For those of you who are fans of The Daily Show, you should get your paws on Trevor Noah’s autobiography, Born a Crime. Better yet, get the audiobook version (read by Noah) like I did after my friend, C., highly recommended it. (Thanks C.!)
Like The Daily Show, Noah tackles tough topics in Born a Crime, like being a mixed-raced child growing up in apartheid South Africa, where mixed-raced relationships were legally prohibited. But Noah finds the humour in his predicament because if you think about the implications, it’s ridiculous.
Noah shifts between tragedy and comedy without skipping a beat, breaking down barriers for the taboo. I remember my high school drama teacher telling us that comedy is just tragedy plus time and Noah illustrates this like a true comedian. Spoiler alert, the last chapter is most devastating but also made me laugh the hardest.
Noah reminds us that people can’t be reduced down to their ethnic, religious and socio-economic groups. History shows that attempts to draw lines where they don’t belong (between people, within a person, between places) results in tragedy.
We’re better off if we can love and laugh together.
A few months ago, I moved into my first home! It’s a 600 square-feet condo, which isn’t considered small for Toronto these days, but certainly, it cannot be called big. So I whittled down my book collection and swore that I’d only buy ebooks going forward.
Those who read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up will recall that she says you should buy books and read them immediately. She tells her readers to throw out books they never got around to reading because they will likely never read them.
But that has been the case for me. In my cleaning, I found a copy of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. And I thought I’d hang onto it because he’s supposed to be a classic and I so rarely read classics.
But I regret not reading Hemingway sooner because his writing confirmed for me, that the best writing is simple. You don’t have spell things out with big words, fancy jargon and flowery descriptions. And when you’re as good a writer as Hemingway, you don’t need any of those things to convey exactly what you want the reader to feel.
I had always heard that Hemingway had a way of writing simple prose. He’s often said to have written the six-word story: “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” As I learned from reading The Moveable Feast, six words from Hemingway can hit you like a bag of bricks. And in today’s 140-character world, brevity is important.
But enough crushing and gushing over Hemingway’s word count — The Moveable Feast is just a great read. I don’t love Paris but I love his Paris. Can there be a theme park where you get to play a broke writer who drinks with other tortured writers of the time?
There’s a new sushi place by my house called Mi-Ne that I’ve been frequenting. By far my favourite dish there is the mushroom soup. It’s served bubbling hot with an assortment of delicious mushrooms and dumplings. I’ll have to take a picture of it next time and show you because it’s SO delicious.
But I’m a big fan of mushrooms. I know some people hate them so much they will pick them off their pizza. I feel that same way about red and green peppers but I love mushrooms. For our five year anniversary, I asked my boyfriend for The Mushroom Hunters by Langdon Cook.
It’s all about the people who risk their lives looking for highly-valuable but rare mushrooms — like truffles. Mushrooms are amazing things if you think about it. Some will kill you. Some will heal you. And the very best of them, are delicious.
Kenny Ng of Paul’s Cafe in LA’s Chinatown (Francine Orr/ Los Angeles Times)
One of my favourite things about Denise Chong’s writing is her ability to slowly and steadily roll out a great story. She’s no amateur in the sport of writing and it continues to show in The Lives of the Family.
This is a non-fictional account of the lives of Chinese immigrants who settled in small town Canada during the early 1900’s. Most of these immigrants opened up restaurants and cleaners to make a living.
The Lives of the Family is also a tear-jerker as families are ripped apart again, again thanks to immigration, war and revolution. Once in Canada, the families face personal losses, financial burdens and of course, discrimination.
I was really impressed by how many stories Denise was able to squeeze into this relatively short book (222 pages!). And yet, I wasn’t left wanting more — she covers just enough details to leave you feeling like you personally know the families.
Sometimes non-fiction likes to skimp on details to make it easy digestible for all readers — but what I love about Denise’s writing is that she always does the people in her stories justice. She gives them the respect and attention they deserve and as readers, we understand their perspective so much more.