Happy Tuesday everyone! It is the first Tuesday of May. I hope everyone is doing well and is safe. Oh well, Tuesday also means one thing, a Top Ten Tuesday update! Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and is currently being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s given topic is Ten Most Recent Reads
During the past month, I have indulged in Asian literature so don’t be surprised that nine of my last ten reads are works of Asian literature. I did enjoy the adventure (after African literature in March) and now I am off to the Latin Americas and the Caribbean to explore the best of their literature. Without further ado, here are my last ten reads. I hope you enjoy my list and my mini-reviews. Mini-review was suggested to be a sentence but you know how loquacious I can be when unrestrained (HAHA).
Almond by Sohn Won-Pyung
Korean writer Sohn Won-Pyung’s Almond shot to fame after BTS’ Suga was seen reading a copy of the book in one of their variety shows. It charts the story of Yunjae, a young man suffering from alexithymia, a brain condition wherein Yunjae finds it hard figuring out emotional responses; his amygdala, the almond-shaped “emotion center of the brain” was smaller than normal. The development of the friendship between Gon, Yunjae’s fellow “monster” was heartwarming, but the conclusion was rushed and the novel’s strong start unraveled. Three out of five stars for its interesting subject.
Women Without Men by Shahrnush Parsipur
Iranian literature is something that I have always been keen on and Shahrnish Parsipur’s Women Without Men seemed like the perfect novel to establish a foothold into this uncharted (at least for me) territory. Women Without Men is one of her many controversial novel; in the purview of Iran, her works are controversial. It is story of five women who all converged in a garden in Karaj, just outside Tehran. Each woman had a story to share but the novel ended even before I could start appreciating their narratives. Parsipur assimilated allegories, magical realism, and history to draw out a powerful narrative seminal in the context of contemporary Iranian history.
The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Vo Danh, aka, the Sympathizer finally makes a literary comeback in Viet Thanh Nguyen’s second novel, The Committed. From USA, the Sympathizer of the Pulitzer Prize winning debut novel moved to the French capital with his anti-communist friend, Bon. Ironically, or perhaps not, Bon and Vo Danh gets involved with one of the many forms of the capitalist trade – the drug trade. Vo Danh’s voice is clearer and surer this time around but he tend to fall into existentialist soliloquies. Expect a lot of philosophies and a tinge of suspense in Nguyen’s literary comeback.
Insurrecto by Gina Apostol
I kept encountering Gina Apostol and her novel, Insurrecto, but I have been hesitant about picking it up until this year when I purchased a copy of the book (along with The Committed). An Asian Literature month, after all, would not be complete without a Filipino work. Insurrecto tells the story of a cast of women from different eras in the contemporary Philippine history. The paths of Chiara Brasi, an American filmmaker, and Magsalin, a Filipino translator (Magsalin literally means translate or to translate in Filipino), converged in the modern Philippine capital. But what the novel underscores is the unreliability of our memory apropos history. The most interesting facet of the novel, however, was its kaleidoscopic structure.
The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
Here is another controversial figure in the vast ambit of literature. The Bastard of Istanbul is my second Elif Shafak novel, after her Booker Prize shortlisted novel, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World. The Bastard of Istanbul transported me again to Istanbul. Just like Gina Apostol’s Insurrecto, The Bastard of Istanbul explores history and how it resonates into the contemporary. In contemporary discourse, the novel tackled the shaky relationship of the Turks and the Armenians, with the cause of the divide being the 1915 Genocide. Everyone might have heard of this recently. American President Joe Biden just recognized the atrocities committed against the Armenians during this dark phase of history.
Soledad’s Sister by Jose Dalisay
Jose Dalisay’s Soledad’s Sister was my first Filipino novel for the year. It was also my first by the said writer. In contrast to Insurrecto, which dealt with history, Soledad’s Sister delved into a more recent concern for the modern Juan and Juana dela Cruz. In a lyrical prose, Dalisay explored Filipino values but bringing into the table the plight of what many call the modern Filipino heroes – the Overseas Filipino Workers. Whilst it was laden with nostalgia, it was also a blunt look into modern Filipino culture and society.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Klara and the Sun is Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel since being declared the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature winner. It was a no-brainer that I was looking forward to the book for Ishiguro has grown on me. The titular Klara is an artificial friend, who, after some difficulty, was bought by Josie’s mother to be her daughter’s companion and friend. Trying perhaps to reincarnate the success he had with Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro gave the dystopian fiction another go. However, the novel was brimming with loopholes. There was barely any context on what is ailing Josie and the readers are just expected to take it all in as is.
Umrao Jan Ada by Mirza Hadi Ruswa
Mirza Hadi Ruswa’s Umrao Jan Ada is widely lauded as the first Urdu novel. The novel charts the story of the eponymous Umrao Jan Ada, a courtesan and poet. It was written through the courtesan’s voice, almost in the form of a memoir. The novel gave deep insight into Urdu literature, for its assimilation of poetic elements; and modern Indian history. The novel fused elements of romance, suspense, and family values and it was just heartbreaking to see that despite what she has gone through, Umrao Jan Ada was spurned by her brother because, as per tradition, she has brought shame to the family.
My Year Abroad by Chang-Rae Lee
My Asian literature month commenced with an author who I haven’t read for quite sometime. When I learned that Chang-Rae Lee was publishing a new work this year, I was giddy in anticipation and luckily, I managed to snag a copy of the book without much of a difficulty. My Year Abroad is the story of Tiller, who, after encountering Pong in his fro-yo shop and wielding a partnership (business that is) with him, traveled to the east. It was, I suppose, Lee loosening up after his more serious and critical novels. However, I found My Year Abroad a little underwhelming, both in execution and depth.
Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country was the curtain drawer for my March African Literature Month. I have learned that it was written by Paton while he was traveling around the world to learn about various systems instituted in correctional facilities. It was his own protest to the social strata prevailing in South Africa during that time. Whilst it was published pre-apartheid, the novel explored the disparities and the conditions that would inevitably lead to the apartheid. It is, to say the least, a seminal work.
And that ends my Top 10 Tuesday update. I hope you enjoyed it. How about you fellow reader, what was your 10 most recent reads. I hope you don’t mind sharing it in the comment box. Happy Tuesday again everyone!