Friday, May 31, 2013

Other books I've read

I don't feel like I've read a lot this month, but apparently I have because I managed to fit in three books. Granted, I think I read all three in about a week and a half, meaning the rest of my month has been pretty devoid of reading, but I did have that lovely literary binge in the middle.

Anyway, in addition to "White is for Witching" (reviewed earlier) I also read "Miss New India," by Bharati Mukherjee and "Zahrah the Windseeker," by Nnedi Okorafor Mbachu. I chose all three of these as part of the women of genre fiction challenge. I enjoyed reading the other two books far more than I enjoyed "White is for Witching," and in hindsight, I kind of wish I'd reviewed one of those. Oh well.

"Miss New India" is about a woman, Anjali/Angie who is coming of age in India and being pulled between a traditional life, focused on marriage to a man of her parent's choice, or a modern life in the vibrant, pulsating cities like Bangalore. She's really kinda lazy, and until her soon-to-be-fiancee rapes her, she's on track to do the easy thing and just get married like her parents want her to. After that she leaves for Bangalore, where she meets people (one of whom turns out to be a terrorist), has a bunch of adventures (including being detained by the police because she looks like her terrorist friend), and grows from a pretty much overconfident youth into a much more humble, insecure adult. She also never really gets a job. It was interesting. In some ways it felt like Angie was supposed to be sort of an Indian every woman, and it felt like the author was critiquing certain Indian attitudes, especially regarding marriage, work, materialism and beauty, and changing cultural norms. At the same time, Angie felt like a real person, especially in those moments where she's most flawed. I don't know that I really liked her, but I understood her.

"Zahrah the Windseeker" is the other book I read and it is one of my favorite reads in quite a while. I was expecting a YA and really it's  more of a middle grade (MG) book; that said, I loved reading this book. Zarah, our protagonist, is a girl born with vines growing in her hair--she's 'Dada.' It isn't until later that she realizes her dada-ness also allows her to fly, and then she has to overcome her fear of heights to actually use this amazing gift. Zarah lives in a world where all the familiar technology we know is provided by plants, and that world is probably what I loved most about the book. This is a hero's journey in which Zarah must overcome her fear and a bunch of monsters of the forbidden jungle in order to save the life of her friend. It's a fantastic read and one I'm really surprised I haven't heard more about. At the same time, I don't really have my finger on the pulse of MG and it was published in something like 2005, so that may explain why I hadn't heard about it. But a great book!

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