Sunday, January 27, 2008
What is it like to be tied in a bundle of cloth where your hands and all your other senses are blacked out? What is it like to find that you don't hold any value for your own family? Your every move, even a simple task such as stepping out of the front door of your house, is dictated and monitored? Read Jean Sasson's gripping Princess and you will get a taste. This is the real life story of Sultana, a princess in the Saudi Arabian royal household of the 1970s. Beginning with her childhood the book ends at a critical point in her marriage.
It proves to be a real eye opener to the closed kingdom, where 13-year-old girls are married off to 50-year-old men as business deals, where the word of men is considered the law and women are considered as mere burdens to be endured. Small things that most of us in more liberated worlds take for granted, like going shopping, is an ordeal for these women.
Princess is a must read for everyone. I finished the book in one night, and I am all set to buy its sequel.
Reviews can be read at ciao and here.
You can visit the author's website here - Currently very tackily made, it's going to be revamped...makes a nice read...
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Ah, this was one compelling read. The Dragon's Pearl by Sirin Phathanothai picks up slowly - but once it does, it would take a rare reader to put it down.
The daughter of a political family in Thailand, Sirin and her older brother, Wai, were sent to China under the direct care of the then Premier Zhou Enlai in 1956. An admittedly spoiled child of 8, Sirin lives through some of the most tumultuous periods in China's recent history - the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Sure, there are enough memoirs and autobiographies spilling out on the same theme these days but Sirin's is different - hers is the only one I have read that offers a close political connection. Her closeness to Zhou Enlai, Liao Biao, and Thailand's own leaders, throws up personal glimpses of very public lives. Why take my word for it though? Mark Meng from the Library Journal had this to say:
"Her detailed account of the political scheme, her bittersweet memories of living in China and being raised under Premier Zhou En-lai's auspices, and her vivid description of Chinese policy makers make this book a unique diplomatic history of Thailand and China."
Oh, the title was intriguing enough and one tap on Google drew up this very interesting story on the Dragon Pearl.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
It was memoir reading time for me again. After the disastrous Mosaic, I picked up Da Chen's Sounds of the River.
A memoir about China. Haven't we read many like that these days? And I am sucked into reading every one of them every time. New Age Chinese literature is really all the rage now. This though isn't Da Chen's first memoir - credit for that goes to the Colors of the Mountain.
Here, Da Chen relates his life in the Institute of Foreign Languages and Culture in Beijing, and his eventual growth from countryside kid to city slick guy. Take for instance this early passage:
"'Who taught you spoken English?'
'Professor Wei,' I said proudly.
'A dear friend from Yellow Stone.'
'She is a wonderful teacher,' I defended.
'I am sure she is. But the more she taught you, the more trouble we will have here.'
'Why is that?' 'It will take longer to unlearn what you have learned.'
Evocative at most times, Chen writes with wry writ and humor. I found myself chuckling over many of the passages. And I confess, I cried when one of his friends died - one of the most beautifully written moments in the book.
Sounds of the River brims with life, is engaging, and if you are curious about China as I am - then it is worth a read.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
After a pretty long cessation in posts, I am back. Not that I hadn't been reading but that I had been traveling while reading. Ah, quite the delightful start to the New Year you might think. But think again - not when you have to wander around the beautiful temples of Siem Reap with a pathetic pathetic book like what I was burdened with - Mosaic.
Pass this one. Better to read the more gripping Not Without My Daughter. The past few years have seen a not so unexpected surge of interest in Iranian, Iraqi, Afghani and you name it I have it Islam-kind of books. I confess I love reading such books. Offers a glimpse into a culture so different yet so similar to one I claim to belong to. But what is Mosaic? Ya ya, Dina Ahmadwakes up one day, finds that her husband, a Jordanian has taken their two kids and nanny to beloved Jordan. Boo hooing Dina teams with some verrrrrrrrrrry understanding friends - then finds some mysterious detective who comes to Jordan with her. They try to abduct the children back to beloved America. Ahem. Great story.
What happens? Husband has a change of heart. Decides to give one of the kids back - the daughter. And then, the son does a disappearing act, and bingo, Dad is completely changed. Returns both. End of story.
Spare me. Spare me. Spare me Soheir Khashoggi. There might be lots who will like this book. I definitely will never join them.