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Adult Fiction Diversity Reading Challenge

I Did NOT Want to Finish Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

I’m such a goober when it comes to this book. Ok, not just this book but lots of books. I’ve been wanting to read Another Brooklyn for a while and put off scooping it because of this dilemma: once you read a book for the first time you can never read it again for the first time.

Weird, right? So that first time is magical. It’s like opening up a present you’ve been waiting for and you can never get that euphoria back. I purchased Another Brooklyn from Busboys & Poets in DC a few months ago and I promptly put it on my desk promising myself I wouldn’t read it.

I wanted to read it, mind you. It’s just that once you read it, you can never read it again for the first time (see above). l put it off and put it off until I couldn’t wait any longer and I finally cracked the spine. Now I warn you this book is not a YA book but older teens could certainly handle it. There are mature issues inside but I’ve read rape scenes in YA books that are more chilling than the facts within this  beautifully written novel. And to be sure, there are no rape scenes in Another Brooklyn. It’s the tale of one young woman who grows up learning to lean on a circle of girlfriends as they all mature into womanhood.

As the girls grow, there are perhaps your typical scenarios that you might encounter in an inner city neighborhood: drug use, dating, sex, unnecessary advances from older men, school, hunger, homelessness, etc. Written in prose, though, the story unfolds so beautifully  that I literally DID NOT WANT TO FINISH THE BOOK.

I dragged the story out as long as I could, which is difficult because the book is short, a mere 177 pages.  I loved reading the book, getting lost in the prose as if Woodson were writing a poem just for me. As my own son now lives in Brooklyn I like to imagine what the town looked like in Woodson’s 1970s Brooklyn, before cell phones, and iPhones, and Uber.

I will definitely revisit Another Brooklyn, because books can be enjoyed more than once. Another Brooklyn also qualifies for the Diversity Reading Challenge.

Categories
Adult Fiction Books Children Reviews Young Adult

Brooklyn Love by Yael Levy

 can occasionally be found reading a juicy chick lit novel, especially during the summer when I want to relax.

Never in my wildest imaginations would I envision myself reading an Orthodox Jewish love story.  I just never thought these things existed.  To be sure, I read alot of books about Jews and their plight in history(Anne Frank, The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Giver, Sarah’s Key, I am Forbidden) but Brooklyn Love, by Yael Levy, is a tale of 3 young Jewish women on a quest to get married; a book that I didn’t think existed.

 

Brooklyn Love is set in modern day Brooklyn, New York, an enclave for the Jewish community, orthodox especially.  The tale weaves around the lives of Hindy, Leah, and Rachel who are approximately 19-20 years old and searching for good Jewish husbands as their religion and their culture demands.  Don’t let the premise fool you.  The story is endearing, funny, and heartbreaking.  These brave young women must struggle with what they want to do and what they must do.  Imagine a slumber party in which young women gorge themselves over pizza and soda.  These women look at photos of hamburgers on the internet and drool over them because they are forbidden.  The scene is funny because you realize they are just like you in some ways.

photo courtesy Wikipedia

If you’re like me, you’re intrigued by other cultures (aka food) and want to know more about them.  Yael Levy brings my two favorite topics together splendidly: food and books. The characters in the story are always eating or preparing or cleaning up after a meal. You can practically smell the mouth-watering cholent (Jewish stew) simmering in the crockpot on Friday evenings. What family doesn’t enjoy eating a yummy family dinner together?

Another large part of Brooklyn Love is the fashion.  Orthodox Jewish men and women have strict rules about fashion and are supposed to be covered up.  You’ve probably seen men dressed like this before:

photo courtesy Jewish Daily Report

And you’ve probably seen the women dressed like this:

photos courtesy Shmeeze

An interesting note about the characters in this story is that many of them where wealthy and dressed very fashionably, as the young lady on the left.  While her outfit is not as demure or conservative as the ladies on the right, in some segments it might be seen as appropriate.  I imagine Rachel to look like the woman on the left and our beautiful Hindy to look like the woman in the black sweater on the right.

And speaking of Hindy.  Oh how you’ll love her.  She is the most beautiful character I’ve read in a long time. You will adore her: she’s balding and overweight but has the most beautiful, loving personality.

You’ll cheer, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll scratch your head while reading Brooklyn Love.  Go out and get the book.  Today.  This is a book the whole family can enjoy!

I give Brooklyn Love four paws for its insightful and in depth look at Orthodox Jewish life!

 

 

Categories
Books Reviews Young Adult

Book Review: Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Amazon.com Synopsis:

“Laugh-out-loud funny high school drama – perfect for fans of Lauren Myracle and Meg Cabot

Let’s say you’re fourteen and live in New York City. You’d think your life would be like a glamorous TV show, right? And yet . . . You don’t have a checking account, much less a personal Black American Express card. You’ve never been to a club, and the only couture in your closet is a Halloween costume your mom made from an old laundry bag.

In other words? You’re Kelsey Finkelstein – fourteen and frustrated. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled. Kelsey wants to rebrand herself for high school to make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny. But just because Kelsey has a plan for greatness . . . it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

Kelsey’s hilarious commentary and sardonic narration of her freshman year will have readers laughing out loud – while being thankful that they’re not in her shoes, of course.”

If I were a teenager today I would probably be a lot like Kelsey Finkelstein.  Or at least want to be her friend.  The fourteen year old heroine in Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, by Meredith Zeitlin is an endearing young lady with an acerbic wit and a knack for laughing off embarrassing moments.  To be sure, Kelsey has a healthy sense of her abilities and what she wants out of life; but not in a bad way.

Unlike many teen heroines, Kelsey does not seek the company of a vampire.  Nor does she use her acerbic wit to verbally attack anyone, unless they deserve it.   Kelsey has never killed anyone, nor has she covered up a murder.  She is not ruthless in her social climbing and doesn’t secret off to an unknown parallel universe.

What Kelsey does do, is get herself into embarrassing situations, much like any normal fourteen year old would.  Kelsey also dreams about boys, dates boys, talks about dating boys, talks with her besties about boys and disobey her parents (to see boys).

I like Kelsey. You can’t help but like her.  Zeitlin infuses the character with just enough positive self esteem to allow the character to laugh at her own flaws but not become so self absorbed that she has no room to consider other’s feelings.  I also like Kelsey because she’s Jewish.  While not so blatantly New York Jewish, like Fran in The Nanny, she’s enough to make her a positive multicultural character.

I would like to have seen a little more of Kelsey’s Jewish customs in the story, other than the quick mention of helping the family write Chanukah cards and a brief mention of cousin Lainie’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah. I feel as if exploring these details a little further would give Kelsey a little more depth, but that is merely my personal preference.

Cheers to Zeitlin for providing a protagonist that appeals to young women of other faiths and ethnicities.  Zeitlin’s Kelsey made me chuckle out loud.  She also reminded me not to insist on too many “mother-daughter” moments because that would be Typical Lame Parent Behavior.

Need an additional laugh? Check out the trailer!

I give this book 4 paws!

 

 

 

*DISCLAIMER: I received this book from the publisher to assist in my review. All opinions are my own.*

Stay tuned for my SPECIAL interview with Meredith Zeitlin! woo hoo!

Categories
Books

A New Jacqueline Woodson Title I’m Excited About

I love to read books by authors of color. Even more than that, I love to read books by authors of color ABOUT children of color! To be sure, a nice historical fiction book is ok, but why not make The Hunger Games main character a girl of color. Any color?

But I digress.  One of the authors I enjoy is Jacqueline Woodson.

jacqueline woodson

 

I accidentally ran into her at a posh BEA party last year. I reckon she doesn’t get recognized too much so I was all like OMG Can I have a pic???? As you can see, she wasn’t too keen on me but whatever. I LOVE her.

She’s the kind of author who writes for kids who want to use their brains. Kids will use their brains if you give them something that meets their interest.  I found a picture book about bullying of hers last year that made me weep.  WEEP. It’s called Each Kindness.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

A new girl comes to school and tries to make friends. When Chloe, the narrator, is unkind, the girl keeps trying. And then the girl is gone and Chloe is left only with the memory of her unkindness.

See? Kids GET this stuff. They realize sometimes belatedly what they should have done differently. And maybe next time they’ll get it right. This title speaks to everyone.

The crazy thing about Woodson is that she’s written TONS of books for kids of all ages and many of them are award winners. Probably you’ve heard of Hush.

When she is twelve, Toswiah and her older sister Cameron have to leave the place they’ve always known, change their identities and leave no trace of their past life. Toswiah becomes Evie. Her sister becomes Anna. In the new city, they have to reinvent themselves and figure out how to move on when just about everything they ever loved is behind them.

I could go on and on.  I recently snagged an advanced copy of her latest book, which happens to be an autobiography, called Brown Girl Dreaming. It’s an autobiography written in verse. It incorporates elements of what was going on in the civil rights movement when she was born and growing up.  It’s compelling. I can’t wait to finish it.

If you’ve not heard of Jacqueline Woodson, add her to your repertoire. It’s smart reading.

 

Categories
Adult Fiction Books

Towne Book Center & Cafe Book Club: May- My Korean Deli

This month at Towne Book Center & Cafe‘s book club read My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe

mykorean deli

I hafta say it wasn’t my fave.  I didn’t hate it, but I just couldn’t relate to the main character.  Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

It starts with a gift, when Ben Ryder Howe’s wife, the daughter of Korean immigrants, decides to repay her parents’ self-sacrifice by buying them a store. Howe, an editor at the rarefied Paris Review, agrees to go along. Things soon become a lot more complicated. After the business struggles, Howe finds himself living in the basement of his in-laws’ Staten Island home, commuting to the Paris Review offices in George Plimpton’s Upper East Side townhouse by day, and heading to Brooklyn at night to slice cold cuts and peddle lottery tickets. My Korean Deli follows the store’s tumultuous life span, and along the way paints the portrait of an extremely unlikely partnership between characters with shoots across society, from the Brooklyn streets to Seoul to Puritan New England. Owning the deli becomes a transformative experience for everyone involved as they struggle to salvage the original gift—and the family—while sorting out issues of values, work, and identity.

Even though I couldn’t relate to the character, I am eager to see what a New York deli looks like inside.  I will go in search of a deli when I’m in New York later this month to attend Book Expo America.  Stay tuned…

Categories
Adult Fiction Books Children Reviews Young Adult

Brooklyn Love by Yael Levy

Many women love a good romance story.  I can occasionally be found reading a juicy chick lit novel, especially during the summer when I want to relax.

Never in my wildest imaginations would I envision myself reading an Orthodox Jewish love story.  I just never thought these things existed.  To be sure, I read alot of books about Jews and their plight in history(Anne Frank, The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Giver, Sarah’s Key, I am Forbidden) but Brooklyn Love, by Yael Levy, is a tale of 3 young Jewish women on a quest to get married; a book that I didn’t think existed.

 

Brooklyn Love is set in modern day Brooklyn, New York, an enclave for the Jewish community, orthodox especially.  The tale weaves around the lives of Hindy, Leah, and Rachel who are approximately 19-20 years old and searching for good Jewish husbands as their religion and their culture demands.  Don’t let the premise fool you.  The story is endearing, funny, and heartbreaking.  These brave young women must struggle with what they want to do and what they must do.  Imagine a slumber party in which young women gorge themselves over pizza and soda.  These women look at photos of hamburgers on the internet and drool over them because they are forbidden.  The scene is funny because you realize they are just like you in some ways.

photo courtesy Wikipedia

If you’re like me, you’re intrigued by other cultures (aka food) and want to know more about them.  Yael Levy brings my two favorite topics together splendidly: food and books. The characters in the story are always eating or preparing or cleaning up after a meal. You can practically smell the mouth-watering cholent (Jewish stew) simmering in the crockpot on Friday evenings. What family doesn’t enjoy eating a yummy family dinner together?

Another large part of Brooklyn Love is the fashion.  Orthodox Jewish men and women have strict rules about fashion and are supposed to be covered up.  You’ve probably seen men dressed like this before:

photo courtesy Jewish Daily Report

And you’ve probably seen the women dressed like this:

photos courtesy Shmeeze

An interesting note about the characters in this story is that many of them where wealthy and dressed very fashionably, as the young lady on the left.  While her outfit is not as demure or conservative as the ladies on the right, in some segments it might be seen as appropriate.  I imagine Rachel to look like the woman on the left and our beautiful Hindy to look like the woman in the black sweater on the right.

And speaking of Hindy.  Oh how you’ll love her.  She is the most beautiful character I’ve read in a long time. You will adore her: she’s balding and overweight but has the most beautiful, loving personality.

You’ll cheer, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll scratch your head while reading Brooklyn Love.  Go out and get the book.  Today.  This is a book the whole family can enjoy!

I give Brooklyn Love four paws for its insightful and in depth look at Orthodox Jewish life!