A loving and approachable coming-of-age story about generational change.

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Strict traditions face encroaching modernity in this memoir of a Muslim girl.

The author was a jeweler’s daughter in Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka, in the community of Galle Fort—at first blush, a traditional Muslim neighborhood. But in the 1950s, things were changing; already, the women of the island went out more than they had in years past and veiled themselves less. Before she reached the age of 12, Azad was allowed to spend time with her Christian friend Penny, ride a bicycle, and wear a bathing suit in public, and her doting, conservative father (whom she calls “Wappah”) was rarely unable to deny his daughter’s wants. However, her father still was committed to “the fierce protection of female honor” and still expected the women of his family to make a “good marriage,” so the author was “brought inside” when she came of age. But she was still interested in furthering her education and charmed by her English friends and Western comic books, so she hoped to attend university in the near future. But after her cousin ran off with a young man and Wappah reacted to the situation in an unexpectedly violent manner, subtle changes to custom and culture became more difficult to achieve. Azad’s debut memoir focuses on her memories of childhood and how she struggled against the more stringent aspects of her Muslim upbringing. However, her story is also the story of Galle Fort as the old-school residents struggled with young people becoming more Westernized. The setting is beautifully drawn, and its history comes alive. Just as important is the author’s father’s journey as a man who’s open to change but unsure of it. The book introduces many facets of Muslim culture with great respect, and Azad stingingly portrays Western prejudices, as when the author’s classmates face ridicule for using henna. She also relates her older family members’ opinions on such subjects as marriage while showing just how radical seemingly small changes can be in a traditional environment.

A loving and approachable coming-of-age story about generational change.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2020


Page Count: 249

Publisher: Perera Hussein Publishing House

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A well-written account about a young man’s mistake and the threat of dire consequences.


In this memoir, an American man recounts heading to Europe to see his German girlfriend and ending up on the wrong side of the law in Franco’s Spain.

Gorman was 19 years old in 1969 and dreading the thought of the Vietnam War draft. He had a girlfriend, a German exchange student named Hilke, who had encouraged him to meet her in Hamburg. Anxious to escape his rough home life, the author left Washington state and hitchhiked across America, getting into some precarious situations along the way. He made it to Europe via Icelandic Airlines, followed by more hitchhiking to Hamburg. Gorman was tall, blond, and young, but he wasn’t quite ready for the women he met on the way to West Germany, and he was only thinking of Hilke. Unfortunately, her reception was somewhat cool, so he ventured on to Paris and Barcelona, loving the sights but not the winter weather. A friend encouraged him to go to the Canary Islands, and the author readily agreed (“If Barcelona was dark and mysterious, Las Palmas was vibrant as it basked in a golden Impressionistic glow”). Las Palmas wasn’t very touristy yet; Swedish women lined the beaches; and the cost of living was cheap. Even so, Gorman was wayward, often slept on the beach, and some of his friends were sketchy. A Canadian lured him into a tricky insurance scam, which promised a decent payout but came with risks for a naïve person in Fascist Spain. The author’s wistful, graceful memoir harkens back to the days when Europe wasn’t completely overrun with tourists and the cultural norms were more clear-cut. His vivid, penniless romp around Europe included adventures both big and small, some danger, and the occasional kindness from strangers. It’s an engaging story that has enough unlikely details to seem believable, especially as he entered the Spanish prison system. Like many travelers, Gorman mainly associated with expatriates, so the local Canarian culture is left in the background.

A well-written account about a young man’s mistake and the threat of dire consequences.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-578-94847-8

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Rain City Cinema LLC

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2022

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A varied and often engaging, if uneven, set of works about such themes as motherhood, self-esteem, and entropy.


Rhodes-Ryabchich confronts the joys and discouragements of adulthood in this collection of poems.

Poetry often has a documentary quality, reading like a recording of the author’s own experiences. As Rhodes-Ryabchich shows in this collection, poetry can also act as a heuristic tool, showing a speaker thinking her way through her place in the world. The book’s first section is arranged around the theme of single motherhood, and Rhodes-Ryabchich employs the sonnet form as a means of constructing an affirmational worldview. The first poem, “Sonnet for a Single Mother With Daughter,” begins, “I wake each day to joy—I am sexy. / Mother is me, full of love and selful. / I see a miniature me so lovely. / I have love to give—I am so grateful.” The mixed forms of the book’s second section ably explore the many different modes of love, from the breathless excitement captured in free verse to recursive, insistent longings embodied in villanelles. “Overture II” captures the emotional thrall of romance, with each line ending in the same sound: “The dawning Friday sun, Comes / In red, furious light, strummed / By magnificent God’s thumb, / Playing songs in the pink Plum / Cumulus clouds, like a hum / Over a warm, baby’s tum.” The third section, a love letter to the world’s many beauties, is an open-hearted series of odes: to paradise, to reeds, to loneliness, to the poet’s own face. The final section dissects the ravages of disease, be they bodily or societal. Poems touch on the war in Ukraine, the Covid-19 pandemic, police brutality, drug use, and the pitfalls of the American health care system.

Over the course of the collection, the verses vary in terms of quality, and many of the poems have a line to two that don’t land well. In the sonnets, particularly, Rhodes-Ryabchich often leans into the unnatural demands of the form. The inaugural sonnet quoted above, for example, contains the awkward rhymes, “Sometimes I don’t want to be a growncub. / Always I don’t want this to be kill/joy. / I hope your joy can stay in the joyclub. / The red, faint clouds call out to the dreamboy.” The better poems tend to be in free verse, in which the poet seems to revel in the form’s relative lack of constraints, as in the poem “Futuristic Soliloquy”: “I imagine myself to be a healthy peacock / With bright feathers, brilliant / Like neurons, and musically synchronized / To the ping of galaxies, / Radiating in joy, and firing / With billions of star nebulae, / Oozing euphoria deep into space.” Themes of self-love and affirmation pervade the work (one of the sonnets, for instance, is “after Deepak Chopra”), even as the poet grapples with life’s darker and thornier issues. The lines aren’t always virtuosic, but they’re almost always engaging and playful, leaping forward to unexpected references or vibrant images.

A varied and often engaging, if uneven, set of works about such themes as motherhood, self-esteem, and entropy.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2022

ISBN: 9789390601288

Page Count: 81

Publisher: Cyberwit.net

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2022

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