Sunday, 17 February 2013

These Girls

Title: These Girls
Author: Sarah Pekkanen

Cate, Renee, and Abby have come to New York for very different reasons, and in a bustling city of millions, they are linked together through circumstance and chance.
Cate has just been named the features editor of Gloss, a high-end lifestyle magazine. It’s a professional coup, but her new job comes with more complications than Cate ever anticipated.
Her roommate Renee will do anything to nab the plum job of beauty editor at Gloss. But snide comments about Renee’s weight send her into an emotional tailspin. Soon she is taking black market diet pills—despite the racing heartbeat and trembling hands that signal she’s heading for real danger.
Then there’s Abby, whom they take in as a third roommate. Once a joyful graduate student working as a nanny part time, she abruptly fled a seemingly happy life in the D.C. suburbs. No one knows what shattered Abby—or why she left everything she once loved behind.
Pekkanen’s most compelling, true-to-life novel yet tells the story of three very different women as they navigate the complications of careers and love—and find the lifeline they need in each other.

I have to admit I was ambivalent about this book at first. I found it on the for-sale rack at the local Giant Tiger-its kind of like a low-grade Canadian Walmart (we do actually have Walmart here). The characters pulled me in, but I became quickly disenchanted when I thought two of the girls were about to enter a love triangle. The story focuses on three girls-Cate, Renee and Abby. Cate and Renee work for the same fashion magazine. They are both plagued with self-doubt. Renee is by far the most charming of the three. What woman can't relate with weight gain and a general feeling of inadequacy. She is by no-means large, but the world she works in makes her feel as though being a size 12 just isn't pretty enough. She tries to hard with the resident heart-throb who really likes her as a friend. The book treads dangerously close to becoming cliche when Trey (whom renee is still gaga over) falls for Cate. Cate returns those feelings, but unlike most book characters she does the right thing and puts her burgeoning friendship first. It's sweet. Trey is a good guy. He doesn't want to hurt Renee, he is a good brother to Abby and a general catch, but its so refreshing to see Cate choose her friendship with Renee over a man. She doesn't know him well enough to have actually fallen in love. The bonds that form between Abby, Renee and Cate is what holds this book together.Sarah Pekkanen avoids the pitfalls of the genre by not running rough-shod over the friendships. This is not a traditional love story, but it still counts in my opinion. Love is not just a bond shared between family and lovers, but between friends and this novel illustrates how these bonds form. The end of the story really is just a beginning and I was sad because I wanted to know what was up next for these three wonderful girls.

The downside of the novel, is that its slow-moving. It gets mired down in the details of their past and doesn't really give you clear resolutions for some of the story. Renee's relationship with her new-found sister is still an unresolved part of the plot. It's almost as if the writer got bogged down in teh diet-pill story that she totally forgot about Renee and Becca.

Despite these flaws, this novel is well worth the read.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Anne gets a makeover

Anne of Green Gables has gotten a make-over. This is not the first literary makeover of a classic, but probably one of its most shocking. First we had the twilight-esque covers for Jane Austen classics which was bad enough. Now, they've decided to make Anne a buxom blonde in order to appeal to the new generation of readers. The problem with this new look is that Anne was never blonde. The fact that she was a ginger is part of what defined Anne. Anne without her characteristic red-hair is impossible to imagine. One might as well make Anne, Andrew. Her hair color helps to define the character because it is part of what makes her different. I for one am shocked and I wonder if the artist ever read a single page of the Lucy Maude Montgomery tale. Talk about reworking and redefining a big slice of Canadiana.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Black History Month: Black Authors that are a must read

In honor of Black History month, I've decided to try an devote as much as my blog space this month as possible to authors/artists of color. Over the years, I've read a number of books (both nonfiction and fiction) by notable black authors. Here is a short-list of my favorites.

1. Richard Wright-The Native Son. I think this book is definitely a must read because it is so complex and deals with the idea of repressed anger, the conflicted role of the supposed House-Nigger mentality and how black people view liberal whites. Are they just as culpable of racism? It's full of questions, but doesn't force-feed the reader answers. It forces you to come up with your own answers.

2. Wretched of the Earth-Franz Fanon: One of the most noted black authors on the subject of race and politics. This piece mostly focuses on the state of Africa post-colonization and argues that a new era of colonization is being entered. The state of Africa and Africans has not improved much since he wrote this book in the late 60s. It can be a depressing read, but its definitely interesting. It also was a big part of my personal awakening when it came to my own politics.

3. Walter Mosely-Devil Wears a Blue Dress. This book is not as well-known as its movie adaptation, but its a thrill-seeking ride into an unknown genre, black film noire. A bunch of books written by Mosley and Richard Wright (as well as other authors) comprised what was known as the Black exploration into the genre of film noire. These book dealt more with the seedy-underbelly of jazz clubs and the harlem social scene as opposed to detective offices in very white Manhattan. It was a new spin on an existing genre. There is a lyricism to the prose that makes one feel they listening to jazz as they read the text. It's definitely fun. Plus who can say no to a good murder mystery.

4. Lawerence Hill- To add a little Canadian to my list, Hill is a modern Afro-Canadian writer that has written many essays on the black experience in Canada, but it is his groundbreaking novel, The Book of Negroes that makes him truly stand-out. This novel recounts the slave experience from the point of view of a young Muslim girl who has been taken captive. It's a difficult read, but it is also a heart-breaking journey and well worth the read. This novel tries to tackle the historical issue of slavery by looking at the lives and identities slaves have left behind.