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April 2016 Staff Picks

Updated 2016/08/09

Brenda’s Pick: In Other Words by Jumpha Lahiri

in other words

Jumpha Lahiri, a renowned fiction author, has crafted this non-fiction book. Oddly enough, she wrote it in Italian, her third language. The translated version has Italian and English on facing pages. I was fascinated by the process as she explains it and walks the reader through it. It speaks to many themes – the acquisition of language, how it moulds our identity, how language can alienate us or make us belong. The book also tells us about her relationship with the Italian language, her move to Rome with her husband and children to immerse herself, and the struggles to integrate a foreign language into her life and writing. She describes her book this way, “It’s a point of arrival and of departure. It’s based on a lack, an absence…This time I don’t accept the words I already know, the ones I should be writing with. I look for others.” The composition is clear and unnuanced. Writing in a language not her own, she says, takes her back to the basic joy of creating with words.

David’s Pick: The Overnighters (DVD)

the overnighters

This fascinating documentary follows the efforts of Pastor Jay Reinke of Williston, North Dakota, to use his Lutheran church as a shelter for men & women arriving in town for the shale oil boom and ending up homeless. The film examines the hopelessness of the drifter economy, the cruelty of raised and shattered hopes, and ultimately the cost of redemption. As the pastor fights with townspeople and his congregation, and neglects his family, the viewer wonders what is driving him so hard. Eventually, Pastor Reinke is driven to deception, his family gets drawn into the chaos, and finally we are presented with a bombshell of a revelation that throws the whole story into a new light. It’s a somewhat frustrating film, but worth watching for the disorderliness and sadness of life at the edge of the post-industrial economy.

 

 

Deb’s Pick: Under Major Domo Minor by Patrick deWitt

under major domo minor

I loved the main character in this story. Lucy epitomizes youth, a new shoot, a porous sponge ready to soak up all that life offers. Patrick deWitt sets him down in a rich and quirky landscape, a mythical place, chock full of sly and oddball characters. The dialogue is droll and totally fun. Fingers crossed that Mr. deWitt has a sequel in his head.

 Mark’s Pick: The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale by Lucine Kasbarian

greedy sparrow

The Greedy Sparrow – An Armenian Tale is a beautifully illustrated retelling of a wise old fable that has been told for centuries. It shows that what is gained through greed and trickery does not endure. This picture book is great fun to read aloud.

 Megan’s Pick: Ru by Kim Thúy

ru

This 2015 Canada Reads winner couldn’t be a more fitting read as we welcome new residents to our country. This is the first novel by Montreal author Kim Thúy, and it tells the tale of a young woman who immigrates to Canada during the Vietnam War. Even though this book is a work of fiction, you can’t help but feel that many of the experiences the protagonist Tinh Nguyen faces were drawn from Thúy’s life. With the acceptance of Syrian refugees into our country, this book is an important look into what many new Canadians face as the come to our country. Despite the sadness and struggle highlighted in on the pages, this novel is beautifully written through snippets taking the reader back and forth through time and place as Nguyen goes from her life in Vietnam to Montreal.

 

 Megan’s Pick: Mãn by Kim Thúy

man

After reading Kim Thúy’s first novel Ru, I was excited to read her second Mãn. While the themes of Mãn were similar to those Ru, the tone was much different. This novel is a love story, but unlike romance novels you might be familiar with, this tells the story of love between husband and wife, mother and children, child and parent, and friends. As a food lover, I enjoyed that the love was often expressed in this book through food. Food took Mãn, the novel’s central character back in time to memories with her three mothers, it created a community in Montreal, where she immigrated to from Vietnam, and it was a means of showing her love for her friends and family. This is a beautiful book that highlights the full beauty of love in the various ways it appears in our lives