Skip to main content

Homesickness and Journeys of Self-Discovery




German Calendar No December by Sylvia Ofili, Birgit Weyhe, illustrator
Cassava Republic 
November 2018 international, May 2019 U.S.A.
YA contemporary graphic novel


In German Calendar No December, Sylvia Ofili tells the coming-of-age story of Olivia Nneka Evezi whose father is Nigerian and mother is German. It’s no coincidence that her initials spell O.N.E. as each stage of her development into young adulthood taps into universal themes of the onerous search for one’s true self and welcoming communities beyond biological family. Olivia, her classmates, and later, her coworkers navigate challenging situations where one’s designated status as insider or outsider, powerful or powerless dictates the direction of a person’s life and their safety in this memoir about immigration, otherness, and assimilation.

References to popular music, movies, and television shows from the 1950s through the 1990s explore the global reach of entertainment media. Catch phrases from one of Nigeria’s longest running sitcoms, “The New Masquerade” provide the title, which reinforces the dominant theme of what gets lost in translation or redefined over time, between social classes, generations, nationalities, and cultures. Although not directly mentioned, the causes and consequences of the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War, infuse the narrative with Olivia’s identity as an Igbo person with an oyinbo/oyimbo/oyibo (of European descent or not culturally African) mother.

Birgit Weyhe’s use of a palette in which green and white dominate with other colors as highlights creates appealing contrasts between matte saturation and the assertive lines of her illustrations.

German Calendar No December combines some thematic elements from William Golding’s Lord of the Flies with the sense of a perpetual slumber party gone wrong and a treatise on the causes and effects of nationalism. It sparks a desire to delve deeper into these topics.



The Greek Persuasion by Kimberly K. Robeson
She Writes Press
April 2019
Contemporary women’s fiction


Spanning three generations of one family of women from 1942 to 2006, The Greek Persuasion proclaims its adoration for the country and culture of Greece and her people. Similar to the ways in which early civilizations used mythological stories to explain the origins of the universe, nature, and humanity, the prologue offers one source point of thirty-one-year-old Greek American Thair’s jumbled ideas about love.

Constantly disappointed by romantic love in various circumstances that reject typical male-bashing clichés, Thair’s journey of self-discovery starts with her grandmother, Aphrodite, who is called Dita. This familial relationship anchors the story geographically and emotionally. Thair’s relationship with her mom, Phaedra, is more volatile, reflecting a dynamic found in many families where grandparents and grandchildren interact with less friction than parents and adult offspring. Kimberly K. Robeson establishes three distinctively authentic voices that convey the women’s similarities and differences as shaped by their individual experiences and generational filters. 

“What am I?” is the question that bubbles beneath the surface of The Greek Persuasion, and the running thread about tomatoes (Is it a fruit or a vegetable?) reinforces that debate. Thair’s socioeconomic privilege in having the luxury of going away to focus on herself is the most obvious advantage, which she acknowledges along with the perks of being heterosexual. Thair often seems aimless with a tone that’s frequently maudlin and self-indulgent. As the main narrator Thair’s voice isn’t as compelling as the older women’s. Frequent usage of clichés (not related to male-bashing), archaic gender role references, and Thair’s immaturity create a philosophical whiplash effect that simultaneously makes her seem much older and much younger than her thirties. Maybe that’s intentional.

When Thair asks in the year 2000 on page 40, “What is it about America that makes some people say it in such a distasteful way?” it reads like the perfect setup for her to have some later substantial thoughts about the 9/11 terror attacks in the U.S., but Thair never mentions them as the story moves into 2001 and forward into the mid-2000s, which seems odd unless that omission is intended to highlight how self-involved she is. 

Constructed in three parts, The Greek Persuasion offers readers a novel of nuanced stories within multilayered stories about individuals, one family, one country, and the world over the course of three generations.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Howl At the Moon, Give Yourself a Break & Get Your Freak On

Forever Wolf by Maria Vale Sourcebooks Casablanca  March 2019 While comparisons to Patricia Briggs and Kelley Armstrong are appropriate, Maria Vale establishes a distinctive depth and range of storytelling excellence in her Legend of All Wolves series that is unique in its artistry. As the third entry, Forever Wolf continues the pattern of transcending the boundaries of the paranormal shape-shifting genre by creating more poignant character sketches of compelling individuals who embody a variety of multifaceted points of view about how to survive. That shared intention is just one of many ways in which Forever Wolf exudes its primal energy. Varya and Eyulf’s story progresses like a heartrending blend of ballad, dirge, and warriors’ battle cries. Seraphina Does Everything by Melissa Gratias; Sue Cornelison, illus. National Center for Youth Issues  April 2019 At a time when privileged kids are over-scheduled and internalizing society’s constant, dema

Celebrating You & Breaking Through in 2021, Plus Romance

Is last year's bumper crop of lemons the main ingredient for this year's success?  Here's a book with plenty of reasons why yes is the answer.  Rethink, Smashing the Myths of Women in Business   Andi Simon, Ph.D.   Non-fiction business biography  Fast Company Press (Greenleaf Book Group, distributor)   January 5, 2021   At a time when the world is reeling from being forced to improvise almost everything on a daily basis, Rethink profiles eleven women, including the author, whose lives and professional careers are prime examples of adaptability that defy entrenched gendered expectations. Invisible barriers to achievement in science, management, finance, and other industries are examined through the lenses of these accomplished women's experiences. Their profiles make for compelling reading and comprise the majority of the text, which is its strength. Notable reading frustrations include points of view and blanket statements that reinforce a narrow focus on a hetero, priv

#HunkerDown Reading

Resistant by Rachael Sparks Spark Press 2018 Sci-fi surrealism Is this author clairvoyant? Or as a scientist has she extrapolated a possible future based on current facts? In Resistant, it's 2041 and fifteen percent of the human population is dead from being infected by an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Sound eerily relevant? Sure, COVID-19 is a virus, but the template for this imaginary manmade catastrophe bears striking similarities to the world's present-day reality. Die-off survivor and microbiology student Aurora “Rory" Stevigson lives with her climatologist father Byron Stevigson on an apple farm in Massachusetts. Their grief over the loss of Dr. Persephone Tyler-Stevigson shadows their playful father-daughter rapport as they struggle to heal themselves while also helping others in their isolated community. When a mysterious man who introduces himself as Navy appears, everything Rory believed about her life becomes questionable, which puts her in danger. Her