Friday, October 16, 2009
In Dragon House through the lives of interesting individuals I could see that life is never fully dark nor fully light. It is the shades of darkness and light which gives this novel a quality of reality. I had to remind myself over and over that these characters were not "real" people. "Dragon House" is a novel. Sahn, the policeman, Iris, the American who opened the center, Noah, the soldier who fought in Iraq , Loc, the indescribably wretched human being without a conscience who used children for his own desires are shaped and blended by a unique writing artist, John Shors.
In meeting each character we learn about their present as well as their past. I suppose it's true that I am shaped by my past. Still, I have the last word, the choice, on how I will allow that past to shape the rest of my life. This alone was pretty fascinating as I read and observed the daily lives of each character.
Dragon House is also filled with the beauty of a land once ravaged by war. I loved John Shors' descriptive passages of different places. "A curved red bridge led to an island. This bridge was called the Flood of Morning Sunlight." Nearby women delicately practiced tai chi. In "Dragon House" there are dragons weaving their way through the pages like I might read about them in a fairy tale. Only these dragons don't spit fire and scare me. One day Thien told Iris about the Vietnamese thoughts about dragons versus the way Americans see dragons. "In Vietnam, dragons are the greatest, the most noble of creatures. They have protected us for thousands of years."
There is no end to what I could write or say about "Dragon House" by John Shors. Well, I would love to hitch a ride on one of those scooters. I almost think Ho Chi Minh City name should become The Land of Scooters. In the end, I think of Mai. One day she admitted to feeling invisible all of her life. I am sure all street children experience this feeling. John Shors, through this book, and I'm sure through the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation more children will become happily visible through the tools of education and love. By the way I am looking forward to reading "The Wishing Trees" by John Shors.
"America Libre" by Raul Ramos Y Sanchez is a page turner. From the moment I picked it up, I didn't want to do anything but finish it. This is the story about Hispanics in America. Like all people the Hispanics yearn for the right to live ordinary lives like other citizens. To be treated differently erases all their human dignity.
If people lose their self respect because of the insanity of other people, there has to come a breaking point. In the novel this is the time when the more able Hispanics choose to fight rather than to continue to lead such horrific lives. Mano and Rosa are one such couple. They have three children: Julio, Pedro and their little girl. Sadly, Mano can't find work during hard economic times. This unfortunate incident leads to the unraveling of the family's lives.
I was totally unable to remove myself from caring about this one family's turmoil. Their catastrophes seemed to reach out like the tentacles of an octapus touching the whole Hispanic community until danger had reached every corner of the barrios of California.
Each chapter is listed as days and months. Each chapter begins with a quotation about repression, revolution, etc. It is as if Raul Ramos Y Sanchez thought of the need for centering while reading the pages of his book. After all inside the book the whole world is wildly out of control. The author forced me to look at the world through the eyes of a Hispanic.Somehow, this intimacy or empathy is not gained by just looking at nightly news or a two hour documentary. Reading the book forced me to sit down and linger over the words of the United States government and the words of the Hispanic. I could hear in my ears and read over and over again the stereotypes faced by this community.
Yes, the age old term "stereotypes" plays a role in this book. I questioned myself. How much of what I believe is truly true rather than what I expect to see or hear because of gleanings from the media or friends? The book made me search my heart. After finishing the book, I can make a statement. I see more clearly now.
Thank goodness Raul Ramos Y Sanchez won The International Latino Book Award for Best Novel. He and the words from his pen will help America truly live by and believe in the words on The Statue of Liberty.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
It is impossible to read this book without feeling transported to another world. Eva Etzioni-Halevy has written a wondrous novel. I am left trying to hum The Song of Deborah in order to remember the journey I have taken in the past few days. I look forward to reading more books by this talented author, Eva Etzioni-Halevy. This is truly a magnificent novel.