May Monthly Wrap Up / by Chakriya Phal

Maggie Graduation-1000.jpg

May was one of those crazy months where the weather never fully cooperated but I spent all my time outdoors anyway. It was a month of reflecting on how bookstagram changed my reading life and how I was over-consuming, buying too many books, and on social media more than I'd like to admit. So as everyone gears up for summer reading, I'll be taking this time to slow down and read less.

Inside Out & Back Again: I first learned about this book from the Diverse Book Club. Written in verse in the voice of ten year old Hà, this book tells the story of her life in Vietnam during the fall of Saigon and subsquently, her family's immigration experience in Alabama. I cried during so many parts because her story resonated with me and reminded me of my family's own refugee experience. What I enjoyed about this book was that the words were simple, yet I was able to stand in Hà's shoes and empathize. This is a children's book so a very quick but important read.

I now understand
when they make fun of my name,
yelling ha-ha-ha down the hall
when they ask if I eat dog meat,
barking and chewing and falling down laughing
when they wonder if I lived in the jungle with tigers,
growling and stalking on all fours.

The Summer List: I wrote a review over here but I can't tell you enough how good it is. It's tender, sweet and well, how should I put this? Let's just say shit gets real. It comes out on June 26th but you can preorder it here or put it on your library list. *Thank you Graydon House for the free review copy.

Circe: If you're a fan of greek mythology like I am, this one is for you. This also has to be one of my favorite sub-genres, a retelling from the perspective of the villain (e.g. Wicked). You may know Circe from The Odyssey in which Odysseus encounters her on a secluded island, but here you get to know her intimately. Madeline Miller's expert storytelling had me mesmerized all the way to the very end.

How to Walk Away:  While quite predictable, there was something about this book that made me smile. It had such a satisfying full ending which made my heart ache with happiness and gratitude for the life I have. There's a full cast of characters, some very unlikeable (can we talk about that Chip guy?) and others will grow on you. A word of warning: although this book tackles a big issue it's done in a lighthearted way. Like me, you may be left wanting a lot more emotional depth. But because this is contemporary lit. it does what it came to do, and gets four stars in my book.

Pachinko: I've been waiting to read this book at the right time because I wanted to do it justice. It's a big one - think sweeping, epic, multigenerational drama if made into a television series would take 125 one hour episodes. With no commercials. The book details the life of an immigrant Korean family in Japan in the early 1900s all the way to the 1980s. My heart broke for Sunja, Isac, and Noa - those stories were stunning and filled with emotional complexities. But my interest dwindled a bit towards the end and I didn't feel a connection with the characters introduced later in the book. I would recommend this still- it's worth the 484 pages.