#AsianLitBingo wrap-up

Boy did this challenge fly by.

I loved pushing myself to read – and more importantly, review! – these books in a month!

Here’s what I read. All are #ownvoices

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkataraman 

 Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen  (South East Asian MC)

The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino (Retelling with Asian MC)

The Boy in the Earth by Fuminori Nakamura (Translated Work by an Asian Author)

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee  (SFF with Asian MC)

Malice by Keigo Higashino (East Asian MC)

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (Multiethnic Asian MC)

Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fatah (Asian Muslim MC)

Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam  (LGBTQIAP+ Asian MC)

 Goat Days by Benjamin (Poor or working class Asian MC)

Ms Marvel: Civil War II by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa (Artist), Adrian Alphona (Artist) (Asian Superhero MC)

Turning Japanese by MariNaomi (Graphic novel with Asian MC)

A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi (Central Asian MC)

The Best We Could Do – Thi Bui (Asian Refugee MC)

#AsianLitBingo – Bright Lines

It is not an easy thing, describing this book. A family saga? An immigrant story? A bildungsroman?

All of this and more?

However you’d like to group it under, there is no doubt that this was an ambitious book. A book filled with larger than life characters. A book full of energy and colour and spirit.

It is 2003 and Ella, home from college, sneaks into the Brooklyn house of her aunt Hashi and uncle Anwar.

Ella is the adopted daughter, technically the niece. Her parents died in Bangladesh when she was very young. She’s at a crossroads in life. As is her sister Charu (Anwar’s daughter), about to head to NYU. Charu thinks herself an entrepreneur/designer, making hijabs out of unusual cloth for sale. Ella has also had a bit of a crush on Charu for quite a while now.

Anwar owns an apothecary, selling homemade beauty products, and Hashi runs a beauty salon out of their home.

And add to this mix Charu’s friend Maya, the daughter of a strict religious cleric, who has run away from home and is staying with them. It just so happens that Maya’s father is the very man whose storefront Anwar rents.

It’s a summer of love and relationships of the ‘forbidden’ kind, ‘forbidden’ more because of the culture and religion that they grew up in. Ella has her own awakening about her sexual and personal identity that is both brave and beautiful.

A bright, effervescent book about self-discovery and belonging. The lush verdant settings of New York and Bangladesh, and the detailed lives of the characters allow the reader to know them well and definitely made me think about how their lives are like now that the book has ended. Always a sign of a  good read and an excellent writer.

 
I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – LGBTQIAP+ Asian MC. 

#AsianLitBingo: Goat Days by Benyamin 


Yes there are goats in this story.

But first, we meet Najeeb, and he and a friend are trying their very best to get arrested. Life in prison is far better to what he has suffered through recently.

What could be worse than prison?

It is the 1990s. Najeeb is from Kerala, a state in India. He’s intrigued by all the stories of those working in the Gulf and thinks it a quick easy way to make some fast cash and take care of his pregnant wife and their future child. But things do not go the way he expects.

He is put to work with goats. He tended to goats, milked them, fed them, herded them. The goats were treated better than he was. He didn’t have a cot to sleep on, or shelter. And this is the desert, which means ridiculously hot days and freezing cold nights. The precious water was meant for the goats so he wasn’t allowed any water to wash up with. He is only given khubus (a kind of bread) to eat for lunch and dinner, and some raw goat’s milk in the morning for breakfast. And barely enough water to drink.

We follow him through his days. His hard, painful, extremely dirty days where the only other human he sees is his Arab owner, a mean man who watches him through binoculars to make sure he doesn’t run off while herding goats – and won’t hesitate to shoot. When finally Najeeb meets other people, two Sundanese men who come to shear the sheep, although they don’t have a common language, he is just thrilled to see different faces, to smell a different smell. 

“The sense of dejection that descended one me as they departed! I had been enjoying the scent of two humans till then. Now, there were only the animals and me. Grief came, like rain.”

He didn’t expect to be a goat herder. He just wanted to make easy money – his relative got him a work visa. And when he landed in Saudi Arabia, not speaking a word of Arabic, not knowing any details except a name. Someone comes to claim him and they drive far off into the desert where he begins work. There is no choice for there is nothing but sand around. Where can he go? He doesn’t know where he is. He can’t speak the language. And somehow he survives three years, barely human, treated worse than an animal. He is a slave.

“My thoughts were not of my home country, home, Sainu, Ummah, my unborn son/daughter, my sorrows and anxieties or my fate, as one would imagine. All such thoughts has become alien to me as they were to the dead who had reached the other world. So soon – you might wonder. My answer is yes. No use being bound by such thoughts. They only delay the process of realization that we’ve lost out to circumstances and there is no going back. I realized this within a day. Anxiety and worry were futile. That world had become alien to me. Now only my sad new world existed for me.”

