Monadarling’s Blog

Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Breaking Night is an autobiography by Elizabeth “Liz” Murray. Liz Murray, in her book, takes the reader through an intricate and excruciating journey of her life.

Liz Murray has come forward with the story of her life up to now, growing up with alcoholic and drug-addicted parents, who, though they loved her, certainly were not able to care for her and her sister.

To see ones parent’s drinking; to go hungry; to be a child of the streets, because that’s where you find people who love you; to skip school and finally to be confined in a home is indeed not anyone’s dream but it certainly was Murray’s reality. A reality that Murray turned into a dream. Liz Murray shakes herself out of misfortune and gets herself back into high school, and finally into Harvard. She is able to forgive her father, and accept him as who he is, and to work through all the tremendously hurtful things of her mother’s life and her tragic death from AIDS. Told with astounding sincerity, “Breaking Night” is the breathtaking and inspirational story of how a young woman, born into a world without hope, used every ounce of strength and determination to steer herself towards a brighter future. Beautifully written, it is a poignant, evocative and stirring portrait of struggle, desperation, forgiveness and survival.

Hair-raising, tense and ultimately inspiring!!!!!!!!!!!

Here’s an insight into Liz Murray’s life……………………..

Murray was born in the Bronx, New York, to poor, drug-addicted, HIV-infected parents. Her mother died of AIDS when Murray was 15 and her father moved to a shelter and Murray became homeless. Murray’s life turned around when she began attending the Humanities Preparatory Academy in Chelsea, Manhattan and graduated in two years. She remained without a stable home while supporting herself and her sister. Liz Murray was awarded a New York Times scholarship for needy students and was accepted into Harvard University. She matriculated in 2000. She left Harvard in 2001 to care for her sick father and to start motivational speaking. She resumed her education at Columbia University in late 2001 after her father died of AIDS. She eventually returned to Harvard in 2006 and graduated in June 2009.

Liz Murray is the founder and director of Manifest Living, a company that provides a series of workshops that empower adults to create extraordinary things in their lives.

She was also invited to the Oprah Winfrey Show as one of the first recipients of Oprah’s Chutzpah Award.

Liz Murray’s life story has been made into a movie titled Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story, featuring Thora Birch, directed by Peter Levin in 2003

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Uncertain nights, fear filled nights, terrorized nights…………. in the beautiful snow covered valley of Kashmir – that’s ‘Curfewed Night’ by Basharat Peer Peer was born in Kashmir and continued his education in Aligarh far away from his strife ridden birth place. He then moved on to Columbia University to study journalism. Peer started his career as a reporter at Rediff and Tehelka and is currently based in New York as Assistant Editor at Foreign Affairs ‘Curfewed Night’ is a brilliant book that essays the plight of Kashmiris in the serene valley. Who is to blame for the plight of these innocent peace loving people?, the governments of India and Pakistan?, the Army that mans the borders?, the terrorist who have no scruples? – there is no answer to these questions, neither in reality or in Peer’s ‘Curfewed Night’.

What hits every Indian or world citizens, for that matter, is the plight of innocent people, be it Mubeena, who was gang raped by army personnel on the day of her marriage or Rasheda, Ansar & Hussein who were tortured by the army or the thousand others who suffered at the hands of the Indian Army, the Pakistani militants and separatist groups like the Huriyat. Where is the respite for these beautiful people of Kashmir? The reader’s hearts go out to them. The book also talks about the impressionable youth to whom gun –trotting terrorists are demi-gods.

Is there light at the end of the valley, will someone sit up and set things right? Basharat Peer has no answer – neither does anyone. Do read the book, for every reader’s prayer may be heard by someone who can make a difference!

‘Curfewed Nights’ has won the Vodafone Crossword Book Award 2008, in the English Non-Fiction category. Hats off to Basharat for touching a touchy subject!!!!!

Upmanyu Chatterjee is a well known Indian author and an administrator who has done notable work in the setting of Indian Administrative Service. His novel English August is also a commendable work in the same milieu.

His other noteworthy works include “The assassination of Indira Gandhi” and “Watching Them “which are in the form of short stories.

English August- An Indian Story is a very well written book by Upmanyu which was published in 1988 and since then has been reprinted several times. This novel is an ideal choice for the ones who have curiosity about modern India. It’s a beautifully written interesting work which will take you in its grip.

The main plot of the book revolves around a character called Agastya Sen who is young and westernized. It is interesting to know that the major imagination of Agastya is dominated by literature, soft drugs and women. The vibrant real India is shown through the experience of this young officer who is posted in a small town called Madna. His observations during one year of his training are expressed in funny and wryly way which makes the story even more interesting. One can see the realistic trends of the administration which are also known as grass root levels of welfare state through this book. All these are presented along with the paradox involved in them. The brown sahibs who have a ruling power in India are depicted very well.
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The posting of Agastya gives him a tremendous cultural shock and then gradually his life becomes a long philosophical journey of self discovery. As the book is written by Upmanyu who is a civil servant himself he is able to capture the core of entire Indian generation , whose urban reality has a sharp contrast to that of the actual India in villages.

shashi-tharoor

Shashi Tharoor is not simply famous diplomat but a good writer as well. The diversity of Indian culture has been well explored by him in his books. If you have read any of his works you will realise that he has done a fine job of blending the past of the Indian themes with what is to come.

If you have read his Show Business and The Great Indian Novel you will realize hy he is being referred as the finest satirical writers of English today. Though his work focuses primarily on comedy and satire but Tharoor actually asserts that his novels have certain degree of moralizing works hidden as entertainment.
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Midnight to Millennium is Tharoor’s recent work which is inspired by the golden jubilee anniversary of India’s Independence. This non fiction work of Tharoor is a prefect blend of India’s past and future. If you have liked his earlier writings then Midnight to Millennium will definitely not disappoint you .

