Monthly Archives: February 2014

Book Review: Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family by Najla Said

Looking for Palestine Title: Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family
Author: Najla Said
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
ISBN: 9781594487088
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

It must not be easy being torn between cultures. To also live through them and find an identity of your own cannot be easy. Najla Said, the daughter of a prominent Palestinian Father and a Lebanese mother did not have it easy. I somehow love stories about conflicts when it comes to identity and culture. I like the revelation and how did it all end for the person narrating his or her life.

“Looking for Palestine” is Najla’s account of her life – growing up in Manhattan, living with strong parents – not to forget Edward Said and his opinions on she should be brought up. She then decided to see her identity for herself and what she stood for besides being a Jew and living in times which are volatile and ever-changing.

The book is about Najla’s experiences – growing up in her father’s shadow and for the longest time trying to find her own voice. She did not want to be just another Jew. She took marked steps to separate herself from her heritage and in the end she ended up finding herself in her culture and roots.

Najla Said’s writing is marvellous. It is full of irony, heartfelt moments and about how life is conflicting at almost every single step. The book is about her personal struggles and bittersweet to a very large extent, which I love in a memoir. It cannot all be sugary. Nor it can be all bitter and dark. There has to be a balance in it, which Najla provides very well.

There is a lot of complexity to the book. In fact, at most points, I had to go and read up on Palestinian history to make sense of what Najla had to say. But all said and done, it is a great memoir – of discovery, loss and finding oneself all over again.

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Books Given To Me : Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

This is a new series. This is as simple as it gets. About books given to me by people who are close, were close and those who have the potential to be close. There is something about gifting and receiving books as gifts. They are forever etched in your memory basket and will not go anywhere for a very long time. It is almost like they are there, in your face, whether you like it or not.

Books last. The people may not sometimes – in your life or otherwise and that is why the books gifted to me will remain so special, even if the givers aren’t so special anymore.

Gulliver's Travels

I start this series with the first book gifted to me, whose memory is sharp and vivid and just there. I must have been about eight, I think. I was gifted “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift by my Phupha, who loved reading. I did not really know what to do with this book at eight. I was just beginning to get to classics and perhaps this was not the right one for me at that time. But the book stayed with me and of course still does. My Phupha was most instrumental in my reading, besides my Mum and Dad. We would talk about books and reading, though for most time, I was only scared by him.

I read the book when I was thirteen and that too because we had a story about his travels in school. That is when I truly understood the book – with all the satire and the plot. It is not one of my most cherished classics, but I will always remember him and his kindness in encouraging a lost boy, who did not understand sports to read. To help discover himself a little. Thank you Phuphaji. Hope you are in a great place.

Book Review : Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer by Cyrus Mistry

Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer by  Cyrus Mistry Title: Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer
Author: Cyrus Mistry
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 9788192328058
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are so many books to read. It will always be the case I guess. And then there are some books which you never thought you would read and end up reading them and loving them with a passion. There are also some books which you discover a little late and then wonder why you didn’t discover them earlier. For me, “Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer” by Cyrus Mistry is one such book.

It is about the world that we ignore. It is about societies and communities we overlook because it suits us fine to do so. And this has been going on for ages and the book only covers a portion of that discrimination.

“Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer” is about a marginalized society in the Parsi Community – that of the corpse bearers, known as the Khandias, the untouchables of the community. The son of a Parsi priest, Phiroze Elchidana, falls in love with Sepideh, the daughter of an ageing khandia. He marries her and agrees to change to a khandia. That in short is the plot of the book, and yet there are so many layers to it.

For one, the book is set on the verge of Pre-Independence India and in Bombay, a city bustling with activity and a community so small and so ridden with their customs and traditions, like any other community. Mistry with his writing has brought to life the very core of life – its hypocrisy, and the double standards we live by.

The writing is slow and takes its time to reveal what lies underneath. The characters behave the way they are meant to – from Phiroze to his father to Sepideh; there is this edge and restraint, both in good measure to them. I also think that comes from Mistry knowing the Parsi community inside out, of course, so you would expect a story by him based on the caste structure practiced there, with all the finer details. More so, because the story is inspired from a true story, it rings and stays with the reader a lot more than it would have otherwise.

To me, “Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer” not only brings to light the marginalized structure of the society but also, somehow makes you think and connect with lives at a deeper level. It is a book which will make you seek more books written on such topics and that says a lot about the author and his writing.

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387 Short Stories : Day 74 to Day 78: Stories Read

Here is a quick update on the stories read for 5 days, and I have not been able to update you guys with them. My apologies and here goes:

Day 74: Breach of Promise by Damon Runyon. Taken from the Collection: More than Somewhat

Day 75: The Sun Between Their Feet by Doris Lessing. Taken from the Collection: The Sun Between their Feet: Collected African Stories: Volume 2

Day 76: The Tomb by H.P. Lovecraft

Day 77: Loose Ends by Bharti Mukherjee. Taken from the Collection: The Middleman and Other Stories

Day 78: Solitude by William Trevor. Taken from the Collection: A Bit on the Side

Waiting for another story tomorrow.

387 Short Stories: Day 73: Story 73: Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter

Pale Horse Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter Title: Pale Horse, Pale Rider
Author: Katherine Anne Porter
Taken from the Collection: Pale Horse, Pale Rider: The Short Stories

I first heard of Katherine Anne Porter through a dear friend from Delhi and I knew since then that I would love her works. It took me a lot of time to get around to reading her, but once I did, there was no turning back. Moreover, I think this project has connected me all over again to my favourite short-story writers. I am in love with the form once more and cannot get more of it.

“Pale Horse, Pale Rider” is a story of Miranda, a newspaper woman who falls in love with Adam, a soldier, during the epidemic of 1918. The story is about their lives and how it changes because of the epidemic.

Porter’s writing is about death, living and love and it will take your breath away. Do read it.

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