Daily Archives: August 24, 2008

Book Blogger Appreciation Week – September 15-19, 2008

September 15-19, 2008

My Friend Amy is hosting a very special acknowledgement of Book Bloggers. She writes:

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Acknowledging the hard work of book bloggers and their growing impact on book marketing and their essential contribution to book buzz in general, I am excited to announce the first Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Think of it as a retreat for book bloggers and a chance for us to totally nerd out over books together. And of course, shower each other with love and appreciation.

Part of the celebration will be awards and nominations are now being accepted (nominations close on August 31st) – to read more, visit Amy’s post about nominations here.

Amy is requesting that book blogger register their blogs. She tells all about how to do this on her post here. She writes:

Why bother? If you register, you will be added to a book blog directory which will exist long after this week is over. Additionally, you will receive one raffle entry into the daily giveaways during BBAW here at My Friend Amy.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and be noticed. Celebrate the joy of book blogger. Nominate your favorite blogs.

Sunday Salon – August 24, 2008

August 24, 2008

12:30 PM

Another gorgeous Sunday in Northern California finds me reading some wonderful literature.

Yesterday my husband and I took advantage of the warm weather and went for a five mile hike in Lassen National Volcanic Park. The views were magnificent and the peace we found walking among the scrub pines and around crystalline lakes was a blessing. Sometimes the fast pace of life makes me forget to slow down and enjoy the beauty around me.

Since the last Sunday Salon I finished Sweetsmoke by David Fuller (read my review). This is a rich historical novel which I greatly enjoyed. Thanks to Hyperion Books and the author, I am hosting a give-away of the book – you can win a signed, first edition, hard cover copy of the novel. Go here to read more and to sign up to win!

I am currently swept up in The Colour by Rose Tremain. Tremain’s novel is set in the vast beauty of New Zealand. A young married couple – Joseph and Harriet Blackstone – along with Joseph’s demanding mother Lillian have arrived from England to establish their home and chase their dreams. For Joseph, it is also a place where he has come to flee his past.

Because what he felt as he surveyed the flats or turned and looked up towards the distant mountains was a sudden surge of hope. He was here. He was in the South Island of New Zealand, the place they called Aotearoa – Land of the Long White Cloud. Though he had done a terrible thing in England, he had survived. The future lay around him, in the stones, in the restless water of the creek, in the distant forest. -From The Colour, page 7-

The characters are beautifully written and Tremain’s prose is gorgeous. I am so thoroughly enjoying this book that I have slowed down in my reading to savor it. Have any of you read Tremain’s work before? She won the 2008 Orange Prize for Fiction for her novel The Road Home; and my reading friends have gushed over her novel Music and Silence (which I have on my TBR mountain thanks to a book buddy).

This morning I spent some time reading short stories. I read An Ex-Mas Feast by Uwem Akpan (read my review) which was powerful and stark. Bookmarks Magazine (which just arrived in my mailbox yesterday!) has a fabulous review of Say You’re One of Them by this author. It is a collection of short stories which includes An Ex-Mas Feast. I’ve added it to my wish list.

I also continue to read from Alice Munro’s collection entitled The View from Castle Rock. This morning I read Hired Girl from this collection. Set on an island, it tells the story of a young girl who has come to work as hired help for the wealthy Montjoy family. The story explores the definition of  place – the idea of actual physical place (the island) and place meaning one’s place in society. it is also the story of a young girl on the cusp of adulthood and sexual awakening. Munro’s prose is accessible and rich. I plan on reading the next story – The Ticket – later this afternoon.

The afternoon is wide open today and the porch beckons. Our resident redtail hawks have been circling and crying overhead and there is a light breeze which keeps the temperatures comfortable. I’m planning on immersing myself back in Tremain’s New Zealand world for a time. What will you be doing today? Whatever it is, I hope it is relaxing.

An Ex-Mas Feast, by Uwem Akpan – Short Story Review

The sun had gone down on Ex-mas evening. Bad weather had stormed the seasons out of order, and Nairobi sat in a low flood, the light December rain droning on our tarpaulin roof. I was sitting on the floor of our shack, which stood on a cement slab at the end of an alley, leaning against the back of an old brick shop. Occasional winds swelled the brown polythene walls, The floor was nested with cushions that I had scavenged from a dump on Biashara Street. At night, we rolled up the edge of the tarpaulin to let in the glow of the shop’s security lights. A board, which served as our door lay by the shop wall. -From An Ex-Mas Feast-

Uwem Akpan released his debut short story collection titled Say You’re One of Them in June 2008. An Ex-Mas Feast is one of the stories in that collection – although I read it as a stand alone story in The New Yorker. Jigana, an eight year old who is the eldest boy of his family, narrates the story. He reveals the horrifying living conditions of a street family who rely on their eldest daughter’s income from prostitution to feed them. Jigana represents hope for his family who want him to go to school and become educated. Most of the story takes place on Christmas Day as the family waits for Maisha to return from her work on the streets. The mother offers her children glue to sniff to stave off hunger and reads aloud the names of relatives in an attempt to celebrate the holiday.

Mama took out our family Bible, which we had inherited from Baba’s father, to begin our Ex-mas worship. The front cover had peeled off, leaving a dirty page full of our relatives’ names, dead and living. She read them out. Baba’s late father had insisted that all the names of our family be included in recognition of the instability of street life. -From An Ex-Mas Feast-

Thematically this short story examines survival, family bonds, and the idea of education as hope to elevate oneself from poverty. It raises questions about global awareness of what is happening to families and children on the streets of Nairobi. When Jigana tells of the rich white men driving a Jaguar who “hire” Maisha for a night of sex, the reader feels stunned by the gap which lies between wealth and poverty.

Akpan’s writing is stark, shocking and painful. The story, narrated by a child, leaves the reader feeling brutalized. Bookmarks Magazine reviewed Akpan’s collection and writes:

Without flinching or lecturing, Akpan shares the almost unimaginable horrors that threaten Africa’s most vulnerable children. A Jesuit priest, he also evokes the love, grace, and other spiritual values that can emerge from the fight for survival. -From Sept/Oct edition (No. 36) of Bookmarks Magazine, page 32

Although not easy to read, I highly recommend this short story if only to raise awareness of what is happening to children living on the streets in Africa.