Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In the Woods by Tana French

I'm a bit late jumping on the Tana French bandwagon, but, man, I'm glad I finally caught up. My best friend lent me this book about 8 months ago, and it has been sitting next to my bed just waiting for me to finish my graduate program and have time for it. I do not usually read mystery novels, but French's twisting, psychological work kept me entertained from the beginning. Read it, pay attention to the details, and prepare to be enthralled.

Elusive Empires: Constructing Colonialism in the Ohio Valley, 1673-1800 by Eric Hinderaker

French and British trading and colonialism made the Ohio Valley a site of intercultural exchange, and Native Americans influenced and negotiated the process. Trading transformed Indian towns, politics, and culture, but these towns were often outside of imperial French and British control because trade “served local interests much more effectively than metropolitan imperial ones” (xii). In post-Revolution America, the pursuit of creating “an expansive, open-ended nation” undermined the idea of Native American sovereignty (236).

This photo is from a mural at Camp Marymount in Fairview, TN.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

I guess most people read The House on Mango Street in high school, but I did not pick it up until a trip to Nashville a couple of months ago. I had brought along a thrilling (read: dense and boring) book for one of my seminars and found that, unsurprisingly, it was more fun to read Cisneros. She gives the reader a chance to look at the world from the perspective of a Chicana girl. In the process, she writes about difficult topics while also managing to show that despite her narrator's desire to leave Mango Street, there is an element of beauty there. She can never really leave, no matter how much she may try.

The book got me thinking about living in Memphis. There are definitely problems to this city, but there is a certain beauty that is also unique to this place. I see it when I walk around my neighborhood at twilight and when I sit with friends on patios. It sneaks in the cracks on the sidewalks and the way people smile when you pass by. It is a place you can leave, but not without leaving a bit of yourself behind. I get the sense that my roots are here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

I remember being in sixth grade when I happened to read a fictional book about an interned Japanese-American girl. It was the first time that I learned about Japanese internment during World War II. It wasn't until high school that I learned much more about it, and even then, it was not a topic that we talked about in much detail. It still amazes me that there are people who never talk about these events in school or have no idea that this chapter of our nation's history even happened.

Otsuka writes beautiful fiction about one of the darkest and most blatantly undemocratic actions in our country's recent past. It is a good reminder that we should always remember where we as a nation have been. The photo is of chains of origami cranes at the 9/11 memorial in NYC.