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Review

My Heart Underwater

Corazon — Cory — Tagubio is a Filipina-American teenager living with her family in California. She knows she could be a better daughter and a better student at her Catholic high school. But these ordinary concerns are set aside when a new AP World History substitute teacher, Ms. Holden, ...

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Beyond the Book

Books by Filipino Authors for Young Readers

Not that long ago, it would have been difficult to find many young adult or middle-grade novels featuring a Filipino or Filipino-American protagonist, let alone Filipino settings and customs as we see in My Heart Underwater. Fortunately, that is no longer the case.  In 2005, Melissa de la ...

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Review

Black Sun

Reading the first book in a series is always difficult because readers know that, by definition, it will leave them feeling a bit unsatisfied. After all, even if it's a remarkable read, as the book draws to a close, the characters' journeys are incomplete. They still have an unknown destiny out in ...

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Beyond the Book

Pre-Columbian Religion in the Americas

One of the most spectacular elements of Rebecca Roanhorse's Black Sun is its deep dive into pre-Columbian culture and beliefs. In a stark departure from the usual medieval European landscape used as a foundation in fantasy novels, Roanhorse instead uses the ancient landscape and religions of the ...

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Review

Somewhere in the Unknown World

Resettled refugees are mostly invisible. Their needs are rarely publicized and their struggles are often marginalized, if they are given attention at all. Somewhere in the Unknown World: A Collective Refugee Memoir introduces African, Asian and European refugees who have settled in Minnesota. It is ...

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Beyond the Book

Somali Resettlement in the United States

Amid ongoing civil war, more than a million Somalis have fled their homeland in recent decades and now live somewhere else. According to UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), Kenya is host to the largest number of Somali refugees, with 256,186, followed by Yemen with 250,500 and...

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Review

The Orchard

The protagonist of David Hopen's first novel, The Orchard, is 17-year-old Aryeh Eden, a Brooklyn boy raised in a Hasidic household where daily life revolves around strict observance of Orthodox Judaic tradition. When his father's job change forces Aryeh and his parents to relocate to Florida, the ...

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Beyond the Book

The Legend of Pardes

In David Hopen's novel, The Orchard, the main action is set in motion by a discussion of the Jewish legend of Pardes. In the tale, four celebrated sages enter the orchard, but only one emerges unscathed by his encounter with the divine. The word 'Pardes' comes from the ancient Persian word ...

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Review

What Are You Going Through

Shortly into What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez, it becomes clear that the narrator is unreliable or, at the very least, absentminded; she has misled the reader by failing to mention a significant connection she has to another character. What additional details might she be withholding? This...

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Beyond the Book

Simone Weil (1909-1943)

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez takes its title from the writing of Simone Weil, an influential French philosopher and intellectual whose work was unusual for incorporating both left-leaning politics and religious traditions. Weil was born in Paris on February 3, 1909 to agnostic ...

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Review

The Constant Rabbit

The opening scene of Jasper Fforde's The Constant Rabbit shows a Britain where severe austerity measures have slashed public services to such an extremity that "libraries could be open for precisely six minutes every two weeks." The absurdity of this scenario strikes the tone for the novel, which is...

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Beyond the Book

The UK Independence Party (UKIP)

Jasper Fforde's novel The Constant Rabbit is a not-so-thinly-veiled allegory of racism and xenophobia that takes place in an alternate version of the United Kingdom. The governing party in the book is the UK Anti-Rabbit Party (UKARP), led by Nigel Smethwick, who seems to be based on Nigel ...

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