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!

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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?

Anna-Marie McLemore – The Weight of Feathers | The Question of Free Will

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Title: The Weight of Feathers

Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Author’s Country of Birth: USA

Ethnicity: Hispanic

Genre: Drama/Romance

Page Numbers: 308

Publish Year: 2015

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Barnes & Noble | Amazon

What Is It About?

The Name is forbidden.  Being touched by Them can certainly mean death.  If you see a feather–any feather–you have to burn whatever it has touched for what it has touched becomes tainted.  This is what means…to be a Paloma for Lace.

For years, the feud between the two rival families, the Palomas and the Corbeaus, have escalated into violence and even deaths.  Both families are competing circus performers, with the Palomas specializing in river mermaid shows–and the Corbeaus being tight-rope walkers, with feathered wings.  But when Cluck Corbeau rescues Lace Paloma, Lace is thrown into unfamiliar territories of love, hate, and family secrets that will make her question just about everything that made her a Paloma.

Initial Thoughts…

POC protagonists? Check.  Strong heroine? Check.  Interracial relationships? Check.

Because it was inspired by William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”–I was feeling a bit uneasy when I stumbled upon this re-telling, because I wasn’t sure if I could handle any more unhappy and tragic endings to star-crossed lovers.  However, being in an interracial relationship myself, I wanted to read a book that I can relate to and feature two people of different races.  The fact that “The Weight of Feathers” revolve around two traditional families of French and Spanish heritages–AND still speak the two languages?  That was what helped sold me into getting my hands on the book.

Well, then, there’s also the fact that the whole story takes place in the Central Valley–Central California–close to where I currently live.  Instead of a typical setting in Los Angeles, New York City, or major city in the States, I found that pretty refreshing.  All the bits that made this book? They were all unique, and I knew this was a hard find for me.

How To Describe the Overall Book?

Personally, I felt that the book started out a bit slow in the beginning, but that was because McLemore had to fill the reader in about both family backgrounds and set the mood situation, regarding how they each feel about the other.  After that though, in between switching off from Lace’s to Cluck’s perspectives–both in third-person narrative–the story plot gradually progressed in an interesting way due to the constant build-up of details and chain of events that, of course, comes to play a huge role altogether later on.  “The Weight of Feathers” definitely surpassed my expectations by a MAJOR landslide–and I found that just because it was inspired by “Romeo and Juliet”, it was not cliche at all.  So, no sweet poetry or anything like that.

However, there was a love that felt so real and modern to me as a reader.  As a result, I was sucked furthermore into the story–and finished the entire book in 4 reading sessions.  Overall, the book itself was amazing!  It was original, the theme was consistent–all of my questions were answered–and honestly, I was pretty content.

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What’s My Favorite Part?

One of the major factors that I look for when reading a story–is good and strong character development whether that means a protagonist becoming a villain…or the protagonist becoming a better version of themselves and has overcome their obstacles.  Thoughout the story, Lace always remained as a strong female protagonist but she had her own naive moments and close-mindedness.  Despite this, her courage and boldness shone through, and she was the perfect foil to Cluck’s personality just as he was to her.  Then, there was Cluck.  I loved him so much, because I had empathy for him–and eventually, I too saw his character flaws, flaws that made him just as Human as anyone else–and weaknesses also.  Both main characters share these Human traits–and it gave them both more dimension.  Eventually, they went on to challenge these flaws and weaknesses of theirs.  Another thing I love–is that they build each other up.

So, I kept reading!  McLemore then strategically set up and arranged each major dramatic event, using the family hierarchies to her advantage–to launch the chain of events that kept popping in, producing ripple effects that could be felt throughout the rest of the story.  Ripple effects that helped both Lace and Cluck grow as people.

Not only was there strong character development and a well thought-out chain reaction that contributed greatly to the overall climax–and to the ending–there was also another significant component that held the story altogether: consistency.  The theme could be felt again and again in each event, especially when it revolved around family.  In addition, the symbolism was seen various times during the most critical moments between characters–causing one to be always curious and at the edge of their seat.

What’s My Least Favorite Part?

To be honest, at first, the feelings of both Cluck and Lace felt awkward and forced at times–leaving me feeling a bit irritated.  I knew that McLemore wanted these early events between the main characters to happen because they are both romantic interests–but I couldn’t quite pin-point why they felt so unnatural to me.  After some time though, the romance started to feel less rigid, and everything began falling into place.  “The Weight of Feathers” was McLemore’s first book, and so, I could understand why there were a few problem areas.

And So…

Unlike most books that I have read in the past, I was left feeling quite impressed by how well McLemore tied up all the loose ends and answered all of my questions about both families.  What was thought as a simple plot–actually thickened and was more complicated than I took it for.  With shocking secrets being revealed from whichever end–and then, the reader realizing that “The Weight of Feathers” was more than just a romance novel–one’s interpretation of the book can change again and again.  I, for one, closed the book–knowing what struck me the most.

And that was the weight of every feather.

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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Winter Readathon & Updates!

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Photo credit to ReadAtMidnight

Hello, readers!

Before I knew it, I’ve already signed up for my first Readathon, a Harry Potter-themed one hosted by Aentee of Read At Midnight!  If you are a reader and a Harry Potter fan yourself, you are welcome to join me and many others as well!  I’ve never been this excited in such a long while over reading–and it’s almost as if I am reading books with friends in a cozy library!

Anyway, the Winter Readathon, also called Dumbledore’s Army Readathon, will be running from Sunday, January 1st, 2017 to Sunday, January 15th, 2017.  It will focus on diverse books!  Aentee has already given us book prompts, all 7 of which are inspired by magic spells that Harry and his friends had practiced, and you get to also earn points for the house you are a part of!  On Pottermore, I was a Slytherin, and so, I felt obligated to join the Slytherin house.  Sign up will remain open for the rest of December.

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My House ID!  I recently took the updated Pottermore sorting test again and came out as Ravenclaw 2 out of 3 times!  Image template provided by ReadAtMidnight.

If you have a blog, you are welcome to join us by signing up or if you have a Twitter account, you can use the hashtag #DAReadAThon (Dumbledore’s Army Reathathon) as a way to participate also!  If you are unable to join but you are interested in keeping up with my journey and the progress of other participants, follow the hashtag on Twitter–follow me–or subscribe to this blog for updates!  Do whatever works for you.

As of now, this is my TBR list from the 7 book prompts:

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Photo credit to ReadAtMidnight.
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Image credit to Goodreads.

The two families, the Palomas and the Corbeaus, have always been in a feud for years.  In addition, they are also traveling performers in rival shows–one in mermaid exhibitions and another in tightrope walking.  Lace Paloma knew that she should stay away from the Corbeaus–but one day, Cluck Corbeau saves her life–and she starts falling for him.

This is a diverse book featuring an important issue to both me and my fiancee, because we are in an interracial relationship, and the story revolves around two characters who are in a similar position.  It makes both Lace Paloma and Cluck Corbeau relatable to us.  Also, the fact that this story has a POC protagonist involved in a interracial relationship is pretty refreshing.

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Photo credit to ReadAtMidnight.
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Image credit to Goodreads.

After the passing of her father’s death, Ash would often read fairytales by a fire as it was the only thing that brought her comfort and joy.  Left with her wicked stepmother and with two parents dead, Ash wanted the fairies to take her away from this–and Sidhean, a dark fairy, might actually grant her wish.  But one day, she meets Kaisa, the King’s huntress, and her will to live and love soon reignites.  With this, who will she choose in the end: Sidhean or Kaisa?

Though I have read mixed reviews about this book, I’m more skeptical of the negative reviews when it came from readers who…are very biased and traditional.  Honestly, I have never picked up a book about lesbian love before, and so, this really excites me!  As someone who supports all of her LGBT friends and family members, I am glad to see more LGBT representation in all types of media: art, books, movies, TV series, and others.  The mere thought of how positive representation can make them all happier makes me happier also.

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Photo credit to ReadAtMidnight.
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Image credit to Goodreads.

Though nine-year-old Kati had always lived her life with her grandparents, a reoccurring thought would often come up:  Where is her mother?  For five years, Kati hasn’t seen her mother and not a soul would tell about her current whereabouts.  Then, one day, Grandmother tells Kati that her mother has had Lou Gehrig’s disease during all these years and would like to spend her last days with Kati.

For those who are new to #OwnVoices, #OwnVoices are stories about diverse or marginalized identity by an author of that same diverse/marginalized identity as well.  For more information, you can refer to the original hashtag starter, Corrine Duynis.  Since “The Happiness of Kati” is about a Thai girl written by a Thai woman author, I thought that this would make the best fit for me–and the fact that I rarely come across books by Southeast Asian writers.

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Photo credit to ReadAtMidnight.
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Image credit to Goodreads.

