Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

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In Etaf Rum’s debut novel, A Woman is No Man, we are introduced to three generations of Palestinian-American women who are all tied down to tradition and culture. Isra is the girl from Palestine who gets married off to an American and shuttled away to Brooklyn, New York. There, she battles her dreams of a better life in America, one where women are valued and not subservient to their husbands. But her new mother-in-law Fareeda is just as traditional as her own mother, pressuring her to have a son and disregarding the daughters that Isra eventually bears, including the first born, Deya. But perhaps it is Deya who will finally manage to find that balance between being Arab and American and breaks free from the tight constraints of a patriarchal mindset, through the use of books and the discovery of secrets long kept hidden…

This was an enthralling read that had me hooked from the very first chapter. Etaf Rum seamlessly invites us into a world we may or may not be familiar with. This world will horrify you and sadden you, but ultimately it will provide you with hope that a better world may be on its way. Jumping between timelines and characters, Woman is No Man depicts the voices of women who have been silenced for far too long. (Submitted by Alan)

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Sex and the City and Us by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

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Meanwhile across town, I finished reading Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s book “Sex and the City and Us” and I couldn’t help but wonder, was I a Miranda or a Charlotte? If you’re a fan of this HBO show from the late 90s – early 2000s, then this read will definitely appeal to you.  Subtitled “How Four Single Women Changed the Way We Think, Live, and Love,” this book is an examination of the cultural impact that the show had on the world as we know it: from feminism to being single to finding love in your friendships.

The book turned out to be a fun read! It wasn’t as academic as it is made out to sound. In fact, it’s more of a behind-the-scenes look at the show, how it started, how the people behind it used stories from their own lives to help shape the stories being told, etc. I thought I knew everything about the show, but this book taught me so much more. For instance, I didn’t know that Sarah Jessica Parker was reluctant to do the program since she was more of a movie actress and wasn’t interested in pursuing television. This was all before what is now considered the new golden age of television. In fact, Sex and the City may have been at the onset of that resurgence, having given HBO a major hit show that would bring the network to the forefront of the movement with other series such as The Sopranos and Game of Thrones.

At the end of the day, if you’re a fan of Sex and the City and if you’re wondering whether you should pick up this book or not, my answer to you would be: “Abso-frickin’-lutely.” (Submitted by Alan)

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The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

astonishing A beautiful exploration of mental illness, family, and culture. The Astonishing Color of After takes place immediately after Leigh’s mother has committed suicide. Leigh, who is already a teenager discovering her place in the world, struggles to come to terms with what happened – and how her mother’s depression has affected both Leigh and her father. Believing that her mother’s spirit is still present, Leigh travels to Taiwan to reconnect with her estranged maternal grandparents.

This is a beautiful, thoughtful look at mental illness and grief, as well as an exploration of Taiwanese culture (the author’s background as well.) It’s also a touching reflection on family. The chapters move back in forth in time – present day Taiwan, and in the past, with flashes of memory surrounding Leigh’s mother and parents.

The subject matter here could easily become either melodramatic or saccharine, but Emily X. R. Pan has managed to write an incredibly thoughtful and balanced book that explores heavy topics with grace and a deft hand. I loved the writing, and I loved spending time with Leigh in Taiwan as she rediscovers her mother’s roots. Quietly powerful and highly recommended. (Submitted by Veronica)

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