With winter fast approaching, I think it’s a good time to review what I read over the autumn months. As the weather cooled down, I started to burrow into books again, particularly nonfiction/memoir. Here are the highlights.
Educated by Tara Westover
This memoir blew me away. I was astounded at the author’s spare upbringing with a fundamentalist Mormon father with idiosyncratic beliefs about education, government, modern medicine, and work. The book largely wrestles with the conflict between family obligation and self-actualization. Westover ends up reaching the apex in education with a PhD from Cambridge University but also suffers familial estrangement. I guess you win some, you lose some.
Autumn Light by Pico Iyer
This memoir reflects on the losses the author’s family has suffered in recent years. First, his father-in-law passes away and his mother-in-law has to be put in home because she suffers from dementia. Second, he wrestles with the fact that his mother lives alone in California. Third, Iyer deals with an estranged brother-in-law whom he has never met. He also shares his experiences with his local ping pong club in Nara.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
This series of interlocking stories follow four Chinese immigrant women from war-torn China to contemporary San Francisco. There, these women navigate cross-cultural waters, marriages, and often conflicted relationships with their American-born daughters. Although I hate to say it, Tan’s writing often comes across as “magical” and “exotic.” However, her storytelling and evocative imagery certainly captivate the reader.
The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin
This autobiographical memoir was shocking and often heartbreaking. Young Staceyann did not have an easy life and it is amazing she was able to make it so far in spite of her life challenges.
Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn
After reading Here Comes The Sun, I was eager to devour this Jamaican author’s sophomore novel. It follows the adventures of Patsy who leaves her daughter behind in Jamaica to start a new life and follow an old lover in Brooklyn.
What it Means When a Man Falls from The Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
I first read one of her stories on Granta and was happy to read the rest of them in this delightful collection. However, my favorite story remains “Who Will Greet You at Home.” So haunting!
Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo
This novel was not at all what I expected. The plot moves along swiftly and deals with corruption in political life and civil unrest in Nigeria. Recommended if you like plot-driven novels.
At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider
This memoir follows a family of five who literally travel around the world. When I first started reading it, I was genuinely shocked that the family also visited many places I landed during my own 3 month-long RTW trip with uni friends. The book made traveling with a young family enticing because of the hands-on education the kids received on the road.
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
I wanted to hear the author’s thoughts on writing in a non-native tongue, namely Italian. While reading, I was able to draw a lot of parallels between her struggles learning the language in the native country and my struggles trying to get my head around learning Japanese in Japan.
Trinidad Noir: The Classics ed. by Earl Lovelace and Robert Antoni
Because I enjoyed the first Trinidad Noir from Akashic Books, I decided to read this “classics” version. It includes a lot of reprints from canonical Caribbean authors like VS Naipaul, CLR James, Eric Roach, Derek Walcott, and Sam Selvon. However, because of this, many of the reprints fail to fall under the noir writing genre. The stories that did captivate the noir literary style included work by Sharon Millar, Elizabeth Hackshaw-Walcott, Elizabeth Nunez, Wayne Brown, and Shani Mootoo.