The Wandering Falcon

11297377This review for Jamil Ahmad’s The Wandering Falcon might easily be the most difficult one I’ve ever had to write. It’s months later, and I still cannot for the life of me wrap my mind around this book or how I feel about it.

Let’s start with a few simple facts:

  1. Originally penned as a collection of short stories depicting nomadic life of tribes in the deserts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Ahmad later wove them together to create a novel.
  2. The writing is sharp, clear, and direct and infused with a religious undercurrent that gave the whole thing a Biblical feel.
  3. I hated it. And I feel guilty about hating it.

To be brutally honest, I just didn’t enjoy the experience of reading this book. I have never liked the sort of sparse, formal language Ahmad employs. It seemed obvious that these stories were never originally intended to be a novel and I have never really enjoyed reading a short story collection in one fell swoop. On top of that, I felt like I had no frame of reference to understand what Ahmad wanted to share with me through these stories.

While I absolutely felt like I was learning something about a culture I knew nothing about, I also couldn’t figure out some of the grander themes of the book. I didn’t know what Ahmad wanted me to get out of this journey. By the final page, I felt completely baffled. The book was over and it was as if I had no idea what had just happened.

Worst of all, since this book is such a perfect storm of aspects and styles I dislike in any writing, I have no idea how much of my failure to understand this book is the author’s and how much is my own. Though I try my best, I can’t help but be less engaged in a book I’m not enjoying.

I wanted to like The Wandering Falcon, I really did.

It actually started out so strongly, that I was shocked at the way my attitude changed. Vibrant descriptions either faded away or I was so un-engrossed with the story that I stopped noticing them.

I don’t know if this is a cop out—I suspect it might be. But I honestly think that my own ignorance prevents me from giving this book an accurate review. The question haunting me is whether its fair to judge a book so harshly when the real issue might be my own limited perspective?

Unlike The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which didn’t necessarily enthrall me, but whose writing was phenomenal, I had nothing to cling to in The Wandering Falcon.

It’s a short read, so if your interest is piqued there won’t be any real time lost if you give it a try. I just can’t bring myself to make a suggestion either way.

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

From 2008 until 2010, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was ubiquitous. It was the book in every bag at the airport, on every lap on the train, and eternally checked out at the library. The Pulitzer it earned that year probably didn’t help if you were hoping for its buzz to die down.

Junot Díaz’s book was taking the world by storm, which should have meant I had a lot of expectations going in, but it didn’t. I can’t remember what made me first decide I wanted to read it—probably the Pulitzer if anything.

The story ended up being more than I could have ever anticipated. The story of a lonely nerd, strained family ties, love and sex, and the violent history of the Dominican Republic all rolled into one neat package.

Poor Oscar, our titular hero, is fat, awkward, and way too into Dungeons and Dragons for his own good. Worse yet, he’s Dominican—meaning he can’t quite fit into the model of the white nerd and he definitely can’t compete with the machismo so prevalent in depictions of Dominican masculinity. He’s adrift, unable to connect fully with either side, and not even the omniscient voice that narrates his story can seem to make sense of him at times.

Which brings me to the first thing I absolutely loved about this introduction to Díaz’s writing: the language. There’s a show I occasionally listen to called Snap Judgment and its tagline is “storytelling with a beat.” Every sentence I read, that phrase ran through my mind.

Oscar Wao is positively lyrical. Some passages seem as at home on the page as they would on the stage of a slam poetry night. Take this description of Oscar’s mother:

“Before there was an American Story, before Paterson spread before Oscar and Lola like a dream, or the trumpets from the Island of our eviction had even sounded, there was their mother, Hypatía Belicia Cabral: a girl so tall your leg bones ached just looking at her so dark it was as if the Creatrix had, in her making, blinked who, like her yet-to-be-born daughter, would come to exhibit a particularly Jersey malaise—the inextinguishable longing for elsewhere.”

The rhythm that runs through it pulses like a heartbeat and it’s absolutely intoxicating. It wasn’t hard to understand the love for this book.

There was something else, too—an even simpler facet: Díaz writes in Spanish regularly throughout the book and not once does he ever bother to translate it for the reader. I could not have been happier with this decision.

