This Week’s Reads

Gregory Maguire’s Out of Oz*
Retelling/Fantasy, In Progress
That’s right, I’m at it again! I’m taking on the final book in Gregory Maguire’s Oz series. Loyal Oz is still attempting to reannex Munchinkinland and Glinda finds herself caught in the middle. Deprived of her staff and (increasingly) her manor house, she struggles to discover what General Cherrystone’s plan is, all while slowly uncovering the secrets of the Grimorie.

I have to say, Out of Oz isn’t nearly as exciting as I have made it out to be. The Oz series is about dialogue. It is about characters prowling around each and trying to get in the first nip, clever jab, or what have you. Out of Oz is no different. I’m so happy that Glinda got another shot to be on the page. I think she got shortchanged in Wicked, coming off as something of a cliched and air-headed schoolgirl. What I love so much about this older Glinda is how she manages to be both very clever and very inattentive. She manages to suck at domestic life without coming off as a snooty rich toff. It is oddly easy to sympathize with her as she is pushed further and further into a single room in her house – even though she still has it pretty good. I love how subtly she is able to get information out of Cherrystone, while still always being a little too far behind. She was, of course, once a Throne Minister of Oz and Maguire doesn’t shy away from political and military discourse between the two characters. But, I intend to do longer pieces on this book, so let’s move on.

*I am increasingly impressed at how few people realize there are four books in the Oz series. I myself wouldn’t have known about it had I not ended up in the bedroom of a girl who I never met, perusing her bookshelves. But there is and it’s just as wonderful as the rest of the series. It deals with all of Maguire’s favorite subjects – sex, gender, and mysterious families.

Good Girls Marry Doctors: South Asian American Daughters on Obedience and Rebellion edited by Piyali Bhattacharya
Non-fiction, Finished
In this collection of autobiographical short stories, immigrant women talk about navigating their relationships with their families and figuring out how they fit into this strange world of western culture.

In one of his books on Mogul Indian, Abraham Early talks about how we approach other cultures. It is very common to look at how a culture is different from our own, rather than recognizing the many similarities that exist. What impressed me most about Good Girls Marry Doctors was its reliability. These were stories of teenagers rebelling against their parents, drinking, smoking, having sex with boys. It was about women struggling with the gender norms society had set for them, about what it means to be a mother or a daughter. It was about trying to fit into their parent’s world while also realizing it was important to have their own identities – sometimes creating unfixable rifts. For that universality alone I would say that this was a wonderful read.

That being said, I do wish these women had been given a little more room to expound upon their stories. Each story was perhaps 5 to 8 pages, which was enough to create an intriguing story, but not enough to really dig deep. I got the sense of the story without really getting a sense of the authors. Marriage was a common theme and I would have liked to get a better sense of how the various authors thought about it – beyond the pain of being pressured to marry simply for the sake of marriage. Some of them were more detailed. One story discussed the economic unfairness of elevating legally married couples over those who have decided to live together as a couple without marrying. The length of the stories similarly didn’t allow me to dig into the richness of Indian and Pakistani culture as I might have liked.

I’m getting over a cold still so the short story will have to be forgone once again. Until next week!

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