The Big Sick

124 min.

Hallelujah, another romcom. With some coming-of-age elements. And fish-out-of-water, because this romantic comedy largely involves an immigrant family in the USA. Which means there’s people of colour involved as well, score! I know this could be read as sarcastic, but I feel like romantic stories are even more often super white than other The-Big-Sick-postermovie genres.

Kumail and Emily meet when he’s doing a standup show, both decide that this meet up is going to be an one time thing.  Good thing we know there’s way too much chemistry between the two of them to believe that.

Romantic gestures, fights, breaks ups and make ups are (mostly) thrown aside for a much bigger game changer: Emily becomes seriously ill. How does a relationship work with/around that?

Kumail goes through some Life Lessons, while Emily is (more) fleshed out through the presence of her parents. It’s their chemistry that doesn’t make you ask too much questions, just look at the darn cute of them. The other characters are everything you need in a romantic comedy.

The Big Sick, FilmNation Entertainment 2017

Disappearing Moon Cafe

He remembered that by then he was worn out from fighting the wind.

Sometimes you are simply (already) invested in a novel because you struggled to get it. Or like ‘struggle’; it’s not like I had to climb trees and survive the Sahara to get to it. It was just a tough-to-acquire eBook with a picky view of in which app to work. Anyway.

This was an experience, opposed to just another novel. Maybe I’m simply not used to Asian actors and their certain style yet, maybe it was simply because the jumps through time got me bewildered a few times.

There’s over a century of stories within the family, from second(/third/fourth?) cousins to daughters-in-law, first sons and grumpy (great-)grandmothers. A Chinese family in Canada, Chinese-Canadians and the Chinese family members left behind in the other country.

It’s a family tree book with immigration, racism and sexism mixed in. The not-western point of view doesn’t alienate, because everything that happens is simply too familiar. Everyone’s got a family, some roots just grow further and wither slower.

Disappearing Moon Cafe, Sky Lee, Douglas & McIntyre Ltd. 1990

Preparation for the Next Life

She came by way of Archer, Bridgeport, Nanuet, worked off 95 in jeans and a denim jacket, carrying a plastic bag and shower shoes, a phone number, waiting beneath an underpass, the potato chips long gone.

It took me four days after finishing this before I felt like I could shape an opinion about this story. At first I was just hugely relieved that I was done.

This novel is closer to a news bulletin, a history story or a sociological essay. This isn’t entertainment or escape, it’s too brutal and slogging, the number of light and happy moments much too little.

So why would you? How many people pick a book that will darken their day considerably? As with non-fiction: to know. To remember that there is a world outside the familiar one. And in Zou’s path there can be find a little spark of motivation, while Skinner’s fall just shows the urgency of supporting veterans mentally. With my previous reads of De Gele Vogels and Terug naar normaal this month’s themes turn out to be mental health and war.

I agree with other reviews that the addition of a certain character is unnecessary, and his chapters could be skipped. They just add more violence, despair, and lack of reasons for existence.

Preparation for the Next Life, Atticus Lish, OneWorld 2014

Memory Mambo

I’ve always thought of memory as a distinct, individual thing.

For me it’s always tougher to argument why I didn’t like a book, especially when I felt like I should. I’m always up for more female, not-white, not heterosexual stories, and the lives of (first generation) immigrants interest me as well.

So what’s lacking with Memory Mambo? From the start it’s unclear who the main character is, what she does and why the reader has to root for her or dislike her. Juani is an extra in her own life, but is so incredibly passive that we don’t know if it’s willingly or because it’s the easiest.

And which story is the reader following: her lamenting her ex, or the happenings of her family? Why does it all fade into each other (okay, that’s daily life, always a challenge to make that look appealing) until A Real Big Thing less than twenty pages from the ending? Was it supposed to be a longer story but cut off for some reason?
Reading is someone’s effort, and this time it didn’t pay off.

Memory Mambo, Achy Obejas, Cleis Press 1996

We Never Asked For Wings

It wasn’t too late to turn back.

I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. A new book? From the Express Collection (meaning you have to read it in one week so everybody gets a chance)? A New York Times bestselling author? This would put me on the book of my read-better-books resolution, wouldn’t it? What a rookie mistake.

We Never Asked For Wings isn’t a horrible, bad, ugly book, it’s simply closer to the Happy Family trope of any Harlequin book than literature with a capital L. Which is fine, but what I had not set out for. With a plot about an absent mother having to returning to her children because her Mexican parents leave, the threat of poverty and deportation ever present elements in their lives, I was ready for some lessons I’d never experience in my privileged world. Sure, there was mention of a “She Will Have To Chose” plot line, but love doesn’t necessarily pulls down the quality of a novel.

The easy shocks and the quick solutions, the dramatic turns that are neatly tied up in the next chapter, the annoying, two-dimensional characters, do. It felt like I was reading a beginner’s steps into telenovela writing. Entertaining but flat.

This just shows you can’t even trust librarians these days. Maybe I should have gone for The Marriage of Opposites after all.

We Never Asked For Wings, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Ballantine Books 2015

 

Black

95 min.

Zoals ik al vaker heb vermeld, een geweldig goed boek of film zijn niet per sé makkelijk te reviewen. Waarom was het zo geweldig, tenslotte? En zal iemand die niet mijn achtergrond en mijn interesses heeft zich er ook in kunnen vinden?

a team productions
A Team Productions

Black is het Romeo en Julia verhaal, maar deze keer zijn de vechtende families jongerengangs in Brussel. Allemaal Afrikanen, zoals de Romeo Merwan zegt in het begin van de film, maar tussen Marokko en midden-Afrika gaapt een leegte groter dan de Grand Canyon. Het gaat om respect en de beste werkplekken hebben en vooral de enige zijn die er toe doet.

En lang kan dat naast elkaar bestaan, Brussel is groot genoeg. Maar wanneer het mis gaat, is het ook als natuurgeweld, alles vernietigend.

Hoofdpersonen Merwan en Mervala/Marie-Evelyne hebben een chemie waardoor je vanaf de eerste ontmoeting het beste voor ze wenst. Misschien gaat het deze keer wel goed, kijk toch eens naar die kalverliefde. Zal het dan deze keer misschien ..?

Verschillende Brusselse bioscopen wilden de film niet tonen omdat ze bang waren dat jongeren de verkeerde ideeën zouden krijgen. Ik denk dat dat juist de test zou moeten zijn: als je na Black nog charme en avontuur in de gang ziet, kun je het best gelijk opgesloten worden.

Black, Caviar ~A Team Productions 2015

The Golem and the Djinni

The Golem’s life began in the hold of a steamship.

With some books you don’t want to stop reading and definitely don’t want to reach the end either. This is one of those. With every page you get a brighter image of not just nineteenth century New York city, but of everyone’s pains and motivations, yet always teasing enough to make sure that you continue turning the page.

The story is, indeed, about a golem and a djinni. One is brought to live on a boat trip from the old world (Europe) to the new world. The other is unsure about his past, but has to adjust to a human life in the big immigrant city as well. One of them ends up in Little Syria, the other in the Jewish community.

Both are aliens, to humankind and to the country. Helene Wecker shows city history while braiding mythology and coming of age through it. Her descriptions of the city and its people are beautiful and brutal at the same time, painting a colorful but painful picture.

A simple story, but surrounded by so much beauty and humanity that you can’t put it away.

The Golem and the Djinni, Helene Wecker, Blue Door 2013