My Name is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada

My Name is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada (originally published 1993) is a thought-provoking story about a shy Hispanic girl growing up in the USA who finds herself in a new school. When her teacher decides to call her “Mary” instead of Maria Isabel, she misses opportunities and gets in trouble for not paying attention. In this brief collection of situations, reflections, and flashbacks, Maria Isabel’s story reflects on how important names and families are to our own personal identity.Continue Reading

Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy

My first Thomas Hardy novel was simply fantastic. Emotionally poignant but also socially resonant, Tess of the D’Ubervilles provides an intriguing story about Victorian social and sexual hypocrisy through characters with clear flaws to recognize and appreciate. And yet, although it was clearly a commentary on the social structures and sexual morality in Victorian England, Hardy never once lectured or made his novel about those issues. At first and last glance, the book is a tender one about one poor woman and those who associate with her.

Note: this post contains spoilers for the entire novel.
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(Cybils 2012) Trains and Oh No! Books

Today’s mashup of Cybils nominees brings us a favorite topic of my son (trains) and some books with surprizes of disappointment. Both of the Oh No! books are unique in art style and memorable in their writing.

But first I have to bring you my son’s favorite topic: trains. The first of these books is a truly silly story that all will love, even if trains are not your favorite thing as they are for Raisin.Continue Reading

Quicksand by Nella Larsen

Quicksand, Nella Larsen’s debut novel (published 1928) was not nearly as satisfying to me as her second one, Passing (published 1929), which I found a complex but intriguing look at race and repressed sexuality for a light-skinned “coloured” woman in New York during the Harlem Renaissance (thoughts here). Despite my frustrations with Quicksand, it is still a rewarding read, especially in its historical context as a defining novel of the Harlem Renaissance.

In Quicksand, mixed-race Helga Crane, like other protagonists in the Harlem Renaissance novels I’ve read, struggles to find her place in a racist world. Continue Reading