I was on a cruise ship library (yes, girl, they had a library on a cruise and I was ALL.FOR.IT) and wasn’t able to check out my target book: Moonglow by Michael Chabon. Instead, the only section was the book exchange section, so I checked out a book from there called Girl in Translation.
At first I was disappointed to not be able to check out Michael Chabon’s book, but I’m glad I got to read this book instead. It’s about a young woman named Kimberly who immigrates from Hong Kong with her mother to New York City, where they find work in a sweatshop. Kimberly has a hard time fitting in because she doesn’t speak English and the other kids tease her. Her teacher also treats her poorly because she doesn’t speak English. However, she befriends one girl in her class named Annette, and they continue to be best friends through thick and thin even when Annette, who is white and upper middle class, can’t fully understand Kimberly’s life, or why Kimberly has to work while the other kids get to go to academic programs and do other things over summer. Kimberly also meets a guy at the sweatshop named Matt, and later on as they grow older, he changes her life, and not exactly in a good way (no spoilers here, you’ll need to read the book to find out what I mean by this). The book is a fast read and not just because it is accessible in terms of language, but because Kwok’s writing is so on point and as the reader, even if I couldn’t directly relate with Kimberly and her mother’s situation, I felt for her throughout the novel. It also made me want to educate myself more about classism (the discrimination of someone based on their socioeconomic status) because Kimberly not only encounters racism, but also classism. She cannot afford nice things, and Annette is constantly asking her why she can’t come over to her house to hang out, and feels upset when Kimberly won’t tell her the truth. I take a lot for granted since I grew up with class privilege, but reading this novel made me want to think more carefully about what I say, since I have said things before that could be considered classist.
The Poet X: Another excellent novel. I took back Girl in Translation, and wanted to check out another book from the cruise library (also because I’m nerdy and was still so hyped about the fact that there was a library on the cruise. I brought three books with me, but feared somehow–totally irrational fear, come to think about it, since I didn’t even finish the books I brought with me on the trip–that I would finish them). I saw The Hate U Give, but I already read that book, then I found another book next to it, and it had a beautiful cover, so I decided to check it out. I understand it’s bad to judge books by their covers, but this cover was just so amazing I couldn’t pass it up. I didn’t know if I’d be able to finish it, since it’s a pretty long book, but I finished it in one evening. Not only was the writing spellbinding and raw, but also it was in the form of poetry, so the lines just flowed so well. The book is about this young Dominican woman named Xiomara, and she struggles in school with students teasing her about her body, and also feeling her mother instilling a sense of guilt in her. She is also conflicted about her faith in God. However, one of her teachers shows her a video of a young black woman reciting spoken word at a slam poetry event, and immediately Xiomara is hooked. So she writes poetry like it’s nobody’s business and joins the poetry club that this teacher sponsors (the one who showed her the slam poetry video), but she also has to keep it a secret from her mom because her mother wants her to focus on school and faith, and writing poetry in her spare time would go against that. It’s an incredible novel and I felt inspired to write more after reading how Xiomara uses writing as a medium for expressing all of the human emotions she feels every day: frustration, angst, depression, guilt, love, the list of emotions goes on, but when she writes about how free she feels writing poetry, I could relate. Writing for me has allowed me to express myself in ways that I normally wouldn’t, especially as someone who tends to be introverted even though I like talking to people, too.
Solo: I found this at the time that I found The Poet X. I saw that both books were in the format of poetry and I thought, “This is epic,” so I checked them both out. This is a really good book about a guy named Blade whose dad, Rutherford, is a famous musician fresh out of rehab who is trying to get his life back together but is failing in the process. His son feels embarrassed when his dad tries to come back into his life, and also the son, whose name is Blade, is having problems because his girlfriend cheated on him for some big-name rapper. He goes to Ghana because he wants to find his birth mother, and through his journey in Ghana he finds out stuff about himself and his relationship with his family roots that he never thought he would ever find out. He also develops a deeper bond with his dad because at first, he is embarrassed that his dad followed him to Ghana (even when his daughter-and Blade’s sister–Storm tried to talk him out of it), but he learns that his dad is more than just what the media portrays him as, and he learns to appreciate his time with his dad more. It’s a really heartfelt book and the music recommendations are pretty sweet.
Dog Man and Cat Kid: There was no way I was going to pass this book up. Honestly. I saw it was Captain Underpants‘ author Dav Pilkey and I knew I needed a knee-slapper. Like most, if not all, kids, I loved Captain Underpants as a child: Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space, Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants, you name it. So of course, it was no surprise that after watching dramas and reading dramas, I would want to check out a lighter read. If you haven’t read Captain Underpants, it’s about these two little boys named George and Harold who do goofy pranks to try and bug their teachers and principal, and also write a series of comics involving their principal, Mr. Krupp, who becomes Captain Underpants and gains superpowers when he drinks alien juice. This time, George and Harold sought inspiration from a book they read in school called East of Eden (honestly, I think they just skipped seven grades because I didn’t get to read East of Eden until senior year of high school. I would never have grasped the language or content of that book at George and Harold’s age. Also it had some pretty raunchy scenes in it as well as racism) and this book influenced their newest comic Dog-Man and Cat Kid. I won’t give away spoilers, but as a grown adult, I needed to read this book. Life as an adult can be pretty stressful sometimes, but reading this book taught me that it’s ok to laugh at potty humor sometimes even if it seems immature to do so at my age.