Tag book post


Lately I am copying a lot of ideas from my friend and fellow blogger The World Common Tater. Imitation is a form of flattery, Tater. I am sticking with that story. I found this fun post on his blog site.

This is hard, though! This is like choosing your favorite child!

What are 1-3 of your favourite books of all time?

  • Mahabharat by Vyasa
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

What are 1-3 of your favourite authors of all time?

  • Jane Austen
  • Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay
  • Geraldine Brooks

Who is your favourite female character from a book?

Satyabati from Prothom Protishruti by Ashapurna Debi

Who is your favourite male character from a book?

Feluda from Satyajit Ray’s Feluda Shomogro

What’s your favourite fictional world?

The land of OZ from The Wizard of Oz

What book has your favourite book cover?

The Girl with a Louding Voice by Abi Dare

What’s your favourite book-to-movie adaptation?

Shonar Kella by Satyajit Ray

If you could make any book into a movie, which would it be? 

The Rising Man and the sequels by Abir Mukherjee

What was your favourite childhood book?

Pather Panchali by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay

Fantasy or Sci-fi (or neither)?

Definitely, fantasy. However, neither genres are my absolute favorite but I would read a fantasy over a sci fi.

I hope some more people do this. I would love to see your answers – says Tater. My choices may not excite folks who read books written in English. But how could I leave out my first love? Treasures of Bengali literature.

My heart is full because I read this book.


The beginning of the pandemic was a chaotic, extreme anxiety provoking, fearful time. On top of a deadly virus killing off human beings physically, there was the political rhetoric in the United States of America that was killing us emotionally. Once maniacal political drama subsided, we started getting hopeful about vaccines and then plunged right back into uncertainties about our turn, distribution, fairness, cutting in line, guilt. Now we are slowly opening up and again we are anxious about our ability to mingle with human kind while keeping everyone safe. Phew! That was an exhausting overview.

Amidst all this, I read a lot of books. Last night, I stayed up till midnight (despite it being a work week) to finish a children’s fiction called The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart. It filled me up with a warm fuzzy feeling as I read the last page, smiled at the fact that Gemeinhart was an elementary school teacher/librarian and thanked him for giving this reader solace during these times.

Twelve year old Coyote lives on a school bus driven by her dad Rodeo. They have been crisscrossing the country in that school bus for the last five years which they converted into their home. Five years ago, Coyote lost her mom and two sisters in a car crash when she was just seven years old. Since then, her dad left their home in Poplar Springs and drove around with her in their mobile home, the school bus named Yager. They stop at gas stations to fill up with gas, get food – most importantly slushies, and when Coyote can find a kind lady with a cell phone who lets her use it, she calls her grandma at Poplar Springs. Grandma always asks when she was coming home. But Coyote does not have an answer because Coyote and Rodeo do not plan to go home which, they fear, will bring back memories that will torment them for ever. During one such phone conversation, grandma tells Coyote that the park where she used to play with her sisters is being torn up by the city to turn it into a parking lot. But Coyote has a memory box buried underneath a tree in that park which she must rescue. The memory box was created by her mother and her sisters. They intended to go back for it after 10 years but 5 days after burying the memory box, her mom and sisters died in the car crash. Now Coyote needs to get her father to drive back home in exactly four days before the construction begins but she can not tell him that they are going back to Poplar Springs because going back is a hard ‘no go’ with Rodeo. So Coyote must plan to get her way without letting Rodeo know that they were actually heading home. Who knew the journey home is going to be the most difficult one? But Coyote is nothing but tenacious. She figures out a plan to make Rodeo drive in the direction of home. And during their journey back Coyote picks up some misfits who are also searching for their own destinations. There is Lester who needs to find his lady love, Salvador and her mama, Esperanza Vega is running away from a difficult situation, Val is looking for acceptance and of course Gladys needs to go to her mom. But 12 year old Coyote’s first friend, before others joined them, was a cool kitty named Ivan.

The writing is so full of heart, Coyote is such a fierce and spunky girl who carries her sorrow with such bravery and compassion, Rodeo may look like a bearded hippie but one has to look into his eyes and see the kindness that is brimming in him. Everything about this book touched my soul, the tragedy, Coyote and Rodeo’s grief, their overwhelming love for each other and humanity, the friendship, the good will. The author does not shield his young readers from the harshness/reality of life. Life is not easy, tragedies happen, violence happens, lack of acceptance happens but to balance the scale there is love, kindness, friendship, good will and most importantly resilience. The will to continue on this beautiful journey called life wins at the end.

