I’ve been going from book to book this weekend, trying to find one that is distracting enough to hold my attention.
I just finished reading Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi.
I got lost in the language of that book. It was like a surreal adventure inside the mind of a refugee who makes her way, with her father, from Iran to America then decides to retrace their journey in reverse, deconstructing it as she goes.
There’s a bird on her shoulder and she drags around the suitcase she and her father made the grueling trip with. Now it’s transformed into a miniature museum and an interactive piece of art. Literature is her religion, and she often communicates in quotes. It’s only when she started interacting with other people that I could see just how unusual and wounded Zebra really was. There were times the book went on too long, but it never lost me. And I was always pulled back into Zebra’s colorful, smart, sad and determined world, looking for hope.
On Friday, I picked through the books waiting to be read on the chest in the living room. (Lucky me, because of Jon, I always have a choice of books waiting for me). I started The Bear And The Nightingale, by Katherine Arden, but it was too much of a fairy tale for my mood.
I leafed thought the latest New Yorker, breezed through the short story by Gish Jen, but then it was over. I loved the photos and small piece about the roses harvested for Chanel No.5 then skipped the middle section of the only other article that interested me. It was about a plastic surgeon who specializes in feminizing the faces of Trans women. I was captivated until it started describing the surgery in detail. I couldn’t’ stomach that, so I skipped to the happy ending and was grateful for it.
In between, I savored the small chapters of Elisabeth Nova Bailey’s “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating.”
This morning I thought again about Jen’s story and that the short story format was what I needed.
So I picked up Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart. Short Stories about the experiences of Chinese immigrant girls and their families coming to the United States.
I read the beginning of the first story standing up in front of the wood stove. I couldn’t stop, even to sit down. It’s was perfect, gritty and real without an ounce of romance. The paragraph long sentences made me think that the narrator has so much to say and she wants to make sure she gets it all in.
It feels good to know I have a book I want to get back to. It’s always disorienting when I don’t have something to read. Like there’s something missing in my life.