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cultural

book review, recipe

The Island of Sea Women + Candied Sweet Potatoes

I recently joined a group of women in my town who were interested in starting a book club. With my other local book club disbanded (due to most of the members moving away), I was excited to have the opportunity to join another, and to be one of the founding members! The woman who brought us all together, Alissa, chose our first book, The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See.

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

My Meetup-based book club really enjoyed Lisa See’s previous novel The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane when we read it last year, so I was looking forward to this one as well! Unfortunately, most of us didn’t finish it in time for the discussion (including me), but I made sure to finish it up afterward. I thought the story was very intriguing. 

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book review, recipe

The Woman in the White Kimono + Miso Soup

Ana Johns’ debut novel The Woman in the White Kimono is historical fiction inspired by true stories. It spans decades and continents, taking place in post-WWII Japan and the modern-day United States. I was intrigued by the description and excited to participate in this blog tour.

The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns

In the late 1950s in Japan, Naoko has been promised to the son of her father’s business associate but she is in love with another—an American sailor. Though she attempts to get their approval of their relationship, Naoko knows it would bring shame on the family if she decided to marry him. Still, she can’t help but follow her heart. Will the consequences of her decision be something she can live with?

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book review, recipe

Everything Here Is Beautiful + Chinese Almond Cookies

Mira T. Lee’s debut novel, Everything Here Is Beautiful, is a tough book to discuss—though we attempted to do just that for my last book club meeting. It was suggested by one of our members last year, shortly after it was released, and when it finally got chosen as our monthly pick, I was looking forward to reading it. It’s a story about sisters, about immigrants, about mental illness. It’s a raw and powerful debut that I can’t recommend enough.

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

The novel follows two Chinese-American sisters, Miranda the oldest and Lucia the youngest, in the years after their mother dies from cancer. Lucia is adventurous and full of life, and when it’s determined that she has schizoaffective disorder, Miranda does everything in her power to keep Lucia grounded and get her the help she needs.

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book review, recipe

A Woman Is No Man + Stuffed Grape Leaves

When Etaf Rum’s A Woman Is No Man was shown as an option for the February Book of the Month, I didn’t hesitate to select it. The description of her debut novel ticked a lot of boxes for me. Rum takes us inside the lives of conservative Arab women living in America and leaves us gasping for air.

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

The novel is the story of three generations of Palestinian women — Deya, who is 18 and begrudgingly beginning to look for suitors; her mother, Isra, who desperately wants to find love, ultimately leaving her family in Palestine to marry a man living in Brooklyn; and Fareeda, Isra’s mother-in-law, who pressures Isra to bear sons and Deya to find a husband, even though both women want more for their lives than what is traditionally expected of them.

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book review, recipe

The Farm + Pancit

Joanne Ramos’ novel The Farm comes out on May 7, and I’m so excited that I was able to get an advance readers’ copy from NetGalley. Golden Oaks Farm, or the titular “Farm,” is a blissful paradise where women live during pregnancy to ensure they they deliver the healthiest baby in the safest environment. For nine months, the women are pampered with spa treatments, custom menus, and the best medical care. But these women are not allowed to leave the grounds, and they not even allows to keep the babies they carry.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

These women are “hosts,” chosen and paid for by super-wealthy patrons who can’t or won’t have their babies themselves. For the hosts — mostly immigrants, becoming a surrogate opens up a world of possibility, but it’s not always an easy choice. Jane, a Filipina host, makes the decision to be able to better support her family, a daughter of her own and an elderly cousin, Ate. But it also means she will be leaving her newborn behind so she can bring someone else’s into the world.

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book review, recipe

The Great Alone + Eskimo Ice Cream (Akutaq)

Many of you may know Kristin Hannah through her WWII historical fiction novel, The Nightingale, which was a huge hit when it was released a few years ago. It was the first of her novels that I’d read, despite her deep catalog. I found her storytelling to be powerful yet heart-wrenching, and though I loved it, I wasn’t exactly rushing to read another book that would wreck me. Yet, here I am.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

In 1974, Ernt Allbright is adrift. After returning home from Vietnam, where he was a POW, he has become increasingly volatile and can’t hold down a job. He decides to pack up his small family — his wife Cora, and their teenage daughter Leni — and explore the wild frontier; they will become homesteaders in Alaska. Leni finds herself in a one-room schoolhouse with only one other person her age, a boy named Matthew.

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book review, recipe

The Wangs vs. the World + Sichuan Boiled Fish

Jade Chang’s debut novel The Wangs vs. the World first came to my attention a couple of years ago when I won a signed copy in a giveaway from a fellow blogger. It’s been on my shelf ever since. This year, I’m trying to do a better job of reading my shelves — though I’m only doing an okay job due to the many new releases I just can’t stop requesting from the library — and so recently, while waiting for some holds to come in, I decided to give this one a try.

The Wangs vs the World by Jade Chang

The blurb promises hilarity, and I was looking forward to some laughs. And, in full disclosure, I thought it might contain some interesting food I could make for a post. It didn’t quite deliver on the laughs, but it certainly did make for an interesting food experience (but more on that later).

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book review, recipe

Where the Crawdads Sing + Shrimp and Pimiento-Cheese Grits

When Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing was selected for Reese Withersoon’s book club, it became an instant must-read. Equal parts coming-of-age story, mystery, legal drama and love story, I can see why! I came by it through my first HealthTea Book Crate, in which I received a signed copy, and I was excited that it was selected as one of my recent book club reads.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Kya Clark lives in Barkley Cove, North Carolina, and has watched her family leave her one-by-one, until — at the age of 10 — she is left quite alone. As she grows up, Kya chooses to stay close to home, preferring to get her supplies from a small store on the docks, where she can also fill up her boat with gas, rather than venturing into town. This fierce independence earns her the nickname Marsh Girl.

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book review, recipe

A Place for Us + Mango Lassi

Fatima Farheen Mirza’s novel A Place for Us put me at a loss for words (a tough position when I need to write a review…). It was beautifully written, the story woven together so expertly. It’s hard to believe this is a debut.

A Place for Us Novel

The story of an Indian-American Muslim family opens at the California wedding of Hadia, the eldest daughter. She and the rest of the family anxiously await the arrival of her younger brother Amar, who they haven’t spoken to in years. From there, we are pulled into the family ourselves, where the dynamics are complicated. The siblings struggle with their loyalty to their parents’ way of life and carving out their own place in society, while still seeking to please them. The parents try to raise their children wisely, but sometimes doing what they think is best leads to unexpected outcomes.

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