Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dreams from my Father, The Namesake, The Farming of Bones

I started to read these books during my trip to Rome ( I had a lot of down time at Heathrow) and really enjoyed them all.

It was interesting to read Barack Obama's DREAMS FROM MY FATHER since he wrote it way before running for any public office. His memoir deals with his quest to find out more about his Kenyan father and what it means to be a black man in America who was raised by his white mother and her family. That in 2007 some black folks are questioning his blackness is crazy. I will have to post on that BS later.

Jhumpa Lahiri's THE NAMESAKE is about Gogol Ganguil a first generation American of Indian parents. At first he wants nothing to do with their traditional ways, hates his name and feels like he doesn't fit in anywhere. Although Gogol is techically the protagonist, it is the story of his mom, Ashima, that moved me the most.

There was one passage in THE NAMESAKE that really jumped out at me. There is a female character who like Gogol is first generation American. "Immersing herself in a third language, a third culture, had been her refuge - she approached French, unlike things American or Indian, without guilt, or misgiving, or expectation of any kind. It was easier to turn her back on the two countries that could claim her in favor of one that had no claim whatsoever." Switch out the words French and Indian for Italian and West Indian and pershaps this passage eloquently describes the freedom I feel when I'm in Rome.

Edwidge Danticat's THE FARMING OF BONES. Devestating and yet I could not put the book down. In 1937 there are rumors that the dictator of the Domincian Republic wants to get rid of the Haitian laborers. He feels there are too many and this not good for the future of his country. Some are killed, other flee to the border back to Haiti. The novel focuses on Annabelle a young Haitian housekeeper, the wealthy family she works for and her boyfriend Sebastien, who works in the cane fields.

This novel is at times horrific, beautiful, sad, joyful, painful and hopeful. The writing is gorgeous. I love reading about history and I barely remember hearing about this shameful event. One thing that was so strange is how they tried to determine who was Dominician vs. who was Haitian since the two countries share an island and there had been quite a bit of intergration. Skin color was not the most reliable way, there were plenty of dark skinned Dominicans and light skinned Haitians. One method was, could the suspected Haitian "thrill" their Rs. Even the Haitians who spoke fluent Spanish, along with Creole and/or French had trouble with rolling the Rs. Needless to say those pages were hard to read.


Ms Adventures in Italy said...

I just saw the Namesake movie on Sunday...very good. I have lots of Indian 1st gener's who can relate and it was difficult at times - bring Kleenex if you go see it :)

Rose in Cali said...

I read the Namesake a couple of years ago and enjoyed it as well. (Did you read her first book of short stories "The Interpreter of Maladies"? It's excellent.) I can definitely relate to the beautiful passage you quoted about embracing the third culture. It's easier for me to plunge myself into Italian culture than it is to manage being a Filipina American. I'm not "enough" of either, apparently. It's nice to know I'm not alone. Keep up the great posts!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Ms. Adventures - I haven't seen the movie yet but it's on my list.

Rose- I have to get her first book. When I read that passage it was jolt to the stomach (in a good way). All of a sudden everything re: Italy made sense. I did not feel the same way about Paris, despite having a French passport, because St. Martin (where my family lives) was a former colony. Italy is like a clean slate.

Rose said...

I am amazed at how quickly you appear to read. I love reading, but am not a fast reader by any means. Magazines seem to get in the way of books during commutes.
From your postings I have been adding books to my ever growing list.

Personally I'm torn between the American and Mexican cultures. Like Rose in cali, I'm not "enough" of either. That gets tiring. But while in Italy, I started to miss things American and things Mexican although I enjoyed every second I was there.