Review: For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu

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Peter wrestles with gender expectations and his own gender identity.

Fu introduces the reader to a family ruled by a quasi tyrannical father heavy on Chinese cultural and traditional beliefs. Although the story focuses on each family member, Peter ultimately becomes the center of the narrative.

Peter, the only male son born of two Chinese immigrants – his life mapped out from the womb by his father. The burden of expectation serves as a yoke around Peter’s neck. Successful, a pillar of strength, marriage along with a family – merely scratching at the life sketched for Peter.

“I drew myself with a stiff halo of hair, swaddled babies around my feet. A satisfied smile from ear to ear. “I want to be a Mommy.”

However Peter hopes for a different life, a life he only shares with his sisters, a hidden secret kept from his parents.

Peter sneaks moments where he can be his authentic self – wearing an apron, cooking, cleaning, dressing up, applying make-up. Tasks performed alone, fearful of how the world will accept her.

“I felt a wave of panic. I never peed standing up. When I had to, I thought of my body as a machine, a robot that did my bidding. A combination of arms and legs and heart and lungs. It had nothing to do with me. My real body was somewhere else, waiting for me. It looked like my sisters’ bodies.”

The story gives hope but it really highlights the pain and isolation of living a life as a lie. How you have to hide your authentic self due to parental disapproval along with societal scorn. Fitting into an unfamiliar an awkward skin feeling as if you’re an unwelcome intruder, clearly knowing your trapped in a body representing the wrong sex.

Fu masters Peter and his brutal and beautiful story. Painful tinged with hope.

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•Paperback, 256 pages
•Published March 10th 2015 by Mariner Books (first published January 14th 2014)
•ISBN13: 9780544538528

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The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver (The Giver #1)

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”

Such an important message conveyed in this short book. A message stressing the importance of choices, life is nothing without feelings and the capacity to feel, life is experiencing pleasure and pain or it isn’t really life. Wonderful philosophical provocative read. Jonas demonstrates a maturity beyond his years, he is brave and opens his eyes to a ‘reality’ ceasing to exist until new found knowledge is discovered. Lowry succeeds in launching the reader from a utopian to a dystopian society swiftly. The ending leaves the reader lost in thought on its meaning, loads of interpretation to be decoded.


“For the first time, he heard something that he knew to be music. He heard people singing. Behind him, across vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left, he thought he heard music too. But perhaps, it was only an echo.” 

Published January 24th 2006 by Ember (first published 1993)
Pages 179
ISBN13: 9780385732550

Recommendation: 3/5

Walkabout by James Vance Marshall

Walkabout

Walkabout
is a story of diversity, three children’s experience of life through great diversity – culturally, environmentally, racially and rite of passage, death is also addressed.

The arid desolate, barren land of Australia’s Northern Territory is vividly described explaining the difficult surrounding Mary and Peter contended with, while bush boy was one with nature, again contrasts tying the story together.


“Sturt Plain, where the aircraft had crashed, is in the centre of the Northern Territory. It is roughly the size of England and Wales combined; but instead of some 45,000,000 inhabitants, it has roughly 4,500, and instead of some 200,000 roads, it has two, of which one is a fair-weather stock route. Most of the inhabitants are grouped around three or four small towns  Tennant Creek, Hooker Creek, and Daly Waters which means that the rest of the area is virtually uninhabited. The Plain is fourteen hundred miles from Adelaide and is not a good place to be lost in.”

Two separate worlds and three children vastly differing, teaching, learning from each other. Leaning on each other in the name of humanity and its greatest sacrifice.

A subtle story with a powerful message, sad and warming.

Published July 30th 1998 by Puffin (first published January 1st 1959)
Pages 128
ISBN13: 9780140312928

Recommendation: 3/5

Horseman, Pass By by Larry McMurtry

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Horseman, Pass By  
Larry McMurtry

 

Recommendation: 5/5


My Thoughts
Horseman, Pass By tells the story of Homer Bannon, an old-time cattleman who epitomizes the frontier values of honesty and decency, and Hud, his unscrupulous stepson. Caught in the middle is the narrator, Homer’s young grandson Lonnie, who is as much drawn to his grandfather’s strength of character as he is to Hud’s hedonism and materialism.

I was immediately swept away by McMurtry’s eloquent writing. His style is so mesmerizing, seductive and fluid. The reader is drawn into this story from the onset, devouring every page with a thirst for more. I felt the sweltering heat of Texas, the dirt gritty on my skin, yes, his writing is that detailed.

The characters represent the past, present and future, as well as a scapegoat for one despicable man’s anger and hate. I have never in my life loathed a character as much as I loathed Hud. Hud is devious, brutal, a rapist and a thief. He is the devil incarnate, the ugly blemish in this poignant story. Hud is determined, determined to take whatever he can take. Hud’s contrast character is Lonnie, all around great kid craving excitement. Caught between boyhood and one step away from manhood. Short on years but experiencing more than any 17 year old should. McMurtry’s characterization couldn’t be improved upon, he gives us his characters naked, raw, exposed completely to the reader.

Horseman, Pass By is more than a intricate coming of age story, it also tells of no challenge is too great, you just keep going. It is also about change – the times are evolving, move forward.

“All of them wanted more and seemed to end up with less; they wanted excitement and ended up stomped by a bull or smashed against a highway; or they wanted a girl to court, and anyway, whatever it was they wanted, that was what they ended up doing without.”

Horseman, Pass By is disturbing, alluring and unforgettable. McMurtry wrote this novella over 50 years ago, a prelude to his incredible writing talent and illustrious career. A timeless classic in every way, a must read.

Review: Schooling by Heather McGowan

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Schooling
Heather McGowan
June 19th 2001 by Doubleday
Pages 320
ISBN13: 9780385501385

Recommendation: 3/5

 

From Goodreads:
Schooling is a portrait of an adolescent girl, thirteen-year-old Catrine Evans, who following her mother’s death is uprooted from her home in America to an English boarding school. There she encounters classmates who sniff glue and engage in arson and instructors who make merciless fun of her accent. She also finds the sympathetic chemistry teacher Mr. Gilbert, who offers Catrine the friendship she so desperately wants–a friendship that gradually takes on sinister and obsessive overtones.

My Thoughts
I applaud Heather McGowan’s debut effort Schooling. Most impressed with McGowan’s use of stream of consciousness style which adds texture and depth to both narrative and characters.

Schooling is a sophisticated and involved coming of age story of 14 year old Catrine. Catrine is a young girl facing many issues at once. Banished to boarding school, ignored by her father. Young Catrine craves love and attention and gains the attention of her chemistry teacher Mr Gilbert. What begins as an innocent relationship soon turns in to much more with a somewhat shocking ending.

Catrine did not appeal to me at all in the beginning. However, I found myself lost in her thoughts, thanks to McGowan’s style. I began to understand her and she subsequently grew on me. Initially she comes across as opportunistic almost calculating, sneaky but really she’s a tortured soul, suffering from so much upheaval in her life and most of all a ‘secret’ gnawing away at her. She’s complex but what 14 year old isn’t. Her issues add to the storyline and her cat-and-mouse attraction to Mr Gilbert makes for interesting sexual tension. Catrine and Mr Gilbert have a very interesting dynamic which leaves the reader guessing at what will transpire next.

McGowan’s style might not appeal to all but it really does add to this narrative. Looking forward to reading more from this bold and innovative author. Surprising this was her first novel, very seasoned writing for a green author.