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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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”

Alone in a Hurricane

It’s how many of us feel right now. There is no relief, there are no clear answers, and we cannot see clearly through the lashing rain and flying debris of anger, hopelessness, and despair. In reviewing books that deal with the raw issues that brought our country to this point, and how parents and teachers can address them through literature, Beth Kephart, National Book Award Finalist, has honored us with a video interview about her new young adult novel, This is the Story of You.

thisisthestoryofyou(Click cover to buy indie)

Mira lives on Haven, a small town on a barrier island, with her mother and chronically ill brother. Winds begin to blow as a storm forms over the water, but the town assumes the storm will fall apart, or at least not be a major event. In an intense, short period of time the storm becomes deadly, and the town is torn apart. Mira will face the storm, and the revelations that come with life after devastating destruction alone, until she decides to let someone in, someone who will help her understand the winds of change that have been blowing through her own life. Continue reading “Alone in a Hurricane”

If you get to come home…

afterwardIt may not be what you expect. Ethan was kidnapped four years ago on a bike ride. But then his kidnapper wanted another child. This kidnapping goes wrong and Ethan and the little boy are found. Coming home is not the relief Ethan thought. Instead, it is rocky and full of unexpected challenges for both boys. The little boy has a sister, just Ethan’s age, named Caroline. Caroline is determined to help her brother (who has special needs and can’t communicate) by finding out what is triggering his heartbreaking outbursts. She knows Ethan from school and through music the two find each other, the truth about what really happened to her brother, and strength to keep on going. Afterward is a beautiful, gripping story of the trauma of real life and the power of human connection to heal. Jennifer Mathieu graciously answered some questions about this gripping novel for me: Continue reading “If you get to come home…”

Balancing on the Edge

eowyn-iveyEowyn Ivey’s new novel is a journey and adventure into the wilderness of Alaska and the depths of the human heart. When Sophie Forrester agrees to marry an army man in the 1800s she thinks she is going on his mapping expedition to Alaska with him. When she is told she will have to stay behind they are both devastated. Wife and husband will take separate journeys in an effort to explore the unknown while trying to find their way back to each other.

Sophie and Allen are introduced to us through their own journals and letters of descendants who want to make sure their story is preserved for history. The relationship between the relative and the museum curator, husband and wife, army captain and team, and Alaskan explorers and First Peoples are mixed together with historical excerpts from books, photographs, and artifact descriptions. This novel is a museum within two covers of a particular time and place, and the heartaches and struggles that transcend both. Continue reading “Balancing on the Edge”

But what if…

 

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Who should read this: fans of Choose Your Own Adventure, poets, nihilists, optimists, history nerds, musicians, and those searching for meaning in life

The story: A child dies shortly after birth, the same child lives to die in adulthood in a mass grave, the same woman, older, has to explain her life to survive, and so it goes on. Will she ever rest in peace? In a series of five books, the same character will die. Between each book is an intermezzo, a what-if, a turning of the die, chance intervenes, and the character lives on through European history spanning three wars, only one cold. With eloquence, the author creates five different lives, all lived by the same woman. Each voice is distinct, each life a new iteration of what was and what could be. The ultimate Choose Your Own Adventure for adults. Continue reading “But what if…”