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Posts tagged 'Cultural Fiction'

Lisa See's The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

SeeHummLaneSee is the author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005), Peony in Love (2007), Shanghai Girls (2009), and other noted works of historical fiction. She has an amazing family history, with Chinese relatives on her father’s side numbering 400. And that is in Los Angeles alone! Her mother was the noted American author, Carolyn See.

Lisa See always has been fascinated with her Chinese family lineage and her writing substantiates this. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (publication date: 21 March 2017) explores one of the 44 ethnic minorities in China—the Akha. The Akha of the Yunnan province are a mountain tribe whose sustenance comes from growing tea. They live in remote areas of China, and for centuries, were removed from the major social changes that the country had seen. They believe strongly in a spirit world and this figures prominently in the story.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane highlights the relationship of three strong women over the course of 20+ years. The book examines the meaning of mother-love as it explores the lives of a mother and daughter (Li-Yan and Haley), who are separated at the daughter’s birth and live worlds apart.

The history and methods of tea growing are explored extensively and provide some of the most fascinating passages in the book. See doesn’t hesitate tackling big issues such as global warming and its effects on the forests of China. And, through the character of Haley, the author highlights the effects of international adoption on the adoptees, their birth mothers and the families that adopt them.

Sara Picks  Historical Fiction  Cultural Fiction  China

01/30/17
 

Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Crucet

CrucetLizet Ramirez, the narrator of the novel Make Your Home Among Strangers, details her life during a year of emotional and physical changes for herself and for her family.

Lizet applies secretly to an elite northern school, is accepted, and decides to attend despite the wishes of her family. She enjoys so many of her college experiences - new friends, her first snow, and, eventually, some success in her studies. Lizet (“Liz” to her fellow college students, “El” to her Cuban friends) is the first member of her family to go to college, and she is fortunate to have a scholarship and work-study assistance. However, she does have difficulties with workload and cultural change.

In Miami, Lizet’s Cuban-American family struggles with changes in their lives. Her parents’ divorce, and her mother moves from Hialeah to Little Havana in Miami with Lizet’s older sister, Leidy, who is a young single mother with a new baby. Lizet’s father remains in Hialeah, estranged from the family and struggling financially. Lizet’s mother becomes involved, emotionally and then as a leader, in Madres Para Justicia, a group formed to prevent the deportation of Ariel Hernandez. Ariel is a young boy from Cuba whose mother died fleeing on a raft with him and whose father, still in Cuba, wants him back.

The book focuses on the struggles, worries, and guilt resulting from clashes of cultural and family relationships.  It also details the everyday life of Miami’s Cuban-American community and college life in a small town in upstate New York. Well-written dialogue, as well as realistic characters living through very human situations, make the story hard to put down.

Literary Fiction  Gail's Picks  Family Drama  Cultural Fiction  Contemporary  Coming of Age

08/29/16
 

A Pigeon and A Boy by Meir Shalev

ShalevI re-read A Pigeon and A Boy (2007), by Meir Shalev, following an unusual coincidence that happened to my friend, Lorraine. A Fancy Pigeon landed on her balcony, bonded with her, and returned to her each morning. Why had it chosen her deck? Was this pigeon a messenger from beyond?

Such questions are central to the themes in A Pigeon and A Boy. It is a deeply moving, multi-layered novel interweaving two love stories and two time periods flawlessly. As in the works of Haruku Murakami, Shalev’s novel deals with themes of alienation, the cruelties and indignities of war, and the dark side of people that can ruin even a paradise.

Although the War of Independence is the backdrop of this novel, the enemy is unnamed. The real enemy is man himself, and the cruelties exacted are by the strong against the weak, regardless of the side.

The first love story occurs in the years prior to and during the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. “The Girl” and “the Boy,” who have been friends since age 11, are now adolescents in love. They are both members of the Palmach—the unofficial Jewish army established to fight the British in the war. Both dispatch and care for homing pigeons In a final act of love, the Boy, shot during the last siege, dispatches the Girl’s pigeon to carry an unusual gift to his beloved.

Wartime Fiction  Sara's Picks  Jewish Fiction  Historical Fiction  Cultural Fiction

08/19/16