Review: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

August 10, 2018 in Book Reviews, Fairytales, Retellings, Short Stories

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings A Thousand Beginnings and Endings by Various
Published by Greenwillow Books on 9th August 2018 (UK)
Genres: Retellings, Short Stories, YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renée Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place.

About The Book

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is an anthology of short stories, retelling the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia.

Editors Elsie Chapman and Ellen Oh have gathered 15 bestselling and acclaimed Asian authors, with each reimagining their favourite Asian myths and legends.

I guess, due to my heritage, I’m mostly familiar with Celtic folklore. That said, it isn’t something that I actively sought out until recently. My 7-year-old Goddaughter has taught me more about Greek mythology than I’ve ever known, and it piqued my interest (as well embarrassing me at my lack of knowledge!)

So when I saw A Thousand Beginnings and Endings which draws upon Asian folklore, with Asian writers, I figured it was time to expand my knowledge.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this anthology. As I find with most short story collections, there were one or two stories that I was less keen on. However, even with those I enjoyed learning about the traditional legends and folktales that inspired the works.

Following each story the author shares the premise of the original tale, myth or legend, and explains why they chose it for their retelling. That in itself is fascinating and educating.

Another beauty of such an anthology is that you get to discover some new (to you) authors. While I’d heard of the majority of the writers, I’d only actually previously read some of Renee Ahdieh’s work. Now that I’ve had a taste of the others’ writing there are many more books to add to my ever-expanding TBR list.

There’s a mix of everything in the collection – science fiction to fantasy, romance to contemporary, there’s something for everyone. My favourites? For me, Julie Kagawa’s Eyes like Candlelight, Alyssa Wong’s Olivia’s Table and Renee Ahdieh’s Nothing into All were perhaps my favourites, but I took something from every reimagining.

Whether you’re looking for a book to dip into, or binge read, I think you’ll enjoy these retellings. If, like me, you are pretty ignorant when it comes to Asian mythology, then I’m sure you’ll learn something too.

Authors

With stories from Renee Ahdieh, Aliette de Bodard, E.C. Myers, Elsie Chapman, Melissa de la Cruz, Cindy Pon, Sona Charaipotra, Julie Kagawa, Aisha Saeed, Preeti Chhibber, Rahul Kanakia, Shveta Thakrar, Roshani Chokshi, Lori M. Lee and Alyssa Wong.

Edited by Elsie Chapman and Ellen Oh.

four-stars

Review: Shatila Stories

August 8, 2018 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, Translated Literature

Review: Shatila Stories Shatila Stories by Various
Published by Peirene Press on 18th June 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Most novels are written by professional writers using second hand material. Not this one. Peirene commissioned nine refugees to tell their ‘Shatila Stories’. The result is a piece of collaborative fiction unlike any other. If you want to understand the chaos of the Middle East – or you just want to follow the course of a beautiful love story – start here.

Adam and his family flee Syria and arrive at the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut. Conditions in this overcrowded Palestinian camp are tough, and violence defines many of the relationships: a father fights to save his daughter, a gang leader plots to expand his influence, and drugs break up a family. Adam struggles to make sense of his refugee experience, but then he meets Shatha and starts to view the camp through her eyes.

How The Book Came About

I was a bit late in finding Shatila Stories, discovering it on its publication day rather than during the Kickstarter campaign to support the publication of this book.

Commissioned by Peirene Press, Shatila Stories is a work of collaborative fiction created by nine Syrian and Palestinian refugees who reside in the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon.

The Shatila camp was founded in 1949 for 3000 Palestinians but now houses up to 40000 refugees following the Syrian crisis. It’s a camp that was made infamous by the 1982 massacre there.

Meike Ziervogel, Publisher of Peirene Press, together with London-based Syrian editor Suhir Helal, travelled to Shatila in 2017 to run a creative writing workshop. With participants ranging from 18 to 42 years old, some of whom hadn’t completed their formal schooling, and others still had never read a novel before. The Introduction shares how this process worked, how nine refugees came together with Peirene to create this work of collaborative fiction.

My Thoughts

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading Shatila Stories, but what I found was a power, insightful story that opened my eyes to life in the camp.

