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higa (Ku'u home o Honolulu)

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The Girl With The White Flag
The Girl With The White Flag
by Tomiko Higa
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars I read this book because she shares my last name ..., Jan. 29 2004
but is no relation. And found I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. There are many mentions in the customer reviews about it being middle school or young adolescent lit, so I was a little leery. And it is in a way, because the episodes in her life are just presented the way she remembered them. There is no tying it back to a larger political idea, no closure of narrative like one expect in an adult novel, and often "characters" in her story walk away never to be seen from or heard from again. So, in that way, if you are expecting an adult account with deep reflections, ramifications both political and social, and prescriptions and condemnations, then you need to read another book. But Higa's account was refreshing in that way that children are. She presents everything without guile or over-analysis. You feel the visceral experience with her as she climbs over the wasteland that her country becomes. She never sugar-coats anything because there is no need to when just presented factually. You feel her need, understand her young judgements, and are just charmed by her plucky character. In today's multicultural educational system, this book would be a good addition to any history of WWII.

Kara Walker: Pictures from Another Time
Kara Walker: Pictures from Another Time
by Kara Elizabeth Walker
Edition: Hardcover
12 used & new from CDN$ 138.48

4.0 out of 5 stars I'm not an Art critic or Artist, & I never buy art books..., Nov. 10 2003
I'm just a regular Joe who doesn't even know that much about art (I never even had an undergraduate class in art appreciation or art history). I first saw Kara Walker's art on a PBS special and was so moved by her work and her methods, I purchased this book. The images in this book are more graphic, more arresting, and more provoking than the ones shown on TV. I opened this book as soon as I received it from Amazon, yet, I had to keep looking away at times because some of the compositions are so heartbreaking. As a minority myself, I don't think I suffer too much from white guilt about racial and historical prejudice, yet just the intensity of emotion and presentation of her juxtapositions are painful and exhilirating. "Genius" is a word I approach with skepticism because of it's over use these days (c'mon can Eminem REALLY be a genius?) but very often as I turned the pages in this collection and was stopped by images that begged contemplation, the word genius occurred to me over and over again.

I took off one star for the essays, NOT for Kara Walker's art. I doubt it, but maybe I will get around to reading the essays. They intrude upon the presentation of the work, at times, which is slightly annoying. I guess they help you put the artist's work into historical, aesthetic context blah, blah, blah. I'm sure the more educated appreciate the inclusions of the essays, but I think her works speaks loads by itself. Which, ideally, is how art should affect us (us="the great unwashed masses without any special knowledge"), isn't it?

Where We Once Belonged
Where We Once Belonged
by Sia Figiel
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.78
29 used & new from CDN$ 0.61

4.0 out of 5 stars Different and rewarding, Oct. 18 2002
This review is from: Where We Once Belonged (Paperback)
All I knew about Samoa before reading Sia Figiel's novel, Where We Once Belonged was:
1) Margaret Mead made her career writing about Samoan women, and
2) Samoan men are highly recruited as linemen for college football teams.
Rectifying that ignorance of my fellow Asian/Pacific Islanders was my initial impetus for picking up the novel, but it was Figiel's stunning storytelling and humor which carried me through to the end. The rewards of Where We Once Belonged is not only a sophisticated product of the storyteller's art, but also the honest and touching portrayal of a time and culture few of us know.
From the opening sentence, "When I saw the insides of a woman's vagina for the first time I was not alone," Where We Once Belonged plunges the reader honestly and unapologetically into an adolescent girl's world of guilt, desire, cultural confusion, and budding sexuality. Carried forward in a series of linked reflections and scenes, the novel is "told" to the reader through a variety of sophisticated narrative techniques including the informal "talk story," the traditional Samoan storytelling form of su'ifefiloi and more elegiac poetic reflections on the landscape of Samoa. The playfulness of the narrative underscores Figiel's somewhat darker concerns about the difficulties faced by young women growing up in Samoa. The strong pull of the church and its mores is juxtaposed alongside the images of women offered by up Hollywood, specifically, Charlie's Angels, after whom our narrator, Alofa also known as Jill, and her friends, Lili/Kelly and Moa/Sabrina, pattern themselves after. Gender roles are discussed, explored, witnessed and even rebelled against with often violent consequences. Wives are disposed at the whim of their husband, unmarried young women are banished for their "impure" pregnancies, and even Alofa is the victim of beatings and abuse that are given as "lessons" by her partriarchal community.
And yet in the midst of these brutal events, Figiel manages to combine humor into her narrative, as in the story of Elisa, who "remained pure, until her first check-up at the hospital when a metal instrument injured her hymen...All these years and she was saving it for a piece of metal." The richness of Samoa comes alive through Figiel's liberal use of Samoan creole and her amazing ability to describe a scene not only through sight but smell as well. She describes the central marketplace through its activity and through the smells of the different tobaccos smoked by the different types of people, The pervasive juxtaposition of native Samoan and western culture plays out in the food section where fish wrapped in taro leaves competes with imported animals like lamb and turkey.
Where We Once Belonged satisfies on many different levels: It can be read as an adolescent girl's "coming of age" story, an intimate portrait of Samoa, or even a sociological examination of the lingering effects of colonization and pervasive cultural hegemony of Hollywood. But Figiel, the product of a rich storytelling culture, weaves each of these threads into a richly patterned tale, leading us to an unforgettable ending and leaving an indelible experience of Samoa in our memories.

Hicks, Tribes and Dirty Realists
Hicks, Tribes and Dirty Realists
by Robert Rebein
Edition: Hardcover
14 used & new from CDN$ 3.40

5.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile read for contemporary readers & writers, Nov. 14 2001
An impressive analysis on contemporary fiction. The breadth of material reviewed is comprehensive and each chapter offers an in-depth analysis of Rebein's particular sub-theme (i.e., "hick chic" or "tribes" etc...). In truth, a lot of these kind of lit-crit analyses can end of being hollow: novels and writers become roadkill on the highway of some critical theory dogma. Rebein actually appears to have enjoyed the work, and the respect for the work or the writer is apparent. Genuine good humor is suffused throughout the book, which is always good to see in literary analysis. The strengths of this study are definitely his discussions on the West, "New" West, and the Western writers given that label: Cormac McCarthy, Erdrich, Kingsolver etc... His chapter on Cormac McCarthy and his literary cultural mileu is the clearest and sharpest discussion I've read about the work. It's hard to discuss realism and regionalism in general without mentioning the Southern writers and that long history and I found his anaylsis and arguments of Dorothy Allison and her ilk helpful as well. Less compelling for me were the discussions on "Tribe" and minority-American writers he discusses, but the fact that he includes them in his work is a statement in itself. One area I was not well-read in and enjoyed immensely was the "White Prison Novel," which despite the subject matter sounded like something that would be fun to read. In short, I would have to say that anyone interested in contemporary american fiction or anyone writing contemporary American fiction can learn a lot from this well-considered, comprehensive, and well-written study.

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