Heady and smart, if you can follow the novel’s complex, associative train of thought.
A half-Portuguese, half-Angolan woman uses her hair to interrogate her position between two cultures.
The hair salons in Lisbon don’t know quite what to make of Mila, who moved at 3 years old from Luanda, the capital of Angola, to Portugal and whose hair is a “rebellious mane.” She makes demoralizing visit after demoralizing visit to these salons, where her hair is “pulled…this way and that,” subjected to treatments “whose abrasive chemicals require the use of latex gloves,” or worked into weaves at “a breakneck speed over four hours” (only to come undone soon after). But in this essayistic novel, Almeida's first to be translated into English, Mila’s hair isn’t simply a matter of personal anguish. “The truth is that the story of my curly hair intersects with the story of at least two countries and, by extension, the underlying story of the relations among several continents: a geopolitics.” Indeed, interwoven seamlessly throughout are stories and memories of her family: Her Angolan grandfather’s life as a nursing student in Luanda, the smell of her Portuguese grandmother Lúcia’s hair—“Feno de Portugal soap, tobacco, and oiliness”—as a young Mila combs it, her long strolls through Oeiras, in Lisbon, with her often absent mother. What Mila seems to be revolving around with all these shifting reminiscences is the fundamental doubleness of who she is. She introduces a photographic “self-portrait”: the famous 1957 photo of Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, walking to school as white people behind her gawk and even bare their teeth. “I am all of the people in that portrait at once,” Mila declares. “The raging girls in the photo are the nervous tremor (which brings me shame) when a black man on the streetcar answers the phone, speaking loudly. ‘Shhh: pipe down,’ they say to me, I say to him, I say to myself. ‘Can’t you see the others?’ ” Almeida writes long, destabilizing, often disorienting paragraphs, where successive sentences can shift radically in time and space. But the reader is pulled along throughout by a sly, evasive humor—where unreliable memory ends, Almeida seems to say, storytelling begins.Heady and smart, if you can follow the novel’s complex, associative train of thought.
Pub Date: March 17, 2020
Page Count: 168
Publisher: Tin House
Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
National Book Award Finalist
Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.
Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Pub Date: March 10, 2015
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by Harper Lee ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 11, 1960
A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.
Pub Date: July 11, 1960
Page Count: 323
Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960
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