Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Eep! and Ghetto-Living

Kirsten Miller (aka the author of the most awesome Kiki Strike commented yesterday, but left no way to get in touch... so Kirsten, if you're reading this, I'm an adult medium. I'm also going to see if I can email you via Bloomsbury.

I'm trying to catch up on reviews. I'm seriously about 85 books behind. One of my new year's resolutions last year was "Be a Better Blogger". I think I was but this next year, it's going to be "Review at least 5 books a week or stay current with reading". So y'all have that to look forward to. Marie's been complaining about my lack of reviews and therefore her lack of new books to look for.

So... here are two tales of ghetto life, one of which is awesome, and one of which is not so much.

I read Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrowby Faiza Guene based on this post at Lotus Reads. In this deceptively easy read, Doria is a French teenager of Moroccan descent living in Paradise Gardens-- a Parisian suburban ghetto. Sick of school, sick of the stream of social workers coming to the house, sick of her gossip-y neighbors, Doria's main outlook on life is "kif kif tomorrow" which she translates as "same old shit tomorrow". The chapters are short, the style is as if a 15-year-old girl were just talking at you and it works really well. If you don't want to , you won't notice the stark and dismal portrait of life for Arab immigrants to France. But this is still a great book, not only for the protrayal of Parisian ghetto life, but also because it's a remarkable story of Doria's coming-of-age and can be enjoyed on many levels. I highly recommend.

Tyrell, by Coe Booth, doesn't work nearly as well. This is also written in the voice of a teenager living in the projects of the Bronx. Except that his mom gets evicted and they (along with his younger brother) need to navigate the city's homeless system. Tyrell's dream is to get back into the projects. Booth grew up and lives in the Bronx and was a social worker there for a long time. I don't doubt the book's voice, or the authenticity of the story. What rankles me is the over reliance on stereotypes, the flatness of many of the characters, and a distrubingly misogynistic tone. There was not 1 decent woman in the whole book. Not 1!

Tomorrow, I leave for Christmas down Texas way. I'm already thinking about what books to bring. I plan on catching up on lots of reading. Lots of books!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Books I Missed the First Time Around

Man, am I ever behind in my blogging duties. I was going to put together my Best of 2006 list, but I haven't talked about half the books on the list yet. Ah well.

None of these will be on the list, but it's what I feel like talking about right now.

Anyway... so this summer I finally read Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry and The Agony of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Both are the first books in extremely popular series that I never read when I was the target audience, but wish I had. Interestingly enough, I liked Alice a lot more than Anastasia, but when I was a kid, it would have been the other way around.

Quick summaries:

Anastasia hates her name, her fourth grade teacher, liver, and pumpkin pie. She loves making lists, writing poetry, her wart, and her goldfish. When her parents announce she's going to have a little brother, she adds her parents and babies to the list of things she hates. Over the school year, both lists change as items are added and deleted in this funny and moving book.

Alice is about to start sixth grade at a new school in Silver Spring. ALl she really wants is to be on safety patrol, but they were all chosen the year before. Instead of being placed in Miss Cole's class (who will sometimes drive you home in her sports car) or Mr. Weber's class (who takes everyone on a camping trip in the spring), she has Mrs. Plotkin, who is boring and old. If she only had a mother, Alice would have help navigating her transition into being a teenager, but, left on her own, is she really just going backwards and not growing up at all?

I also read Starting with Alice, which is the first of 3 prequels to the Alice series.

Both Alice and Anastasia are accurate and touching portrayals of the 10-13 years, which are not fun. I think I liked Alice better now because Naylor picks up on a lot of the mishaps that I can now look back on and laugh about. Lowry picks up on those feelings that still hurt.

Also, remember that show on PBS that you got to watch in reading class where this woman would read a story or a chapter while the guy drew illustrations? Once, she read this story about a girl whose brother takes her jeans shopping and she walks in on a guy in blue underwear in the dressing rooms. I always wanted to know what the story is and wanted to read it. I remembered it the first time I ever fell into the Gap. I was very excited when I was reading The Agony of Alice and THERE IT WAS! And then I was very annoyed because she was buying Levis. At the Gap. The Gap only sells Gap brand!