Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt 262 pages

Identical twins Jonas and Wyatt were adopted by Kelly and Wayne Maines right after they were born.  From the age of two on, Wyatt felt like he should be a girl.  He preferred dolls to trucks, loved wearing high heels as tutus, and his favorite cartoon character was Ariel, the little mermaid.  Kelly knew Wyatt felt he was a girl, learned everything she could about transgenders, and thoroughly supported his desires.  Wayne ignored the issues for years until it was no longer possible.  Becoming Nicole is the true story of an “average” family’s quest to understand Nicole, and their fight to help her feel comfortable with herself and her community.

If anyone is confused about gender identity or finds the world of transgenders a bit mysterious, I recommend Becoming Nicole.  Pulitzer Prize winning author Amy Ellis Nutt takes a compassionate, yet honest,  look at a remarkable family

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Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt 262 pages

Golden Child by Claire Adam 304 pages

Peter and Paul are twins.  The family is from India, are practicing Hindus, and live in Trinidad.  Paul, who was deprived of oxygen at birth has social, emotional and learning problems.  Peter is an outstanding student and has always watched out for his bother.  However, when the boys are thirteen, Paul walks into the bush, and literally disappears and there is nothing his twin can do about it.  When Clyde, the boys’ father realizes what has happened to his troublesome son, he must make the most difficult decision one can imagine.

This is Sarah Jessica Parker’s second book club suggestion and it’s another winner.  All of the main characters are empathetic and complex, there is tension and drama, but Adam’s writing is never verbose or stilted.  I cried several times feeling Paul’s pain; something I rarely do when reading a book.  I can’t wait to discuss Golden Child with someone!!

Golden Child by Claire Adam 304 pages

Maid by Stephanie Land 268 pages

Land’s memoir covers roughly five years of her life.  It begins when she discovers she is pregnant.  Jamie, the father of her daughter, Mia, is verbally abusive often threatening Stephanie and giving her ultimatums.  For the next five years they live in a homeless shelter, with a boyfriend who offers no affection or emotional support or in a studio apartment that continually produces black mold.  Stephanie and Mia survive on minimal help from government agencies and her job cleaning houses.  Her life as a single parent is a constant struggle for money, time and respect.

Maid illustrates how hard work will not always get you ahead.  Land writes a good story.  Her writing is clear and concise without being dramatic.

 

Maid by Stephanie Land 268 pages

The Power by Naomi Alderman 382 pages

Women all over the world have become “afflicted” with The Power-an electric current which begins around their sternum and reaches to their extremities.  It can cause pain and even death to others.  With The Power, woman are able to reverse roles with men.  Now they are in control but also capable of mass murders and rapes.  Naomi Alderman focuses on several characters to illustrate some of the results of this electrical force.  There is Tunde, a male Nigerian who discovers he can gain fame reporting on The Power around the world, Margot a politician on the rise, Allie, an abused orphan who becomes a savior and Roxie, daughter of an English mobster.

The Power is the kind of novel I usually don’t like-futuristic and violent.  However, Alderman is such a fine writer who makes all of her characters seem alive and realistic that I found I couldn’t put it down.   It would make an excellent read for a book group-lots to talk about.

The Power by Naomi Alderman 382 pages

To Keep the Sun Alive by Rabeah Ghaffari 273 pages

It is 1979 in Iran, the year of the solar eclipse and the Iranian Revolution.  In a city in northern Iran a retired judge and his wife are hosting the spring luncheon for their family.  The family consists of a number of characters including a supposedly devout mullah, a nagging wife, an opium addicted nephew and his idealistic brother.  As the year unfolds, each of the family members will encounter a crisis which for some will lead to self-awareness, for others power and glory and for others destruction.

Although the plot is somewhat predictable, Ghaffari, who grew up in Tehran until she was ten years old,  tells a good story with insight into what happened to the average Iranian at the beginning of the revolution.

 

To Keep the Sun Alive by Rabeah Ghaffari 273 pages

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay 432 pages

Vijay’s debut novel is the tale of Shalini, a young woman living in Bangalore, India.  After her mother’s death, she is dissatisfied with her privileged, stagnant life, so she travels to Kashmir, a dangerous and primitive land, in search of a salesman who often visited her home when she was a child.  Shalini believes that if she finds him, questions she has about her mother will be answered.  What she encounters during her search is a world she never knew existed, a world and people who help her to understand herself.

The Far Field took me to a place I never knew anything about.  Kashmir has been and unstable and militia dominated land since 1947, fought over by Hindus and Muslims.  Madhuri Vijay’s excellent novel gave me insight into a young woman’s journey, the characters she lived with along the way,  and the plight of those living in Kashmir.

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay 432 pages

An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma 464 pages

Nigerian born author, Obioma, has written a novel about love and loss.  His second work of fiction is the story of Chinonso, also known as Solomon.  He is a poultry farmer in Nigeria who is quite content living on his farm, but is willing to sacrifice it for the woman he loves.  Ndali, the woman, is from a wealthy family that values a good education.  Without much thought, Chinonso sells his farm and applies to a college in Cyprus.  What ensues is tragic, but Chinonso continues to love Ndali despite everything.

The narrator of An Orchestra of Minorities is a “chi,” which in Nigerian lore is a guardian spirit.  The narrator is Solomon’s chi,  who seems powerless to prevent all that happens to his host.  This chi is also extremely wordy and tends to digress often, which I think will frustrate many readers.

 

An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma 464 pages