Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Books not for summer ... D'oh!

Mikaela says:
Recently a friend said summer was for beach-reading fiction.

Okay, I agree that's true, but summer for me is also a time to catch up on that stack of books gathering dust by my bed, waiting for a spare minute, cooing into my night dreams.

Reeeeeaaaaad me...

So I finally read A Thousand Splendid Suns, a downer of a book about women in Afghanistan from 1950 or so to the present time. Oh my is it beautiful, though. I didn't read this book; I consumed it. It is impossible to put down (yes, partly from guilt). You have a responsibility to read it, to face its horror, to witness and cry and begin to understand.

Some of it speaks the same message as its non-fiction neighbor Daughter of Persia. But the muddiness of reality is cleared to sparkling bone-cutting diamond fiction in this unforgettable novel. My lover kept asking me why I was crying, what the book was about ... and when I told him he was cast backward! One book? About all that? Holy god. Yes, that good. I think better than Kite Runner, his runaway hit of a first novel.

I've also been picking my way through 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye. I really do think it's our responsibility to understand the cultures that scare our government so much we declare them terrorists and keep sending more and more troops to inspire "democracy." What better way to do that than through poetry?

And I just finished Mother of Pearl, that my oldest sister bought me for Christmas. Would have been a better winter book, matching its darkness, but the heat and humidity of my living room provided the perfect venue for the book's depiction of the South. The story is also 1950s, I think, but this time a story woven with threads of black, white, and gay characters and these sentences that will stop you dead to consider them. You cannot consume this book; you've got to sip it like sweet wine or Baskin Robbins daquiri ice (before they changed and ruined it). Worth the time, though. It's haunting. I'm still sitting with the ending to see if I'm okay with it.

I loved the time I spent with these characters, though. I wanted so much to run to the river to hear Joody Two Suns tell me the story of my name. The whole book is a world that's real, yet we fear, yet we want in some strange way. It was also one of the best male friendship stories I've read yet. And wise about how people love. How men love women (carefully), women love men (despite themselves), and people who are different love people who are different from them. It's a sweet story about race. How often do we get that? And all the characters have wisdom of their own kind, which I so appreciate. No caricatures or moral tales or easy answers. Just people living the best they can and offering us their story. Pretty great.

That's my summer! You?


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