We follow various characters, many of whom are interlinked in some way. Within the overcrowded, harrowing conditions of the camp we see families trying to make ends meet, drug problems driving families apart, violence, people trying to find their place in the camp, and music bringing people together. There are so many interweaving tales that address many issues of life in the camp.

I found this book so easy to read, devouring it in a day. The quote on the cover from one of my favourite authors, Khaled Hosseini, sums up the importance of this book.

this remarkable novel isn’t about refugee voice; it is born from it and told through it

The writing may, at times, be less refined than some may be used to, but surely this can be forgiven for what is a truly inspirational project and a remarkable read.

Charitable Donation

It would be remiss of me not to tell you that Peirene will donate 50p from the sale of this book to charity, specifically Basmeh & Zeitooneh (The Smile and The Olive).

Basmeh & Zeitooneh ‘aims to create opportunities for refugees to move beyond being victims of conflict and help them to become empowered individuals who one day will return to their own country to rebuild their society.’

B&Z are currently managing nine community centres, seven in Lebanon and two in Turkey. By purchasing this book you will be supporting their projects.

The Authors

Omar Khaled Ahmad, Nibal Alalo, Safa Khaled Algharbawi, Omar Abdellatif Alndaf, Rayan Mohamad Sukkar, Safiya Badran, Fatima Omar Ghazawi, Samih Mahmoud and Hiba Mareb. Translated from Arabic by Nashua Gowanlock.

four-half-stars

Refugee Week & The Displaced Review

June 18, 2018 in Biography, Memoir, Book Reviews, Non-Fiction, Other Books

This week is the 20th anniversary of Refugee Week. With World Refugee Day occurring on Wednesday 20th June 2018, it feels that this week is the perfect time to share with you one of my most recent reads, The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives.

The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Refugee Week & The Displaced Review The Displaced: Refugee Writers On Refugee Lives by Various
Published by Abrams on 10th April 2018
Genres: Essays, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Anthology
Format: Hardback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

In January 2017, Donald Trump signed an executive order stopping entry to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries and dramatically cutting the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States each year. The American people spoke up, with protests, marches, donations, and lawsuits that quickly overturned the order. But the refugee caps remained.

In The Displaced, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Viet Thanh Nguyen, himself a refugee, brings together a host of prominent refugee writers to explore and illuminate the refugee experience. Featuring original essays by a collection of writers from around the world, The Displaced is an indictment of closing our doors, and a powerful look at what it means to be forced to leave home and find a place of refuge.

Abrams published this anthology of essays back in April and were kind enough to send me a copy. With contributions from 19 prominent refugee writers from around the world, each with their own stories to tell, this is a timely, thought-provoking book that everyone should be reading.

These stories are insightful and emotional. The writers share their lives and experiences – from leaving family behind, to being reunited with parents that they don’t recognise. From finding their identity to carving out a new life in an unknown country.

As one would expect, these essays are all beautifully written. Edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Viet Thanh Nguyen, himself a refugee, all of these pieces pack a punch, in many different ways.

This book is a sadly all-too-needed reminder of the humans who are at the heart of the hideous, fear-inciting stories we see in the mass media.

These stories need to be read. As the world faces an enormous refugee crisis, I have no doubt that these essays will raise awareness of the real-life experiences of refugees and their families. If only we could get copies of this book into the hands of those who need educating most!

For every purchase of this book, Abrams will donate 10% of the cover price (a minimum of $25000 annually) to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) who are a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing humanitarian aid, relief and resettlement to refugees and other victims of oppression and violent conduct.

This is a collection that will stay with you long after you close the back page – and well it should!

Refugee Week 2018

 

 

As part of the 20th anniversary of Refugee Week, we are being invited to partake in at least one of 20 simple acts.

 

You can find the full list of Simple Acts here. Might I encourage you to participate in number 9, read a book about exile.

 

Obviously, The Displaced fits this description perfectly and I urge you all to read it.

If you are interested in further books on this subject, check out the links provided on the Refugee Week website. Of course, please also feel free to share any title suggestions below.

Remember to share your read online using the hashtag #SimpleActs.

 

four-half-stars