the 1950s and finds herself living a very different life than she had planned. Like Dominicana by Angie Cruz, which I also read recently, this book is loosely based on the life of the author’s mother and I love the way both books pay tribute to women whose stories aren’t often told. Both Ellie and her husband Brick could have come across as stereotypes if their story was told by someone who didn’t herself grow up working class in small town Ohio. But their lives, their strengths and their flaws, are written with a great deal of empathy. This is a big-hearted book that gives a glimpse into a time and place that I didn’t know much about. I’m glad I read it.

Daughters of Erietown is available on Libby/Overdrive and at the Library.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

June 22, 2020

[Tricia]

One of the things I love about this book is how skillfully it tells the specific and intimate story of Roy and Celestial and Andre and their extended families in terms of the wider societal forces – particularly the mass incarceration of Black men in this country – that wreak havoc on their lives. We see up close, through a very effective section of the book written in letter form, the impact on Roy and Celestial’s young marriage after Roy is convicted of a crime he did not commit and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The book is always both universal in its explorations of love, marriage, friendship and parenthood, and very specific in the ways it situates these issues and relationships in the wider social context of the lives of Black people today in this country. I also loved the way the book alternates between the perspectives of Roy, Celestial, and Andre (Celestial’s life-long friend), allowing the reader to feel empathy and understanding for perspectives and choices that might be harder to understand if the whole story was told from either Roy or Celestial’s perspectives alone. This is a fascinating, well-written and timely book that I highly recommend.

Available in the Library, on Hoopla as both ebook and audiobook, and on Libby/Overdrive as both ebook and audiobook.

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American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

June 22, 2020

[Veronique]

I had my reservations at first. This book was on my holds list, but after reading the mounting criticism from the Latino communities about it I thought: why waste my time reading this when my “to read” list exceeds my life expectancy by about 30 years! But the more I read about the controversy the more I wanted to know for myself.

I enjoyed listening to the audiobook. There are definitely some cliches very hard to swallow (the platonic relationship between Lydia, the married bookstore owner and Javier the drug lord), too many odd coincidences, and definitely a one in a billion chances that all the events depicted would happen to the same person. It is though a good synopsis of the tribulations encountered by undocumented immigrants trying to make their way to America to escape the poverty and the danger to their lives from the all powerful drug cartels. The book is available at the Library and on Libby/Overdrive.

American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club) - ebook

Dominicana by Angie Cruz

June 11, 2020

[Tricia]

This coming of age story set in the mid-1960s centers around Ana, a 15 year old girl from the Dominican Republic whose family decides she is to marry a man in his 30s (whom she does not love, or even like) and move with him to New York. The hope, or really the expectation, is in that they make enough money to bring the rest of her family to the U.S. And specifically the expectation of Ana, placed heavily on her shoulders by her mother, is that Ana do everything she can to be the perfect wife so that Juan will want to take care of her and ultimately her family. As Ana is undocumented, she is dependent on Juan and he is controls every aspect of her life. It is a turbulent time, and the world is churning outside of the apartment window (Malcolm X is assassinated in the building across the street from their apartment). You can feel Ana’s frustration building at her claustrophic and lonely life trapped in their apartment, and at the abuse Juan inflicts on her. And her relief when Juan returns to the Dominican Republic for a while and she finally gets to experience some freedom and independence in the city is powerful. The author based the story on her mother’s life, and you can feel the admiration she has for Ana’s strength and resilience, and her dedication to her family, and the empathy she has for the sacrifices that Ana is forced to make. This book brought to mind Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, in that they both give a vivid sense of the life of new immigrants to New York, trying to create lives and raise families, and the strength that it takes to survive.

Both Dominica and Girl in Translation can be checked out from the Library.