Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata

Cynthia Kadohata was born in 1956 in Chicago, side effects Illinois, and is of Japanese-American heritage. Her grandparents married in Japan and then emigrated here, and her mother was born in southern California. Although Ms. Kadohata was born in the North, she spent a good deal of her childhood in Southern states, during an interesting time, racially speaking. She received a B.A. from the University of Southern California, and has studied on a graduate level at a couple of venerable institutions. Many of her novels feature east Asian-American protagonists in coming-of-age stories. This volume, from 2004 and intended for middle-grade readers, is no exception, and it won the Newbery Award.

Katie Takeshima’s sister, Lynn, is her world. Lynn is four years older, and she protects her sister as much as she possibly can. When the family’s Asian grocery store goes under in the mid-1950s, the family moves to Georgia where Mr. Takeshima can get a job in a chicken processing plant. The world is very different down there; it’s a small town and there are only 31 Japanese people out of 4000 residents. Many people won’t talk to them, but Katie’s fine. She has a best friend already — Lynn. Even though the family struggles with finances and working so many hours a day in awful conditions, and even though the two grow up and Lynn makes other friends, the sisters remain close — until Lynn gets sick. Continue reading Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata

Returning My Sister’s Face and Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice, by Eugie Foster

Eugie Foster is a Chinese-American writer; she was born in the Midwest (Urbana, adiposity IL) but escaped down south (Atlanta) and refuses to return. (After this winter, I can see why.) She writes columns on how to write for YAs, a pursuit I applaud, and is one of the directors of Dragon*Con. She’s also the managing editor of a magazine called The Fix. Her fiction (short stories) has appeared in online magazines, print anthologies by various editors, podcasts, and now a collection from Norilana Books, published this year. The Wikipedia page has a good collection of her works available online legitimately, but of course I’m going to encourage you to buy the book.

This collection of twelve stories spans a little over two hundred pages, and includes retellings of folk tales from a handful of east Asian countries, primarily China, Japan, and Korea. The titles are:

“Daughter of Bótù”
“The Tiger Fortune Princess”
“A Thread of Silk”
“The Snow Woman’s Daughter”
“The Tanuki-Kettle”
“Honor is a Game Mortals Play”
“The Raven’s Brocade”
“Shim Chung the Lotus Queen”
“The Tears of My Mother, the Shell of My Father”
“Year of the Fox”
“The Archer of the Sun and the Lady of the Moon”
“Returning My Sister’s Face”

They were all originally published in various places, including Heroes in Training, an anthology published by DAW Books in 2007; So Fey: Queer Fairy Fiction, an anthology published by Haworth Press in 2007; many different magazines, and various websites. This, I believe, is her first full-length collection. Continue reading Returning My Sister’s Face and Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice, by Eugie Foster

Twilight Child, by Sally Warner

Sally Warner, help born in New York City but raised in Connecticut and Pasadena, dosage California, surgery is an artist as well as a writer. She writes and illustrates her own books for younger readers, as well as one for the middle-grades (8-12 years old) group. She has also, in addition to being a professional writer, taught art education and has exhibited her drawings (primarily charcoal) across the country. This novel seems to be one of her two historical-set novels; the other is set during Victorian England and, as far as I can tell, doesn’t involve any fantasy at all. Other titles include It’s Only Temporary, A Long Time Ago Today, and How to be a Real Person: in Just One Day.

Eleni is the daughter of a fisherman in Swedish-held Finland; the Swedes are conscripting the Finns into the army to make them fight their wars. However, Eleni’s father is implicated in a rebellion and disappears; she and her mother go to work for different Swedish families as servants. Eleni was born at twilight, and specifically the twilight of the winter solstice, so she can speak to various supernatural creatures like brownies and trolls. Will she ever see her father again? Will she ever be able to live with her mother again? And, last but not least, will she ever see her childhood best friend/sweetheart Matias again? Continue reading Twilight Child, by Sally Warner

Patriot’s Reward, by Stephen Clarkson

[Why, medical yes, we’re back! I’m feeling much better; thanks for asking. –Stephanie]

Peter Randall Publishing is a small, New-England-based publisher that specializes in local products and glossy picture books. However, they do produce fiction, apparently on occasion, and this novel is an example of that. Stephen Clarkson, apparently upon learning that his family had owned a few slaves back prior to the American Revolutionary War and that one of them had fought in said war, became very interested in the topic, did an amazing amount of research, and turned it into a historical novel. He’s a lawyer by training, having attended Yale Law School, and has lived and worked in the Portsmouth, NH area for a long time.

Will Clarkson, a slave captured in Africa and sold to a tanner in colonial America, was a strong, smart individual who wanted his freedom. So he went about doing everything he could think of to secure this lofty goal. He convinced his owner to teach him how to read and write; he excelled at the tasks in the tanyard; he became involved with the African-slave political scene; and finally, he asked his owner, Andrew Clarkson, if he could enlist in the militia to fight in the Revolutionary War. While there, he fights as a part of Benedict Arnold’s troops during the attempted siege of Quebec, and wins the respect of the man whose name is now synonymous with betrayal. However, through it all, he keeps his goal in sight: freedom, not just for the white Americans but for the black ones, too. Continue reading Patriot’s Reward, by Stephen Clarkson

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon

Today’s review, find unfortunately delayed by eminently foreseeable yet unavoidable conflicts (work), food is of a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Michael Chabon is a champion of genre writing; he has made uncomplimentary remarks about the state of modern ‘literature.’ His first novels were detective thrillers; other ones are alternate histories or fantasies, and The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a historical novel about comic books. Yes, comic books. If there’s any one genre looked down on more than science fiction, it’s comic books. Obviously not all comic books are of the same quality, but for those who deny that there is any literary value to the art form, go find Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics. No, really.

In any case, Kavalier & Clay is about two Jewish cousins, Josef (Joe) Kavalier and Sammy Klayman (Clay), who, through a mutual love of art, become some of the most respected and famous comic-book artists of the early boom in comics. The book starts in about 1939, when Joe has just escaped Prague to come live in America with his cousin and his aunt; it ends in 1954, just after the heyday of the superhero comics. When they start in the biz, Joe is nineteen and Sam seventeen; they become celebrities over a very short period of time, and in many ways, revolutionize the comic-book world. However, each has his own personal issues: Joe desperately wants to get his family out of Nazi Europe, and Sam is struggling with his sexual identity. Can they find happiness? Continue reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon