Friday, 16 October 2009

Book clubbing it

Thanks to all of you who came up with suggestions for the book club after last Meeting. Looking forward to hopefully seeing some of you on Nov 7th at 4. Some of you said you couldn't make it, or would attend based on the novels/areas of the world we were reading...but you gave suggestions. Thank you. Will probably need more in a couple months in particular.

Thought for the first meeting, it might make sense if we each started off for a couple minutes about how we reacted to the book (personal or about the style or story or whatever) - without anyone responding - so that we each have a chance to comment. Then, after we've all gone around, we continue by picking up whatever strands interest us. I've been in book groups before where that seemed to work well. Do people like this idea? They've also ended by voting books "hit" or "miss" or a scale of 1-10. Not my style, but something satisfying in the end about rating and classifying things I suppose and gives other people who couldn't attend an idea of what went on. We could do that if people feel inspired. Anything that's worked for you or that you'd like to try?

3 books to choose from for early December Book Club
So, 3 suggestions to consider at the next meeting for the December group have sort of a similarity: young female experience...all highly recommended books. I've not read any of them but they all look fantastic.

The book Persepolis is one I've heard many friends talk about. Something different: a graphic novel. No, not a comic book. One of the new, edgy genres of memoir emerging in the past 10 years lead by Art Spiegalman's re-telling of World War 2 Maus. So what is the book about?

Set in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, it follows the young Satrapi, the six-year-old daughter of two committed and well-to-do Marxists. As she grows up, she witness first-hand the effects that the revolution and the war with Iraq have on her home, family and school.

The main strength of Persepolis is its ability to make the political personal. Told through the eyes of a child (as reflected in Satrapi's simplistic yet expressive black-and-white artwork), the story shows how young Marjane learns about her family history and how it is entwined with the history of Iran, and watches her liberal parents cope with a fundamentalist regime that gets increasingly rigid as it gains more power. Outspoken and intelligent, Marjane chafes at Iran's increasingly conservative interpretation of Islamic law, especially as she grows into a bright and independent teenager. Throughout she remains a hugely likeable young woman.

Persepolis gives the reader a snapshot of daily life in a country struggling with an internal cultural revolution and a bloody war, but within an intensely personal context. It's a very human history, beautifully and sympathetically told.

Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow

Originally written when author Guene was 19, this book is about a Muslim girl growing up in multicultural Paris. Here is what a casual reader says: Guene's short novel is a great read; in Doria she has created an engaging character full of humour and imaginative asides spun from her exposure to television. There are plenty of subtle side-stories chronicling the perils of living in the poorest suburbs of Paris - stolen cars, drugs, children failing at school, social workers etc - but this is ultimately an uplifting tale of hope, of rising above one's origins and circumstances, through the beautifully rendered naivity of a 15 year old. Guene's tale also gives an insight into a largely foreign France, into a world peopled by immigrants from North Africa and showcases the culture clash in expectations between the two worlds brilliantly.

Nervous Conditions

Dangarembga's book is described by a reader in this way (and sort of sums up what I - at least - thought the point of the book group might be): "The novel gives the reader a chance to get under the skin of a Zimbabwean woman at the cusp of maturity, on the brink of making her way in the world - against the odds. Given that I'd never been to southern Africa or studied the socio-political history of the period (the 1960s and '70s), it came as a surprise to be so transported into another mindset and way of life.

Tambudzai's relationships with her family, especially her more Westernised cousin, were fascinating.

It's a very intriguing novel, which I'd recommend to anyone. As well as being a compelling read, it really gives you the chance to learn about - and experience vicariously - another time and place."

So, those are the suggestions. If you like any of them and would like to "vote" but won't be there Nov 7th, please put it in the comments.


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