In stark contrast to Midnight in Mexico which constantly translated its Spanish passages creating cumbersome and unwieldy paragraphs, Díaz trusts us. He’s banking on his audience either knowing Spanish, or being smart enough to look it up for themselves.

Personally, I never needed to. My grasp of Spanish was juuust strong enough to, when paired with context clues, carry me through. This is what I’d wanted out of Corchado’s book. But I digress.

Love for this book aside, I just didn’t have that experience myself. I loved the writing and found the story interesting and I learned more about the Dominican Republic than I ever expected to know. But I wasn’t excited to pick it up. I didn’t have that emotional connection to the characters that so defines the books I love.

It was difficult to put my finger on why this was the case. The concept of fuku, which receives a lot of attention, never really hooked me, and I found myself considerably less engrossed in the flashback chapters dealing with Oscar’s mother and the origins of the family curse. But I’m not really willing to make the commitment and say that those scenes didn’t work.

Díaz’s writing is just too good.

When I try to understand why I couldn’t get excited about Oscar Wao, I wonder if it’s just more of a man’s story, a story that just speaks to something specific within men that just didn’t capture with me. The thing near the core of Oscar’s story, about what it means to be a man in this world, I don’t know why it didn’t reach me.

Yes, we get glimpses of what life is like for his sister and we learn a great deal about his mother, but I still read those passages as if I were only casually passing by.

What did work for me—the references to nerd culture, the longing, the in-your-face vivacity of the narrator, the in-depth exploration of the Dominican Republic’s history—made this well worth while. It’s not a favorite, but it’s not one I could pass up recommending, either.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Hi Readers!

I’ve been less active the last couple of weeks than I meant to be, but I promise that it was for a good reason and that it definitely doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. After six weeks of weddings, I was rewarded with my long-awaited two-week trip to Iceland where I ended up getting engaged myself!

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Okay, Iceland is even MORE beautiful than everyone says…

Now that the excitement is settling down and I’m finding my writing routine again, I thought I’d check in to let you know I’m still here, I’m still reading, and I’m still looking to share all of it with you. Here are the upcoming reviews you have to look forward to:

  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad
  • The Round House by Louise Erdich
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The First Bad Man by Miranda July
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Clearly, I’m going to have to step on it if I want to ensure everything I’ve read has been reviewed by the end of the year!

Wish me luck and I’ll see you here with a fresh review soon.

-S

Everything I Never Told You

When I opened Everything I Never Told You I wasn’t prepared for how hard or how fast I’d fall in love. It was magic. Fireworks. A lightning bolt to the heart. It was the electric feeling that reminds me why I read.

The buzz around Celeste Ng’s debut novel was palpable when it hit the shelves last summer, and I quickly added it to my list expecting to get around to it “eventually.” I was delighted this year when I realized it would fit within my personal challenge and a rave review from a friend solidified its spot on my reading list.

The first lines tell you just about everything you need to know:

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast.”

The “they” here—Lydia’s mother, father, sister, and brother—will become the stars of the story as they struggle to understand and accept Lydia’s death. Through shifting perspectives, we inhabit each family member fully until it’s impossible not to feel like you know each and every one of them.

Everything I Never Told You isn’t just about loss, but race, gender, sexuality, and the weight of expectations that come with being one of the “first”—whether it’s the first woman in a chemistry class, the first nonwhite professor on university staff, or the first child to go to college.

Ng’s powerful use of language packs the kind of emotional punch that lands with a sick thud right in the gut.

The chapter when Lydia’s mother, Marilyn, remembers her once-bright future as a medical student affected me the most. In Marilyn, I remembered my own mother asking me when I was 16 if I’d sign up for physics, just for her, because when she was in school “that was just for boys.” She wasn’t allowed to take it.

So when Marilyn thinks of her life without her family—

”Without a husband, without children, perhaps it would have been possible. I could have done that, Marilyn thought, and the words clicked into place like puzzle pieces, shocking her with their rightness. The hypothetical past perfect, the tense of missed chances. Tears dripped down her chin.”

—I shudder and feel the tears rolling down my own cheeks.

