Reading from a More Diverse Universe

by Kim on September 28, 2012 · 16 comments

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Today I’m scheduled to put up a post as part of the A More Diverse Universe blog tour, a project hosted by Aarti of BookLust to celebrate speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy, for example) written by people of color.

I originally intended to write a review about The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie, but after forcing my way through 200 pages this week I decided I wasn’t enjoying the book enough to continue. The Enchantress of Florence is a historical/magical story about a European man and his visit to the Mughal emperor Akbar’s court. It’s a bit of a tale of two cities, moving between Akbar’s city and Renaissance Florence, switching narrators and story lines frequently. I just couldn’t follow what was happening and ended up feeling frustrated by the narrative.

So instead of spending time reading and writing a book I wasn’t enjoying, I decided to abandon The Enchantress of Florence and look through the other posts for the tour and find some books I might enjoy better. After perusing this weeks posts, I’ve added these books to my TBR pile:

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie (Reading on a Rainy Day and Iris on Books)

haroun and the sea of storiesAths’ description of Haroun and the Sea of Stories just made it sound so delightful, I wish I’d picked this book instead. She writes:

Haroun and the Sea of Stories felt like a whiff of lively breeze. Reading this book made me remember the joy of reading magical books like Harry Potter and The Night Circus. While not as long or as atmospheric, Haroun and the Sea of Stories deserves its own place on that shelf of fascinating fantasy books. Although the fantasy in this book does have symbolic meanings and a few “moral of the stories”, one could read this book for pure pleasure and nothing more.

Iris’ review of the book also mentioned some of the political themes and the book’s defense of both storytelling and democracy, which I think sounds awesome:

If you look beyond this defense of storytelling, it isn’t that difficult to read Haroun and the Sea of Stories as a defense of democracy, and a condemning of totalitarianism in any form. The war between the Gup and the Chup is defined in this manner, with the Gup’s talking and long conclaves in which they set all their arguments out, functioning as a stand-in for a society in which everyone has a voice and a means of portraying his opinions; the Chup, on the other hand, in having to keep silent, give up their right of speech and thus their right of opinion, which in the end leaves them divided instead of united.

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi (Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity and Another Step to Take)

the icarus girlAlthough Trish only gave The Icarus Girl 3.5 out of 5 stars in her review, some of her descriptions of the book were enough to make me intrigued about this one. I’ve been looking for some darker books to read this fall, and this one might fit the bill:

But for me the real star of The Icarus Girl is the atmosphere that Oyeyemi sets for the reader. The mood of the novel is dark and dream-like with haunting imagery and a constant unsettling. Even at when I first started reading the book and was questioning whether this was truly a speculative fiction novel, I could feel the atmosphere settle upon me like a blanket.

Another review that intrigued me was Christy’s — I thought this paragraph about one of the challenges of the book sounded intriguing:

The story gives an interesting glimpse into the life of a multicultural child. Jess thinks the Nigerians put incredible effort into some of their foods, grinding and drying and frying and drying. Her relatives think her father is unskilled at peeling cassava. Discipline is a bit of an issue. At one point Jess’ father says he’s handling a discipline issue and her mother says, “You weren’t though! If that had been my father ‘handling that,’ she would’ve been flat on the floor with a few teeth missing!” The parents, like most parents I suspect, wonder whether they are spoiling her or being too lenient but with the added complication of different backgrounds. “And now, now you’re implying my father’s some kind of savage! It’s just… it’s just DISCIPLINE! Maybe you just don’t understand that! You’re turning this into some kind of… some kind of European versus African thing that’s all in my mind…”

More Octavia Butler

I almost decided to read an Octavia Butler book for this tour, but ended up switching a little bit at the last minute (a move I regretted while I was dragging myself through The Enchantress of Florence). There were a bunch of great Octavia Butler books on the tour:

Anyway, I’m sorry for not finishing a book to suggest for the tour, but I hope I’ve highlighted some other excellent options to try!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Jaclyn September 28, 2012 at 6:08 am

I actually really enjoyed THE ENCHANTRESS OF FLORENCE, but HAROUN AND THE SEA OF STORIES was even better. It’s a fast read but so beautifully written and thought-provoking. I’d definitely recommend it! I haven’t read any of the other books on your list, but Octavia Butler’s KINDRED is definitely a to-read (and soon!) for me.

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Kim October 3, 2012 at 7:56 pm

I think I just wasn’t in the mood for the book while I was trying to read it, and so lack of focus in the early chapters set me up to enjoy the rest of the book. I am going to look for HAROUN at my local library :)

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Trisha September 28, 2012 at 7:36 am

I added The Icarus Girl to my wish list after reading Trish’s post. And I have Butler on my must read author list. I actually think I have two of her books on the shelves somewhere. :)

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katiejonesoneword September 28, 2012 at 8:32 am

The Icarus Girl looks intriguing. My modern fiction class in college ended up being all African American authors which was unexpected but was challenging in a good way – immersing yourself in a culture that’s completely foreign. Octavia Butler’s Kindred was one of the books we read and I thought it was really good, though a lot of people have mixed/bad reviews of it.

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Kim October 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve read one of Butler’s books — Lilith’s Brood — which I liked, so I want to read more.

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Liviania September 28, 2012 at 11:14 am

I think this works very well as a substitute post! (Honestly, I’d like something like this from every participant. It would be very interesting reading.)

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Nikki Steele September 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I can have the same problem with Rushdie stories — they tend to slip away to the point that I have absolutely no idea what’s going on. Hope you enjoy Haroun’s stories! The Icarus Girl also looks very interesting.

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Kim October 3, 2012 at 7:58 pm

I’m glad I’m not the only one who lost track of a Rushdie book. I’d like to try again, but when I’m more in the mood for it :)

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Heather September 29, 2012 at 3:46 am

Oh dear. I have The Enchantress of Florence on my shelf. I have read Haroun, twice, and it’s one of my favorite books. Weird how the same author can write such different things, isn’t it? Haroun is absolutely lovely, a real love for storytelling in that book. I have Icarus Girl too, the same post made me want to find it on my shelves. This was such a great event! Oh, yes, and do check out Ms. Butler, she’s amazing!

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Kim October 3, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Yes, that is strange! I hope you like The Enchantress of Florence when you read it — I think I’d enjoy it, at a different time perhaps.

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nrlymrtl September 29, 2012 at 11:01 am

I listened to the audio version of Enchantress of Florence a few years ago and it was unlike anything else I had ever read. I wasn’t always sure what was going on, but the end left me very satisfied with the book. I really should read more Rushdie.

I read Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood trilogy, which was some of the best scifi I have ever read, hands down. I should also read more of her stuff.

Great post – you don’t have to like a book to appreciate it’s value.

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Kim October 3, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I may have to try it again sometime, we’ll see :) I got lost, but I found it frustrating. Oh well!

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Vasilly September 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm

I think you did a great job with this post! I’ve added Haroun and the Sea of Stories to my tbr list along with Hiromi Goto’s latest book.

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Athira October 2, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I hope you get to read Haroun and the Sea of Stories! It was really enjoyable and you can finish it in a day! Thanks for the shout-out. :) Great post, btw. I have to read Icarus Girl.

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Kim October 3, 2012 at 8:02 pm

I’m excited about that one too!

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Iris October 6, 2012 at 4:02 am

Thank you so much for the mention. I still need to find the time to go through all the reviews for this tour, but I am looking forward to reading all of the posts and all the books that will inevitably be added to my wishlist.

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