Our Voice Matters

‘Weakness is treating someone as though they don’t belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.’

-Yaa Gyasi

Today, contemporary literature is gaining massive importance and with that the Young Adult genre is winning hearts of youth, hence, it becomes imperative for writers to talk about long-standing social problems that don’t seem to draw to a close after years of stagnancy. Racism is one such problem that still haunts lives all around the world. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement and the death of innumerable black youth in the USA, Angie Thomas stepped into the world of book writing with her novel The Hate U Give.

The novel begins with a sixteen year-old girl witnessing her friend being shot by a white policeman when they were on their way back home. The novel traces the racist dogma that exists in the so-called developed American society where the life of a white man takes precedence over coloured folks. It traces the journey of a sixteen year old girl who sets out to seek justice for her friend and many other lives that have been erased from the pages of history.

‘We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print… We lived in the gaps between the stories.’

-Margaret Atwood

I had heard a lot about this book ever since it was published. Instagram, YouTube was flooded with praises for this book. Every so often, when this building up of hype takes place I often end up feeling disappointed after reading the particular novel. Surprisingly, that didn’t happen with this book. I loved this book; I loved how it talks about the prejudices, injustices existing till date. There was so much of truth in the story she has written, peeling out all the cloaks of sugar-coated ideas and beliefs to reveal the inherent hypocrisy deeply embedded in the system. In my opinion, this is one of the best Young Adult Contemporary books I have read till date, and I would urge authors to write books like The Hate U Give, that will make the youth think and that shall stay with the individual in the years to come. I would suggest all you readers to go ahead and read this book irrespective of any social constructs you identify with.

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Shifting Winds, Static Thunderclaps

The frame around which one builds one’s life is a brittle thing, and in a city of souls connected one snapped beam can threaten the spikes and shadows of the skyline.”

-Lisa McInerney

8th of July, 2017 would always be a day remembered and cherished by me because I finished reading the first series or Trilogy of my reading life. Yes, it does sound a little stupid and funny but I am proud of it nonetheless. The trilogy was none other than the great Ibis Trilogy by Amitav Ghosh.

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For starters, the Ibis Trilogy consists of three books namely, Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke, and Flood of Fire, published in the aforementioned order respectively. The books are set in the Early 19th Century Asia and India in particular. It is an epic tale of a multitude of characters from different race, caste, class, sexuality, sex, nationality (basically, all the social constructs one could think of) woven intricately into a tale of wonder and adventure. Sea of Poppies sets the stage for the epic, bringing into light the various characters and the beginning of the journey on the ship named Ibis that would change their lives forever. River of Smoke takes the reader to Canton where the Opium War is fuelling up and the two boats Anahita and Redruth starts writing a different story of the characters altogether. Lastly, Flood of Fire starts preparing the reader to bring the story to an epic close when the Opium War is at its height in China and lives are at stake.

I cannot begin to describe how much I loved each book. The journey has been unforgettable and this trilogy shall forever remain close to me. The characters have made me think about a lot of things again and the author has thrown a light upon the lives of people when the English was dominating the world. I liked the amount of diversity the author has showcased in his books. I think this is what makes an author great, when you throw in characters with varying colour, religion, sexuality even when the book is set some 200 years back. It is pretty difficult for me to point out which one I liked the best so I’d suffice it to say that the three books are equally close and dear to me and I would encourage all you readers who are into historical fiction to grab these beasts soon and relish in the amount of work and research that has gone into making these word-filled pages a masterpiece of literature.

Vale of Unforgotten Memories

“For I have known them all already, known them all-                                                     Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,                                                                 I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”

-T.S. Eliot

Some ten or twenty years hence, when we would look back at all the events that have shaped us into who we would be, we’d smile to look at all those times we had laughed at the tiny jokes, enjoyed a drink with a friend or two, cried at the times we thought we had lost everything; and realise how much we’ve changed. And it is this realisation that shall keep us alive even when our weakening symmetry might start giving up.

Arthur Golden has written one of the most beautiful memoirs I have come across until now. No, it isn’t a recollection of his life events. Surprisingly, it is a memoir of a woman, to be precise, a geisha. Memoirs of a Geisha is a work of fiction that brings into light the life of one of the geishas of Kyoto, her journey from a small fishing village called Yoroido to being one of the best geishas of Japan. Sayuri, a fisherman’s six-year old daughter comes across a man named Tanaka and that meeting changes her life forever. The day she met Tanaka was the “best and the worst” day of her life.

Was her name really Sayuri?

 What was that about the meeting that changed her life?

