04 March 2013

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Last month on A CUP OF JO, a blog I read almost every day, Joanna mentioned she wanted to reread Persepolis after seeing Argo. I haven't seen Argo  (so sue me) but the cover of Persepolis looked familiar to me. So I ordered it through inter library loan (thank goodness I don't have time to go the public library any more...) and finished it in about three days. Max. 

Persepolis is a graphic novel about the Islamic Revolution. It follows the story of the author, Marjane Satrapi, from ages 6 - 14 in Iran. I think what struck me most about the story is it is such an adult story. Revolutions, protests, dictators, corrupt religious leaders, new strange laws-- it is far too much for a young girl to process and yet, in this book, young Marjane does. To hear a revolution explained as adult is one thing. You can talk about reason, about the way things should be, risks and costs of the cause. But a child only sees new rules that don't make sense, the absurdity of class structure and confusion as bombs drop in the safety of your neighborhood. And of course, in the end, it is a coming of age story. Not just a girl growing up in the midst of life, parents and boys, but a girl growing up in a society where the rules are always changing and wearing nail polish could get you thrown in prison.

I will admit, I didn't know much about the Islamic Revolution. I'm sure I still don't know much. It was before my time, which isn't too much of an excuse, but still it is the one I will use. Reading Persepolis opened my eyes to the way other people live. And even if the telling was fictionalized to a certain degree or if it was skewed...well, what story isn't? 
It also reminded me how blessed I am to have been born where I was born. And on the flip side, made me wonder what kind of life I would have had if I had been born somewhere else. 

If graphic novels are your thing, be sure to check out Maus by Art Spiegelman. Art interviews his father about what it was like to be a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. In the story, Art uses different animals to portray the different races of humans: Jews are portrayed as mice and the Germans are portrayed as cats. 

Do you have a favorite historical memoir? I'd love to hear about it! 

01 March 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Ever since I started my account with Goodreads, I find most of my new books from their monthly newsletter. Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore was one of those books that kept popping up on all of my friend's "to read" lists and when I saw it just sitting there on the new book display at my library, I knew I had to pick it up. 

Clay Jannon (referred to primarily by his last name through the book) spends his days looking for work. Well, mostly. It's part job searching on the internet, part making coffee, part getting distracted by the internet, part getting depressed by lack of job and part just giving up and taking a nap. If you've looked for work recently, you'll understand completely. He happened upon a bookstore, Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore to be precise, looking for a night shift clerk. Even after one of the oddest interviews Jannon had every experienced, he is hired almost on the spot. 

The bookstore is, as Jannon quickly finds out, part bookstore part book club. The members come in at all hours of the day and night, ask for the oddest titled books with confidence, and then leave, sometimes, never to be seen by Jannon again. It is a rare day when a non-member stumbles in to buy a bestseller in the small front section of the store. 

But you are asking the question: members? Members of what? 
That's just it. Jannon isn't quite sure. He is responsible of keeping track of who comes in, their mannerisms, the way they are dressed, the words they use and what they had eaten before coming in. Your question becomes Jannon's question too and he sets off to figure out what is really going on in Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore.

The way I see this book, it's part DaVinci Code/Digital Fortress (yes, a combo of two Dan Brown books. Sue me.): old school and new tech. It is part something else but I can't quite put my finger on it. The story was interesting but the motivation was a bit on the lacking side. I liked the book, but will probably think twice about reading anything else by Robin Sloan.