In 2009, Rebecca Traistor decides to research and interview the diverse masses of American single women for her book, “All the Single Ladies.”  It was the year when under 50 percent of overall American women were married and the average age of first marriages leapt from the early 20’s bracket to 27 years old.  In 2016, only 2o percent of Americans are married by the age of 29.  Covering class, race, and sexual orientation, “All the Single Ladies” is a book documenting the historical progression of women everywhere to how we got here.

To be honest, when I first stumbled across the title, I was reminded of Beyonce’s single hit “All the Single Ladies.”  When I went to see what the contemporary journalism work is all about, I instantly became interested to know how we American women came to this point.  Being part of a first-generation Asian American group, I know how it feels to be pressured to get into a heterosexual marriage at a young age, thanks to the constant verbal reminders that I’m in 20’s by my mother.  But I didn’t give in, because we are living in a nation where we are now given options beyond marriage, and that includes the opportunity of pursuing higher education.  Though I have a feeling that I may already know some of the answers, I am still going to pick this book up and confirm them myself.

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Photo credit to ReadAtMidnight.
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Image credit to Goodreads.

After the Vietnam War, the Hmong were being massacred for siding with the Americans, and as a result, thousands of Hmong families made their way into the United States and a few other countries, who also welcomed them with opened arms.  Lacking a written language, these first-hand accounts were often recorded by others.  After her grandmother’s passing, Kao Kalia Yang made a tribute to the woman whose strength held the family together during the hard, brutal times, starting from captivity and the family’s escape into Thailand to her birth in the refugee camp and new life in America.

As a Hmong-American, I often heard stories about the Vietnam War while growing up and would sometimes find a peer from the same ethnicity group, who was born in a Thai refugee camp and immigrated to the United States at a very young age.  But despite all of that, I have only read one book about the Hmong experience and it wasn’t even written by a Hmong author.  With this book, I will be reading my first Hmong nonfiction story by a Hmong woman, and I can say that this makes me feel proud of how far my people have come and the sacrifices made by my parents during their escape into Thailand.

It’s been on my TBR list for too long, and well, I should really get to finally reading it!

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Photo credit to ReadAtMidnight.
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Image credit to Goodreads.

In the recent past, I have seen some hype about Aisha Saeed’s work, “Written in the Stars”, a story about a girl who is being pressured into an arranged marriage by her parents.  When Nalia falls in love with Saif, her parents are outraged, because they believe that they should choose her future husband as tradition dictates.  Then, what started out as a family vacation to explore her Pakistani roots becomes a nightmare when her conservative parents demand that she marry their chosen husband now!

I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of arranged marriages, and so, when I came across this title on the Internet, I knew that it was time for me to come out of my comfort zone again and read it.  The book cover is magnificent and eye-catching to me, the title is beautifully thought out, and well, I’ve never read books written by an author of Pakistani descent.  It’s all the better reason to change current reader I am into the future reader I want to be.

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Photo Credit to ReadAtMidnight.
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Image credit to Goodreads.

The story revolves around a Native American girl named Indigo, who was taken from her tribe, the Sand Lizard people, by white soldiers and placed into a government school where she is to learn the ways of a white child.  With her home and family destroyed, Indigo had nowhere to run to until she is adopted by a kind couple, Hattie and Edward, who wants to turn her into a proper young lady.

Written by a Native American author, I am impressed by the fact that this book is addressing the 19th century US boarding school system, which was based on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School where Native American children were forbidden to speak their native languages and encouraged to abandon their Native American cultures.  In all of my years, I cannot recall a time when my history teachers actually talked about this in class and if they did, they merely skimmed through that part–like they did with me about the Vietnam War.  This will be my first time reading anything written by a Native American author, and I am looking forward to it!

Regarding other updates, though, it seems that I will not be able to read the Korean-translated book, “The Vegetarian”, written by Han Kang for December 2016.  I am currently being waitlisted for the book, and so, instead, I will be reading Khaled Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns.”  I’ve recently come across the title multiple times on the Internet, and I thought to myself: “Why not?”  The title is what captured my attention and interest, it chronicles 30 years of Afghanistan history, and the story of how two women, Mariam and Laila, become close friends through unlikely circumstances.  I have seen raving reviews about Hosseini’s work, and it has piqued my curiosity.

Have you ever participated in a Readathon?  If so, feel free to share your experience below in the comments or if you enjoyed this post, like it!  Stay tuned for future posts!