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 Golden’s literary composition is beyond praise, he has written this book in first person narrative. Besides, it took him six years to finish this masterpiece as he had written it from three different perspectives before finally coming up with Sayuri’s point of view. The memoir will leave you amazed. There was so much to acquire from this book, the Japanese culture, the lifestyle of geishas, their best times, their worst times. Especially, the get-up of these ladies, believe me you’d urge to be dressed as a geisha and visit Kyoto at least once in your life after reading the spectacular images Golden paints. Honestly, this is one of my favourite books and I would highly recommend you to go and read it as soon as possible. Admittedly, I was flipping through the pages without any hesitation and I could not bring myself to believe that I had finished reading a five-hundred page book within three days.

“We rise; shapes cluster around us in welcome, dissolving and forming again and dissolving again like fireflies in a summer evening.”

-Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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Love; for the Explosion to Begin

‘Home is where we have to gather grace.’ – Nissim Ezekiel

Human Beings start their first day of life with their family, their home. Over the years, our home is what shapes us for the years to come. It is the place where you have a place and will always have a place ever and forever. However, we often forget that our home is not us when we are lost in it; each one has their own role to play, each one of us is a separate branch sprouting from the expansive tree. We forget the fact that we define home, the home doesn’t define us.

Focusing on the aforementioned thought, Nicola Yoon penned down the story of Natasha and Daniel in her latest, award-winning novel The Sun is Also a Star. Natasha’s father’s wish to lead a beautiful life in America has toppled down when they get the notice of their deportation to Jamaica in the next twenty four hours. Daniel’s parents’ wishes to see their son become a doctor are worrying them as they see Daniel being reluctant to pursue the Dream. Daniel and Natasha, both under their family’s pressure, seem to have forgotten that their Home is depleting as the family push them ahead and ahead until they are lost.

Are they going to survive the calamity?

What is going to happen when these two stars collide?

Would the universe witness the saddest or the happiest stories of two innocent, confused teenagers?

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I am glad to have not been disappointed by Nicola Yoon after her debut novel. My expectations were pretty low with this story but the satisfaction surpassed the expectations as the story came to a sensible close. I love the premise of Nicola Yoon’s novels, she drops her characters in one of the most complicated situations possible and it pushes me right at the edge of my seat to know what is going to happen with these characters. Besides the minute cheesiness, this story was good. I liked the fact that she brought forth the perspective of various characters into view and how they are important for the movement of the story of these two protagonists. The ending was a little exaggerated, yes, it was sensible and okay but I somehow thought it was an unnecessary add-on to the already well written story. Last but not the least, the cover of this novel is beyond pretty. I can’t but fall in love with the cover over and over again.

‘Laugh and be merry, remember, better the world with a song,
Better the world with a blow in the teeth of a wrong.
Laugh, for the time is brief, a thread the length of a span.’

-John Masefield.

 

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THE COVER OF THE BOOK IS everything, everything.

Lost in Oblivion

‘Tear it up, tear it down
Gettin’ lost in the sound of our hearts beatin’
Take me here, take me now
Gettin’ lost in a crowd with you’

  -Jonas Blue, By Your Side

It is spring already and I like to read something which is light, not too long and stories which brings in the colours and feels of the season. I had been hearing a lot about Kasie West on Book Tube and I decided to lay my hands on her recently published Young Adult fiction, By Your Side

By Your Side follows the story of Autumn Collins who gets stuck in her school library before leaving for camping with her friends. Amidst books and the snow showering outside she gets worried as she realises that the library is going to remain closed for the next three days and she has nothing to eat or a phone to inform her parents about her situation. In the moment of terror, she finds that she isn’t alone; there is someone inside the library as well.

Who is Autumn with?

What secrets are going to unveil between the stack of books and closed doors?

Is she going to make it out safely?

I listened to this book as audio book and I do not regret not buying the physical copy at all. I really liked it in the beginning but then it all started to get cheesy and way too romantic for my taste. It felt as though cubes of Mozzarella, Gouda, Cheddar, and Parmesan were splattered all around and that was overwhelming. However, I liked the fact that this book dealt with a mental illness and how its acceptance and tolerance is required among adolescents.

Buy the book By Your Side“>here.

Everything Beyond Nothing

Love, a theme or a feeling which has given birth to wonders of literature and shall remain the core of literature for ages and beyond. It amazes readers to find how interestingly authors deal with the indispensable theme by merging it with lesser known situations. One of the most common situations is when one of the protagonists is sick and their future seems bleak. Books like The Fault in Our Stars, Me Before You are a few to suggest with a certain storyline.

