Saturday, May 8, 2010

Girl in Translation

Day 88 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project. I don't know anyone who is reading this book right now. If you are, let me know.

I just love the cover and the title, and I use it as an example of the ongoing hope, despite the expression to the contrary, that you could judge a book by its cover!

You can learn more about Girl in Translation, by Jean Kwok, at Amazon, where you can even click a link to hear the author talk about it. And here's where I'd like to clarify something. This is not a "monetized" blog. Every now and then, I get a message from this site telling me that if I link to Amazon, as I often do, I can monetize my blog and take a cut whenever someone clicks the link here and buys the book there. Aauugghh!

I link to Amazon because it is easy for you to get info there, you can choose various formats and prices, and because they offer Marketplace options for used copies, etc. If I link to a used bookstore's copy of the book, and it sells, the link will no longer be useful, but Amazon will usually have other options. So that's that, housekeeping and full disclosure.

I will soon be reading, for my book group, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford, another book with the idea of "translation" from one culture to another in the background. In Girl in Translation, a girl from China has to adapt to her new life in the United States. In Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a Chinese-American man recalls young love in recent history, with a Japanese-American girl. Both contain coming-of-age themes, which can be, of course, bitter and sweet.

And that is certainly true of The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger, one of the great almost-ready-to-come-of-age novels of all time! It makes me feel like I am almost ready to come of age, too, and reminds me why I am still childlike at heart and can't really grow up. Sorry! Anyway, I did just finish re-reading that, because it was time. I had loved re-reading Franny and Zooey, so I thought I should return to Catcher in the Rye, recently read by the SOB book group, as noted earlier here.

Holden Caulfield is a kind of "boy in translation" to adulthood, having some trouble confronting the crap of real life, with its constant "phoniness" and lying (of which he partakes) and the awful truth that the strong beat up on the weak, and can't help themselves. None of them can. The strong can't help but beat up on the weak, and the weak can't help themselvees against the strong. Plus, stuff happens, life has cliffs, and that's why we need catchers in the rye.

But, of course, the novel also suggests that we can help ourselves, and each other, and should. So, daily, I am going to re-dedicate myself to that idea, which, again, is why I read: to learn how to live in this world, and to be as decent a human being as I can be.

I will try not to judge a book by its cover, if that "book" is a human being, but only gently open it and turn the pages, by asking questions and listening. Sometimes it turns out to be heavy reading, indeed, and sometimes the content remains mysterious; sometimes I can't read the language nor find a good translation, and sometimes I have to walk away. But mostly people are wonderful to get to know.

And books are wonderful to read!

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