Tag Archives: travel

The Distant Land of My Father – Bo Caldwell

My favorite moment in Caldwell’s novel of political upheaval in China during the 1930s, and the corresponding personal upheaval in a small American family living there, comes late in the story. The heroine, Anna, is a young adult living in Pasadena, and has a job at the Huntington Library ( a real place for those of you who aren’t in Los Angeles). Anna’s job is to read letters and documents from local estates that have been left to the Huntington, and make notes of information relevant to Pasadena’s history. If I were to invent the most perfect job in the world it would be no different from Anna’s.

Caldwell clearly feels similarly, because The Distant Land of My Father reads like a story created from journals and correspondence. The narrator focuses in and out, from micro images of a mother’s hairclip or a Chinese wax seal that seem pulled from an attic inventory to factual historical events, straight from newspaper clippings or soldier’s letters.

As a lover of details, I found The Distant Land of My Father’s slow pace and quiet tone soothing, although I could imagine more active readers growing restless. Caldwell describes Chinese breakfast menus and South Pasadena gardens with the same tone as she depicts the horror of political prison camp and Japanese bombing. It’s slightly disconcerting. In the end, the story of personal forgiveness is less interesting than the details surrounding it, but this is worth a read for any fans of Pasadena or Shanghai. It’s really a story of cities.


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Filed under Fiction, recommended to me by someone, Review

Infidel – Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I’m concerned that I might not be smart enough to review this book. Whether you agree with Ali’s ideas regarding Islam and Dutch politics or not, she’s clearly an extremely intelligent and dedicated woman.

I on the other hand, am dedicated to few things that don’t have frosting and spend most of my time giggling about words that might be euphemisms for feces.

Still, I will drag myself away from camping aisle in Target (where they have a display of “Fire Logs”) and instead encourage you to read this book.

It’s thrilling. There’s pretty much non-stop action, so it won’t even occur to you that there are controversial opinions regarding cultural freedom and political correctness being presented. Ali is an astute observer of behavior. From the villages of Somalia to the Dutch Parliment, each character is carefully attended and expressed. You will find yourself with lots of interesting facts to bring up at parties, at least, you will if you go to the kind of party where people discuss the ethical ramifications of banning female circumcision. (for the record, I say ban that shit and never, ever google it).

This book was recommended to me by my Pa, who thinks Ali is brilliant and an excellent role model for politicians. In a family discussion, my Mom said that she felt Ali used the people around her, and was insensitive to them. If you read Infidel, you can let me know which of my parents you agree with.

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Filed under biography, non fiction, recommended to me by someone