In the end, this was a book I hated to put down. I always wanted to make time for one more sentence, one more page. I borrowed my copy and already know I’ll be buying it. It’s by far my favorite book I’ve read this year, and I can’t wait to read what Ng writes next.

The Shining Girls

After a string of books that left me feeling exhausted both mentally and emotionally, it was time for a break. I wanted some literary equivalent of pop rocks: bright, snappy, and done in a flash. Enter, The Shining Girls.

Lauren Beukes’s 2013 novel was the poppy, page-turning summer read I was looking for. Set in Chicago, we meet time-traveling serial killer Harper Curtis and spunky victim-cum-survivor, Kirby Mazrachi. Harper’s power to flit in and out of time makes him seemingly impossible to catch, and the book leads us to wonder not just if Harper can be stopped, but how Kirby will ever figure out who attacked her and why she survived.

It was the conceit that completely drew me in. A man out of time who instead of learning about the worlds he finds himself in, learns everything he can about his next victims, his “shining girls.” Their habits. Their tics. Their likes and dislikes. Their daily routines. Everything he can until it’s time to strike, promising as always to come back for them on another day, in another time.

Beukes uses this idea to play with perspective. Alternating chapters between Harper and Kirby are expected and effective, but what I appreciated most was her decision to give each victim a chapter of her own, from her point of view, as well.

When you’re writing a book about murdered women, I think this step is crucial. Without it, the bodies stack up and mean nothing. They’re just gore and shock and horror and the death of a woman is used as set dressing and quite frankly, we live in a world that just doesn’t need any more reinforcement of the idea that the destruction of women’s bodies is “just for fun.”

Beukes humanizes these victims. Her writing is just strong enough to let the deaths pack a punch. When these victims die, it’s not horrific because it’s graphic (though it typically is graphic). It’s horrific because for just a moment, we learned something about their hopes and dreams—their innermost lives—before seeing them snuffed out forever. And because we’re floating through time, we see all manner of women throughout Chicago’s history, from the Great Depression to punk.

This is not to say that Beukes’s writing is without its missteps. In fact, many of the book’s most awkward moments come from the time-travel aspect. In an attempt to highlight what era we’re in, Beukes latches onto key historical moments, which works well with WWII. But when we get to a literal mention of Roe v. Wade, it starts feeling over the top. I don’t need to know the most pressing issues of the day to know what year it is. Thankfully, these moments are spread out.

My only other issue came with some of Beukes’s decisions regarding how several relationships were played out. Things essentially fell apart for me toward the end, leaving me scoffing or rolling my eyes during parts of the climax instead of cheering.

But I’d still put The Shining Girls ahead of Gone Girl, which I think was written about as well, but frustrated me far more. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s scary. In short? It’s everything a summer beach read should be.

The House on Mango Street

Even if you hadn’t already read it in freshman english. Even if you didn’t already know Sandra Cisneros’s poetry. Even if it hadn’t already been the pick for One Book, One Chicago. You’d know with a minute of picking up The House on Mango Street that it was pure poetry.

Another title where I’m not sure how it slipped by my literary education—I knew nothing about it until I picked it up for the first time this year.

It almost seems unfair to review it as a novel, considering how short it is (a mere 110 pages), but then that’s a limiting way to judge a book. Written in 1984 and set in my hometown, The House on Mango Street is a series of vignettes told from the perspective of a young latina named Esperanza Cordero. In each chapter, she provides commentary on her neighborhood, her friends, her family, and the desire for a better life.

As short as each vignette is (some just a handful of sentences), together they create a rich picture of a specific time and place in Chicago’s history. Cisneros’s words breathe life into Esperanza’s world in a way that feels like you could almost reach out and touch it.

Mango Street fell short of a home run for me, though it’s hard to pinpoint why. I think it just didn’t fall within the realm of what I typically love (a meatier text, richer prose), but it was still easy to see how it made it into the canon.

Cisneros’s writing is absolutely beautiful and every now and then, one of the vignettes would drop this beautiful little jewel of truth that really hit home for me, as in the chapter, “A Smart Cookie:”

“Then out of nowhere:
Shame is a bad thing, you know. It keeps you down. You want to know why I quit school? Beacuase I didn’t have nice clothes. No clothes, but I had brains.
Yup, she says disgusted, stirring again. I was a smart cookie then.”