What a painful  read, brutal even. It’s hard to attract people to read such a book, I know. But I am glad I read it. It is a short read, at just 255 pages, and essentially while it is a rather simple story, it is well portrayed, it is moving and a very unique look at life in Saudi Arabia, far from the towering skyscrapers and modern amenities, far from another human face. It is terrifying to think that this is happening out there. 

“Every experience in life has a climax, whether it be happiness, sorrow, sickness or hunger. When we reach the end, there are only two paths left for us: either we learn to live with our lives or protest and struggle in a final attempt to escape. If we choose the second path, we are safe if we win; if not, we end up in a mental asylum or kill ourselves.” 

I am using Goat Days for Asian Lit Bingo – Poor or working class  Asian MC

TLC Book Tours: A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi

“What a burden it is to be born a woman.”


What Zeba is:

  • a loving mother
  • a loyal wife
  • in prison

Her husband Kamal has been found murdered, with a hatchet, in their courtyard.

And Zeba – covered with blood.

She is sent to Chil Mahtab, the women’s prison in Kabul, while the judge tries to figure out what to do with her.

Her brother has hired her a young lawyer, Yusuf, a recent returnee from the US where he has lived for many years and where he went to law school. He’s a little naive but his colleague soon sets him straight about how things work in Afghanistan:

“the justice system, if you can even call it that, is as twisted as a mullah’s turban. There are ways to work with what we have, but it takes creativity and patience.”

Unfortunately he has a difficult task ahead of him as Zeba herself refuses to help in her own defense. Her refusal makes him wonder, what is she hiding? Whose secrets are she keeping?

It was especially interesting (and painful) to learn about Zeba’s fellow inmates.

“Because of their various improprieties, many had been convicted of the broad crime of zina, sex outside of marriage. Some were convicted of attempted zina or imprisoned for assisting another woman to commit zina.”

Sadly, for many of them, prison is a safer place than their own homes. Isn’t that just heart-breaking?

This book was a difficult read, a difficult topic but one that hopefully raises more awareness about women’s rights around the world.

tlc logo

I received this book for review from its publisher as part of a TLC Book Tour. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the tour. 

Pick up this book: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
 
Connect with the author: WebsiteFacebook, and Twitter

 

I’m using this for “Central Asian MC” for #AsianLitBingo

#AsianLitBingo TBR list

A group of Asian book bloggers have come together to host this awesome challenge for May (Asian American Heritage Month).

All the details can be found here 

Eligible Books:

  • Fiction books should have an Asian main character (can be one of several main characters) and be by an Asian author to qualify. It does not have to be #ownvoices, but reading #ownvoices books is strongly encouraged!
  • Nonfiction books should be by an Asian author with a focus on Asian people, whether it’s a[n] [auto]biography, history book, essay collection, etc. A nonfiction book can count for prompts other than the nonfiction square provided that it that focuses on a person/group that corresponds to that prompt (e.g. an autobiography of a Asian trans woman could count for either the nonfiction category or the LGBTQIAP+ Asian MC category).
  • The free space is for any book with an Asian main character by an Asian author.

I have to admit that some of the topics are quite tricky! I know that there is no way I can read books to fill ALL the squares but I still want to write up a TBR list, to push myself to think about books that I don’t immediately reach for. I hope to complete at least one line somewhere!

East Asian MC – Hotel Iris by Yoko Ozawa 

Asian Refugee MC – The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui 

Asian Immigrant MC – Mãn by Kim Thuy

Asian MC with a Disability – A time to dance by Padma Venkatraman

Multiracial/Multiethnic Asian MC – The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

LGBTQIAP+ Asian MC – Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai

West Asian MC – House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi

Asian Muslim AC – Does my head look big in this? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Religious Asian MC – A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Poor or Working Class Asian MC – Lotus by Lijia Zhang

SFF with Asian MC – Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Historical Fiction with Asian MC – Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Retelling with Asian MC – Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino

Contemporary with Asian MC – The Love Wife by Gish Jen

Graphic Novel with Asian MC – Turning Japanese by MariNaomi (does it count? It’s a graphic memoir)

Queer Romance with Asian MC – If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

Romance w/ POC/Indigenous Love Interest – The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev

Central Asian MC ? (Because my library doesn’t seem to have any)

Translated Work by an Asian Author  – Malice by Keigo Higashino

Southeast Asian MC – Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen

Asian Superhero MC – Ms Marvel Vol 6 by G Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona  

Asian Transracial Adoptee MC – Lucky Girl by Mei-Ling Hopgood

Non-Fiction by an Asian Author – I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

South Asian MC – What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera