Book review, Readathon, Received for Review

Circus Folks and Village Freaks by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal

Statistics

Length: 156 pages

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Poetry, LGBTQ+

Publisher: Vishwakarma Publications

Date of Publication: 20th September, 2018

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I receiver a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review


When the author contacted me about reviewing the book, I was amazed at the beautiful cover. The concept was intriguing and it seemed like an interesting read. I usually research a book before accepting a review opportunity but something about this book had me saying yes almost immediately.

The Blurb

Meet the beautiful people of the Circus, and the freaks who live in the Village next to them. Mangled, jangled, misunderstood, all find place in the rich tapestry of this book.

Siamese twins separate to lose half a heart each, and find snake-man and tiger-taming lovers. A man bitten by a crocodile becomes a God, and a Devadasi woos the entire countryside with her culinary artistry.

Fates intertwined lead sometimes to tragedy, sometimes happy summits of fame. A clown finds his place in Hollywood and mute animals break unspeakable chains. A twisted man falls in love with a mirror and a white man is unmade by the Indian sun.

In this book are tales for every season and every reason. Tales of human depravity that take innocent lives, and of a murderers’ insanity that follows, a fitting revenge by nature, red in tooth and claw.

These stories are told in the form of narrative poems in rhyming couplets.

Look inside and you will find, you have been to this Village. Surely, you have been to this Circus too.

The Book

I always consider myself as a ‘prose over poetry’ sort of person. I was apprehensive about how I would react to this book. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the author knew what she was doing. The lines were wonderfully symmetrical and lyrical and the icing on the cake was that they rhymed perfectly. 

I was glad that I read the book in June since it contributed towards my Pride Readathon. The book consists of short poems based on quirky characters. We see children born in affluent families who are discarded because they do not conform to society’s idea of perfection. We see husbands and wives come to terms with their differences. We see greedy landlords and circus masters get their comeuppance. We see individuals from the fringes of the society find acceptance and also individuals who are banished or killed for their difference in appearance, behaviour or sexual orientation.

Even though the book talks about freaks and oddities of nature, the general feeling is one of positivity and humor. The women in the stories are strong and independent and find their place in the world and enjoy what they are doing despite being despised by a select few. I enjoyed how the author connected a story towards the end of the book with one in the beginning. That goes to show how much planning actually went into writing and editing.

The Author

Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal holds an MA from Kings College, London. She is a recipient of the 14th Beullah Rose Poetry Prize by Smartish Pace. She was shortlisted for the Third Coast Fiction Prize, 2018. She is featured on the Masthead of the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review as a Frequent Contributor. A popular Spoken Word poet, she performs at events across venues in India. Her page poetry is featured in reputed international literary journals such as Smartish Pace, Dunes Review, Typehouse Literary Review, SOFTBLOW, Broad River Review, Gyroscope Review and many more. Her poetry will be anthologized alongside the work of renowned poets such as Gulzar and Piyush Mishra in 2019. She lives with her 4-year-old son, husband and two dog babies in Pune, India.


TL;DR: A well written book that will have you wondering at the behaviour of the society even while chuckling at its eccentricities


Do you like reading poetry?

What are your favourites?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

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Book review

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Statistics

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Biography, Non-fiction, Memoir

Length: 426 pages

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group- Penguin Random Publishing House

Date of Publication: 13th November, 2018

Rating: 5/5 stars


I have always admired the charm and restraint shown by the Obama family, not to mention their achievements. Ever since I discovered that Michelle Obama has written a memoir, I have wanted to read it. When my friend discovered that I wanted to read the book, she decided to surprise me with it and what a nice thing that was!


The Blurb

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments.

Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

The Book

I read very less of fiction and even less of biographies and autobiographies. They always feel like the author wants the reader to know just how amazing they are or how much they have suffered. So, although I was excited to read more about the Obamas and I knew that almost everyone who read the book ended up liking it, I was a bit skeptical.

The book is divided into three parts- Beccoming Me, Becoming Us and Becoming More. As you could probably guess, the 1st part deals with Michelle Obama as she grows from a young black child in South Chicago to a smart young woman educated in Harvard Law School. Her struggles are the struggles that every child who grows up in an impoverished neighbourhood faces. She describes herself as lucky for having parents who had high expectations of her and her brother which made them work hard and realise that the only way out of the stigma of South-side was to achieve something measurable in the eyes of the people who matter.

I was impressed at how much her mother supported her even at a young age where she gives an example of how her mother made sure that she was taken out of the class where a disinterested teacher was in charge. I was also surprised at how Michelle and her brother Craig did not resort to rowdiness despite the amount of freedom that they got from their parents. They were encouraged to handle things on their own and be their own person. May be the amount of trust that the parents placed on them, coupled with the lack of strict boundaries meant that the children did not feel the need to rebel. I was also surprised at the number of times Michelle changed her jobs, every time to do something for her community. It instilled in me the thought that everyone can contribute to the society and we can start small and one day become the first lady and reach millions of people.

In the second part, we see Barack Obama enter Michelle’s world like a hurricane. He brings with him his uncompromising ethics. His charm makes everyone gravitate towards him. I was a bit shocked at the way their relationship unfolded. Until then, it had not even occurred to me that we can build a relationship between two people who are so different. All that is needed is both parties understanding that this is how the other person is and not trying to change them. I was glad that Michelle stuck to her work ethics and stayed in Chicago with the children and did not become a mere Senator-Wife like many of her contemporaries. Her experience at the Senator-Wife lunch reminds me of all the army spouses whose sole purpose seems to be about supporting their partners. It is very rare that their needs are taken care of. It was heartening to see Barack Obama as a father, to see him put the little ones above all, even his political career. That sense of family was perhaps what served them all till the end.

While the second part of the book felt a little too long and slow to me, the third part was my favourite. Here we see both the adult Obamas in their stride. They know that they have an immense amount of responsibility thrust upon them and they cannot fail the millions of people who depend on them to be their voices. The little Obamas too handle the pressure and the media presence in their own way and begin to grow into strong little women. I wish that we got to read more of how things were with the children but I understand Michelle’s need to protect them from public scrutiny. For children who spent nearly their entire childhood in the media glare, they handled themselves brilliantly with not even a single awkward picture or story surfacing till date. This holds good for the entire Obama team right from the POTUS and FLOTUS to the grandmother, brother and every single staffer. The values and morals of the Obama team, their love for everyone, their need to create better opportunities for the underdogs, their focus on health and healthcare was motivating. I wish every aspiring politician would inculcate at least some of their values. It was a very moving and inspiring tale that had me in tears plenty of times.

The Author

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is the wife of the forty-fourth President of the United States, Barack Obama, and is the first African-American First Lady of the United States.

She was born and grew up on the South Side of Chicago and graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. After completing her formal education, she returned to Chicago and accepted a position with the law firm Sidley Austin, and subsequently worked as part of the staff of Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, and for the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Michelle Obama is the sister of Craig Robinson, men’s basketball coach at Oregon State University. She met Barack Obama when he joined Sidley Austin. After his election to the U.S. Senate, the Obama family continued to live on Chicago’s South Side, choosing to remain there rather than moving to Washington, D.C.


TL;DR: A moving and inspiring tale of two well brought up adults who raise well adjusted children while governing the entire nation brilliantly


Do you like memoirs?

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