Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

Middlesex – Book Review

May 31, 2008

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Jeffrey Eugenides’ “Middlesex” is another beautifully written book.  ‘Cal’ Stephanides, the narrator, is the intersex grandchild of Greek immigrants.  This was our book for book club this month, and all of us expected that the entire book would basically be about Calliope/Cal dealing with the switch from female to male.  Instead, the book was essentially an epic family novel. 

Although not what we expected, this book was a fantastic read.  Eugenides chose a very interesting style of storytelling.  The primary story thread was chronological.  However, Cal was nearly an omnicient narrator looking back on his family’s story from a view in the ‘present’ and occasionally describing his present life as well. 

More than anything, this novel was a story of the immigrant experience and the experience of 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants.  2nd and 3rd generation immigrants who just happen to be dealing with a recessive gene causing hermaphroditism and the discovery of a young person raised as a girl who discovers at puberty that he is actually male. 

This book is absolutely fantasic and I truly recommend it.

Buy Middlesex on Amazon

Stealing Buddha’s Dinner – Book Review

April 7, 2008

Stealing Buddha's Dinner coverStealing Buddha’s Dinner is a memoir by Bich Minh Nguyen, teacher of Asian American literature, creative nonfiction, and fiction at Purdue University. Nguyen’s father, sister, grandmother, and uncles left Vietnam the night before the fall of Saigon. After spending some time in the Philippines, the received a sponsor in Grand Rapids, MI to come to the United States, where Bich’s father eventually met and married Rosa, a woman of Mexican heritage. Growing up in a bi-cultural family was difficult for Bich in white, middle-class (as it was at the time) Grand Rapids. Her family’s food, traditions, and ways of thinking were markedly different from those of her not-so-understanding classmates.

The book was definitely different than I expected. I committed the age-old sin of judging the book by its cover and believed that the book would focus predominantly Nguyen’s rejection of her family’s culture through a desire for American junk food and distaste for traditional food. This was both not quite accurate and not quite as predominant a theme as I had guessed. Nguyen’s desire for ‘American’ food seems to be more about understanding and wanting to fit in with her peers. She definitely does not reject the food her grandmother makes, she simply seems to wish that her family could also eat pork chops, roasts, and hamburger helper.

This book was organized differently from most of the memoirs I’ve been reading lately. There was only a very general narrative flow. Nguyen began at the ‘beginning’ and ended at the ‘end’, but the middle chapters jumped around a good bit, organized more by theme than by chronology. This could have easily gotten annoying and was, at some points, slightly confusing, but Bich generally did a good job at providing ages or other sign posts to indicate where you were in her story. The beginning of the book was definitely stronger than the end – there is a conclusion that you as a reader are not really prepared for in the book and isn’t fully explained. However, it is perhaps more authentic that way, it does not seem that Bich was prepared for this resolution either, although I’m not totally sure how it enriched her story of a child’s immigrant experience. Overall I enjoyed this book; it was a fast and engaging read.

Buy this book on Amazon: Stealing Buddha’s Dinner: A Memoir