vineri, 27 ianuarie 2017

Make America Great [Britain] Again!

One American Dream by Bernard Beck is yet another book (on its way to becoming a bestseller) about the [futile] pursuit of living the American dream. This time the protagonists are neither African-Americans nor Latin Americans, but second and third generations of Jews coming from Poland and struggling to find success and happiness. 
Jacob Rubinowitz, in particular, seems to be obsessed with becoming a real American. He was only a child when his mother took him to the States and, as soon as the law allowed him to, he changed his name and became John Rubin. Still, each time he got a bit closer to finally becoming a true American, he felt he lacked authenticity: "Throughout my life I have invented, reinvented, burnished, refurbished, constructed, and reconstructed myself as often as necessary in order to achieve my ultimate goal: to be a real American". Thus this became John's obsession and it marked his entire existence and even his relationships with his close family, his wife, Rose, and his daughter, Ruthie. Only in the end of the novel did he realize what it meant to be a real American: 
"I discovered that being an American isn't about what you wear, or how you speak, or where you live. Anyone can do that. It's what's in your head and in your heart that makes you an American. We Americans argue about everything, but in the end we always do the right thing. [...] In Europe, and in the rest of the world, there is history and privilege. But in America, everything was new and equal right [ha!] from the start." 
Overall, this is a book to be read only for its story, which, unfortunately, is not an original one. And what bothers me the most about it is the style. It is so poorly written! There are multiple voices in the novel, each chapter being told from the perspective of a different character, but in fact there is no real difference between the perspectives. Hence, what the readers perceive is not the story being told from multiple perspectives, but one narrator struggling to create the impression of multiplicity. There even are at some point a few lines that instead of deepening this sense of multiplicity, they portray the author's clumsiness in terms of narrative technique: "(You might notice that this is somewhat different from the way my husband remembers it. Men always seem to picture themselves as more macho than they actually are.)"
To sum up, this book is an unsuccessful struggle to portray the American dream and it reminded me of another struggle, a little more mundane and actual: Make America great again! or, better yet, make America Great Britain again!

* I received an advanced reading e-book copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

joi, 5 ianuarie 2017

A humorous discovery

A humorous discovery or how I came to like Judith Ortiz Cofer's writing after reading two of her autobiographic works that didn't impress me much. A less good writer of memoirs than a storyteller, Judith Ortiz Cofer surprised me in The Line of the Sun as having a great sense of humour and a gift for storytelling:
Small towns are vindictive, and when it became known that El Padrecito Cesar had been sent away to a mountain retreat for his health, a rumor began to circulate that the young priest had been caught "in flagrante" by the housekeeper, Leonarda, who had then aroused Don Gonzalo from a deep sleep. For days Leonarda was sought after by the townswomen for afternoon coffee, and even invited into the wealthier homes in town, where the old woman had never crossed the threshold except to wash floors. They interrogated her endlessly about the scandal up at the rectory, but she played the coy maiden and would only say that the little priest had too many wild friends visiting him in his room; that he would stay up till all hours reading poetry with one of them in particular; that it didn't seem natural to her for young men to spend so much time together, reading love poems to each other. And who was his special friends? They all wanted to know. One or two names would be sufficient. No names, no names, insisted Leonarda holding a porcelain coffee cup, little finger extended up to her toothless mouth. Some of her hostesses would later mark the same cup with an X and use it only when beggars are pilgrims asked for a drink at their back doors. Leonarda was soon forgotten but it wasn't long before another name was brought up for speculation.

It was just dawn, and in El Polvorín the houses were coming alive with the sounds of women setting pots of water to boil for coffee and getting their brooms and sprinkling cans ready. While their children were getting ready for school and their husbands for work, they would sweep clean their dirty yards, taming the pervasive dust with water so that it would not get into their houses and on the laundry they would be hanging on the lines strung from tree to tree.  

 Life was lived at a high pitch in El Building. The adults conducted their lives in two worlds in blithe acceptance of cultural schizophrenia, going to work or on errands in the English-speaking segment, which they endured either with the bravura of the Roman gladiator or with the down-cast-eyed humility that passed for weakness on the streets – a timidity that mothers inculcated into their children but that earned us not a few insults and even beatings from the black kids, who knew better.

duminică, 1 ianuarie 2017

2016 in books

another harsh and interesting year is over and i find myself, yet again, feeling sorry for not reading as much as i could have. so, 2016 means the following books and articles:

1. Maya Socolovsky, Troubling Nationhood in U.S. Latina Literature: Explorations of Place and Belongings
2. Ellen McCracken, New Latina Narrative. The Feminine Space of Postmodern Ethnicity
3. Judith Ortiz Cofer, Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood
4. Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez (ed), Women Writing Resistance. Essays on Latin America and the Carribean
5. Cherrie Moraga, Giving Up the Ghost, Teatro in Two Acts (I am so happy to remember having read it in the Erlangen-Nurnberg train)
6. Cherrie Moraga, Loving in the War Years
8. Martha Lorena Rubi, Politically Writing Women in Hispanic Literature. The Feminist Tradition in Contemporary Latin American and U.S. Latina Writers
10. Maria-Cristina Ghiban (căs. Mocanu), The Female Subject in Chicano/a Literature, teză de doctorat, cond. științific Odette Blumenfeld, UAIC, Iași, iunie 2012
11. Alma Luz Villanueva, The Ultraviolet Sky
12. Jeremy Harmer, The Practice of English Language (re-read it)
13. Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
15. Jim Scrivener, Learning Teaching: The Essential Guide to English Language Teaching
16. Cecilia Ștefănescu, Intrarea Soarelui 
17. Armando B. Rendon, Chicano Manifesto. The History and aspirations of the second largest minority in America 
18. Cristian Tudor Popescu, Timp mort
19. Giannina Braschi, United States of Banana
20. Julia Kristeva, "Women's Time" (1981)
21. Norma Alarcon, "Traddutora, Traditora: A Paradigmatic Figure of Chicana Feminism"
22. Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (too much wishful thinking)
23. Sonia Saldivar-Hull, Feminism on the Border. Chicana Gender Politics and Literature
24. Maria Herrera-Sobek, Beyond Stereotypes. The Critical Analysis of Chicana Literature
25. Debra A. Castillo, Talking Back. Toward a Latin American Feminist Literature Criticism
26. Alma Luz Villanueva, Song of the Golden Scorpion

my greatest discovery for this year is Nora Iuga, whom i absolutely adore for her lively and strong writing. i am disappointed of Villanueva's Song of the Golden Scorpion, which is not necessarily a bad book, but i love Villanueva so much that my expectations are always high when it comes to her books. the worst book is of course  Intrarea Soarelui. the biggest loss for this year is of recent date: the 30th of December marks the sudden death of the Puerto Rican writer Judith Ortiz Cofer, whose writings will always mark my life.