Antigua and Barbuda: Annie John by Jamaica Kincaide

Title: Annie John
 Jamaica Kincaide
Publish date: 1985
Pages: 148
Genre: Cultural, Historical Fiction
Read the World: Antigua and Barbuda

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This is a classic coming of age book for a pre-teen girl in Antigua. Her childhood is idyllic – she is inseparable from her mother and finds her the most beautiful. Annie clearly loves her mother; and her mother loves her deeply. Their bond is sweet and exactly how you’d imagine a mother-daughter relationship. Until Annie starts to grow up…

The book takes place from age 10ish to 17. So much happens in a young girl’s life those adolescent years. And the reader is invited into all of it. Once her mother views her as a “young lady” everything changes. She no longer provides her with unconditional adoration – and seemingly no longer provides her with unconditional love. Their relationship changes – often finding each other as the source of constant conflict.

The underlining part of the book is the relationship between Annie and her mom – but so much of it is also a coming of age story. Annie and her friends do all the things that young girls do. The competitiveness, the games, and the friendships built on common experiences.

3/5 stars | Buy on

July Recap

What a reading month. I don’t know what it was about July, but I seemed to buy all the books, add all the books to my list, and read many of them. Not that it’s a bad thing. But wow. I’ve never read more in one month, ever.

By the Numbers

Books read: 7 (2 ebooks; 5 printed)
Books read for read the world: 6
Book acquired: 22 (oops!)
Books given away: 15

Countries Read

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Lebanon
  • New Zealand
  • Scotland
  • South Korea
  • United States

Books Read

This month, I read some quality books. Thanks to discovering my new favorite author, Langston Hughes, and the quality of my Read the World books! Full review for all the books below are coming.

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An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
[5/5 stars]
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Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
[3/5 stars]
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Can’t Tie Me Down! by Janet Elizabeth Henderson
[5/5 stars]
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The Best of Simple by Langston Hughes
[5/5 stars]
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The Big Sea by Langston Huges
[5/5 stars]
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The Fruit of My Woman by Han Kang
[5/5 stars]
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The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
[3/5 stars]
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What I Learned

  • I really love Langston Huges. Like a lot. Nine of the books I purchased this month, are Langston Hughes books.
  • I still love a good rom com (Can’t Tie Me Down!) and will keep adding them here and there as I go through my to-be-read list.
  • I can read and enjoy reading multiple books at once. I’m currently reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and The Short Stories of Langston Hughes by Langston Hughes (I was also reading Can’t Tie Me Down! at the same time). It helps me break up the reading and allows me to read a variety of different types of books at once. It’s fun and keeps me engaged allowing me to read for even longer each night.
  • I still very much prefer printed books.

Looking Ahead to August

I can’t promise I’ll read seven books again this month. And I’m ok with that. I also can’t promise I won’t buy nine more Langston Hughes books (although I’ll need to give more books away or buy another bookshelf…)

Some books I hope to start reading this month:

  • One of the Langston Hughes poetry books I purchased
  • My Own Story by Jackie Robinson
  • My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (read the world, Nigeria)

July was a super happy reading month. Looking forward to exploring more amazing places in August! How about you? What are some awesome books you read in July? And what are you looking forward to reading in August?

South Korea: The Fruit of My Woman by Han Kang

Title: The Fruit of My Woman
Han Kang
Translator: Deborah Smith
Published: 2016
Pages: 28
Genre: Fiction
Location: South Korea

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About this Book

The story starts out like any other – a husband and wife. The story is told by the husband in present day. He goes back and forth; reminiscing of life before and right after they got married. And this is where the story starts to unfold. He is the happiest he’s ever been in his life, but seems to miss that his wife, clearly is not. The lack of communication is deafening in this story – so much so that they are literally living different lives.⠀

She wants to travel to the ends of the earth – even before marrying her husband. Ultimately giving up her dream of (and all the money she saved for) traveling the world to pay for their new flat and their wedding. She can’t live in that flat anymore. It’s a stifling little place, in a crowded building, in Seoul.

‘It’s impossible to live in this stifling place,’ she said, stretching her haggard hand out over the lettuce leaves to intercept the falling rain, which she then shook onto the balcony. ‘This rain is filthy,’ she said, ‘black with snot and spittle.’ Her eyes sought my agreement. ‘This isn’t living,’ she spat out, ‘it only looks like it.’ 

She desperately wants to escape, so badly that she imagines herself as a plant. Does she ever get her escape? And will her husband understand just how unhappy she is?