In the book, so many of Esperanza’s experiences with womanhood were the ones that resonated with me. Cisneros has a knack for distilling the experience of growing up as girl into these truly brilliant moments that transcend race and class (though the way she illuminates those nuances is equally brilliant). In those moments, I felt like we really understood each other.

Even though I can’t say this was a favorite or that I loved it, The House on Mango Street is such a rewarding, quick read that I have to recommend it as something everyone should pick up. When even the slowest reader could finish it in an afternoon, there’s really nothing standing in your way.

Companion Piece: Cartel Land

I’m currently in the middle of what I guess you could call my Latin American unit. I just read The House on Mango Street, I started The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives is next on my list.

And if any of you were reading the news this weekend, then you know that El Chapo has escaped prison once again.

What perfect timing, then, for Cartel Land—the Sundance documentary winner—to hit my local theater.

Midnight in Mexico was my introduction to the Cartel Wars, but it left me wanting—Cartel Land fills in some of those gaps.

It purports to tell the stories of two vigilantes fighting against the Mexican cartels: Tim Foley and his militia in America and Dr. José Mireles and the Autodefensas in Mexico. But the Autodefensas are the real focus. The doc paints the picture of a country completely wrecked by violence while giving a face not just to the victims, but the meth cookers and drug runners as well. It ends up being a world where no one is wholly innocent or even wholly evil, no matter how much that seems to be the case.

Though the doc takes place in Michoacán, far south of the border and west of Mexico City, it still helped paint a fuller picture of the problems Corchado discussed in his book. In the doc, I found that human connection I was desperate for and it further complicated the world Midnight in Mexico introduced me to.

That doesn’t mean it was free from the problems many documentaries fall pray to, though. The editing needed to be tighter, the thesis clearer, but all the same, if you pick up Midnight in Mexico then I highly recommend making Cartel Land your next move.

It’s in theaters now.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Who would I be at the bottom of a well wrapped up in darkness so absolute that time and space seem not to exist? Who would I be in the dark? I don’t know, but Haruki Murakami has me asking the question with a seriousness that felt impossible to imagine before reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

It almost feels like a disservice to even try to explain what Chronicle is about. It’s so much like a dream, where everything feels real until you reach the end of a chapter and then you’re not sure if it all really happened.

Ostensibly, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is about Toru Okada’s search for his missing cat, which then becomes a search for his missing wife. Along the way, he simultaneously retreats deeper within himself and forms connections with a cast of bizarre characters who then populate his increasingly bizarre world. From the mysterious psychic Malta Kano to a WWII veteran with dark tales of the war to a morbid 16-year-old girl, Toru drifts from one encounter to the next as he tries to unravel the mystery of where his wife has gone and how to get her back.

This being my first experience with Murakami, I didn’t know what to expect from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. The first few pages did their best to let me know that this would be anything but typical, but I think about 100 pages into the novel, I realized that the chapter titles might be even better at getting at the overall theme of the book.

Every chapter had a multipart title such as “Tuesday’s Wind-Up Bird / Six Fingers and Four Breasts” or “Magic Touch / Death in the Bathtub / Messenger with Keepsakes,” which never made much sense. It was only after reading each chapter, then flipping back to the beginning to reread the title that you could understand its meaning.

It reminded me of the way a dream feels both real and mysterious until you wake up and begin to see how all the mundane parts of your day burrowed their way into your brain while you slept. Then it all seems to plain and so simple. It makes sense without needing to make sense.

Ultimately, it’s just one of many ways that Murakami is playing with your sense of reality. He puts you in this dreamlike state of confusion and uncertainty and then populates your world with unreliable narrators and unreliable narratives within unreliable narratives in a way that builds until by the end of the book, you feel completely unsure of what actually happened. But by this point, you also know it doesn’t matter.

What really matters are the questions you ask yourself, what he can force you to think about or reconsider. As Toru recounts at one point,

It was reality. True reality. But each time I recognized that fact, reality felt a little less real. Reality was coming undone and moving away from reality, one small step at a time. But still, it was reality.

