Tag Archives: culture

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

awakening

Rating: 5/5

This book was written in 1899, over one hundred years ago. What was life like back then? How does it compare to the life I am living now?

These are the questions I asked myself upon my second reading of The Awakening. My actions today, seemingly innocent and plain, would be shocking if recreated when this novel was written. As a privileged, 28 year old, unmarried, Caucasian woman, I have to also ask myself: What differences in my life, in my current socio-economic situation, are there to the life of the protagonist of the Awakening? The familiar actions I take for granted were considered shocking and even rude to the society of 1899.

What am I talking about? Here are some examples:

  • leaving the home without informing someone of the exact details of where, when, why I was going
  • being away from home without worry of some higher status individual coming to see me and being turned away due to me not being home
  • Partaking in hobbies for the sake of having fun, for nonsensical reasons and feeling no remorse
  • being an agent of my own agenda, without relying on a husband to inform me of what it is I should be doing every waking moment of my life
  • Doing things because I feel like it, not because I should be expected to partake in what society expects me to do.

Does that sound a little bit ridiculous? Today we take for granted all the freedoms and sociological expectations that we have so much wiggle room we don’t even notice it.

This book is about feminism in the definition that I prefer, the first wave, in which women sought for equality in regards to gaining political power (the ability to vote, which came much later) to make changes on an economic, sociological, psychological, and reproductive levels. It is about basic human respects, embracing independence, and challenging what has been ingrained in our minds.

To me, this book is about feminism and the individual seeking freedom and independence. It is told through a summer vacation, with mini scenes that show the challenges of the time in very subtle ways. We really need to analyze each scene, to dig deeper into actually seeing what has been written. A scene is a scene, but it can also be as dramatic or as plain as the reader decides.

For example, there is a scene where our protagonist goes to the beach and visits with another woman. This other woman does not enjoy swimming. Regardless, our protagonist decides to go swimming alone anyways. She lingers out in the sea but eventually returns to the house with the other woman whom had waited for her.

On the surface, this looks like a scene of two friends in which one decides to take a dip, then they retreat back to the house. But if you dig a little bit deeper, you will find the following:

  • Our protagonist ditched the woman to go swimming. Instead of respecting what the other woman’s wishes were, she was selfish and decided to go do what she wanted, not what she was expected to do (stay and chat with the other woman)
  • She lingered in the sea, hoping that the other woman would get fed up and leave. This did not happen. This contrast shows that the woman on the beach was much more familiar with sociological expectations than our protagonist. Even though our protagonist was selfish and went into the sea, the woman stayed on the beach even though she probably wanted to be elsewhere.
  • These two women don’t seem to like each other. Yet one of them is firm in sticking to societal norms whereas our protagonist does not seem to care about the consequences of her actions.

All in all, I would recommend this book if you are looking for a classic, something to challenge your beliefs and what you take for granted, a literary exploration of themes, and an introduction to the beginning of feminism in 1899.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Chat, Crystal's Classics, Favourite Books, Reviews

Daisuki by Hildred Billings

Daisuki by Hildred Billings
(Ren’Ai Rensai, #1)
Kindle Edition
Barachou Press, 2012
My Rating: 4/5

Description (From Goodreads.com):

Aiko and Reina have been together for almost 20 years, yet one thing remains unsaid between them: “Daisuki,” or, “I love you.” As they approach their anniversary, their relationship comes to an impasse as Aiko the Japanese housewife begins demanding “I love you” with a side of marriage and romance.

But Reina doesn’t understand complex concepts like “love” or other heavy emotions. She’s spent years supporting her girlfriend via a soul-sucking salary job and tending to their mutual needs in the bedroom. Isn’t that sufficient? In a culture demanding Reina choose between the “feminine” and the “masculine” worlds, it’s bad enough she’s trying to find her role without Aiko adding extra pressure.

Some words need not saying, but “I love you” is about to destroy a relationship already surviving strange side-lovers and even stranger exploits.

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book, but I am very pleased that I read it and will be reading more of the series. On the surface, it is a book about hot sex between two Japanese lesbians. If you dig a bit deeper, then you will find it is also a book about Eastern vs Western cultural norms, relationship status differences, societal expectations, family shame and honor,  and many LGBT issues including sexual privacy, gender identity, and marginalization.

The two main characters, Reina and Aiko, felt like real people to me. I was especially drawn to Reina – she considers herself to be more masculine than Aiko, works in a company filled with (perverted) men, and she reminded me of myself and some of my close friends. She has an insane sex drive (as does Aiko), but also engages in poly* activities. I liked that we saw some poly* in the book, but a part of me fears that someone new to LGBT literature might confuse lesbianism with poly*ism. At the end of the day, all characters that engaged in sex felt like real people with real issue and needs, but with a playful side too.

This is a book in the erotica genre and there are lots of opportunities for sex. These scenes can be read for pleasure, but they also add to the sub-plots in the story. If you dig a little deeper, you can see the seeds of foreshadowing for major themes later in the book.  Obviously, this book is recommended for adults due to the mature content.

The writing was quite good. A couple of times near the beginning I came across some odd word choices (i.e. fornication, gyrating) that I felt didn’t fit the mood for the passage. However, there were some beautiful passages and the ending was absolutely fantastic. These characters really grow on you, and the writing just adds another dimension that can’t be ignored. Our characters are Japanese, and so some Japanese phrases are included in the writing. They are added in a way that the reader can easily catch on to what is being said and even adds a bit of a cultural air and realism to the dialogue.

As this is a romance novel the plot was predictable to some extent. Despite this, there were a couple of sub-plots that contributed to the overall story arc and really made this book unique. There are quite a few things to consider once you finish reading the book. Yes, the story takes place in Japan but the issues there are similar to the issues here and I think most people can relate to someone in this book.

5 Comments

Filed under Reviews

Wishlist Wednesday (a day late!)

Here is my Wishlist Wednesday post! I put up a video yesterday, which you can watch below. If you would rather not watch the video, then all the information will be below the video.

The Books:

Leave a comment

Filed under Weekly Memes

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam, an illustrated memoir by Ann Marie Fleming
Riverhead books, Published in 2007, 163 pages

My Rating: 4/5

This is set up similar to a graphic novel in that there are comics, but there is also the addition of  photographs and time-lines. The premise is that the author found out she was related to a Chinese acrobat/magician named Long Tack Sam, and wondered both why she didn’t know about him before and why was his story forgotten? This book outlines her attempt to narrate the life of Long Tack Sam.

I felt the layout was done very well, especially the combination of the illustrations, comic styles, photographs, and time-lines. The time-lines helped keep perspective/context as to what else was going on during that period of Long Tack Sam’s life. The story itself was interesting, and when there were conflicting bits of information, the author did a great job at discussing the likelihood of each.

My only complaint is that I didn’t feel like I got enough of a grasp of the acrobatic and magician side of things. I was expecting to learn some secrets of the trade, and although some are revealed, I was thirsty for more.

Recommended for history buffs, those interested in Chinese history and culture, circus lovers, and those that want to read a good book. 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Underground Time by Delphine de Vigan

Underground Time by Delphine de Vigan

257 pages
2009/2011 , Bloomsbury
Genre: Adult Fiction, French Culture

My Rating: 3.5/5 

Description (from Goodreads.com):

Every day, Mathilde takes the Metro to her job at a large multinational, where she has felt miserable and isolated ever since getting on the wrong side of her bullying boss. Every day, Thibault, a paramedic, drives where his dispatcher directs him, fighting traffic to attend to disasters. For many of the people he rushes to treat, he represents the only human connection in their day. Mathilde and Thibault are just two figures being pushed and shoved in a lonesome, crowded city. But what might happen if these two souls, traveling their separate paths, could meet?

 

My Thoughts:

This was my first French to English translation and it was pretty decent. The book itself is mostly build up, and the ending left me wondering if I had missed something. Upon reflection, I think this book is more philosophical than most, in that it is more about the emotions and the possibilities than the moment. The reader feels sympathy for the characters and becomes quite emotional. The writing style reminded me of Eden Robinson, in that each chapter is a collection of fragmented scenes. You get a glimpse at a situation, and then it changes to something else. It is like watching a movie made of separate, yet connected, clips. This method, I feel, adds to the intimacy of the situations.

Mathilde’s plotline was very tense. You could feel her stress and despair. So many women are in similar positions and I like how the book gave awareness of bullying towards women in the workplace. While a man could quit his job and still get by, Mathilde has three children. It was difficult reading her story at times because it felt like there was no solution. Thibault’s plotline was a bit less tense, but it had more despair. A great sense of loss is felt for both characters. Intuition and the ability to read between the lines is important for understanding this story. There is lots to think about after finishing the book.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Other Waters by Eleni Gage

Other Waters by Eleni Gage

352 pages
February 2012, St. Martin’s Press
Genre: adult fiction, cultures

Description (shortened to avoid major spoilers):

Maya is an accomplished psychiatry resident with a terrific boyfriend, loving family, and bustling New York social life. When her grandmother dies in India, a family squabble over property results in a curse that drifts across continents and threatens Maya’s life.  A trip back to India with her best friend Heidi, Maya reasons, will be just what’s needed to remove the curse, save her family, and to put her own life back in order. Thus begins a journey into Maya’s parallel world– an India filled with loving and annoying relatives, vivid colors, and superstitious customs–a cross-cultural, transcontinental search to for a chance to find real love.

My Rating: 1/5

For me, this book just didn’t cut it. I gave up halfway through, which is a shame because I was really excited to read this book. The premise sounded interesting because the main character is a psychiatrist and I am a psychology undergrad, and also I was curious to learn more about India.  I was hoping to learn more about India’s culture but I didn’t feel like there was anything there that I didn’t already know. Maya’s character bothered me as well – despite her academic success, she gave up too easily for the sake of others and had very little personality that actually pertained to herself.  Some of the writing itself was awkward. There were several spelling mistakes and odd things, such as Maya referring to another character as her aunt one sentence and then her mother in another sentence. It might be a cultural thing but it was confusing, which just added fuel to the fire.

I think the story has a lot of potential, but the writing didn’t captivate me so I’m going to go onto something else instead. I don’t think the book is bad, but rather, the book just isn’t the right fit for me. I think there are many people that will enjoy this book.

Questions for readers:

  1. When was the last time you gave up on a book? What was it?
  2. Do you like reading books about characters that travel somewhere to “find themselves”? Another example is that book “Eat, Pray, Love.”

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews