Monday, September 21, 2009

Three Books

Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir byMary-Ann Tirone Smith (here) is about growing up in the 1950's. It happens to take place in Hartford, CT so it brought back all kinds of memories for Mike. If you spent time in any urban environment where the ethnic boundaries were as clearly marked as the street names, it will ring true. If you experienced the 1950's as a child, it will ring true. It's funny and poignant at the same time. Then, too, woven into her own story, which includes growing up with an older brother with unrecognized and untreated autism and a pre-feminism mother "on the verge of a nervous breakdown," is the story of a neighborhood pedophile and the tragic death of a classmate. Let's just say not everything about the "good old days" was good.

I also recently read The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee ( and Shanghai Girls by Lisa See ( Two quite different books, but interestingly they both cover from the 1930's pre-war era on into the 1950's. The Piano Teacher takes place in Hong Kong and has more of an emphasis on the impact of Bristish colonization pre-war and the scar tissue left by the Japanese invasion on those cultural entanglements woven into two romance stories. More epic in scale, Shanghai Girls follows two "modern" sisters from their comfortable life in Shanghai, through its demise because of their father's gambling, the devastation of the Japanese invasion, and their escape to and subsequent life in Los Angeles' China Town. Both left me sad for the human condition.

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