DAReadAThon: Results!

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Hello, readers!

I apologize for not posting any updates relating to the last day of the DAReadAThon event! I was feeling rather burned out by all the reading I was trying to accomplish, but here are my results! 72 House Points to Team Ravenclaw!  I didn’t get to read all 7 books, of course, but that just means I’ll have to be more careful with my choices and work harder next time!

If you had missed out my 2 #DAReadAThon book reviews, you can now check out The Weight of Feathers and The Latehomecomer!  As for the books that I didn’t get to, they’ll be included in my later TBR list.  I still intend to eventually read them.

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In the end though, I definitely learned a lot from reading the books, I had dove right in with an opened mind, and I’m glad that I did what I did.  Books can be amazing teachers, they are a world of their own, and they may even have the power to change your life.  Personally, I think readers everywhere should participate in a readathon like this at least once in their life, because it can get one to read outside of their comfort zone and open new doors to new ways of thinking and understandings.

Anyway, thank you to ReadAtMidnight for this wonderful reading event!  Thank you to everyone who has been participating in the DAReadAThon, alongside with me!  Everyone has made this event really fun, and I hope to take part in more readathons in the future!

Kao Kalia Yang – The Latehomecomer | Understanding My Roots

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Title: The Latehomecomer

Author: Kao Kalia Yang

Author’s Country of Birth: Thailand

Ethnicity: Hmong

Genre: Historical Nonfiction/Memoir

Page Numbers: 277

Publish Year: 2008

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Barnes & Noble | Amazon

What Is It About?

After the Vietnam War ended, the Laotian Communist party and their Northern Vietnamese allies made it a mission to exterminate all Hmong supporters of the Americans.  During the war, the United States had opposed the Communist party and sought military support from the Hmong.  As a result, most Hmong men and boys died for the war–and afterwards, when the Americans withdrew from Laos, the Hmong were left behind.  Thousands of Hmong were slaughtered by the Pathet Lao and Northern Vietnamese soldiers.  The remaining survivors fled for the jungles and attempted to cross the Mekong River to Thailand’s refugee camps.  There, they were safe–but their trials and hardships didn’t stop there.

“The Latehomecomer” is a Hmong family memoir, being told from Kao Kalia Yang’s perspective as she tells the story of her family’s journey from the jungles, to her birth in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp, the family’s transition to America, and their new life as Americans.  She shares her personal experiences as a young Hmong girl, struggling to re-adjust to a new life in Minnesota, United States as the Yang family faces prejudice, language barriers, economic obstacles, and tears.  For Kalia, starting over from complete scratch was already frustrating.  But when her grandmother, Youa Lee, is relocated to California, Kalia suddenly feels the growing division between her past…and the possible future in America.

Initial Thoughts…

Here I was, diving into another book about the Vietnam War.

Though I am Hmong and I have spent years–reading about the Vietnam War–and realizing, with bitter acceptance, that the Hmong were almost always excluded from history textbooks–I was mentally preparing myself for the gruesome truths before I actually got my hands on this memoir.  Personally, the fact that it is a book written by a Hmong person about the Vietnam War and aftermaths was refreshing, because I felt that not enough Hmong stories were being published for the country to read.

As a first-generation Hmong-American, I feel that it is important of us Hmong to support one another and root for each other’s success than tearing them down.

How to Describe the Overall Book?

To be honest, I felt guilty while reading the book–not only because I felt bad for asking insensitive questions about life before the Vietnam War when I was growing up, I didn’t know about the miserable hardships of my parents and their families when they were fleeing from the Communist soldiers.  I was so angry–I felt ignorant–and I just…couldn’t help but think of my parents as I continued reading.  I also felt deceived by United States history books–because not only were the Hmong invisible from most of them, there was no mention of heart-breaking sacrifices that the Hmong had to make when supporting American soldiers–and I probably wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for Yang.

Overall, “The Latehomecomer” was well-written and easy to understand for those who are not familiar with Hmong culture.  Yang didn’t spend too much time lingering on background information and was able to build up a strong, personal voice through first-person narrative.  Her attention to the dates were crucial to one knowing when the given event took place in the book as well as informing the audience how old she was around that specific time.  Other details I’ve noted included how Yang was able to incorporate flawless time skips that correlated to significant life events and painting vivid imageries.

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What’s My Favorite Part?

The emotional depths of the author’s personal experiences as a refugee and bilingual child was easily relatable and heart wrenching.  I loved how Yang described the difficulties of not only assimilating into American culture but also learning how to read, speak, and write in a different language while growing up–because there are still many people out there, who do not understand how hard this can be on a child alone.  There are still children, who are doing this all around the world–and speaking their native tongue, their first language, at home!  This takes hard work and dedication, extra hours of studying, and also, a major mental toll.

In addition, the way that Yang introduces the reader to how she had felt being divided between Hmong and an American is a common experience that most bilingual children go through, especially in traditional families of non-American origins.  I, for one, went through that several times throughout my life!  Traditional families may clash with American ideas from time to time, leading to large amounts of stress and conflicts between the child and parent(s).  Life events like Yang’s will usually cause the child to reflect heavily on their separate identities–much like staring into the faces of two mirror reflections.

What’s My Least Favorite Part?

There was little room to complain actually, because the book was straight to the point and consistent with its theme.  As a Hmong person, I recognized many of the cultural customs mentioned in “The Latehomecomer” and specific time periods related to the Vietnam War and after.  After finishing the book, one can tell that Yang had taken great care in creating a deep, heart-warming story of survival and family love because of her amazing story-telling skills.

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A handmade pencil case made by my grandmother.  Embroideries were hand-sewn as well.

And So…

Though I have read books about the Vietnam War before, “The Latehomecomer” was certainly different and unique from all the others, because it is written by a Hmong refugee.  The history and background information about the Hmong and their culture proved to be certainly helpful and was written in a concise but easy to understand way for readers to grasp.  The importance of family is echoed throughout the novel and is of common but a most valuable thing in Hmong culture, because during war, one cannot help but hope to come out of it, alive with loved ones.

To be surrounded by those who loves you and who are still here with you is probably taken for granted by many of us.  Yang was able to shift my view in life back to my folks and made me remember how fortunate I was to have grown up in a family with two parents–and parents who survived an attempted genocide and war time.  Sometimes, we can get so caught up in life that we forget about those who had fought with blood and tears for our futures.  Sometimes, we get so lost in the small details that we overlook the bigger picture.

“The Latehomecomer” is definitely a must-read for people who are trying to expand their horizons about minority groups and forgotten histories.  It is created by the tears of a people who were forgotten and invisible to many throughout the world, the strength of survivors who banded together with their families–for life or for death, and written by a woman who wanted to share the story of her people, to make a mark on American literature.  It is a voice from the Secret War.

It is a voice that is no longer silent.

A voice that says, “We’re here.”

DAReadAThon: Day 10 & Receiving Book Giveaway Raffle Prize via Mail!

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Hello, readers!

Today, I opened my book giveaway raffle prize from Three Little Books Company!  I received the package yesterday, but it was given to me when the day had gotten dark, so I couldn’t take any good pictures with the bad lighting in our apartment.  Anyway, I was blown away by how beautiful the book cover is, I’ve read Twitter tweets about “Plastic Wings”–and so, I’m very excited to read it soon!

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Title: Plastic Wings

Author: C.T. Callahan

Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult

3 Little Books Co | Barnes & Noble

When 7-year-old Evie Weiss discovers a strange boy in the woods, she has no idea that he is a dark angel, one of the humanoid beings that is trying to end the human race and the world around her.  Years later, as humanity strikes a counterattack against the dark angels, Evie remembers the boy and is torn between the loyalty to her race–and the feelings of compassion for the other side.  Can Evie unite two worlds so divided by war and hate?

Also, today is the 10th day of DAReadAthon!  I have moved on and am currently reading Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Gardens in the Dunes”!  I will have a book review of Kao Kalia Yang’s “The Latehomecomer” tomorrow, so bear with me.

To be honest, I’ve just been taking my time with this readathon.  I did panic at first, because I have selected 7 rather thick books for 15 days–but reading in general is supposed to be fun!  That’s why I started this book blog!

Aside from my book-related activities, what book are you reading now?  I hope that you are enjoying whatever you’re currently reading.  We, book readers, ought to support one another and build each other up!  If you have any recommendations for me, don’t forget to check out my Book Review Policy~

DAReadAThon: Day 05

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Hello, readers!

Today’s the 5th day of ReadAtMidnight‘s DAReadAThon!  I’m more than halfway with Kao Kalia Yang’s “The Latehomecomer”–and it’s been heartbreaking!  Because I am Hmong, this book has caused me to reflect deeply about the journey my parents had to make (They met in America), with their families from Laos to the Thailand refugee camps.  While growing up, I often heard stories of how families were separated while crossing the Mekong River and how they went to school in the camps but I was rarely told about the pain and misery they had endured (probably because my parents didn’t want their children to know)–so, I was often seen, reading books about the Vietnam War, trying to find out what I can.

Anyway, I’m glad that I’m participating in the DAReadAThon!  It’s certainly opened my eyes to new worlds and new, refreshing perspectives.  I’ve been really motivated, reading book after book–learning from new voices!

Do you enjoy taking part in readathons?

DAReadAThon: Day 02

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4 of the 7 books I am striving to read for DAReadAThon!

Hello, readers!

It’s the 2nd day of ReadAtMidnight‘s DAReadAThon, and I’m currently reading Kao Kalia Yang’s “The Latehomecomer”!  I’ve been so excited for the 15 days to start–from January 1st to January 15th–midnight to midnight!  If you’re interested in learning more about my DAReadAThon’s TBR List, head on over and check out my previous post regarding this Harry-Potter themed event, which is hosted by ReadAtMidnight herself.

For Dumbledore’s Army ReadAThon, I am representing the Ravenclaw House!

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Image Credit: ReadAtMidnight
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Image Template: ReadAtMidnight

 I have to say that I’m really motivated to keep reading as much as I could, because just knowing that there are others who are reading alongside with me–in their own homes is nice and comforting–plus we get to rack up House points, depending on how much we read and post online!  It’s fun, it gets me off my lazy butt to read more, and it helps keep me busy on days when I have nothing to do~~

Are you participating in the DAReadAThon?

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Oscar Wilde – The Complete Short Stories | A Charming Classic!

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Title: The Complete Short Stories

Series: Oxford World’s Classics Series

Author: Oscar Wilde

Author’s Country of Birth: Ireland

Genre: Drama/Fantasy

Page Numbers: 288 pages

Publish Year: 2010

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Barnes & Noble | Amazon

How to Describe The Overall Book?

If there are just two words I would have to pick, describing Oscar Wilde’s work, it would be this: modern fairytales.  At every page I turned while reading his short stories, it seemed as if the man himself was weaving out tales to me by the fireplace from everyday life in the late 1880’s.  Ranging from 18th century English men and Spanish princesses to giants and talking statues, Wilde’s writings were beautifully and carefully phrased.

Just one sentence alone was enough to paint a night sky out while I continued reading, and in my mind, I saw Wilde’s vision when he was working on the drafts.  Not only was his use of language was important in setting the mood, it enabled the plot progression to flow smoothly from one point to another.  Every twist of events, every inch of tragedy, and every ounce of happiness was impeccable and flawless.

Even the introduction of his characters were spectacularly done as he was quick to set their personality or physical features in writing.  The way he was able to pin those significant physical traits down in such a short time was crucial in visualizing the given main character’s look.  Such words were carefully chosen to show the reader how special this protagonist is to the story’s plot, because unlike the supporting cast, Oscar Wilde placed an emphasis on describing the main character’s unique characteristics to make him stand out from the background and the rest of his peers.  It was simple but also very efficient and effective.

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What Is It About?

Starting off with “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”, the book introduces us to a party event of high social class status and a cheiromantist (palm reader).  We then meet the protagonist, Lord Arthur Savile, who gets his palm read by the cheiromantist, Mr. Podgers.  When Mr. Podgers tells Lord Arthur about his future, the young man then goes out to carry out his dark foretold prophecy.

Following up is “The Sphinx Without a Secret” where Lord Murchison is telling his friend, the narrator, about a mysterious woman he had fallen madly in love with over the past summer.  Then, there is “The Canterville Ghost”, which is about an American family moving into the haunted Canterville Chase home and dealing with a costume-donning ghost from the Canterville family line.  After that, it is “The Model Millionaire”, featuring a broke young man who decides to give a beggar his pocket change.  Other short stories in the book collection also include “The Happy Prince”, “The Nightingale and the Rose”, “The Selfish Giant”,”The Fisherman and His Soul”, “The Star-Child”, and various completed works such as poems in prose.

What’s My Favorite Part?

My favorite story from the overall collection has to be and will always be “The Fisherman and His Soul”, because not only did it feature mermaids, it also reminded me of Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid” but at the same time, remained original.  The story was beautiful in every way and so persuasive that I had to convince myself that the tale couldn’t possibly be based on real life events!  It made me feel the heart-wrenching pain and warm happiness that the fisherman faced, and I could not help but show sympathy for him again and again.

What’s My Least Favorite Part?

Other than that, while Wilde did entertain me greatly with his original stories, I could not bring myself to like “The Remarkable Rocket”, because the rocket character kept talking so much!  But I had to agree with what Wilde was doing with the character because the rocket was supposed to be extremely proud and self-centered, after all, who outright said he liked hearing himself talk.  It did drive me really mad though.

And So…

Despite that, it just demonstrated the fact that Oscar Wilde was able to persuade you to like or dislike a character based on how he wrote out their personality, such as conversational  dialogues or physical traits.  Through the use of language and storytelling techniques, the author was skilled and successful in delivering the desired result: making his tales believable.  Overall, I can see why Oscar Wilde’s works remain as a part of English classic literature and will always stay so for many more centuries.

If you are familiar with Oscar Wilde’s work, feel free to comment below with your favorite short story or novel written by him or if you enjoyed reading this post, like it!  Thank you for taking the time and consideration upon reading this book review.  Have a wonderful day, readers!