I was completely wrapped up in the writing. I hadn’t really felt that way about any book since House of Leaves, and I loved it. It felt like an exploration of what a novel could be—how it could break the rules—and what it really means to be human. It’s weeks later and there are still mysteries in the text left to be unraveled.

I’m not even sure I know what the wind-up bird is, but I’m in love with the question.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle falls squarely in that subset of books that have me hungry to read more. I don’t know what Murakami I’ll pick up next, but I know I can’t wait to see what I ask myself when I’m done.

Midnight in Mexico

When I was 16, whenever I thought about Mexico, I don’t think a single real image came to mind.

Selena. Tacos. Heat. Cancún.

Other approximations, but nothing real.

My high school was 30% Latino. My best friend at the time was Mexican. I had taken years of Spanish classes. And yet I didn’t seem to know a goddamn thing about the place.

Mexico was somewhere over there. Somewhere decidedly not here.

That was somewhere around 2003 when stories of Juárez’s murdered women and the violence of the cartels was creeping into the news. The stories only got worse as I went off to college, peaking somewhere around 2010 with 23,000 dead in just 3.5 years.

But what was the country really like? What was happening there and why?

The older I got, the more it felt like time to take the initiative to become less willfully ignorant, but I never knew where to start. Finally, last year I was able to find a list of reads that gave me a jumping off point, and with my reading goal set for 2015, what better time than now? I might finally start making sense of it all. I might finally learn something.

I decided to start with Alfredo Corchado’s Midnight in Mexico.

A reporter during one of the bloodiest periods of the war between the cartels, Alfredo Corchado receives a tip one night in 2007: in 24 hours, the cartels will kill an American journalist—Corchado’s source thinks it’ll be him. In this memoir, he recalls his mad search for the source of the threat as well as his internal struggle to reconcile two halves of himself: his Mexican heritage and his American upbringing. All the while continuing to report on the mounting violence and political upheaval.

A quick read, we get to peek at the layers of Corchado’s life as well as Mexican history. From Corchado’s childhood and his years of reporting in Mexico to Mexico’s shift from dictatorship to democracy and the bloody battles that came with it. It even touches upon the rise of El Chapo, leader of the largest criminal organization in Mexico, who was only arrested in February of last year.

I admit I had high hopes for this book. A memoir would be personal enough to give me the emotional connection I needed to start understanding a country I knew so little about. Not to mention the fact that Corchado’s story is gripping. And while the book was indeed fascinating and sad and maddening and honest, Corchado’s writing doesn’t really live up to the task of relaying it.

So often, I’d find his sentences clunky and the way he infused Spanish into his English writing frustrating instead of immersive. There would regularly be multiple pages where Corchado is relaying a conversation that clearly took place in Spanish, but since the bulk of the book is in English, he chose to write the dialogue in Spanish, immediately following every sentence or phrase with its English translation.

I still have a working knowledge of Spanish, and my goodness was this tedious to read. It was like reading every single sentence twice. Here’s a brief example from a scene in which Alfredo is arguing with his mother about the future of Mexico:

“‘Sólo Dios sabe,’ she’d replied, looking straight ahead. Only God knows.

‘Don’t underestimate God,’ my mother responded. ‘Dios es grande.’
‘Don’t underestimate the people,’ I retorted, and returned to eating barbecue beef grilled by Mundo.
My Mother shot me a look that said, ‘Ay, my Fredito, mi solecito. Ya no eres tan mexicano.’ Oh, my little sunshine, now you are naive as only an American can be.”

On its own, it’s not too troublesome. I definitely respect and agree with his desire to quote his family, friends, and sources in Spanish when they were speaking Spanish. The problem comes when he uses this same tactic four times in two pages. Then again on the page after that. Then four more times a page or two later. And again and again and again.

I would have preferred him to either write it all in English using punctuation to alert us when something was originally said in Spanish or, better yet, just write it in Spanish and trust his audience enough to be able to figure out the meaning through context clues. Or use footnotes if he’s that worried.

The flip-flopping back and forth was incredibly cumbersome in a book that was suffering from awkward phrasing and poor flow already.

