The Sunday Salon: Finally reading something

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Sunday

Good morning, readers! How has your week been so far? It has been a wonderful week out here - warmish and colorful. Perfect for doing some work around the house. I had been doing some decluttering for the past couple of weeks and now have things in pretty good order. There is still a lot of spring cleaning itself to do but everything seems to have a home now so that should make it easier to get things done. Today, we're planning to do some cleaning around the house, make raised beds for our vegetable garden, mow the lawn, and later curl up watching a nice movie.

Yesterday, the husband and I went to watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and loved it. I thought it was a little slow at the beginning but that didn't dampen my enjoyment. I think this guy is probably my favorite superhero character to date, but I think that always after watching one of these movies. I never used to enjoy reading or watching superhero comics - they used to be too unrealistic for my tastes - but I may not have watched too many of them before because I really enjoy them a lot now.

I finished two books last week - Célestine Vaite's Frangipani (which I reviewed as well) and Shilpi Somaya Gowda's Secret Daughter, which I struggled with quite a bit. I'm hoping to review the latter some time this week, once I get my thoughts in order, but let me just emphasize for now that narrators can make or break a book. I also started listening to Child of Dandelions by Shenaaz Nanji - a very intriguing book about the expulsion of Indians and Pakistanis from Uganda in 1972. Child of Dandelions is fiction, but the author herself lived through the expulsion and her protagonist, Sabine, shares a lot of her confusion at being disowned by her birth country. So far, I'm liking it and it's short too - just 5 hours.

I've also been thinking about starting The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry. I have the library book on my Kindle and am excited about losing myself in it. This seems to be THE book to read now and if I do read it, it will be the first book this year I'm choosing to read outside my Armchair Traveler project. I had given myself permission to read books outside the project but nothing has really jumped at me so much like this book.

How's your Sunday going?

Frangipani by Célestine Vaite

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"My daughter has been here since eleven o'clock, she's here to have her birth activated, and she hasn't eaten anything since this morning."

"It's not our fault everybody decided to give birth today!" the nurse snaps. "They all went to the same party, or what?"

I loved Frangipani. It took me weeks to finish it because I haven't exactly been in a reading mood. But books I read during such phases usually end up getting tossed because they don't hold my attention long enough. But Frangipani was always a delight to come back to. It felt very authentic and Tahitian, with adorable characters, and a very easy-going narrative style.

Frangipani is mostly told from Materena Mahi's perspective. When the book begins, Materena is moaning her partner, Pito's, negligence with money. They already have a little baby boy and Materena just found out that she was pregnant with a second baby. She wants Pito to let her collect his pay but that is out of the question because then he will be made the laughing stock by his friends. He will not see the end of questions like "Who's the man and who's the woman between you and your woman? Who's the noodle? Who wears the pants? Who wears the dress?" if he lets Materena collect his pay. But she does anyway and then doesn't see him at all for a long time, he having decided to leave her.

They reunite weeks later under very humorous circumstances but Materena goes on to take a job as a professional cleaner (very different from just a cleaner, as she reminds us often) to get some extra money. However, her hands are soon going to be tied down once her daughter, Leilani, is born. (She knew it was a girl because she did the needle trick). Much of Frangipani focuses on this mother-daughter relationship and I like to say that the author, Célestine Vaite, got it right. As a child, Leilani worships her mother, but as she steps into her teen years, there is much animosity directed at her mother. Through the years, their relationship evolves, but the sentiments expressed may as well be universal.

There is a lot of Tahitian delight sprinkled through the book. Did you know that Tahiti is not a country but one among many islands part of French Polynesia, and part of France? The people there speak French and Tahitian. Materena says that a woman and a man should not marry until they have been together for a long long time and have had kids together. She also happens to have a very large family, including immediate family and all the many cousins she has. They all live very close to each other so any time she has to go to the Chinese store to buy something, she is sure to meet quite a few of her relatives on the way. As you read the book, you get the feeling that you are meeting almost everyone in Tahiti and they all know each other. It takes only about 2 hours to drive around the island; of course, with traffic that can be more. The "public bus" in Tahiti is called a truck and that's what most of the people there use for transport.

