Welcome to this week’s edition of Friday Book Round-Up. Today the Winter Olympics kick off with their opening ceremonies. I’ve had the great pleasure to read authors from all over the world. So here are four authors from Olympic-competing countries on my to be read list. Enjoy the Games!
The House of Jasmine (Interlink World Fiction) by Ibrahim Abdel Meguid (Author), Noha Radwan (Translator)
On June 13, 1974, Shagara, a low-level employee at the Alexandria shipyard, is charged with taking workers to cheer for the motorcade of Egyptian President Sadat and his guest President Nixon. Instructed to pay each worker half a pound at the end of Nixon’s visit, Shagara pays them half that, spares them the festivities, and pockets the difference. So begins The House of Jasmine, which follows Shagara, a loner who yearns for female companionship, as he traverses the city of Alexandria and tries to parse his feelings toward its changing landscape. With moving candor and refreshing humor, The House of Jasmine is Shagara’s intimate account of life in the Sadat era—the comic and the tragic, the surreal and the absurd.
Within the humor of this novel is nestled an indicting eyewitness account of this essential period of Egyptian history. “Abdel Meguid has invented a narrative form that is highly effective in capturing the absurdity of social and political life in Egypt during the seventies,” as one critic has written. In his classic work The House of Jasmine, one can observe the social changes and popular sentiments that comprise the prologue for the Egyptian revolution of January 2011.
I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin (Author), Lee White (Illustrator)
An eleven-year-old’s world is upended by political turmoil in this “lyrically ambitious tale of exile and reunification” (Kirkus Reviews) from an award-winning poet, based on true events in Chile.
Celeste Marconi is a dreamer. She lives peacefully among friends and neighbors and family in the idyllic town of Valparaiso, Chile—until one day when warships are spotted in the harbor and schoolmates start disappearing from class without a word. Celeste doesn’t quite know what is happening, but one thing is clear: no one is safe, not anymore.
The country has been taken over by a government that declares artists, protestors, and anyone who helps the needy to be considered “subversive” and dangerous to Chile’s future. So Celeste’s parents—her educated, generous, kind parents—must go into hiding before they, too, “disappear.” Before they do, however, they send Celeste to America to protect her.
As Celeste adapts to her new life in Maine, she never stops dreaming of Chile. But even after democracy is restored to her home country, questions remain: Will her parents reemerge from hiding? Will she ever be truly safe again?
Accented with interior artwork, steeped in the history of Pinochet’s catastrophic takeover of Chile, and based on many true events, this multicultural ode to the power of revolution, words, and love is both indelibly brave and heartwrenchingly graceful.
Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis (Author)
Winner of the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize
Finalist for the 2015 Toronto Book Awards
Winner of the 2015 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
"[Alexis] devises an inventive romp through the nature of humanity in this beautiful, entertaining read … A clever exploration of our essence, communication, and how our societies are organized." – Kirkus Reviews
"This might be the best set-up of the spring." – The Globe & Mail
"André Alexis has established himself as one of our preeminent voices." – Toronto Star
— I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.
— I'll wager a year's servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.
And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old 'dog' ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.
André Alexis's contemporary take on the apologue offers an utterly compelling and affecting look at the beauty and perils of human consciousness. By turns meditative and devastating, charming and strange, Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach an old genre new tricks.
André Alexis was born in Trinidad and grew up in Canada. His debut novel, Childhood, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Trillium Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. His other previous books include Asylum, Beauty and Sadness, Ingrid & the Wolf and, most recently, Pastoral, which was also nominated for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and was named a Globe and Mail Top 100 book of 2014.
News of the Earth by Homero Aridjis (Author), Betty Ferber (Author, Translator)
“Homero is one of the planet’s great environmental heroes.”―Jacob Scherr, Director of Global Strategy & Advocacy, Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, DC
News of the Earth chronicles Homero Aridjis’s relationship with the natural world through his writings and his activism as president of the Grupo de los Cien [Group of 100], Mexico’s influential environmental group composed of one hundred prominent personalities in the arts, culture, and science, which Aridjis founded in 1985. Under his leadership, the group’s efforts led to a ban on the capture and commercialization of sea turtles, legislation reducing the amount of lead in gasoline, daily monitoring of air quality in Mexico City, and official designation of sanctuaries for the monarch butterfly. Aridjis waged a lifelong battle against threats to endangered ecosystems and wildlife in his country, many with global implications, including campaigns to save the gray whale, bottle-nosed dolphin, bee population, giant saguaro cactus, endangered coral reefs, and rainforests of Mexico. This book highlights these crucial battles, with detailed documentation of critical environmental victories.
Homero Aridjis, one of Latin America’s foremost literary figures, is the author of forty-eight books of poetry and prose. He served as Mexico’s Ambassador to Switzerland, The Netherlands, and UNESCO, and as president of PEN International. He received awards from the United Nations (Global 500 Award), the Orion Society, Mikhail Gorbachev, Global Green USA, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Betty Ferber Aridjis was born in New York and graduated from Bryn Mawr College. She served as the International Coordinator of the Grupo de los Cien (Group of 100) since its founding in 1985. Her lifelong commitment to the environment was also honored by Mikhail Gorbachev and by Global Green USA with the Green Cross Millennium Award for International Environmental Leadership. She is the translator of several books by Homero Aridjis into English.
Have you an international author to recommend? Share in the comments below. More international authors next week!
MRS N, Book Addict