Crazy Rich Asians (book review)

Crazy Rich AsiansTitle: Crazy Rich Asians
Author:
Kevin Kwan 
Genre:
Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Published on:
June 11th, 2013
Published by:
Doubleday
Rating:
 5 Alamak stars!

I am so excited to review this book because I absolutely loved it! It had everything I was looking for at the time — an interesting cast of characters, fascinating setting, and lots lots of cultural references! This was the fifth and last book I picked up for the #AsianLitBingo Challenge and probably the one I enjoyed the most! I can’t wait to go watch the movie now!!!

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Rachel Chu is an ABC (American born Chinese) and her boyfriend, Nick Young, has just invited her to travel with him to Singapore. He’s from there and wants to show his girlfriend of two years the house, family and food he grew up with. They’re both living in New York City and working as professors at a university and have a life there. However, Nick forgot to mention that he’s “Asia’s most elligible bachelor.”
Coming from an extremely rich and priviledged background, Nick doesn’t realize how different this all looks to Rachel.
What at first sounds like a paradisiac holiday has turned into a living nightmare for Rachel. Without even realising, she had just walked into somewhere no one thinks she belongs. There’s money, dinners, bachelor and bachelorette parties, mansions, impromptu trips, and plenty of gossip and scheming.

This was such an entertaining book. To know what my full thoughts were, just keep reading!

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Jamilia (mini book review)

JamiliaTitle: Jamilia (“Джамиля”)
Author
: Chingiz Aitmatov
Genre: Adult Fiction, Cultural Interest
Published in: 1958
My rating: 4 stars

This was the fourth book I read for the #AsianLitBingo Challenge. I must say that I loved it. I went into it with high expectations and I was not let down! This had first been recommended to me by one of my best friends, so I had to get around to it sometime. Since it was such a short book and I was in the mood for some character analysis, it was the perfect read. I can’t recommend it enough!

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The narrator is an artist, Seit, who goes back decades to his childhood to tell this story. It centers around the character of Jamila (also spelled Jamilia or Djamila), his sister-in-law. This woman stays behind in their small Kyrgyzstani town when her husband goes to war during WWII.

Seit becomes increasingly fascinated by Jamila. He gets to know her more and they manage to talk during the errands they must run to help the war efforts. Left behind and with little to no loving words from her husband, Jamila changes. Until one day, she becomes interested in the town’s “crippled” and everything changes.

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Down and Across (book review)

Down and AcrossTitle: Down and Across
Author: Arvin Ahmadi
Genre: Young-adult contemporary
Published on: February 6th 2018
Published by: Viking Books for Young Readers
My rating: 3 gritty stars

The third book I read for my Asian Lit Bingo Challenge was Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi. I had heard a lot of things about this book, but the reviews never really captured my attention. Until the ALBC came along and I was looking for own-voices books from East Asia. This was it! I went into it excited for a fluffy read aaaaand… I came out disappointed.

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Scott (aka Saaket) is still in high school, but his Iranian dad has his whole life planned out. He will spend his summer being a lab research assistant, ace all his tests, and then go off to med school. Needless to say Saaket is less than happy about this. When his parents leave for Iran, he knows it’s now or never if he wants to spend a summer not studying mouse poop. Saaket hops on a Greyhound bus to Washington D.C. and has a month to figure out what to make of his life.

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If you want to read why this was nothing but an average YA book to me, keep on reading! This is a spoiler-free review.

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The Widows of Malabar Hill (book review)

the widows of malabar hillTitleThe Widows of Malabar Hill
Author: Sujata Massey
Genre: crime, historical fiction, adult
Published on: January 9th, 2018
Published by: SoHo Press
My rating: 5 chai lattes!

The Widows of Malabar Hill was one of my most anticipated novels of the year. As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew I had to read it. This was the second book in my #AsianLitChallenge, which came at a perfect time! I haven’t heard much about it here on the blogging community yet. I think it’s one of those books that is underrated. I’d love it if I could get more people interested in it!