Nicola Yoon, an author who stepped into the world of writing with Everything, Everything warmed the hearts of cheesy, mushy, love story fanatics through her debut novel. ‘Everything, Everything’ follows the story of a girl, Madeline Whittier aka Maddy who is suffering from a disease which suggests her being allergic to the world outside her home. She keeps to her home with her caring mother and her loving nurse. She lives her life through her books and the window overlooking her air-filtered bubble of a room. Incidentally, a new family turns up in the house opposite hers and then she discovers the cutest guy she has seen in her life, Olly.

“It made me think that everything was about to arrive- the moment when you know all and everything is decided forever.”

-Jack Kerouac

I was really looking forward to the ending; it kept me at the edge of my seat. I loved the way this book was written. Admittedly, I was enjoying the first two hundred and fifty pages. Unfortunately, I was pretty dissatisfied with the climax and the unprecedented turn of events. Nonetheless, I really liked the illustrations, snippets of conversations attached to the story; they made the reading enjoyable and fun.

READ IT BEFORE THE FILM HITS THE CINEMAS!!!!!!

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Still from the Film 

Inglorious Bastards

Nowadays, I am on the hunt for books which have been awarded for its contents and story line. On my way, I came across a book by an Irish author who had won the Baileys Women Prize for Fiction in 2016 and Desmond Elliott Prize in 2016 for her novel depicting the underworld of Cork, Ireland.

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney published in 2015, begins with the story of an old woman murdering a lad who had barged into her house. The story then focuses on her son Jimmy, the most feared gangster in Cork, who lures his buddy Tony, stuck up with five kids and his teenage kid, Ryan, who, Tony believes is on his way to wreck his life, to clear up the mess his mother had created. Things move according to the plan until the lad’s girlfriend, Georgie, embarks on a search for him.

“… for how good intentions so easily dishonoured ever have a chance of saving her?”     -Lisa McInerney

Is Georgie going to find out the murderer?

What are the truths that shall unfold amidst the hullabaloo?

Will justice prevail?

I was a little confused by the movement of the story in the beginning but the moment I identified the different characters and their relations to each other it all got sorted. I loved the novel, the storyline, the complexity of each character and the amount of themes thread together in the making of the story. It was worth it. No wonder it won two laurels. I would highly recommend this book to people who are in the mood to pick up some moving yet disturbing novel in the adult fiction.

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Between the Age of Innocence and Experience

Having promised myself to try out diverse genres in book and books which have caught the interest of various readers, I decided to pick up Benjamin Alire Saenz’s The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. Recently, Saenz had won the Pen Faulkner Award, Stonewall Book Award, Pura Belpre Award, Lambda Literary Award and many more for his book Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (which I haven’t read yet).

So, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life begins with the story of a seventeen-year old Salvador, who is bullied in his school by one or two pricks because his father is gay. Being an adopted child, he often wonders who his biological father might be and if he has picked up the skill to punch bullies by his biological parent because his real father is the kindest and understanding human being one could come across in their lives. Trapped in the inexplicability of his various life decisions, his future and the failing health of his dearest grandmother, he starts unhooking various straps of his limited boundaries and tries to understand life and death as two essential entities of life and how beautiful it is to love the ones who love you and relish in the imperfections of life.

How is Salvador going to deal with the idiosyncrasies of his mates?

What is he going to learn from people around him?

Will he be able to simply the inexplicable logic of his life?

“And the angel told Tom, if he’d be good boy,                                                                            He’d have God for his father, and never want joy.”                                                                                                                                                               -William Blake.

I listened to it as an audiobook and it was 11 hours and 30 minutes long which is WAY too long for a contemporary. To begin with, I really liked the way the novel began; perfect beginning to a story with well-thought out characters but… but then the novel happened.
Salvador’s father, a very inspiring father indeed but how can a human being exist without even ONE fault. He seemed completely faultless to me, totally, and I found that absurd.
Everything is happy-happy and full of love among the three friends (not anything against having such a healthy relationship but…), how can three teenagers not have a little, even a little fight among themselves!?
This book actually read more like a moral education book. God, that pissed me so much. I mean, yes, I agree that every book inculcates some kind of moral values to the reader but this book was jaded (YES, JADED) with stuff being good and all. For instance things like,  Don’t use the word “bitch” “fuck”, don’t drink; I mean, why?
It was pretty dramatic in some parts of which I cannot talk about as it’d be a spoiler.
Lastly, the phrase “No, boy, no.” pissed me off and I felt like pulling out the vocal chords of the narrator (I am so sorry for conjuring such violent imaginations but the incessant use of that phrase totally ticked me off.)
Okay, so the reason why I gave this novel a 3 star even after ranting so much about it was-:
1- Salvador’s Father (haven’t read anything about a father who’s gay so I was quite interested in knowing him as a person)
2- No romance or anything cliché between a boy and a girl who are not related through blood ties.
3- Focuses on Friendship and Family which is generally ignored by contemporary writers.

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