The Tahitian "bus", called Le Truck.
Photo credit via Christopher brown

Frangipani is actually book one in a three-book series, all focusing on Materena. I cannot wait to read books two and three now. The narrative style of Frangipani is a little unique - it read more like a chronological series of essays than a continuous narration of a story. It worked well for this book because of its very quirky narration and humorous tone. The author has definitely drawn the picture of her hometown very well - it is hard not to picture the characters or their circumstances in your head. It has scored all the points in my book - storytelling, story, characters, voice, and culture authenticity.

This book is from my personal library.
Armchair reading in Tahiti

The Sunday Salon: Continuing to purge and reset

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Sunday

Good morning, readers! How has your week been so far? It has been pretty warm over here this week - no jackets around but plenty ofhappy colorful flowers everywhere that it feels wonderful to look outside. We finished some yard work last week - planted quite a few plants for our flower garden. We've had quite a struggle with our yard for a while that it feels super amazing to return home every workday to cheerful plants waving their hands. Our tree saplings in the backyard also flowered yesterday, which was a surprise because we weren't expecting anything from them for a few years.

The Spring Cleaning Decluttering continues...

Yard work aside, I have been occupied most of last week with my decluttering project. It's amazing where all clutter accumulates when you pause to look at it. I've been doing a mostly digital declutter this past week - I got my emails tamed and put in systems that prevented future clutter. My solution to that is to send all emails that can accumulate (usually flyers and deals) to a dedicated email account that always kept only the latest email from a sender and not gathered all in a single pot (thank you Microsoft Outlook). I'm trying to reply back to personal emails immediately (yes, I can be very bad at responding back, luckily my husband is very good at keeping me on track with keeping in touch with people) and delete/unsubscribe from the fluff emails that rarely get dealt with.

Other than emails, I have accounts in a ton of other places. I love trying out all the apps that come on the market, more so if Lifehacker reviews it. The downside is that there are all these unused accounts sitting out there that I have forgotten about. It's worse when you try to delete one and they warn you that doing so will prevent me from creating a future account with them using that same email address. Right, make it really hard for me. But, I haven't been going and closing out all those accounts, though I have been spring cleaning the ones I do use (Springpad for my projects and recipes, Evernote for book reviews and articles or stories I write, and Pocket for articles I want to read later). What's left on the digital clutter is Twitter (I may choose to procrastinate here since I don't use much Twitter anyways, or tailor it to my current interests and try to use it more), Facebook (which I've skinned down twice already but am still not very active on it), and Goodreads (which I think is in far better shape but could lose more baggage). These are however low priority on my list now, so I may probably revive these tasks next year.

Now, the physical declutter begins

Photo credit: Denise Krebs at Flickr
While the digital declutter is a mostly done project for now, this week I'll be doing more of the physical declutter. Luckily, we do not have way too much stuff here, having just moved a year and a half ago. But there is still a lot that is hiding in corners, closets and bathroom cabinets. I'm very embarrassed to admit that I threw a whole grocery bag's worth of stuff from my makeup drawers. Quite a good chunk are stuff I don't like anymore or have become old, crusty, and hidden in the dark recesses of the drawers. Before you start looking scandalous, let me salvage some of my pride by saying that I only have three drawers under the bathroom sink and it wasn't that ghastly. But after doing the top drawer, I cannot begin to explain how relieved I was to see a beautiful well-organized drawer staring back at me. I had bought a few baskets for the other two deeper drawers but they were a tad larger than I had space for, so back to the store they go today to get exchanged for something smaller. Next, there are two cabinets waiting to be purged and ordered and I need to think what kind of an organizer I need in there.

