A little behind, but better late than never (please note that this is NOT what I tell my students when they try to turn in late work, haha)! February's reads:
The Wangs vs The World by Jade Chang
Charles Wang loses it all in the recession and decides that he will move his wife, teenage daughter, and college-aged son cross-country (road trip style in the car they have to take back from the housekeeper, since they've lost everything else) to his adult daughter's home. Along their way there are serious moments and plenty of light-hearted ones. Each character has a great deal of baggage and we see how relationships change, grow, and how the family must come to terms with their new future.
Verdict: I thought the first three-fourths of this book was darn near perfect in terms of pacing, the humor:serious ratio, and character development. The last quarter felt a little rushed and a tiny bit contrived, though. I think this will definitely make a lot of literary "beach" read lists this summer, since there is still a great deal of merit there, just a few rough edges.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
This collection of short stories deals with pretty much every major "female" roadblock you could think of- miscarriage, abuse, heartbreak, and professional challenges. Gay's feminist lens lends a different sort of tone to the stories, though, and while the reader will still hemorrhage sympathy for many of the characters there's still a spirit of fight that permeates throughout.
Verdict: This book was heartbreaking and just plain hard to get through. Nonetheless, I am still glad I read it and find Gay's messaging important to the movement and times.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Angela Vicario has gotten married, but she forgot something sort of crucial: to tell her finance that she has lost her virginity. Oops! Given the culture and times, he's pretty mad and returns her home on their wedding night. Angela's mom beats the crap out of her and her brothers demand the name of the man that stole her purity. They then proceed to murder the poor guy, a fact we learn within the first few pages of the novella. Touches of magical realism, a non-linear format, and rich Latin American cultural elements make this book true Marquez.
Verdict: This is the fourth time I've read this book (once in high school and now teaching it for the third time) and I still love it. If you haven't read his other books and have "always meant to," this is a great Marquez book to test the waters with.
The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri
This lengthy essay turned paperback talks about Lahiri's relationship with book covers. She muses about her experiences as a child wearing a uniform, the role of the cover, and her own books.
Verdict: This quick read was insightful and interesting. Lahiri turns something that some people may not think much about into a something digestible and thought-provoking. She also adds a great deal of depth to the subject that I personally hadn't anticipated or considered.