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June 21, 2005 > Chick Lit for the Summer

Chick Lit for the Summer

It's summer. Don't wallow in someone else's depressing life, try these fun books:

The Dim Sum of All Things by Kim Wong Keltner. The history of Chinese-American literature is short but happily we've reached the point of "poking fun at ourselves." Are you ready for an Asian American "Bridget Jones?"

Single, twenty-something Lindsey Owyang is what her brother calls a Twinkie - "yellow on the outside, but a total white girl inside." She's very hip even though she chooses to live in San Francisco with her grandmother, a real character as all grandmas are. As Lindsey navigates through her love life and a less than fulfilling career, there are dating disasters with the grandsons of Grandma's mahjong partners, attending an authentic Chinese banquet where Number One Son shows off his language skills by speaking "Chinglish" and a trip to China with grandma.

She's particularly wary of white guys she dubs "hoarders of all things Asian," who only date Asian-American girls and are more interested in her culture than she is. Lindsey also feels a bit of anxiety about her crush on a white co-worker, who seems to like her. But are his feelings genuine, or is he just another hoarder? Will Lindsey's love interest be sent running by Grandma's stinky Chinese ointments?
Avon Trade Publishing, paperback, $13.95. For the further adventures of Lindsey Owyang, Buddha Baby, is coming this fall from Harper Collins Publishers. Recommended for teens and adults.

Funny in Farsi, A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas. Written with the author's kids in mind, these stories are funny without resorting to sex or bathroom humor. This is a "fish out of water tale" about an Iranian-American family figuring out this magical place called California.
Nothing is funnier than an outsider's view of America. It's fresher, more honest, and not tainted by jingoism. The book shows Americans at their best‚ not too geographically astute, but usually kind, tolerant and helpful. Each chapter is full of family‚ those crazy people that make you who you are.
There are truly funny, laugh-out-loud moments, because they are so "real." Dumas' engineer father mistakes the polite praise of his American bowling partners for a true assessment of his talents and enters the contest show, Bowling for Dollars; the visiting uncle systematically tries all "American" food and then attacks his weight gain with an army of weight loss miracle cures; a family not yet fluent in English laughing at Bob Hope on television even without understanding the jokes.
According to Firoozeh Dumas, "Iranians, Americans and others are being brought together by laughter." In the book, she says, "I wanted to show my respect for both cultures. I sincerely believe that we have something to learn from each other." Iranians "put emphasis on family. Things like hospitality and generosity are woven into our culture." But, Dumas says, "The thing that is great about America is that you can pursue your dream. I came here. I wrote a book published by the biggest publishing house in America because it was good. I am the American dream."
Random House, paperback, $12.95. Recommended for teens to adults.

Girls in Pants, The Third Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares. The movie based on the first book of this series, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants has just been released to positive reviews. Each of the books can be read alone or out of sequence because Ann Brashares makes you care about the characters. There is a good chance that you will get as hooked as we did and decide to read all three.

Tibby, Carmen, Lena and Bridget are best friends from birth (baby class) even though the mothers are no longer close. As they embark on summer adventures, they share one pair of magical pants that weirdly fit each perfectly. It is their way of gaining strength from friends far apart, while each learns to be an individual. In Girls in Pants, this is the summer after graduating high school and before separate schools and careers. Brashares weaves the four stories together seamlessly. As the mother of boys, I'm relieved that the guys in these books are not just love interests but decent people. There are stepparents and new siblings, a grumpy widowed grandmother, and old and new boyfriends.

Delacorte Press hardback, $16.95. Book 1 and 2 are available in paperback. Recommended for preteens to adults.

Picture Books
A picture book is truly worth a thousand words. Since it takes more words to review a picture book than contained in the entire original text, I will keep it short. I just love these books:

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems- The illustrations are not "pretty," but are perfect for the quick moving text. Kids immediately get why you shouldn't let the pigeon drive the bus and will be yelling along. Great for kids who don't like to be told "no."
Hyperion Books for Children, hardback, $12.99. Recommended for preschool to kindergarten.


Also, look for the second pigeon tale, The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems. A good lesson about sharing and putting up with a younger bird. Hyperion Books for Children, hardback, $12.99. Recommended for preschool to kindergarten.

For more book reviews, see www.giantstepsbooks.com. If you would like to suggest some good reads for our group or to join us, please let me know at giantsteps@comcast.net.

 
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