Book Evangelist


In this blog I will write about my two annoying habits. I am living the age old adage, ‘old habits die hard’ but I am making an effort to change – at least one of them. I will start with the one I am unwilling to change.

The first habit (or perk) is my obsession for checking out books from the library. For my work, I subscribe to different publication houses and I also do a fair amount of handling books – shelving, pulling for requests, scanning. Yes, you guessed it, I work at a library. As I shelve a cart, at least 3 or 4 books from that cart end up coming home with me. Do I have time to read all of them? Nope! But the possibility of perhaps having the time to read them is wonderful. Then after 3 weeks when I cannot fit any more books on my book shelf designated to library books or my bedside table, or the coffee table in the living room, I put some unread books in my work bag, go to work and sadly check them in. I have analyzed this habit and I have decided it is an addiction. An addiction for which I will seek no help. I will live in that wondrous possibility of being able to read all those books that I bring home – one day.

The second annoying habit is showing my disappointment on my face when someone does not share the same enthusiasm for a book that took my breath away. I do quite a bit of reader’s advisory for work and also outside of work. I give completely unsolicited book recommendations to folks who have not even asked for suggestions. If I have read one of THOSE books (you know what I am talking about, the books that you cannot stop thinking about), I make Facebook posts about them. Talking about books and sharing book suggestions is my way of connecting with fellow humans. If you don’t read, I am sorry, are you even worth connecting with? Just joking!!

When I was young and naïve, this is how my reader’s advisory played out. I would swoop down on an unsuspecting victim, start talking about the amazing book that I just finished, gush, gush, gush. I would talk up the book so much, the victim would often times read the book just to shut me up. The next time we met, I would ignore the victim’s shifty eyes, not question why s/he was not making eye contact with me but delve right in, “So what did you think?” I would also have a wide smile and expectant eyes. Most folks would simply say it was good (many would have loved it as much as I did) but of course some did not love the book at all. And they would say to me. “It was okay. I did not love it!” Before I became conscious of my annoying habit, I know I showed my feelings on my face. The judgement on my face was evident. You did not love the book I adored? That is it! I am judging you.

I spoke sternly to myself about this as part of my personal growth. Not everyone likes the genres I enjoy, not everyone relates to the story/facts the same way I do, not everyone interprets/perceives the events in the book like I do. And that is completely fine. I loved the book. That should be enough. I do not need to be a book evangelist.

So I want to apologize to all those folks who have been subjected to my judgement because you did not share the same enthusiasm as I did about a certain book. I still love you. We are still friends.

Here are a few (very few) titles that took my breath away. I am not evangelizing mind you, I am simply giving suggestions, and yes, unsolicitated.

The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman

Once Upon a River by Dianne Setterfield

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

I will stop here…… for today.

Funny in Farsi and me


First, a few lines about this funny and beautiful memoir by Firoozeh Dumas, Funny in Farsi: A memoir of growing up Iranian in America.

Firoozeh’s father Kazem, an engineer with the National Iranian Oil Company, got assigned to consult for an American firm for about two years and moved to Whittier, California with his wife Nazireh, 7-year-old daughter Firoozeh and 14-year-old son Farsheed in 1972. Farid, their oldest son was already in US completing his high school education. Firoozeh Dumas begins her memoir, by documenting her experience at Leffingwell Elementary school where she sat in the classroom with her non-English-speaking mother as her elementary school teacher tried to make them feel welcome by talking about Iran and inviting her mother to point out Iran on a world map in front of the class. Firoozeh’s mother had no idea. With brilliant humor and wit, Dumas writes her experiences in this memoir of growing up as an Iranian immigrant in America, pre and post Iranian revolution. At the beginning of her memoir, Dumas is touched by the kindness that Americans show towards her immigrant family. She feels people are truly interested in knowing their culture and making them feel welcome. She is also perplexed in equal measure at the ignorance of folks about cultural life in Iran, asking her if she went to school in a camel and if so, where they kept their camel. And how many Persian cats she had. She went to school in her father’s Cadillac, but she resorted to answering the camel question by saying they kept the camel in their garage.  She also writes about her experiences as an Iranian in America after the American hostage crisis in Iran and how American perspective about her family changes overnight. However, she does not harp on the cruelty she faced as an Iranian immigrant. Instead she focuses on her crazy yet fun extended family, their love and support for each other, their ambition to see their children succeed and their unmistakable love for their adopted country. In this memoir Dumas introduces us to her sweet and endearing dad, who fully immerses himself into the new culture that America offers which involves fast food, seeking to be rich via Bowling for Dollars, and every opportunity to save money, her elegant mother who never really learned English, her several aunts and uncles whose eccentricities and kindness make the readers smile.  Just when her family thought they finally got over the culture shock of being in America, Dumas falls in love with a French man and subjects her family to yet another novelty that they must experience and learn. At the end though, love wins.

