It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.
These two novels are part of my Litsy ReadAlong chat for #WomenReadWomen2019 for October and November. I read them both while I was in the US last July.
The Barefoot Woman [Amazon | Book Depository]
Written by Scholastique Mukasonga
Published by Archipelago Books (2018)
ISBN:1939810043 (ISBN13: 9781939810045). Bought a copy of the book. Book quote layout using Typorama.
This book was my companion during our over 16 hour airplane ride going to the US from Singapore, with an unforgiving 10-hour layover in Beijing. Scholastique Mukasonga’s memoir is a moving tribute to her mother, a fierce woman who protected her brood with an almost feral courage masking the terror lurking underneath. The narrative is a quiet scream that speaks of probable loss and grief for lives lost, disappeared homes, and a transient existence that is designed to be degrading, yet is transformed to one of defiant dignity.
While I am vaguely aware of what transpired among the Tutsis and the Hutus in the Rwandan genocide, this memoir has humanized a brutal period in history by serving as a fearless voice articulating pain, exile, and a wound that will take perhaps several lifetimes to heal.
It is not all horror; rather Mukasonga outlined the (often-tediously) mundane, shared habits and sorghum-making (painfully-detailed, this one as well), and specific rituals told in an unflinching voice, unmindful of how people from an outside culture would perceive it, because such is not the concern nor the intention of this memoir. It does not pander to cultural expectations of acceptability. Rather, it is an unvarnished account of that which happened, what is currently happening, and attempts to transcend staggering and heart-numbing losses. It is an account of the mythical, larger-than-life Barefoot Woman who fashioned a displaced life to one suffused with pride, preparing her young to claw their way eventually into the lives that they truly deserve, regardless of present circumstances.
Thus Were Their Faces [Amazon | Book Depository]
Written by Silvina Ocampo
Published by NYRB Classics (2015)
ISBN: 1590177673 (ISBN13: 9781590177679) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me. Book quote layout using Typorama.
One has to be in the proper headspace to truly appreciate Silvina Ocampo. The stories in this collection are decidedly strange, convoluted, and unapologetically obscure. Since our reading theme also touches on magical realism, this collection of short stories fits right in. Jorge Luis Borges in his Preface describes his friend, Silvina Ocampo, in this manner:
My family and I were at Coloma Camp while I was reading this collection.
This may contribute to my remembering very little of what I have read, although I recall feeling unsettled and discomfited as I read The Perfect Crime, A Doll’s Secret Memories, or Cornelia Before the Mirror just to cite a few of the titles in this collection. The only story that I truly remember is The Impostor: the sense of dread, the foreshadowing, the inevitability of violence and heartache.
I also got the feeling that Ocampo used her stories as a frame to share her insights about life; truths gleaned from grief, wisdom earned through blood, fragmented insights gathered in a haphazard mosaic collection made beautiful because of its incongruities.
I think I would re-read this collection once more in the future, and pay closer attention to the turns of phrase, and the unusual cadence of storytelling that is neither here nor there – but everywhere.
#WomenReadWomen2019: 32 (target: 25) – Rwanda (Scholastique Mukasonga is from Rwanda but now based in France)
Argentina (Silvina Ocampo was from Argentina)