Family is Complicated

mothers tell your daughtersFor some the word mother is comfort. For some it is fear. For some it is heartbreak. For many of us it is all of those things at the same time and then some. In this searing collection of short stories, Bonnie Jo Campbell lets us into the lives of mothers, daughters, grandparents, sisters, husbands, kids and all the people who make up our modern families who are trying to survive as best they can. Taking an unflinching view at post-industrial America, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters is a collection of voices that will stay with you long after the story is over.

From the genius construction of the short story, “Playhouse”, a story about more than just the tiny house they are building within an house, a story of the things that pierce us, change us, and aren’t easily excised, to the title story “Mothers, Tell Your Daughters”, in which a mother with dementia is unable to tell her daughter the things that are still vivid and clear in her mind, but her body will not divulge, families come alive in startling clarity that will touch deep chords in those of us with families that are never simple, and with whom we are still connected, even when we leave.

Review by the New York Times

About Bonnie Jo Campbell

Other books and stories by Campbell

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Mother Love, Daughter Duty

 

under the udala tress“There is no way to tell the story of what happened with Amina without first telling the story of Mama’s sending me off…if the sending away had not occurred, then I might never have met Amina. If I had not met Amina, who knows, there might be no story at all to tell.”

So begins the coming of age story of Ijeoma, a young girl at the end of the civil war in Nigeria. Although the war has ended, a new war is beginning, a quiet war but equally devastating, a war of generations and beliefs, the growing up and away and back again between daughter and mother and daughter becoming mother.

Ijeoma is placed as household help with another child of war, Amina.  Amina is Hausa. Ijeoma is Igbo. The are both girls. And they fall desperately in love. Their relationship will send shockwaves out into both girl’s futures.

In lush prose, Chinelo Okparanta takes an unflinching look at the lack of freedom of LGBTQIA people in Nigeria, set on the small but powerful stage of two unbreakable relationships, Ijeoma and her mother and Ijeoma and her identity. A story of politics. A story of love. A story of womanhood. A story of family.

Winner of the Lambda Literary Award, Okparanta, takes us to the heart of a family and the heart of a nation. Okparanta has also published work in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House and many other publications.

Interview with Chinelo Okparanta, “Champion of Love”

Book Club Discussion Guide from Okparanta’s website.

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I’m Tired of Pretending

…that it wasn’t hard, that my heart didn’t break a million times, that my heart doesn’t break every time I heard a friend can have a baby with ease, that I should feel happy. I’m tired of the guilt of not being happy for them, of being sad, of not appreciating that I got to have one, as if that should be consolation. Infertility is grueling, not just during, but after, forever.

Belle Boggs tackles these feelings and more in her new collection of essays, The Art of Waiting. From essays called Baby Fever, Imaginary Children, to Just Adopt and wrapping up with Paying for It, a perfect essay title for families that pay more than just money when things don’t go as they planned, these essays are like looking in a mirror and at the same time knowing you are not alone. Belle Boggs is a voice to be heard, and in it, she speaks with the voice of many who have faced what she has in struggling with fertility with a blend of history and personal experience. If you have been through it you will devour it. If you haven’t, read it even more closely, because someone you love has and is.

About Belle Boggs

Interview with NPR

Belle Boggs article in The Atlantic

Follow her on twitter @belleboggs

It Looks Like This

itlookslikethisIt looks like desire. It looks like fear. It looks like life beginning. It looks like the end. It looks like love. It looks like heartbreak.

Mike has just moved to a new town. A new school. Freshman year. Mike meets someone. Mike falls in love. With a boy. Mike’s conservative parents can’t know. Mike’s world is about to turn upside down. In a tragedy worthy of Romeo and Juliet, young love and family strife are center stage.  A classic love story for our time. Whether you want the rush of young love, or the tears of that often come with it, this book is for you. Continue reading “It Looks Like This”

The Past Never Sleeps

Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty are partners in the Community Policing Section of the Canadian Police, theunquietdeada special division that handles cases that might affect minority communities. They are surprised when they are called to a beautiful lake-side home where a man appears to have simply fallen to his death.

As the case builds, Esa and Rachel realize there is nothing simple about this crime, or about the way we deal with the past. With flashbacks to Bosnia during genocide, this book is a deep look at revenge, forgiveness, community, and family.

Ausma Zehanat Khan has created complex characters and a gritty, multi-layered mystery that spans the globe and time. A wonderful debut, this the first in a series of three mysteries with Esa and Rachel. The third novel in this series will be available February 14, 2017.

Ausma graciously agreed to answer some questions for me here at Book Club Advisor.

You’ve mentioned this in other interviews, but do you mind briefly telling my readers about the inspiration for this book?

The Unquiet Dead arose out of research I had done for my dissertation on military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. I’d studied the Bosnian genocide for many years, and I felt the tragedy of it was slipping away without any of its lessons being learned. I wanted to tell a story that reflected the criminality of the genocide, and the unimaginable loss. There’s a line in The Unquiet Dead: “how quickly the violent ideals of ultra-nationalism led to hate, how quickly hate to blood.” I think that’s a lesson for us now. Continue reading “The Past Never Sleeps”

All-American Girl

muslimgirlAmani Al-Khatahtbeh was nine years old and living in New Jersey when her whole life changed. On September 11, 2001 terrorists attacked New York City. After that day, Amani’s life was filled with terror as well, wondering when the next attack on her religion would be, where she could walk without fear, and what might come next. Amani’s book is both a powerful autobiography of a woman who is changing the world, and a political and sociological text.

Amani is an all-American girl which should go without saying, and her book explores that idea as well as being a woman of color in America aside from religion. Proud of her heritage, instead of hiding when fear came calling, she created a vibrant online community to support other Muslim girls who might be scared or need support. Initially an online diary, it became the incredible professional website it is today.  http://muslimgirl.com/ Amani’s website is a American dream story even when surrounded by nightmare. She took the risk to start something small that became something huge and important.

Amani has been invited to speak at prestigious events and on television as the voice of Muslim-American girls and women. Her message is strong and passionate. This book should be required reading in understanding the power of casual and aggressive racism and the strength of those who resist and fight against it.

 

The Drug of Amnesia

the-angel-of-history“AIDS was a river with no bed that ran soundlessly and inexorably through my life, flooded everything, drowned all I knew, soaked my soul, but then a soaking, a drenching, was not dying, and I swam, floated when I could, and I though I had triumphed, only to discover years later that the river’s persistence, its restlessness, trickled into tiny rivulets that reach every remote corner of my being…” p. 182 Continue reading “The Drug of Amnesia”