This amazing work by Tharoor has not only tried to bring light on various challenges that India has been facing for the last five decades but also on the ones that are waiting for us in the future.

He has skilfully taken up diverse matters like caste, democracy, the troublesome legacy of Indira Gandhi, partition of India and Pakistan and many others. He has beautifully presented how Indian people having different cultural backgrounds, religions and ethics blend so well to have one nationality. He focusses on the history of India along with various attempts since independence that have been made to call India as one united nation. He places emphasis on various other issues which has gripped the Indian nation since a long time. Some of his chapters are a real eye opener while other forces you to think about your past as well as future.

The “Scheduled Castes, Unscheduled Change” is among the best chapters of the book which is a really wonderful as it satires on the law of the Government where 49.5% seats of the federal government jobs are reserved for the backward classes leaving the general class actually into a state of discrimination. It clearly states that with such high percent of reservation you need to be a backward to move forward in life.

indian by choice

Pictures speak a thousand words. That is true when it comes to the popularity of Bollywood movies than interesting books. Both belong to the story telling media, but the difference in genre says it all.
Indian By Choice might just be another book about America Born Confused Desi (ABCD), but it comes with rich graphics in 100 pages, and from a writer who is a serving diplomat, it tells the story we need to know again– identity and what it means to an Indian.
Mandy aka Mandeep comes to India reluctantly for a cousin’s wedding. As he reaches India, his biggest fear of squalor, over-population, lack of privacy and a land of totall chaos are just confirmed, It is as different a country to him as it would be for any American tourist.
So instead of adapting or even wanting to know about this alien culture, he writes long letters to his parents and tell them about his plight. He would have taken the first flight back to his home in Chicago, but the fare lets him stay in India for four weeks.
Mandy at first comes across as this confident guy (portrayed as Ranbir Kapoor in graphics) who is – UsS citizen born and raised in Chicago. He believes in the NRI culture and India for him has nothing to offer. But this rare opportunity of being in India allows Mandy to spend time with his extended family, including his grandparents and cousins, and provokes him to re-think his identity.
By spending time with other young Indians, Mandy’s stereotypes about India begin to disappear and he begins to see the other side of not only India but the US as well.
For example, he learns that a young Indian Institute of Management (IIM) graduate rejects a chance to work in the US because he is conscious that he will face subtle racism while trying to climb the corporate ladder. Or that a Sikh was gunned down in a retaliatory attack four days post 9/11. Gradually, Mandy begins to wonder whether he can identify with his host country.
Indian by Choice cleverly reveals the differences between Indian Americans and their counterparts in India. Dasgupta keeps the reader engaged at all times and will often leave you laughing out loud. The keen sense of observation, wit, the graphics and the style make this a truly unique novel that both NRIs and Indians will be able to identity with.
In fact, renowned author Shashi Tharoor writes that “this graphic novel is a gift every urban Indian should give to an NRI relative”.

Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies boasts a varied collection of characters to love and hate, and provides wonderfully detailed descriptions of opium production, the perils of 19th-century seafaring, and life in 1830s Calcutta. It is utterly involving and piles on the tension until the very last page, which leaves the reader cast adrift along with some of the characters.
sea of pppies

At the heart of this epic saga, set just before the Opium Wars, is an old slaving-ship, The Ibis. Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean, its crew a motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts. In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a truly diverse cast of Indians and Westerners, from a bankrupt Raja to a widowed villager, from an evangelical English opium trader to a mulatto American freedman. As their old family ties are washed away they, like their historical counterparts, come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais or ship-brothers.

With this much incident, Sea of Poppies is bound to feel contrived at times. Its humour is sometimes wincingly broad, while its characters, who leap from frying pan to fire and back in a blur of drama, test belief. But Ghosh spins a fine story with a quite irresistible flow, breathing exuberant life into a class- and caste-bound India of scoundrels, hypocrites and heroes. It’s an absorbing vision, in which stifling tradition and radical change sit, often uncomfortably, in the same boat. The vast sweep of this historical adventure spans the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, and the exotic backstreets of China. But it is the panorama of characters, which makes Sea of Poppies so breathtakingly alive – a masterpiece from one of the world’s finest novelists.

RootsHaley’s ‘Roots’ published in 1976 is one of the best and most vivid books. It is a modern classic which won a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and sold more than a million copies in its first year of publication.

Roots is an account of the life of Kunta Kente, a young African boy, captured and shipped to the US to work as a slave. The book details the start of his life from his birth in 1750 in a village called Juffire in The Gambia, West Africa.

As a young boy Kunta is captured and subsequently transported across the Atlantic to be sold as a slave in the State of Virginia. At first he is bought by a harsh master and thus he runs away four times. With no place to go his is eventually re-caught on each occasion. But eventually he is sold to a new ‘master’ who is much softer than the first.

Kunta eventually accepts his fate and the book goes on to detail his working life with his new master, his marriage to the housemaid Belle and the birth of their daughter Kizzy.
In some ways the book has a happy ending as Kunte is eventually freed but at the end of the day this book is about slavery, a practice that was inhumane and unforgivable.

‘Roots’ is a shocking and graphic account of the maltreatment and suffering endured by those taken as slaves. it is appalling to think that so many thousands of innocent people undertook such horrific times, stolen from their homelands in order to ensure that the USA became the richest country in the World…..

Roots is a book that is passionately written as well as being factually correct. Thus the book has definite educational value as well as being a great read. It is based on the real ancestral history traced back seven generations to the Gambia by Alex Haley himself.

The story follows Kunte throughout his entire life and consequently it is LONG and some might see this as a disadvantage! It is a good 800-900 pages, but it is well worth the time. It’s totally engaging and impossible to put down once you have really got into it.Roots