Archive for the 'Immigration Stories' Category

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

This title is my favorite book for 2007 as it provides a glimpse into life in the Middle East, the rise of the Taliban and traditional Muslim culture.  I read A Thousand Splendid Suns on the heels of The Kite Runner and observe two tales that are crafted in a similar manner from different points of view.  This book focuses on friendships of women and relationships between mothers and daughters while The Kite Runner details lives of men and relationships between fathers and sons.  I notice a slight disconnect in how the author glosses over the emotions of the women in the story.  The author narrates for the reader rather than embodies his characters. 

Given current world events, A Thousand Splendid Suns brings cultural and philosophical differences to the forefront while graphically depicting the violence and upheaval in Afghanistan over the past thirty years.  I found the general acceptance of the oppression of women in the culture eye opening as seen through the character of Rasheed, a middle-aged man who follows strict Islamic customs keeping his two wives on very short leashes.  Laila and Mariam, the wives, are different in age and temperament; yet develop the strength necessary to defy repression on several fronts.

This story is not written with such deliberate detail as The Kite Runner; however I personally enjoyed the empowering story of the women in A Thousand Splendid Suns over the sad self-discovery story of men in The Kite Runner.

Read them both for a short trip to a fascinating culture and a dangerous foreign land.

A Tendering In The Storm, reviewed by Kay Pierson

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Walter and I both read about a book per week – so we have many “favorites”.  I just finished reading an excellent book by JANE KIRKPATRICK.  It is entitled “A Tendering In The Storm”.  It is about a charasmatic religious leader and his attempt to move his followers from Bethel Missouri out to Washington State and Oregon (before they actually were states).  Ms. Kirkpatrick had done a lot of research with many families in order to write the book.  I think she did an excellent job.  The immigrants were from German descent and the book tells a lot about their beliefs, their crafts and their love of music.  It is a romance, an adventure story and a piece of history that I had not know about.  One of the best features is the list of characters and how they are interrelated.  It was placed at the beginning of the book and was a big help.

Evergreen by Belva Plain

Monday, March 12th, 2007

 Reviewed by Rosalie Paul

Anna, a young Jewish girl of sixteen, leaves Poland to find a better life in America.  She lives with her cousin Ruth in New York City and works in a sweat factory sewing.  The apartment is cramped and has no place to bathe in private; so she takes a job as a maid only to have her own room and a tub. 

First she learns English at night school.  She soon falls for Paul Werner, her employer’s son on to find out he’s engaged (pre-arranged by both sets of parents).  She quits that job and marries Joseph Friedman.  In 1914 she has a baby boy named Maurice, Maury for short.  Three years later her husband asks her to go to her old employer to ask for a loan of $2,000.00 to start him off in the real estate business.  Against her better judgment, she goes to see the Werners.  No one is home except Paul.  He gladly giver her the money, then lures her upstairs for a roll in the hay.  Nine months later her daughter Iris is born.

Anna’s husband uses the money well, and becomes a huge success.  He moves his family to the affluent West Side and no luxury is spared.  He does not know Anna’s secret.  Many of their friends lost everything in the crash of ‘29, but Joseph managed to hold his own.  Maury marries a gentile (big no-no in the book).  They have one son, and then they are both killed in an auto accident.  The baby is raised by the mother’s parents.  When they both die, the boy is then twelve and goes to live with the Friedmans, his “other? grand parents.  Iris marries well and has lots of kids.  Anna keeps her secret forever.  Iris never finds out who her real father was.   

Across a Hundred Mountains by Reyna Grande

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Reviewed by Carolyn Wood

Ms. Grande’s first novel paints a mesmerizing account of the difficult trek for illegal immigrants moving from Mexico across the border into the United States.  She depicts the poverty prevalent in rural Mexico and the desperate motivation of a young girl in search of a better life for her and her family.

Juana Garcia leaves her small home town in Mexico to search for her father, who left his home and family in hopes of providing a better future for them by working across the border in the United States, el toro lado.  It is interesting to note the trials the family members left behind must endure. 

Reyna Grande raises the reader’s understanding of the immigration experience on a personal level through the eyes of the story’s heroine, her family members and the town dwellers.  The author’s style of delivery is unique as the lives of two young women mesh in a surprising resolution to the work.

I urge those intrigued by the topic of immigration to visit Reyna Grande on the web .  The author supplies a great reader’s guide to her work on the Book Club link.   You can even check out Reyna’s latest work and read an excerpt.  I’d recommend keeping an eye on this rising star. 

BTW – Reyna also has a blog you can visit here!

The Irish Bride by Alexis Harrington

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

Reviewed by Joan Badie

This novel combines very descriptive scenes and situations portraying the life situations of the Irish and the Irish immigrants to the United States about the turn of the century (say 1855-1920).  The stunningly beautiful Irish lass, Farrell Kirwan, is intent on marrying a staid, quiet neighbor, and by risking her life in refusing the master of the home where she works as a maid, winds up marrying his brother, dashing, rough and running away from being called a murderer of Kirwan’s brother.  The brother was killed by accident when he was eviciting honest, poor Irish folk from their homes on the master’s land.
Farrell Kirwan and Aiden O’Rourke flee for their lives and after seeing their pursuers, hop a boat to New Orleans to reach America, their dream.

Dire conditions on shipboard are well depicted.  The utter poverty is brought out by the description of the poor passengers using even jar lids for utensils for food doled out by the crew. (They had to bring their own utensils and anything else they required for the trip and their new life in America.)  The smelly quarters and poor food bring  home just how much our forefathers suffered getting to this world.

Slaves, their situation, their chains and their hopeless lives were also described.  The main male character, Aiden O’Rourke, talks with other immigrants in New Orleans upon docking, and learns just how poor and hopeless the Irish immigrants live in the big cities like New York.

After much coaxing, Farrell agrees to go with Aiden on the Oregon Trail to search for land to farm and settle upon as homesteaders.  The Oregon Trail proves another nightmare of pain, danger and inconvenience.  Finally they enter beautiful green land that is just waiting to be farmed.  Aiden winds up buying a sawmill instead, and the story continues then to revolve about the personalities, work ethic and loneliness of the new venture. 

The author very delicately and sweetly describes the love between these two.  She weaves a gory and horrific description of Farrell’s miscarriage and the emotional aftermath, while intertwining the malicious and devious plans of the former master and his new cohorts to kill Aiden and kidnap Farrell.  The house and mill are set on fire, a confrontation, and climax goes fast.

The last chapter changes abrubtly to the couple in late years, visiting their homeland, parents of four girls and three boys, disillusioned to find Ireland not the same as they had hoped.  Yet, their love transcends all.  They are grateful to have overcome all obstacles to attain their true dream, a farm and prosperity, love and family, in America.

Navahos Have Five Fingers by T.D. Allen

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

Reviewed by Kay and Walt Pierson

This autobiographical work was written by a wife and husband missionary team that served on a reservation in New Mexico in the fifties. They were called in to substitute for a nurse who was going on vacation. They were the only non-Indians on the reservation and were responsible for medical emergencies as well as other duties. It is surprising to read that the Indians spoke no English except for those returning veterans from WW II. It was interesting to read how ruled by superstitions were the Indian’s lives. The descriptions of the reservation and the living conditions are a revelation. Raising sheep seemed to be the only livelihood and had its own set of problems. There are more than a few amusing episodes in the book. Since reading the book we have learned that the nurse referred to is now 93 years old and living at Friends Village in Woodstown.

We hope to visit with her soon.