Review Hacklet: The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson ~ Memoir about creating a space of love between two cultures

The butterfly is not G.Willow Wilson

The butterfly is not G.Willow Wilson

Verdict: An illuminating glimpse into one American woman’s decision to convert to Islam.  Beautifully written and totally honest.

Perfect for: People who read the utterly wonderful Alif the Unseen and, like me, became fascinated about the author, G. Willow Wilson. People interested in spirituality or issues of cultural identity. Anyone who likes a good memoir.

Summary: (from Goodreads:) When G. Willow Wilson—already an accomplished writer on modern religion and the Middle East at just twenty-seven—leaves her atheist parents in Denver to study at Boston University, she enrolls in an Islamic Studies course that leads to her shocking conversion to Islam and sends her on a fated journey across continents and into an uncertain future. Continue reading

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Review: The Queen of Water by Laura Resau ~ when fiction isn’t truer than non-fiction

At last, a cover that does not lie

At last, a cover that does not lie

Some redeeming elements; major hacking needed

 Verdict: An inspirational story that shines some light on the struggles of semi-enslaved servant girls taken from rural indigenous Ecuadorean villages. While the story is a lightly fictionalized account of a real person’s story, it lacks the narrative propulsion of fiction and the feeling of truth of a memoir.

Perfect for: Readers who like tales of young people from other cultures who survive horrible situations against all odds, such as McCormick’s Sold, Ryan’s Esperanza Rising, Perkins’ Bamboo People.

Summary: Virginia is born into a dirty shack to indigenous farming parents in rural Ecuador during a time (the story is set in the 1980s) when whiter upperclass “mestizos” made life miserable for the generally lower class indigenous people. At the age of seven, Virginia’s parents agree to let her work as a servant and nanny for a mestizo couple hours away in another town.  Instead of paying her wages, the couple treats her as something between a slave and an indentured servant, all the while calling her “daughter” and promising her Continue reading

Review Hacklet: Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres ~ A harrowing teenage memoir

Jesusland_cover

Sister & Brother…..before the &h1t hit the fan

Verdict/Summary: Being a teenager is hard enough, but Julia and David Scheeres really had it rough. Readers will empathize with seventeen year old Julia’s honest voice as she remembers her strict upbringing in rural Indiana, her horribly dysfunctional childhood, her traumatic introduction to sex, her conflict between wanting to fit in at school and her desire to defend her beloved adopted black brother David from racial taunts, and her stubbornness of spirit after being sent to a totalitarian religious reform school in the Dominican Republic.

1 heartIt’s really hard to put this one down because you want to know if Julia and David turn out OK. Continue reading

Review: Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson ~ My Fave of 2013 (so far)

alif_cover

The perfection of this cover isn’t evident until you read the book. Perfection!

No Hacking Needed <3

No Hacking Needed ❤

Verdict: An exhilarating mix of action, fantasy, technology, philosophy, love, politics, religion, metaphysics, and semiotics. Oh and also: genies.

Perfect for: On the back cover there are blurbs describing this book as “a multicultural Harry Potter for the digital age” and “A Golden Compass for the Arab Spring”. I feel like these comparisons are not particularly accurate, other than the fact that I think they are trying to get across that Alif is the kind of fantasy book that is rooted in the world we live in now and that wants to explore some serious issues all while providing the reader a riotous adventure. I also think these comparisons speak to the fact that both adults and teens can enjoy this book on many different levels.

Summary: [Disclaimer: I started reading this book without knowing anything about it, and it was really cool figuring out what was going on.

Continue reading

Review: Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins ~ A PG Look at Child Soldiers in Burma

I wish the publisher had been brave enough to show Burmese children on the cover instead of "whitewashing" them into shadows

I wish the publisher had been brave enough to show Burmese children on the cover instead of “white-washing” them into shadows

Only one element needs hacking

Only one element needs hacking

Verdict: This look into the life of child soldiers in Burma (aka Myanmar) without all the gritty, traumatizing realities of war makes this book appropriate for younger readers (age 10 and up). As it is fiction, the book is more an allegory about keeping one’s humanity in an inhumane situation than it is an accurate portrayal of child soldiers. It’s a simple yet rewarding story. Recommended.

Perfect for: Younger YA readers or readers curious about the life of child soldiers, or about other cultures.

Summary: The first section of the book is narrated by Chiko, a bookish fifteen-year-old boy who lives in a major city.  His father, a doctor and scholar, has been in prison for some time for being a suspected enemy of the state for owning English books. Lured downtown by an advertisement that claims the government is recruiting people for teacher-training, Chiko is captured by the army and brought to the jungle to be trained as a soldier. Continue reading