A unique spin on both superhero life and adulting.
Johnny Hiro: Half Asian, All Hero by Fred Chao.
Tor, New York, 2012 (some materials previously published in other formats).
Everyday superhero graphic novel, 190 pages.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not posting it on Fiction Friday.
Johnny Hiro is your average half-Japanese busboy with a knack for running into the absurd on the streets of New York. He works in a sushi restaurant and dreams of one day being a chef, but is content to come home to his Japanese girlfriend Mayumi Murakami.
This was a fairly random find. I had never heard of this book, never read a review of it or seen a promotion of it before coming across it at a local used bookstore. The half Asian in the title and a cursory glance through the pages, combined with the price, was enough for me to purchase this delightfully whimsical book.
“Mrs. Sikelo took me behind a curtain to a smaller room, where three floor-to-ceiling shelves were filled with books. It smelled sweet and musty, like nothing I’d ever encountered.” page 161
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.
William Morrow, HarperCollins, New York, 2009. My P.S. edition 2010.
New York Times Bestseller.
Lexile: 960L .
AR Level: 6.4 (worth 15.0 points) .
NOTE: There are three books with this title. This review is of the adult edition. There is also a picture book and a young reader’s edition chapter book.
William Kamkwamba had access to a small library and a scrapyard full of parts, and a dream – to ensure that his family would never starve again. Against all odds and despite ridicule, he built a windmill and brought electricity to his family’s rural Malawian home.
This book surprised me. I knew the basic premise – boy builds windmill with scrap parts to bring change to his village. But I didn’t realize that this was actually the story of Kamkwamba’s life, which starts long before windmills were even a gleam in his eye.
“Each time I remove my scarf I pass it through my fingers, in awe of what a simple thing it is, the dilemma it poses. The rules from the Iranian embassy are surprisingly unclear, open to bewildering interpretation.” page 31
The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran by Jennifer Klinec.
Twelve, Hachett Book Group, New York, 2014. My edition 2017.
Memoir, 230 pages including extras.
Jennifer Klinec is a fearless jet-setter, leaving her London life behind to explore the culinary arts of every corner of the world. This book is the story of her month in Iran, wearing a headscarf, finding locals who will let her cook with them, and unexpectedly falling in love.
This was so random. I had a long afternoon and wanted a book, so I grabbed this one, but then ended up reading another book that I already had instead. It sat on the shelf for a while – I have to be honest that the subtitle reminded me of Eat, Pray, Love which was a DNF for me. And there were some legitimate concerns about how Klinec would portray Iran, since she’s an outsider, a Canadian with Serbo-Croation roots living in London.
However, once I got started, I enjoyed this book. Klinec lays everything bare. She is brutally honest yet insightful, and not afraid to make herself, or her loved ones look bad. There were points where I disliked Klinec as well as others in the story, but I did feel that she was telling the truth as objectively as she could, given that she was a major participant. When she’s viewing things through her own unique lens, she’s generally up front about the perspective.
“It was a trivial secret, but one I would remember as vividly as my feeling that while some people are haunted by the dead, others are haunted by the living.” page 71
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen.
Grove Press, Grove Atlantic, New York, 2017.
Adult short story collection, 207 pages.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
This collection of eight short stories is tied together not so much by the characters as by a common theme – they all deal with Vietnamese immigrants, albeit in very different and sometimes surprising ways.
I first heard of this book when reading an interview with the author prior to the release. Instantly knew I wanted to read it and put in a library request. Received it at the end of April and was about to send it back unread because I didn’t think I’d have time to read it, but then Shenwei posted about the Asian Lit Bingo Challenge … so I read one story at a time during lunch breaks. Because of the tight time frame for this challenge and needing to return the book, I only read it once.
This gorgeous and gritty graphic novel will educate everyone, not just indigenous Canadians, about institutional racism and other topics.
The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, illustrated by Kelly Mellings.
House of Anansi, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2015.
Adult graphic novel, 120 pages.
CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Literature Winner.
Pete and his younger brother Joey only have each other and their drug-addicted mother to get through their violent, gritty urban life. But when their mother’s boyfriend pushes them too far, Pete ends up in jail and Joey in foster care. What will happen to their family? Can Pete’s gang become their new family?
This book is about Canadian urban aboriginals. Because I am American and not indigenous, I was surprised by the way it sucked me in as we read about generational poverty and the systematic dehumanization and institutionalized racism that had affected Pete’s entire family. So much of what I read applies to so many other groups, and reading about Pete and his family was an easy way to absorb how these things can alter a family for generations at a time.
“There is something exciting and reassuring for individuals on the autistic spectrum about communicating with other people over the internet.” page 142
Born On a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet.
Simon and Schuster, New York, 2006. Originally published in Great Britain.
Adult memoir, 226 pages.
New York Times bestseller.
Lexile: 1170L .
AR Level: 7.9 (worth 13.0 points) .
Daniel Tammet is an unusual and extraordinary individual. He is a savant, has multiple forms of synesthesia, is autistic, and can speak ten languages, one of which (Icelandic) he learned in a week.
“it may be a good idea to practice the art of disclosure which has allowed me to reduce fear in my community. ” page 61
Getting a Life with Asperger’s: Lessons Learned on the Bumpy Road to Adulthood by Jesse A. Saperstein.
Perigee, Penguin Random House, New York, 2014.
YA/new adult self-help, 220 pages including resources.
This is a self-help/life advice book specifically aimed at helping the autistic teen or young adult lead a productive and satisfying life. The author uses examples from his own life and that of others he knows as well as general practical advice.
This was a dollar store find from a while ago. I have a general interest in autism, so I bought this although I’m quite far from the target audience. While this is not a book I will keep, it could have a great deal of value to the intended audience.