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It’s Bombay in 1921. Perveen Mistry is the daughter of a well-respected Zoroastrian lawyer and has just started working at his law firm. She’s the first female lawyer in Bombay, and one of the first in all of India. With an Oxford education in law and a passion for women’s rights, Perveen is eager to start her career.

Perveen can’t show up in court, so she handles contracts and wills. One day, Mr. Omar Farid’s, a wealthy Muslim mill owner, will is handed to her to analyze. However, the more Perveen studies the documents, the more she realizes something isn’t right. The wishes of the widows don’t seem to make sense to Perveen. They’re all giving away their inheritance to a charity, leaving them and their children nothing.

Perveen travels to meet the Farid widows, where the women live in seclusion. She notices that there seem to be more secrets and silent battles between these walls than anywhere else in Bombay. When a body shows up in one of the rooms of the house, suspicion and intrigue spread around the house — and it’s Perveen’s job to get to the bottom of the mystery.

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If you want to read my non-spoilery review of this marvelous novel, click to read more!

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Emergency Contact (book review)

Emergency ContactTitle: Emergency Contact
Author: Mary H.K. Choi
Genre: Young-Adult contemporary
Published on: March 27th, 2018
Published by:
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
My rating:
 2 stars

Emergency Contact is making both the book-blogging community and Booktube go crazy. Everyone is raving about how fantastic and heartwarming this novel is. In fact, someone I follow even refered to it as “the best contemp of 2018.” With so much hype and praise going around, I decided to make this my first #AsianLitBingo read. Unfortunately, I was highly disappointed.

Since I haven’t written a proper review in a long time, I wanted to share with you all what I liked about this book, what I didn’t like, and what I thought was “meh.”

Synopsis cursive pink

“For Penny Lee, high school was a total non-event. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director, but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths, it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.”

To read my review, click to continue to the full blog post.

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The Displaced (book review)

The Displaced

Title: The Displaced

Author: several writers, edited by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Genre: non-fiction essays

Rating: 5 stars

Publication date: April 10th 2018, published by Abrams Press

I saw this book being advertised on Netgalley and when I read the synopsis, I knew I had to request it. It’s a compilation of non-fiction essays written by amazing writers who have, in one way or another, dealt with being a refugee. Some had to flee their country because of war, others because of extreme poverty. I fell in love with the writing style and how the issue of migration was handled.

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If you want to know more about this book and read my thoughts, click to read the whole post!

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This Will Be My Undoing (book review)

This Will Be My Undoing Graph

This Will Be My UndoingTitle: This Will Be My Undoing

Author: Morgan Jerkins

Genre: Nonfiction — essays

Publication date: January 30th 2018; published by Harper Perennial

Rate: 5 stars

Goodreads: here; Book Depository: here

I was given an advanced reader’s copy (ARC) of this book by the publisher Harper Perennial in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed are my own.
The Book Depository link is an affiliate, so I make a small commission if you purchase this book using this link — note that this will not affect the price you pay whatsoever.

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This Will Be My Undoing is a collection of essays written by acclaimed author Morgan Jerkins. These essays center around three things: being a woman, being African American, and how those two intersect and define her role and the way she’s seen by others in America.

Although being an African-American woman is the center of the book, it is not the only thing that Jerkins discusses in her essays. The author writes about growing up black in a predominantly white academic community, studying at Yale as a person of color, starting a career as a writer, being religious, and dealing with mental health issues.

These essays are a study on American society, history, and culture of the twenty-first century.

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This book is mind blowingly good. It offers a deep, thorough, and careful analysis of American culture, society and history like no other book I have ever read — and I have read quite a few! Morgan Jerkins is an incredibly talented author who is able to unpack important and relevant symbols that are quite tricky to look at and judge objectively. She is able to look at a social setting and infer what everyone’s underlying interest and private thought is.

