A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa
“This is a female text, composed by folding someone else's clothes. My mind holds it close, and it grows, tender and slow, while my hands perform innumerable chores.
This book's exploration of a historical poem, Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire, (The Keen for Art O’Leary), sucked me in. The poem is about an Irish noblewoman who finds her husband murdered and composes a poem on the spot after drinking some of his blood. It's passed on from woman to woman for many years and eventually is written down. This book is also about the author, Dorieann Ni Ghriofa, and her lifelong obsession about with the author of the poem, and her life. This is part biography, part poetry, and part translation. It is truly a unique work, and difficult to describe.
The first part of the book focuses on the events in the life of Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, up until her husband is murdered and she 'writes' her poem. The second portion of the book is more about Ghriofa's quest to learn more about Eibhlín, her life, and about her relations.
The first part of the book was amazing, but it sort of derailed a bit in the second portion for me. I don't regret reading this, it's such a lovely exploration of womanhood, and the connection between these two women who lived hundreds of years apart, but it was not exactly what I was expecting.
Book #93 in my #ReadingChallenge2021
#DoireannNíGhríofa #Ireland #poetic #NonFiction #women #poetry #motherhood
If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha
Very entertaining read. It tackles a lot of issues women face in South Korea, in a fictional story about orphans who are struggling to make it. They have the burden of societal expectations on them, family pressure, and poor options available to them.
The issues it explores include the sex industry (salon bars), the divide between rich and poor, women's rights in the workplace, and marriage/childbirth expectations.
By the end of this story, I really identified with these girls. It's hard living in a big city like Seoul, with the pressures of culture, being a woman, and your family bearing down on you. It wasn't too preachy. It's a light, and easy to read novel.
I put off reading this for a bit because the cover had me thinking it would be a ridiculous love story like Crazy Rich Asians (even though I haven't read that book either, but watched the movie instead).
I lived in South Korea before for it's always nice reading books set in Seoul.
Book #44 in my #ReadingChallenge2021
#Books #BookReview #Women #SouthKorea #Fiction
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it for a little while.
A story of settlers who come from Europe to settle Hanover, Nebraska. Of course this novel is concerned with buying property, and farming, but it closely looks at the relationships between people. It is told in batches of chapters in a certain time, then skips many years to focus on a new cluster of key events. The effect is that you are quickly moved through the lives of the main characters and get to know them from birth until death.
The book dives into the heads of the people who are 'pioneers' and 'settling' this land, especially why they have come to America? What are their motivations for being a successful farmer? Even what does success mean to each settler? It has a heartbreaking ending that brought tears to my eyes.
Cather writes so vividly about the land and farming, it is easy to tell she has lived in Nebraska. She writes very strong female characters, and actually they are the focus of the book other than a few of the men whose lives are intertwined with the lead females. This is the first book of 3 in the Great Plains trilogy. I have already added #2 and #3 to my To Read pile.
Now, this was quite a strange book. I bought this from the used bookstore for $100 NT because it was about Asian culture, and history – two of my favourite things! The reviews on GoodReads for this book are also quite solid as this seems to be the 'bible' of footbinding.
There are many aspects to this book. There are sections on: the history of footbinding and the the movement to abolish it, how to footbind, essays on sexual positions that 'lotus lovers' loved, essays on a dissection of a bound foot, and interviews from women who grew up with bound feet.
Now, I did learn a lot here, but this book is a bit all over the place. In parts it feels very scholarly, and in other parts it feels like Levy is recounting stories he's heard from people. The whole problem with research on footbinding seems to be that: (a) nobody knows exactly when it started (b) nobody knows exactly why it was done. This leaves a huge vacuum for academics to interpret the scant evidence to answer these questions.
Some parts of this book felt to me like they had an Orientalist vibe. I'm not sure that was the intention, but this book certainly could use an update, as this was published in 1967. There is great research in here, but there certainly isn't a very clear narrative in the book once you get past the first chapter. This fragmentation does work in its favour because there are big sections you can easily just skip if you aren't too interested in them, say the 18 'lotus lovers' kama sutra descriptions for example.
I see there are some more current books about this topic that look worth checking out. I am interested in reading this more current book, Cinderella's Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding, so see how she treats this delicate topic.
Book #37 in my #ReadingChallenge2021
#Books #BookReview #HowardSLevy #history #china #footbinding #women