Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Book of Unknown Americans

The Book of Unknown AmericansThe Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henriquez

A timely and tragic read of the immigrant experience in America, this is an important story for all Americans to read. The Riveras come to the U.S. to create a better life for their head injury-affected daughter, Maribel.

Henriquez crafts stories from Central and South American immigrants, pulling from their back stories and their struggles in making a new life in this country.

Sad but worth a read to understand immigrant struggles and the complex experience of trying to make a life in a place where you don't speak the language or understand the culture.

Born a Crime

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African ChildhoodBorn a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah's memoir is one of my favorite books of the year--although I actually listened to it, and that's the way I recommend experiencing this book.

Noah's mom is a Black South African, and his dad was German. Their relationship was illegal at the time of Noah's birth. He grew up poor, but deeply loved and cared for by his very strict mother and wide range of extended family.

Noah is an incredible storyteller and linguist, doing all the accents masterfully. My favorite story, one I replayed for my husband, was about the shit in the kitchen.

It's not all funny, though--Noah addresses the deep racism and apartheid, reflections on privilege and religion, and what happens when you grow up in poverty.

The Separation

The SeparationThe Separation, by Dinah Jefferies

I bought this book for my mother-in-law. She read it and left it behind, so I picked it up.

The Separation takes place in the 1950s in Malaya during the emergency, and it shines a light on the lack of opportunities and independence for women and girls during that time period, as well as the damages of colonialism. Having visited Malaysia, I am drawn to stories set there and elsewhere in Asia. But it was not a particularly memorable or deep novel for me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Find Me Unafraid

Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African SlumFind Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum, by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner

This is not your usual "white savior" book. Jessica Posner went to Nairobi, Kenya as a college student to work in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. Instead of staying with her middle-class homestay family, though, Posner insisted on moving into the slum, informing Kennedy Odede she'd be living with him. After growing up deeply poor, Odede had started a youth empowerment nonprofit to help other poor Kenyans: Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., he scraped together 20 cents for a soccer ball and started a youth group.

Beyond the cultural complications of Posner insisting she must live with Odede, she is an impressive young woman who becomes increasingly aware of her own privilege by immersing herself in life in the slums.

Posner and Odede eventually fall in love and get married. Facing many challenges, including corruption, violence against women, and lack of infrastructure, they put their focus on educating young girls and realize great successes in their work. With Posner's help and connections, SHOFCO started a tuition-free school, health center, and water treatment plant. They've accomplished amazing work together.

I found Odede's chapters far more interesting than Posner's, as he reflects on his own childhood compared to his American wife's, and he feels some ambivalence from the ways he's benefited from her wealth and privilege.