From the first to the last essays, she is able to draw in the reader as if she were a witch casting a spell on a helpless victim. Because of her first-hand experience growing up as a black girl in overwhelmingly white environments, she is able to expose clearly what the consequences (both positive and negative) of such an upbringing are. One essay in particular, titled “Monkeys Like You” which serves as an opening for the book, explores the differences of being a young white girl and a young black girl. The writer emphasises her desire to be like the pretty blue-eyed girls in the cheerleading team, her desire to be their friend, and her desire to be absorbed by their ways as a means to be accepted as a cool girl — in an effort to achieve high status in school dynamics.

Some essays, two that I can distinctly remember, are ironic and sarcastic pieces of advice. The second essay, titled “How to Be Docile,” profoundly mocks the traditional advice that has been given out to women throughout history, asserting their place in society as passive beings. I found these lists to be incredibly entertaining and outright hilarious. In my opinion, Jerkin’s voice really transpires here and takes the book into a completely different level.

One of the topics addressed in the book that fascinated me the most was the writer’s rise from a high-school student, to the accomplished writer she is today — published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Elle, The Atlantic, and more. It was heart-warming to follow her journey as she struggled with a lot of identity obstacles that stood between her and success as a writer. As someone who is conscious of the glass ceiling that still exists, it was curious to see how my experience as a white woman differs from Jerkin’s. Although we are women, the barriers we must transpose are not the same. And it is here that intersectionality comes into play.

Intersectional feminism is, in my opinion, a widely misunderstood concept. I know from personal experience (gained at debates and general ‘cafe talk’) that some people don’t believe that discrimination is not one-dimensional. A white woman and a black woman will face completely different challenges, and one of them will get the bad end of the deal when it comes to opportunity and representation — and we all know, even if only deep down, who that person will be. Jerkins explains this issue of intersectionality particularly well, especially when she describes her trip to Saint Petersburg, Russia.

My favorite essay in this collection has to be, without a doubt, “Black Girl Magic.” It is in this essay that I think Jerkin’s writing and genius stands out the most. In this essay, she unpacks what the concept of “strong black woman” is, how it is both damaging and positive for a black girl or woman, and what some empowering alternatives might be. She goes back in history to explain where this trope came from and she digs in our present-day pop-culture society to find embodiments of the trope. Because of this, we the readers are left with a deep and well-defined idea of what a “strong black woman” is and where it came from, and being exposed to media it will soon be clear that it is much-used stereotype.

Other incredibly important and relevant issues worked by the writer are police brutality, especially right after Trayvon Martin’s death; reformatting your way of thinking to discard from your brain racial-based assessment tools (judging ethnic minorities in light of white American society); and the twisted “color blind” mentality that has become close to mainstream.

Jerkins puts down her pen after writing a powerful paragraph that could not have been phrased any better. When looking back at her ten-year-old self, and accessing where she is now, she writes:

“Back then, I wasn’t opinionated; I was whiny. I wasn’t smart; I was foolish. I wasn’t accepted; I was taken in out of pity. I grinned. I grinned and I grinned and I grinned some more. What the experience taught me was that I had, in a sense, made it to a place where I was never supposed to be. Someone tried to put me in my place, but it was too late. I was already all up in the space, reading the same books, taking the same classes, studying with the same professors, and eating alongside them at the same dining halls. […]  They might have had the privilege not to conceptualize black women in their spaces, but now they saw them in the flesh, moving and navigating just like them. This was their nightmare and my joy.

Surprise.

You should’ve known I was coming.”

There are many more things to be addressed in this review, but I can’t get around to writing about all of them. You should totally read this book. It will leave you thinking, especially if you don’t support intersactionality, feminism, or believe that the African American experience differs greatly from that of the whites. I recommend this book with all my heart, and I am eager to read more articles and essays written by Morgan Jerkins.

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This book is coming out tomorrow!!! Are you excited to read it? Do you have any recommendations that might be similar to this? I would love to read your comments 😊