Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich does a wonderful job in this book of showing how the past affects the present and intertwining her Native American heritage. This book started quite slowly, but had a few exciting life and death passages. Since I was listening to it, the jumps in time and place were a bit more disconcerting that if I had the book in hand and could flip back to see where certain characters fit in. Again, I ended up borrowing the book from the library to fill in the gaps, and it now has been too long since I read it to write this up properly.
Part One occurs in the present in New England, where we meet the antique dealer telling the story. As a result of an accident, a man dies, and she is asked to sell the contents of his house. Here, she finds the painted drum, and in an atypical move, she keeps the drum herself, knowing she is somehow connected to it and has to return it to the people that created it.
Part Two starts in the present in the Native American community in the northern Midwest. Bernhard knows the story of the drum and tells it, as it is the story of his ancestors - a story of love and betrayal.
Part Three occurs in the present day, where a couple of children almost die of cold and hunger, and in the process burn down their house, but are saved by the mystical sound of the drum.
Then we return to New England, where there is a certain closure to the story.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

This was a book recommended by my friend Liene and I was happy I read it. Again, I learned about a part of the world, about recent history in my favorite way - wrapped up in a story. This time it is Afghanistan in the last 40 years or so. The main charachter is Amir, a boy growing up in Afghanistan with his father in well to do circumstances. His best friend is Hassan, his family's servant boy, a Hazara -- an ethnic group considered lower class. When at one point he doesn't defend Hassan, he feels so guilty, his whole life changes, something gets broken inside. I enjoyed getting a feel for life in Afghanistan before all the turmoil began.

Amir soon left Afghanistan with his father and ended up in the San Franciso area. I could relate to the immigrant story - coming over with just the clothes on their backs, working hard in menial jobs, maintaining a community of Afghans (the author kept pronouncing it Afrans). They soon learned to scour yard sales and then resell the items in a flea market. This was not only a source of income, but a social event among the Afghans. For a while I was thinking - I am not seeing women in this story and how Muslims treat their women, but then the author himself says, that the boy doesn't know about women, since he grew up in a male household. That turns out to be a good thing, becasue he doesn't have the ingrained traditions of treating women as second class, and treats his wife in America well. I liked learning about their customs, their dating and marriage customs.

I do have to say the book was quite predictable in it's plot twists, even doing some heavy handed foreshadowing, and a friend called it melodramatic, but I didn't mind. When Amir returns to Afghanistan while the Taliban is in charge, he runs into a very sadistic character. This helped me understand that the Taliban is not so much a religious movement as a power trip.

(Listened to early October. The library copy was lost, so I ended up buying the book to check spellings. It will make a good gift for someone.)