I’ve dreamed of this, of being able to live on nothing but wind, sunlight and water, for a long time now.

My Thoughts

WOW! If I had to describe this book in a few words, it would be: brilliantly and beautifully bizarre.

I’ve never ever in my life ever read anything like this. The twists and turns in just a few short pages were mind-blowing. The story line is unique leaving so much up for interpretation. The wife is ill, both mentally and physically. Which is illness is causing the other is up to the reader.

I was drawn in immediately by the poetic writing style. Have you ever smelled the sunlight before?

Sunlight the colour of a ripe peach’s flesh oozed onto the living room floor, shedding countless particles of dust and pollen.

Or have you ever been so moved by plants on a balcony?

The wholehearted manner in which my wife devoted herself to caring for those plants exceeded all expectations. If a lettuce or perilla plant withered, this would be enough to plunge her into depression for half a day, while if one seemed to be still clinging tenaciously to life she would wander around humming a bright tune.

For whatever reason, nothing now remained in the balcony’s rectangular flowerpots other than dry soil. 

This is one of those stories that will stick with you. You’ll find yourself contemplating what actually happened; regurgitating everything you read. It’s profoundly weird yet beautiful. Do yourself a favor, take 30 minutes to read this story.

Where to find it

I couldn’t find this printed, but it is available for free on Granta here.

My rating: 5/5

Angola: Good Morning Comrades by Ondjaki

Title: Good Morning Comrades
Translator: Stephen Henighan
Publish date: 2003
Pages: 128
Genre: Cultural, Historical Fiction
Location: Angola

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About the Book

This is the typical story of 12 year old boy. He goes to school, tells tall tales, does his homework, talks about his teachers, and has fun with his friends. Seemingly “normal” – only this story takes place in Angola in 1990 – a revolutionary communist country in the middle of a bitter war. Ndalu is fascinated with the family servant, Antonio who thinks the country was better when it was a colony of Portugal. And his Aunt Dada who lives in Portugal and doesn’t even know what a ration card is. This is unbelievable to him – how does she not know what a ration card is? How will they know if you bought too much food?

Written in the innocent voice a child, Good Morning Comrades tells the story of a group of friends living their childhood the best they know how – despite the ever-changing world around them.

My Thoughts

Angola was in the middle of their Civil War in 1990. The country was transitioning from a socialist state to a democratic state. At the time, they were occupied by the Soviets and Cubans.

This was a totally different book than I’m used to. But really, that was 100% the point of my read the world challenge…read something new. And what a perfect book this was. I really enjoyed Ondjaki’s relaxed writing style. Written very much from the words a child, it was easy to just adore Ndalu. The things he says are sweet and funny and add to his personality.

“Sometimes even when my parents were at the table, we were silent. Maybe we were smelling the morning. I don’t know. I don’t know.”

“I saw on television that there are some plants that open only at night. I call them bat-plants.”

Bat-plants…I’m going to have to use that.

Civil war is heavy and devastating, but through the eyes of a boy, it’s so matter of fact that the emotion is almost taken out of it. The things he sees on a daily basis are just that…things he sees every day. After Ndalu saw a man taking a photo of his wife and a monkey at the airport, the state police took the camera away from the man, Ndalu recounts,

“at least there wasn’t any shooting, because sometimes stray bullets kill people.”

I mean whoa. That thought came from a 12 year old. Think about that.

Ondjaki does an excellent job of recounting the very normal days of these school-age kids while addressing the changes and pains going on in Angola without the reader being overcome with grief.

Who this Book is For

I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys beautiful stories or relaxed writing style. It’s also a great book for anyone curious about other cultures and excited about supporting Black authors.

My rating: 4/5

The Only Street in Paris by Elaine Sciolino

Author: Elaine Sciolino
Publish date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Pages: 320
Genre: Travel, Memoir

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What a joy this book was. The Only Street in Paris: Life on Rue des Martyrs is written by Elaine Sciolino, an American journalist who lived in Paris. The dream, right?

Each chapter reads as almost a stand alone story. The characters from Rue des Martyrs appear throughout the book, but the chapters don’t necessarily build on top of one another.

Elaine shares the magic of living on and enjoying everything about the street. You’ll fall in love with the fishmongers, cheesemongers, and greengrocers while falling even more in love with the City of Lights. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of virtual travel this love read provided – I especially loved the chapter on butter. Yes, butter!

Whether you’ve been to Paris a thousand times or it’s on your bucket list, I recommend this lovely read about a single street in Paris. Imagine if every street in Paris had it’s own book.  

My rating: 4/5