Christmas was wonderful. We had my stepson, daughter-in-law, and two grandsons over Christmas Eve for pizza and gift opening. My daughter-in-law had just finished Christmas shopping that day, and she still needed to wrap presents, so after the festivities, we retired to my bedroom to wrap everything and chat. We bought my youngest grandson an electric guitar, which he was not expecting, though he was just as enamored with his new robe (the only thing he asked for this year). After they left (about 1am) my husband and I exchanged gifts. I bought him a globe and a Swiss army knife. He spoiled me with fancy earrings (spoiled because my real gift was supposed to be my new laptop). The next day we went to Christmas festivities at my mother's with both of my big brothers, my oldest brother's girlfriend (now fiancé!), and their five kids.
But when I wasn't wrapping or unwrapping gifts, eating, or traveling, I was parked on the couch reading. I finished eight books, which I'll review, finally, below.
I've read Kao Kalia Yang's first book, The Latehomecomer, twice, and I was really excited when her second book, The Song Poet, was released earlier this year. But I kept putting it off because I knew it would be both beautiful and fraught with emotion. Yang has a way of wringing emotion out of a story without it getting sentimental or overwhelming. I just wasn't prepared for that emotional journey for much of the year since the world was ablaze with its own drama. But in an effort to clean up some of the books I dearly wanted to read in 2016, I added it to my December read list. Oh you guys, this was a beautiful book. It wasn't easy, though. Yang is a Hmong refugee of South Asia. Because Laotian men fought for the Americans in the Vietnam War, they were hunted and massacred. Those lucky ones, like Yang's family, who made it over the border to Thailand lived in refugee camps for years before being taken in by America. Most of the refugees ended up in California and the Minneapolis/St. Paul area of Minnesota. My city, two hours from Minneapolis, is home to many Hmong families, the children of whom I taught in summer English classes. As much as I loved her first book, and as important as I think it is, I think The Song Poet is even better. Yang gives you an unflinching look at the lives of her family in St. Paul, complete with poverty, racism, culture and language barriers, the weight placed on the American sons of Hmong men, the failures and successes of these families. It's heartbreaking, but it also shows that families are families. It reminded me that we all want the same things for those we love. This is a stunning book. If you're interested in the immigrant/refugee experience, this should be on your must read list. My rating: 4 stars.
The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory
Took the Measure of the Stars