It was this overall clunkiness that kept me from forming the emotional connection to the material I was craving. I wanted to feel utterly wrapped up in Corchado’s story, and I just couldn’t get there. Whether that’s entirely Corchado’s fault or whether his editor should be blamed is debatable, either way I was left unsatisfied.

But if anything can be said, reading Midnight in Mexico made me excited to read more about Mexico. To read more Latino authors. To read more Latino news. The book led me to more Mexican authors and reporters and ultimately to Francisco Goldman’s brilliant series in the New York Times on the missing 43 (a heartbreaking and brilliant bit of writing that I fully recommend to all if you missed it this past winter).

On a very basic level, Midnight works. It conveys the story, and it got me interested enough to want to learn more. If you’re new to the subject like I was, it’s not a bad place to start, but I’m sure there’s something better out there. I know I’ll be looking for it.

Americanah

I often like what I read. I’m a lady of discerning taste, and I tend to gravitate toward what I know I’ll like.

I rarely fall in love with what I read. My love is reserved only for the words that move me most, the stories that wrap themselves around my heart. But I think it might only be just once so far that I can say a book changed me.

Americanah is that book. I read it and it was like I’d been shaken awake. It didn’t just change my perceptions, it changed my understanding of what I thought I knew.

The 2013 novel follows the relationship between two Nigerian teens, Ifemelu and Obinze, as they graduate secondary school, go on to college, and finally, look to leave Nigeria for better prospects. When Ifemelu gets a chance to move to America, Obinze encourages her to go, promising to follow soon after. However, as the weeks turn to months, Ifemelu drifts farther and farther away from Obinze, enveloped in America’s strangeness, promises, and failures until it seems she can never be who she once was.

When the book opens, Ifemelu is no longer a girl, but a grown woman that’s been living in America for 13 years. Most of the novel is framed as her reflections of growing up, punctuated intermittently by the present day as well as Obinze’s own recollections. I liked this structure and the way it alternately reminded me both of how far Ifemelu had yet to go and how far she’d come.

And as much as the book purports to be about both Ifemelu and Obinze, it’s truly Ifemelu’s story. Her chapters far outnumber Obinze’s, and I love it for this, too. It reminded me of how disappointed I was that Revolutionary Road didn’t have more chapters from April’s point of view.

Even more importantly, as much as any brief synopsis might make you think this is a love story, trust me when I say it is not. It’s an immigrant story and an African story and an American story. It’s about race, class, and culture and the way all those things collide in the stew of this country. It’s the deepest exploration of the American dream as a beautiful, tempting lie.

Adichie’s writing was constantly making me re-evaluate my ideas about this country and what it means to be black in it.

In one of Ifemelu’s blogs entries she writes:

“Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican or I’m Ghanaian. America doesn’t care.”

In another section she discusses the hierarchy of color (not race), bluntly stating that in America, dark is bad, light is good, and that’s it. Through Ifemelu’s observations, Adichie pulls no punches:

“The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America.”

These were the moments that rocked me. I already agreed with these ideas, but it was almost as if I never really understood them—not completely—until Adichie laid them out. Even an idea as simple as the immigrant coming to America for opportunity. In our collective consciousness, the immigrant is always fleeing from a nightmare, desperate for a better life, on the verge of dying unless they run.

We never hear the stories we do in Americanah where people like Obinze and Ifemelu are simply middle-class kids looking for options:

“Alexa and the other guests, and perhaps even Georgina, all understood the fleeing from war, from the kind of poverty that crushed human souls, but they would not understand the need to escape from the oppressive lethargy of choicelessness. They would not understand why people like him who were raised well fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction, conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else, eternally convinced that real lives happened in that somewhere else, were now resolved to do dangerous things, illegal things, so as to leave, none of them starving, or raped, or from burned villages, but merely hungry for for choice and certainty.”

It’s such a simple idea, but it’s so easy to never consider it. It’s so easy to ignore the reality of the immigrant story when we can lazily fall back on whatever we think we know, not having lived it ourselves.

Americanah told me the story I needed to hear instead of what I expected to hear. I will be forever grateful to it. Who knows how often I’ll find a book that genuinely makes me feel like I’ve become a slightly better, more aware person.

This one is required reading, you guys.
This one is for the canon.