Quite a few of her experiences as an immigrant reflect mine. Like her, I have been asked if I went to school on an elephant (not camel) and if I were an Indian princess. I have experienced what I now label as microaggression and have learnt to respond with humor and hopefully, without malice or anger. There were two aspects in this book, however, that really spoke to me. The first one is food!! Oh, how I want the Iranian food that she writes about! And the second was family. Dumas writes about her close knit extended family who emigrated from Iran and chose to live near each other in USA. They congregated, feasted, celebrated, loved and supported. That is every immigrant’s dream. I must say this made me envious. I remember little Sahana desperately wishing that her family from both sides lived in our neighborhood next to each other. “Wouldn’t it be so fun mama if didiya, dadai, mashimoni, mashun, moni, mamai, shi dadai, shi didiya (her Indian family) lived on one side of the road and Grammy, uncles and aunts (her American family) lived on the other side?”  Many immigrant children as well as children whose parents move to different states feel the absence of their grand parents, aunts and uncles in their lives as they grow. No one present on Grandparent’s day at school, no one to cheer from the sidelines in sports events or school events, graduation ceremonies or festivals. This is a big void. Immigrants form close relationships with other immigrants in a new land and they, over time, become family. But I can say from personal experience, that the faces that loom large when there is a major life event to share are those of the ones we left behind back home.

I was thrilled that Firoozeh Dumas grew up surrounded not only by her mom, dad and brothers but also by her loving aunts, uncles and cousins. I was also jealous. But ignore my base instinct, pay heed to my suggestion instead. If you want to read something heartwarming during these difficult times, pick up Funny in Farsi. I guarantee you will have a smile on your face.

Finding Langston….


Author Lesa Cline-Ransome tells us a story that incorporates not only the life of a displaced child from rural Alabama to urban Chicago during the Great Migration (I highly commend Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of the Other Suns to learn more about the Great Migration) but also so much history, art and Black heritage within a few pages of this amazing children’s fiction, Finding Langston. She tells the story in 104 short pages to be exact, and makes me feel all the ‘feels’ as I read on.

Finding Langston (The Finding Langston Trilogy): Cline-Ransome, Lesa:  9780823439607: Amazon.com: Books
Source: Google images

Langston and his father were among those 7 million African American families who migrated up north from rural areas of the Southern states of USA in search of a better life during the Great Migration. After his mother’s death, Langston’s father did not have any reason to stay in Alabama. He moved up to Chicago to work at a paper mill and send his son to school in Bronzeville, Chicago. But 11 year old Langston hated the city, longed to return back to Alabama and wanted his mama back. Friendless and lonely, in their noisy little apartment, where the heat was turned on only at landlord’s whim and one had to stand in a long line to use the bathroom, Langston was extremely unhappy. He was bullied at school because of his accent, had no friends or family to love him except his father but he had always been a mama’s boy while mama was alive. Langston and his dad barely had much conversation because mama was the glue who held the family together. So father and son, thrust together due to unfortunate circumstances, struggled to find the right rhythm in their relationship. One day, while trying to escape the bullies after school, Langston found himself in an unfamiliar neighborhood and in front of the George Cleveland Hall branch library. Despite being unsure of his welcome into the institution because of his skin color, Langston ventured into the public library where the young boy was welcomed and where the librarian opened up a whole new world for him. He discovered poetry. Poetry written by his namesake, Langston Hughes, who experienced similar loneliness when he traveled north from his southern home. And he wrote about his feelings in poetry. Langston, our protagonist, found himself and his place in the world after he discovered Langston Hughes who gave words to the feelings that our hero was feeling but had no words to express them. Langston sets Langston free.


