What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
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Updated 19 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

Minor Feelings is a thought-provoking, insightful, smart collection of essays that delve into Asian American history, identity and psychology. 

“By blending history and cultural criticism with stories from her own past, this book highlights the complexities of being Asian in America,” said a review published in goodreads.com.

Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. 

The book “traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and art-making, and to family and female friendship in a search to both uncover and speak the truth,” said the review.

Park Hong “wrote this book with courage and all her heart — exposing her feelings with honesty and wit. Her writing is incredible and this is a true masterpiece,” the review added. 

“She reckons with her identity as an Asian American while exploring larger themes of unity, art, friendship, mental health and much more. Her poeticism comes through in the beautiful writing.”


Saudi author takes an intimate look at facing death in lauded novel 

Saudi author takes an intimate look at facing death in lauded novel 
Updated 17 May 2021

Saudi author takes an intimate look at facing death in lauded novel 

Saudi author takes an intimate look at facing death in lauded novel 

CHICAGO: The youngest writer —and the first debut author — to be shortlisted in the history of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction is Saudi Arabia’s very own Aziz Mohammed for “The Critical Case of a Man Called K.” Hailing from AlKhobar, Mohammed’s novel follows a young man named K whose is hyper-aware of the monotony of his life. Everything, up until now, has been predictable, but when fatigue sends him to the hospital, K learns that he has leukemia. Translated into English by the award-winning Humphrey Davies, the story of K is a tale that takes an intimate look at a young man’s life when he is faced with illness and death.

K is introspective almost to the point of exhausting himself. He has a mother who has always taken care of him but equates reading books to being as harmful as smoking, a father who dies before he finishes high school and a sister and brother who do everything they are asked to do. K, on the other hand, fights the tedium while attempting to be a good son. Pulling references from his favorite authors, such as Kafka, Hemingway, and Tanizaki, he feels his life as an IT graduate, which was the chosen career path for financial reasons, is not what he wants to do, and he longs for something different.

Through K, Mohammed has created a character who is sensitive to how his presence affects everyone around him, as if he can see his sound waves rippling through people and altering them. He longs for inspiration to write a novel, but the environment does not concede to exploration or anything out of the ordinary.

Mohammed’s debut novel is a darkly humorous look into the life of a man who desires more in life when he is diagnosed with leukemia. The journey into illness is intimate and distressing, watching someone’s world turn upside down while at the same time offering an alternative to the mundane and predictable. There is rawness to life when faced with death, duty bound mothers, sons, and daughters, the tension and love between children and parents, and the fragility of the system when love and tradition don’t always move parallel to one another.

 


Guinness names Saudi girl Ritaj Al-Hazmi, 12, youngest book series author

Guinness names Saudi girl Ritaj Al-Hazmi, 12, youngest book series author
Updated 17 May 2021

Guinness names Saudi girl Ritaj Al-Hazmi, 12, youngest book series author

Guinness names Saudi girl Ritaj Al-Hazmi, 12, youngest book series author
  • Ritaj Al-Hazmi has already had three novels published and there are two more in the pipeline

MAKKAH: Ritaj Al-Hazmi, 12, has won the title of the “Youngest Writer of a Novel Series” in the world with the Guinness World Records after publishing two novels.

She published her third novel this year and is currently working on two others.

Al-Hazmi grew up reading fiction and fantasy and was inspired to be a published writer in 2016 after her father took her to a bookstore and wanted to see her books on the shelves along with big names.

She was motivated to write for her age group as she said that most of the books were targeted at those either older or younger than herself.

Ritaj Al-Hazmi

“From the day I set my eyes on reading, I’ve discovered what I wanted to be when I was a bit older. I wanted to connect myself to the world by reading, writing, sharing ideas, insights and opinions,” she said.

The young novelist wanted her first book to be fiction. “I knew that I wanted my book to have an idea to help the readers run toward their dreams without giving up. I always believed that my writing would help persuade them to do just that.”

After finishing the draft of her first book, she sent it to an editor who told her that it needed to be a lot more detailed than she had first thought. Giving up was not an option for her as she had already finished her first draft.

Her father insisted that she take some courses to learn about this genre and how to master it. After completing serval courses, she rewrote the whole draft.

“The courses were from Writing Mastery by Jessica Brody. I started to write what I learned about — from hooking the readers, to fiction structure, to great ingredients for fiction writing, to methods such as the Save the Cat method (STC),” she said.

HIGHLIGHTS

● After finishing the draft of her first book, she sent it to an editor who told her that it needed to be a lot more detailed than she had first thought. Giving up was not an option for her as she had already finished her first draft.

● Find a publishing house that was willing to publish Al-Hazmi’s book at her age was a challenge — until she signed a contract with a publishing house in January 2020.

