Tag Archives: culture

Student Review: Crescent, by Diana Abu-Jaber (reviewed by Sara W.)

CrescentCrescent by Diana Abu-Jaber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When a romance novel take a cultural twist, you end up with Diana Abu-Jaber’s Crescent. In my opinion, this novel was engaging and interesting enough, and included enough global perspective, that I would recommend others read it. However, this novel is not a stand out, and came off quite plain, although pleasant.

Crescent’s main plotline revolves around beautiful Sirine and her love interest Han, who originally was from Iraq .They meet in the restaurant where Sirine works as a chef in “Tehrangeles”, a center of Iranian culture in the middle of LA. Sirine is intrigued as much by his background as by his character, and eventually they grow together and discover each others’ pasts. In that process, Sirine also unravels one of Han’s most heartbreaking, innermost secrets about his life back in Iraq. As Sirine’s uncle says, “Immigrants are always a bit sad right from the start anyways”.

Food also helps to highlight the bridge between Arab and American culture in this book. When Sirine and her close family and friends celebrate Thanksgiving- a quintessentially American holiday- by adding in Lebanese and Iraqi dishes from old handwritten recipes.“The kitchen was overheated and fragrant with the scent of roasting turkey” and there were also “more exotic dishes of steamed whole pigeons and couscous or braised lamb’s brains in broth.“ The description of such decadent dishes will leave you drooling with the combined flavors of long ago Syria and modern Tehrangeles.

Additionally Sirine’s uncle tells a running commentary of a fantastical folktale of a mother in search of her child, Abdelrahman Salahadin. The addition of this tale provides variety in the book, as well as another introduction to parts of Arab culture. His story also reflects off that of Sirine, providing an interesting silhouette to her story.

Those who delight in the more popular teenage romance genre will find Crescent a refreshing change of perspective that adds slightly more depth to a fluffy romance. I recommend this book to those who read and enjoyed Bastard of Istanbul and The Joy Luck Club. ~Student: Sara W.

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Student Review: The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan (reviewed by Minh-An Q.)

The Joy Luck ClubThe Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Joy Luck Club explores the meaning of one’s identity and the way it can be shaped by one’s surroundings by narrating the stories of four mother-daughter pairs. These four Chinese-American families live in San Francisco, and are connected through the “Joy Luck Club,” a weekly gathering formed by the four moms after their immigration to the United States to celebrate their Chinese culture. The book is divided into sixteen interesting and heartwarming short stories, two for each of the mothers and their daughters, which recount stories of their lives, in each character’s point of view. Through these stories, the reader gains insight on the characters’ childhoods, and the turning points in their lives. The differing perspectives show the dynamic between the moms, who grew up in China and later immigrated to the United States, and their daughters, who were born in the United States. All of the mothers had wanted their children to grow up knowledgable about their Chinese heritage; however, the girls are influenced by the American culture around them, causing them to stray from their traditional Chinese culture. Due to their different experiences growing up, the mother-daughter relationships often suffer from misunderstandings, because of the cultural divide between them. Through their trials and personal discoveries, the girls and their mothers learn what the true meaning of being “Chinese-American” really is.

The style of this book made it fun to read because every story revealed a new side to each character, making the character seem realistic. The more I read about the characters, the more I could understand each person’s motives and point of view. Though I was disappointed that the book did not end up cohesively weaving together all the stories, The Joy Luck Club posed interesting questions for me to think about, because my mother grew up in Vietnam. Like many of the girls in the story, I think I know a lot about her culture and childhood; however, the book causes me to question how much I actually do understand, because I too have grown up in a completely different environment than she did. ~ Student: Minh-An Q.

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Student Review: Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America, (reviewed by Deyar D.)

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in AmericaFunny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Funny in Farsi, written by Firoozeh Dumas is a comedic coming of age memoir. In this book, she tells the reader about her life as an Iranian-American, and the hardships that her family and she had to go through in an amusing and funny way. The book talks about the clashing of two different cultures in an engaging way, which will keep the reader interested, and it’s a fun way of learning about the Persian culture. It has a very good sense of what family is like in the Persian culture and how important it is. Since I, myself am Persian I didn’t find anything new about the book ( maybe because I moved to the United States two years ago, and the memories are still fresh inside my mind), but some of my other Persian friends who had lived here their entire lives loved the book and found it hilarious. The book also talk about the mixture of French culture with Persian culture so this book is rich with cultural comparisons. I enjoyed reading the book, though at times, it made me frustrated because I thought it wasn’t very accurate and it was making too much fun of the persian culture (although I know that it didn’t mean any harm).

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Student Review: Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil, by Deborah Rodriguez (reviewed by Allie T.)

Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the VeilKabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil by Deborah Rodriguez

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This wonderful piece of nonfiction, gives the reader a view of Kabul in 2002, through the eyes of an American hair stylist. Deborah Rodriguez arrived in Kabul as part of a charitable aid mission. When she saw the state of dismay that Kabul was in after the Taliban came through, she knew she had to help. Although many people when trying to be charitable may donate money, Deborah donated her skills. She set a goal and accomplished it. Her goal was to create and operate a beauty school. Giving the society a beauty school actually ended up being more instrumental than donating pure cash because when taught a skill like beautification the students now have many options. Giving Afghan women practical training convertible into cash and personal power, was a radical idea in a country where women have a very low status comparatively to the men in the community. In fact, when Deborah was at her friends wedding in Kabul she had noticed that, “Afghan brides aren’t really supposed to look happy at these events.(15)” Objectively, men are encouraged to have the time of their lives on their wedding night. Is this fair? In this community it is considered a norm. However, in the United States this does not seem very ordinary, women in the United States stereotypically plan their wedding at a very young age. In the U.S. women are supposed to have fun and be exuberant on their wedding night, unlike in Kabul in 2002. ~ Student: Allie T.

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Student Review: The Quiet American, by Graham Greene (reviewed by Alan S.)

The Quiet AmericanThe Quiet American by Graham Greene

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book that is renowned for its controversy, The Quiet American, by Graham Greene makes you question American foreign policy and disapprove of the exceptionalism on which it centers. The book takes place during the French Indo-China war (1946-1954) that occurred in Vietnam. During this war, an experienced and cynical British news reporter called Fowler encounters a well educated American government worker named Alden Pyle who is the epitome of an American idealist. His strong belief in the necessity of democracy for the entire world leads the two men to constantly discuss cultural ignorance and foreign roles in conflicts. While Pyle tends to be soft spoken and subtle in his actions, he is willing to go to all lengths to ensure that communism does not prevail in northern Vietnam. Pyle assists an armed Vietnamese group that claims to support democracy which results in a mistaken bombing that brutally murders dozens of Vietnamese citizens. Although Pyle did not intend for the civilian deaths to occur, he managed to ensure that American workers and a Vietnamese woman that he has affection for are not present at the scene. The selfish act demonstrated America’s foreign policy as the unnecessary arming of unknown groups due to American exceptionalism hurt the civilians that lived there. Pyle’s actions, however, do not serve him well as various groups start to have their own plans for him. The novel is credited for predicting the Vietnam War, and I believe that it outlines every flaw in America’s perception of the world. If you enjoy critically analyzing America’s role in the world, then along with The Quiet American I recommend that you read The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brian to truly contemplate the meaning of war. ~ Student:  Alan S.

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