Books to Kickoff 2011: Water for Elephants and Fifth Chinese Daughter

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This book was a real page-turner. Very risqué. And delicious. I highly recommend it to fiction-lovers. I don't recommend it to elephant lovers -- turns out it's not really about elephants. It's actually about a young man who finds himself out of luck and out of work until he suddenly gets picked up to work for a ragtag circus. It's the typical rite of passage, white boy hero can't-do-no-wrong kind of book. Now, I've never worked for a circus, but Gruen's got me convinced the line of work is crooked, hard as hell, and full of surprises.

Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong

I randomly picked this book up at a used bookstore in Oakland (or South Berkeley... Actually, I don't remember at all where I picked it up)

It's a memoir told in the third person (in true Chinese literary form) about a young Chinese girl who grows up in San Francisco during the 1920s. I felt particularly connected to young Jade Snow for her experiences growing up with immigrant parents -- you know: strict rules, high standards, conflict between one's own values, that of her parents, and that of her friends, yadda yadda. Wong's descriptions of San Francisco are so beautiful and detailed that it makes me want to walk through the city, book in hand. And -- spoiler alert! -- Wong ends up going to Mills College for her bachelor's degree. Yaaaay, Go Mills! She describes walking through Richards Gate for the first time in 1938 (or 1940... sorry, fact check please). Her description is almost identical to a video that I have of myself as I drove onto the campus for the first time. Maybe I'll post it some time. Jade Snow Wong's story is truly inspiring. She skipped several grades when she was younger because she was so smart, she worked through high school in order to save up for college, she attained several scholarships that put her through Mills, she worked in the shipyards during the war front, she became an author, potter, and salesperson...

Anyway, read the book. It's good.

That's all for now!

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