Guest Post: Food for Thought – Immigrant Fiction
Today’s guest blogger is the talented Alison Klein, who combines a keen eye for literature with an equally discerning palate. Alison lives in Amsterdam and likes to read in the plane or on her roof terrace, or wherever else books happen to be. She prefers historical fiction, science fiction and mysteries. Her favorite food is ice cream and her dietary restriction is organ meats.
This summer I’ve read two excellent novels that I would like to recommend to the readers of this blog. One of them was recommended by a friend, and the other was written by a friend. In the first case, I had no idea what the book was about (well, given its title was Ghana Must Go I did suspect it might have something to do with Africa). This is actually my preferred way of reading a book: you just open it up, start reading, and see what happens. Of course you have to trust the person recommending the book somewhat. But in this way I’ve come to read several books I wouldn’t otherwise have read. Last year, for example, I read The Tender Bar, which was recommended to me by my mom (and by “recommended” I mean she left me her pre-read copy last time she came to visit). If you’d told me what the book was about, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. But it was a good read, and I ended up recommending it to another friend (and by “recommended” I mean depositing it on his dining room table when I visited just after finishing it in the train).
So I recommend you read both books, without reading the rest of this review. However, since I probably can’t get away with writing a book review and NOT saying anything about the books, I have included a few words below.
Ghana Must Go is the story of a Ghanaian-Nigerian family making its way in the upwardly-mobile world of Boston, its medical-academic establishment and associated schools — and their forays, some chosen, some coerced, back to the world they left behind. Primarily a family drama, written with prose that melts into near-poetry at times, it traces the paths of six lives as they intertwine, diverge and reconnect before and between two moments of crisis. Heartbreaking and hopeful, with just enough historical context to give the reader a sense of knowing something about those countries’ post-colonial histories. Can’t-put-it-down good with a satisfying finish.
A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is written by an Iranian immigrant to America, imagining what post-revolution life in Iran would have been like for a young girl imagining what immigrant life in America would be like. The main character wrestles with privilege and prejudice, religion (as a child of covert Christian converts who frequently host the local Muslim cleric in their home), sexuality and friendship, against the backdrop of the revolutionary guards and the loss of both her mother and her twin sister. As her adolescence blends into early adulthood, we see her coming to terms with her losses, her choices and finally her own freedom.
Recommended for anyone with any curiosity whatsoever about other people and their lives, or anyone who loves a great novel.
- Ghana Must Go – leftover slice of birthday cake
- A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea – black tea with cardamom, almonds, cucumber with salt, halva, dates
Halva photo and recipe thanks to http://www.aashpazi.com/halva
Thanks so much for this lovely guest post, Alison! What’s your favourite immigrant food or fiction?