This is really the last main space I hadn't organized since moving here, so there are no major purges pending, but chances are my own desk at home could do with some more breathing space. I don't have too much clutter here as I did have a couple of months ago, but there is still one box full of papers and receipts and what-not that need to head to the shredder soon.

So that's pretty much my coming week. Even though it sounds very busy, I love to declutter. There's something ruthlessly satisfying about throwing something and realizing that I just made some space available. It would be nicer if I never had to declutter and was always on top of things, but that sounds very dystopian. What about you? Have you been doing any spring cleaning?

Where to read next?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I have been craving some African literature lately. For no special reason than just because. It has been a long time since I read anything in Africa - the last ones were probably Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan (Some of the stories in that book moved me but the collection itself did not make a huge impact on me), The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin and The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu (both of which I loved).

I have watched quite a few movies, set in some of the African countries (Rwanda, Egypt, South Africa, Libya, Nigeria, to name a few), mostly war or revolution-themed, and those movies have left a lasting impression, enough to make me want to watch or read more. So now is probably a good time than any. There are anywhere between 52 and 61 countries in Africa, depending on your source, but according to this site, 55 is the number of them that are recognized. That is a lot of countries to choose from and I was hoping to choose three works to read. After much browsing through literature works, I narrowed down my list to these five.

Obviously, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun tops my list. I have her Purple Hibiscus also sitting on my desk and may choose to read that one first, but I'm all open to reading anything by her. I have been saying for a few years now that I need to read something by her soon.

But other than that obvious choice, the other four books are also looking very tempting to me. The lone nonfiction on my list, A Long Way Gone is the memoir of a boy soldier, of his days with the government army in Sierra Leone and discovering that he can do some very terrible things. We Need New Names, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is the story of a young girl's journey from Zimbabwe to America. Agaat is set in apartheid South Africa, a history I know a lot about but have read zilch books about. The Beautyful Ones are not yet Born, by Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah, has been compared to Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.

I'm not sure which one I'll read soon after the Adichie book. A Long Way Gone and We Need New Names sound particularly exciting to me, especially the former one, which is likely to give me plenty to think about. Have you read any of these?

This post is part of my Armchair reading project.

The Sunday Salon: Time to declutter

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Sunday

Good morning, readers! Yikes, I haven't posted anything for a week. It's been busy as usual, which since I've been saying for a while, it's probably time to rethink my blogging priorities and figure out how to make time for it. I certainly have been reading more this week and will finally finish Frangipani by tonight or sometime tomorrow. I've also been writing a couple of blog posts that I need to finish. So I expect this week should look a lot better.

Yesterday, the husband and I spent most of the time looking at the new HTC One phone and pondering upgrading to it. Our current phones have become so slow that if ever there's an emergency, forget using them to make a call. It's just super annoying! We finally caved in and purchased the phones, and cannot wait to get our hands on them this week. I joke that whenever the husband and I buy the exact same thing, that thing is a goner, so we'll see how this goes.

It's a gray dreary day outside and as of now, we have no plans for the day other than staying in and reading or watching TV. It's the Walking Dead season finale tonight and I am pretty much chewing my nails with anticipation. I won't be watching the episode until tomorrow, so the wait is even more killing. This season has been so calm mostly (though one of the episodes was a huge shocker) that it feels as if something huge is going to happen tonight. The creator isn't helping at all by promising that it is going to be the most intense finale to date! As if we expected any less!

I have been contemplating doing an online declutter today. There is just so much baggage out there in my accounts that I keep getting distracted by the clutter. Either that, or I never go looking in them until it's been weeks and then I have some important stuff there covered with clutter. I have three email accounts that I use - one for personal emails, one for the blog and anything reading-related, and a third one to use for any subscriptions, shopping, and any kind of crap that tends to accumulate. I managed to clean up the reading account last week but the other two are even worse in shape. I can be very OCD sometimes about structure and predictability that if something starts spiraling out of control, it can be very hard for me to go look at it.

And now it just started raining.