What a beautiful book this is where through Langston’s story, the author leaves crumbs of important historical events, names of prominent Black artists and activists, the great migration and the conditions of poor workers in mid 1940’s America. The story can encourage young readers to probe further and peek into the history of this time to get a better understanding of what Langston and thousands, if not millions, of children like Langston were going through as they dealt with poverty, separation from family and displacement. 

I do not read too many children’s fiction and even if I do, I don’t write about them. I finished this book last night and wrote a short review right away. And I woke up this morning still thinking about Langston finding his purpose and sense in his turbulent life within the words of Langston Hughes. I am a lover of words. I am also in awe of the transformative power of words.

Where are you from-from?


I answer that question with joy. Too much joy perhaps because my face lights up (or at least I feel my face lights up) when I say I am from India. And when I see a glimmer of recognition or some encouraging words from the questioner, I expound more on my birth country. Sometimes the person asking that question encourages my exuberance and sometimes, s/he gets glassy eyed. I have matured enough to know the signs when to continue and when to stop. This question is not difficult for me. I am a brown woman who speaks English with an accent, who came to this country in her mid twenties, lived here for years and ultimately became a naturalized citizen. There is no doubt of the fact that I am originally from a different country.

But if this question is asked to any other brown skinned person who was born here, that is stereotyping and racial profiling. This is the premise of the book Don’t Ask Me Where I am From by Jennifer De Leon. Liliana Cruz is a 15 year old girl who lives in Boston with her parents and annoying twin brothers. Her mother is from El Salvador and her father is from Guatemala. And although Liliana is a citizen of United States, her parents are both undocumented. Liliana’s family is not rich but they are relatively happy. She is a gifted writer who goes to Boston public school where she has friends who look like her, understand her culture, share similar background. Her seemingly uneventful life, however, is rudely disrupted when her father vanishes one day. Liliana does not know where her father disappeared. All she sees is that her mother is anxious and is trying her best to remain under the radar of authorities and earn as much money as she can. During this turmoil in her life, Liliana finds out that she has qualified under the METCO program to go to a predominantly white school in a suburb of Boston. METCO stands for The Metropolitan Council for Educational opportunities. “METCO is a school integration program that enrolls Boston students in grades K-10 in participating suburban public schools to reduce racial isolation” – according to their website.

Liliana is devastated to leave her old school and friends, but she chooses to go because she knows her papa would be proud of her and would have wanted her to sieze this opportunity. She soon realizes though, that although the initiative of this integration program was a noble one, the ground reality in her new school is completely different. There is another form of segregation where the METCO kids stick together and the rich kids have their own groups. The METCO students try to prove their worth by exceling in sports, academics, extracurricular activities yet they never become part of the main student body. They are different than the rest, inferior somehow because of their skin color, their style, their way of speaking. And then there is that invariable question that they are asked, “Where are you from?” When they answer that they are from Boston, the follow up question almost always is “No, but where are you from-from?” Liliana is of Hispanic origin but she was born in Jamaica Plains, MA, USA. That is where she is from-from! Many Americans like her, who are people of color, are asked this question and Jennifer De Leon makes a powerful point in this book through this story about insensitivity ingrained in that question, especially when posed to people of color. People are here, they are part of the community. Accept them, acknowledge them, respect them, dignify them.

Liliana’s father, we find out along with her, has been deported. Liliana’s world crashes around her as she discovers how vulnerable she is. Her parents could be taken from her anytime by authority and then what would happen to her? Despite the uncertainty and huge unrest in her life, Liliana grows strong, faces her challenges and searches for solution to end racial inequality instead of wallowing in self pity.

De Leon confronts some difficult issues head on. Liliana is a 15 year old girl who speaks in a lingo I am not familiar with and I do not particularly like. I found the narration of the story in Liliana’s voice somewhat detrimental to fully appreciating the story but I am not the target audience of this book. I wonder if young readers will relate to the narration. I recommend this book for the issues and the way Liliana grows in character.

‘Where are you from’ perhaps is a valid question if it comes from a place of honest curiosity to learn about a different country/culture. The follow up question, “No, but where are you from-from?” is the one to avoid.