Advertisements

Archive for the ‘determination’ Tag

The American Frontier   Leave a comment

 

Image result

Years ago I gave myself permission to stop reading books that couldn’t hold my interest. Nonetheless, I still struggle with the idea that once I start something I should finish it. As I slogged my way through Amy Bloom’s Away, I wondered when I’d set it down for good. I never did.

Bloom’s slow-paced story is about the determination of a mother’s love and the sacrifices she endures. It’s also a narrative about immigrants and fitting into not just new environments but adjusting to different customs and expectations.

Lillian Leyb is a seamstress living in New York City’s lower east end in 1924. As she becomes romantically entangled with her employer and his son, her past is slowly revealed. She left Russia where her husband and, presumably, her child were killed. Lillian becomes a kept woman until she learns from her cousin, a recent arrival from the homeland, that her daughter is still alive. Thus begins Lillian’s journey across the  United States including the expansive Alaskan frontier en route to Siberia to find her daughter.

Lillian experiences both the kindness and cruelty of strangers; she’s befriended and betrayed. Bloom incorporates humor and pathos in Lillian’s trek by explaining what’s in store for those Lillian encounters – from her east end companions to those in a Seattle brothel and later a women’s prison in Alaska. Through it all, Lillian remains determined to find her daughter.

Although Away was no page-turner for me, I’m glad I stuck with it. It just took time.

Away
Three Bookmarks
Random House, 2008
240 pages

Advertisements

Seeking Refuge   Leave a comment

I hate to admit it, but I’m not as shocked as I once was by the barrage of images in the media revealing the plight of refugees from war-torn countries. The accounts of horror, squalor and multitudes are now commonplace. Thankfully, Nadia Hashimi’s fictional When the Moon is Low has shaken me from complacency in a way the reality no longer does.

This beautifully written novel follows Fereiba from her birth in Kabul to motherhood as she flees from Afghanistan with three children in tow.

Much of the narrative is first person voice as Fereiba recounts her life which begins when her mother dies giving birth. Her father remarries, but Fereiba is a motherless daughter in a country with little regard for women. She’s initially denied the opportunity to attend school, but eventually pursues an education and ultimately becomes a teacher. An arranged marriage provides her with the love, support and friendship she never experiences growing up.

With the rise of the Taliban, Fereiba fears for her family’s lives. What follows is an arduous journey, the kindness of strangers and the heartbreaking separation that occurs when she is forced to choose between waiting for her missing adolescent son, Saleem, and seeking care for sickly infant Aziz.

Midway through, Fereiba’s voice gives way to Saleem’s perspective as he tries to find his family. The goal is England where Fereiba’s sister lives. Saleem’s experiences are harrowing, but his determination is heroic in his efforts to reunite with his mother, sister and brother.

When the Moon is Low
Four-and-a-half Bookmarks
William Morrow, 2015
382 pages

Hooked on Broadcast News   Leave a comment

soledadobrien

Broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien’s voice is honest, moving and completely engaging in her memoir, The Next Big Story. I’d expected nothing less than an accurate and fair narrative. It’s also a celebration of opportunities, not just for her as the daughter of a mixed-race marriage, but everyone willing to work hard for the prize. O’Brien acknowledges that for many the ability to make that reach is often riddled with obstacles.

Thanks to the values instilled by her family, O’Brien admits she wasn’t always aware of any impediments. Yes, she is bi-racial, and yes, she grew up in a predominantly white community, but she was never beaten down. This was largely due to her drive to keep up with family expectations.

Much of O’Brien’s story focuses on her journey to become a respected reporter. It wasn’t something she anticipated, but once she discovered journalism she was hooked. She shares her early days of trying, often unsuccessfully, to get meaningful stories on the air. Through hard work, strong friendships and tenacity, she worked her way to anchor weekend news programs locally then nationally. Along the way she married, had children, but continued her quest to share other people’s stories. CNN’s Black in America and Latino in America documentaries are hers, both award-winning works, although she never mentions the accolades.

Most riveting are O’Brien’s accounts of covering such catastrophic events as the tsunami in Indonesia, Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti. These are all familiar, but O’Brien’s insider retrospective evokes emotion and suspense.

The Next Big Story
Four Bookmarks
Celebra Books, 2010
321 pages