Al-Hazmi completed her first book, “Treasure of the Lost Sea,” at the end of 2018, sent it to the editor and began writing her second novel, “Portal of the Hidden World.” Both her books were published in 2019.

“I was able to attend Riyadh International Book Fair and signed my first book there. At that time, I was interviewed by one of the well-known TV channels, MBC, and talked about my writing journey,” she said.

Find a publishing house that was willing to publish Al-Hazmi’s book at her age was a challenge — until she signed a contract with a publishing house in January 2020.

During the same year, she also planned her third book of the series. “Since I read some blogs on the future, I guessed it would be a good topic for my main characters to look through. Because most of the series talked about magic powers, I knew some change would be good considering the main characters would be trying something new.”

Al-Hazmi usually plans the title of the book before writing it, however, that changed several times thoughout the writing process until she finally decided to name it based on the theme “Beyond the Future World.”

While writing her third book of the series — as her parents looked for new courses for her— Al-Hazmi decided to hold her own workshop. She began working on the presentation slides, planning the content, points of discussion and, most importantly, how she could deliver the knowledge to those who were coming to learn.

“After I got ready and introduced the workshop, I was amazed to see all those children coming to learn. Throughout my workshop, I learned a lot of things,” she said. “One of the most important things to do after learning is teaching others what you know, remembering what you have learned, and why you decided to do so.”

“Beyond the Future World” has had a significant impact on Al-Hazmi, she said, noting that she had a “very memorable” journey with the book.

“My message for everyone — especially those my age — dream big, do it now, don’t wait till later. Ideas come and go, so do opportunities,” she said.


What We Are Reading Today: The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

What We Are Reading Today: The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel
Updated 17 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

What We Are Reading Today: The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel recounts her life through six decades of fitness fads. 

It’s a fun and engaging way to approach her life story, but even more, Bechdel explores how various exercise methods served as a way for her to explore her mind-body connection and her place in the universe.

Bechdel is an American cartoonist. Originally best known for the long-running comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For, in 2006 she became a best-selling and critically acclaimed author with her graphic memoir Fun Home.

Readers will see their athletic or semi-active pasts flash before their eyes through an ever-evolving panoply of running shoes, bicycles, skis, and sundry other gear.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength “is a far more sprawling project than Bechdel’s two previous and entirely virtuosic graphic memoirs: Fun Home, about her father, and Are You My Mother?, about her mother,” Elizabeth Weil said a review in The New York Times. 

“The format is larger, too, and the reader feels more space on the page to breathe, which can’t be a random choice.”


What We Are Reading Today: Freedom by Sebastian Junger

What We Are Reading Today: Freedom by Sebastian Junger
Updated 15 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Freedom by Sebastian Junger

What We Are Reading Today: Freedom by Sebastian Junger

In his past work, Sebastian Junger has focused on the experience of US troops, embedding with a platoon in Afghanistan and exploring post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans. 

His new book follows Junger and his companions — including a photographer and two Afghan War vets — as they walk along US East Coast railroads, relying on one another for survival and comfort. 

Moving between travelogue, history, nature writing, observation and philosophy, Freedom raises essential human questions in new frames. As Junger writes about the meanings of freedom and community, he occasionally swerves into boxing strategy, labor history and primatology.

“As we journey with Junger along the railways and riverways of Pennsylvania we delve into the idea and ideal of freedom and what it means to each of us,” said a review in goodreads.com.

“This little powerhouse of a book is at once a relaxing, meditative walk along the tracks while also providing a starting point for great, in depth conversations on what it means to be free.” Junger is also the author of non-fiction books such as War and The Perfect Storm.


What We Are Reading Today: How Iceland Changed the World by Egill Bjarnason

What We Are Reading Today: How Iceland Changed the World by Egill Bjarnason
Updated 15 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: How Iceland Changed the World by Egill Bjarnason

What We Are Reading Today: How Iceland Changed the World by Egill Bjarnason

How Iceland Changed the World takes readers on a tour of history, showing them how Iceland played a pivotal role in events as diverse as the French Revolution and the Moon Landing. 

It is an in-depth, informative, and fascinating chronicle of Iceland’s mostly unknown contributions to the world.

“Again and again, one humble nation has found itself at the frontline of historic events, shaping the world as we know it. How Iceland Changed the World paints a lively picture of just how it all happened,” said a review on goodreads.com. 

Author Egill Bjarnason is an Icelandic journalist, based in Reykjavík.

As a Fulbright Foreign Student grantee, he earned a master’s degree in social documentation at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he also worked as a teaching assistant in photography and statistics for two years.

Bjarnason “places Iceland at the center of everything, and his narrative not only entertains but enlightens, uncovering unexpected connections,” said Andri Magnason, author of On Time and Water, in a recent review.