Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reading and Writing


I just finished Escaping the Tiger by Laura Manivong, based upon her husband's years in a refugee camp. It is not an easy read. I cried several times, but they were tears of understanding -- I, too, have had an empty belly, been called a dog and told to go home, and even in the face of huge disappointments, stayed optimistic. These characters rang so true for me, I felt as though I could sit and share sticky rice with peppers with them. I laughed near the end when they marvel at the beautiful, white, dimpled flesh of Americans. I remember wanting to be fat like that too (and now I am).

This book will resonate not just with refugees, but with all people who have no home, who have been marginalized by society simply because of the culture they were born in, and who keep faith and hope alive and survive. Our country is so much richer for people like Troy (Laura's husband) and Laura, who take the time and the trouble to tell their stories.

My son is devouring this book right now and ever since I told the kids that I *know* the author via the Blueboards, that this book is based upon her husband's childhood, they are mightily impressed.

I'm also reading the Collected Works of Flannery O'Connor. It includes letters and essays as well and I am in awe of this woman who took a great deal of time to encourage others, even though she was gravely ill and dying from lupus.

Here's a quote from Mystery and Manners: People without hope do not write novels. Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I'm always highly irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it's very shocking to the system. If the novelist is not sustained by a hope of money, then he must be sustained by a hope of salvation, or he simply won't survive the ordeal.

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6 comments:

Marcia said...

Wow, I love that quote. Isn't it just great to celebrate books? :) And, yeah, get at reality in a way nothing else does quite the same.

Vijaya said...

I'm reading her letters right now, and she is so candid and funny. But she's so right about fiction -- it is a way to explore truth.

lauramanivong said...

Totally laughed out loud when you wrote: "I remember wanting to be fat like that. And now I am." Me too, sister. Me, too. Thanks for sharing your feelings about the book. And thrilled to hear your son is connecting with it too.

Vijaya said...

Hee hee ... and given the vast quantities of good food to eat, there's no way I'm losing it either. My husband is champion bbq guy ...

My son loved your book and it has sparked many discussions about immigration and refugee camps and whatnot ... so THANK YOU!

Christy Lenzi said...

Thanks for the thoughtful review, Vijaya.

(And I love the quote about writing.)

Vijaya said...

Christy, you'll love Laura's book.