The Dim Sum of All Things
By: Kim Wong Keltner
This book came to my reading list through a recommendation. “Chick lit” apparently is a very controversial term so let’s call it a “light read”; as a “light read”, it’s certainly a unique one. It focuses on a Chinese-American woman who lives with her grandmother in California, who has an o-kay job and who, having grown up in North America, is struggling to reconcile her ethnic Chinese heritage with the manner that she had grown up in. It’s something I personally could relate to on certain levels, which is why I was extremely curious to read this book. Ms. Keltner does a superb job in setting the stage and really exploring that tension there, of Lindsey growing up completely immersed in American pop culture but at the same time dealing with the Chinese culture many of her family members and relatives have kept on and how she describes them. The process of her coming to terms with her heritage is quite touching (if not slightly cliched of other “coming-of-age” stories out there). However, the book did hit a couple of slow snags over the course of the story (will not mention particulars as to not spoil the entire premise for readers), like it’s missing some element that would’ve given the plot some sparkle, and what started as a promising story ends up partly flat by the end of the novel. Another thing that slightly irked me was the characterization of Lindsey’s best friend, who is a Filipino, in the novel. It seemed rather…well, unauthentic. The father’s characterization was on the dot there, but the friend just seemed rather…well, odd in my opinion. I recommend this book regardless for Keltner’s representation of an immigrants’ child’s route towards reconciliation between two cultures that they are dealing with, but in terms storytelling, it works but it could have been stronger.
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Fathers and Sons
By: Ivan Turgenev
Despite of the fact that I am specializing in Russian history, I have not read a lot of Russian literature to date. So the fact that my 19c Imperial Russia professor assigned Fathers and Sons was welcoming in that sense. Of course, whenever a professor or teacher assigns a books, one gets a little wary of the book itself—after all, you have the deadline when the book has to be read by, the comments you have to make of them, the sorts of things you should be picking up as you read the book, etc, etc. Suddenly the book’s not fun anymore and you don’t get to appreciate the book as much. But Fathers and Sons falls under one of those exceptions where you find yourself completely immersed in the story and the setting and the characters. Each character in this novel represents a strand present in Russian society and yet they all have their own individual voices, they all have their own personalities that marks them as unique, as human. The story itself follows a young son, Arkady Petrovitch, who comes home from university with his nihilist mentor/friend named Bazarov, and finds himself in a totally different mindset and perspective from his father and uncle. It’s really a novel of perspectives, of how they view everyday life and how they come to terms with these realities. But the personal dynamics nad interactions were really what drew me in to the storyline. Unlike many readers who had read this book, I found myself more inclined to Arkady, his father and his family’s position and opinions moreso than Bazarov’s, who I found rather irritating with his blunt assessment of the world; he seemed to me a person without any sort of passion, who is incapable to ever reconciling with the fact that as humans we have passions and we do have emotions and that we bring meaning to the things we have. Like the movement he represents, he breaks things down, he questions everything and nothing is spared from his criticism and yet he is incapable of presenting a viable alternative to the things he just broke down. The reflections and dynamics that are represented in this novel are quite addicting to say the least; I personally couldn’t put the book down until I finished it. Easily one of my favourite Russian novels, a must-read.
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