BLOG TOUR: The Weight Of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf – A Malay Teen Searches For Her Mother During the Malaysian 1969 Riots (Book Review & Author Interview)

White block reads 'The Weight of Our Sky, Hanna Alkaf, South-east Asian Blog Tour. January 28th - February 8th 2019. On the right is an image of a Malay female teen wearing a blue pinafore over a white tshirt on a moped, driven by a Chinese male teen wearing a white shirt and black slacks, with fire and smoke in the background.

“Friend, friend, friend!”

Xiaolong scurries to you, a bounce in her step and a big smile on her face. “I have some wonderful plans for your visit today!”

You crouch down so you can see her better, and ask her about her plans.

Xiaolong the pink axolotl, wearing an upside down flower hat, holding a staff and gesturing to a floating book, The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf.

“Okay, first!” She raises her staff, magicks a book from midair, and gestures to the book. “This book! It only just released, friend! And it’s such a good book. I couldn’t put it down! I just wanted to keep reading and reading and reading, and then, when I finished it, Gen told me that it was time for dinner.” She shakes her head. “I also learned a lot, friend. I had no idea about the historical events that this book talks about, and I… I learned a lot. And I think it’s really important that I tell you about this book.”

Once you find a comfier spot by the Pond, you settle down and ask Xiaolong about this important book.

“So,” she says, holding the cover out for you to see. “This book is called The Weight of Our Sky…

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Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram – A heartfelt and charming story about a teen’s journey to Iran, mental illness, and family

TEXT: Darius the Great Is Not Okay, Adib Khorram. IMAGE: Two boys, one on the left with faded hair and wearing a leather jacket and one on the right with short curly hair wearing a beanie, overlooking Iran. On the top-right, a stamp of Xiaolong the pink axolotl, with the text: REVIEW BY CW, THE QUIET POND.

Summary:

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming–especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understands that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.

My review:

Darius the Great Is Not Okay might have made me weep openly on the bus, but it was also an effortless favourite. I adored this book; adored it for its wonderful and genuine explorations of biracial identity, our bonds with people, and living with mental illness. This character-driven story tells of Darius; a Persian-American teen who follows his family to Iran to visit family that he has only ever met through Skype. There, he navigates unfamiliar familial landscapes, meets the enigmatic and charming Sohrab, and discovers what it means to be Darius and Dariush.

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The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan – An Evocative Story of Biraciality, Mental Illness & Family

A white bird against a red-purple background, with the text THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER, Emily X.R. Pan, a novel in its center.
Summary:

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

My review:

Note: The following review will discuss depression and suicide.

The Astonishing Colour of After is a poignant and evocative story about mental illness, family, identity, and grief. It tells of a biracial teenage, Leigh, and her search for her mother, who Leigh believes has transformed into red bird following her suicide. And thus she follows her mother’s feathers to Taiwan where, there, she not only meets her estranged grandparents but also discovers her family history, the secrets, and the truths about her mother.

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