B. Glen Rotchin’s Halbman Steals Home was the first book I was assigned to review where I wasn’t 100% thrilled by, even though it was a quick read that kept me fairly engaged at the time. So I tried to explain why I felt vaguely unsatisfied, in the new issue of the Montreal Review of Books.
All posts in category books
Posted by RK on July 29, 2012
A couple of fiction reviews I wrote are now online, both are writing about and from Montreal:
Hélène Rioux’s Wandering Souls in Paradise Lost (for Issue 9 of Maple Tree Literary Supplement)
H. Nigel Thomas’s Lives: Whole and Otherwise (for the Spring 2011 issue of Montreal Review of Books)
Posted by RK on May 28, 2011
A few weeks ago, I got a chance to interview the very talented (and McGill’s own) Holly Luhning, whose first novel Quiver (HarperCollins) received rave reviews from The National Post. Today, I’m excited to announce that three lucky readers can win copies of Luhning’s novel through a giveaway I’m hosting with Kickaction.ca.
To celebrate the fourth installment of the blogging carnival (which will kick off on March 8, International Women’s Day – more information on the carnival here), Kickaction giving away three copies of Quiver.
To enter the contest, all you need to do is:
a) “like” the Kickaction Fan page on Facebook
b) leave a comment on the Kickaction Fanpage wall answering the question: why do you think feminist blogs are important?
The deadline to enter the contest if midnight (eastern time) on March 20th. A winner will be drawn at random on March 21.
Enter and tell us why feminist blogging matters!
Posted by RK on March 3, 2011
[this review originally appeared in Maple Tree Literary Supplement, issue 8]
Adult Child of Hippies
by Willow Yamauchi
London, ON: Insomniac Press, 2010
297 pp. $16.95
On the cover of Willow Yamauchi’s book, Adult Child of Hippies, a young girl – who is naked except for a flower-patterned scarf draped on her head – stands with her eyes closed as if in a trance with a flower in her mouth. But a hippie childhood wasn’t all fun and games as outsiders may assume. Throughout the book, the reader learns that life with hippie parents is a paradoxical existence of paranoia and danger, stemming from a staunch commitment to freedom and love.
The book is a combination of family photographs from the author and the other adult children of hippies, as well as one-sentence description of life in the commune that accompanies each photograph. It’s set up as a survey for the reader, with the lead-in “You know you are an adult child of hippies if….” with a check-box after each description, so the reader can discover if s/he also qualifies as an adult child of hippies. Many of the criteria proposed by Yamauchi are humorous and tongue-in-cheek. My favourite spread included the caption, “[y]ou know you are an adult child of hippies if you slaughtered your own pigs. Bonus point: You used the tail to grease your frying pan.” (34) The photo on the opposite page shows the bottom half of a slaughtered pig hanging on a tree, surrounded by bearded men who appear excited. Later on, a naked man sitting on a tiny basin that barely fits his buttocks smiles at the camera, with the accompanying caption: “You bathed in small basins to conserve water” (244). But not all photo-description pairings are as well-matched, or effective. One description “You thought all loaves of bread weighed over 5 pounds” is not accompanied by a photo of an impressively dense loaf of bread, but a close-up of a baby’s face instead.
Contrary to stereotypical expectations, Yamauchi’s depiction of children of hippies is not all idylls and innocence. Some factoids are harmless and cute (“You could ‘downward dog’ before you could walk” p. 198), while others appear more questionable (“Your parents felt that power tools were an appropriate plaything” p. 276). Generally speaking, life on the commune strangely robs “real” childhood by imposing knowledge of sexuality (“You could clearly understand the differences between ‘open relationship,’ ‘an understanding,’ and ‘swinging’.” p. 232), drugs (“You collected pretty LSD blotters instead of stickers” p. 186), and the government’s restrictive ways.
Yamauchi provides an intriguing introduction to the aftermath of rebellious years experienced by those who did not consent to it in the first place. The book certainly sparks a curiosity in the reader, but it fails to satisfy it completely. While it provides a window for readers to peek into the children of hippies’ lives, that window seems too grainy with not enough contextualization to provide a dynamic picture. It’s a shame that the photos in the book are black and white – some of the details of the pictures are lost and flattened in shades of grey. I also couldn’t help but want more detailed and chronological account of how one exactly transitions from being a child of hippies to adult child of hippies.
Nevertheless, Yamauchi manages to delve into an oft-neglected identity category of those who did not choose an alternative lifestyle, but were forced to live it and embrace it. By positing that those who experienced “extreme” hippie lifestyle of their parents all turn out to be the most straight-laced adults, Yamauchi also questions the value of staunch granola lifestyle by concluding that hippie lifestyle bred more obedient citizens in its offspring. It would be worthwhile to see follow-up – either from the author herself or other adult children of hippies – that explores the subject further.
[book cover image from Tesco.com]
Posted by RK on January 26, 2011
Sorry for the Radio Silence of late. I went to Vancouver for a week and a half to visit the family, overdosed on sushi, Korean food and bad cable television, then came back to Montreal to start my new job…it’s been exhausting and the state of my apartment is unbelievable (in a bad way).
But here’s what I’ve been up to lately, writing-wise:
You can find my book review of Deloume Road , a debut novel by Matthew Hooton, in the newest issue of Maple Tree Literary Supplement. MTLS is an online literary journal published three times a year, consisting of 75% Canadian content. It features diverse content including creative writing (poetry, plays, fiction, and the newly installed addition of spoken word) as well as essays, interviews and book reviews.
Next, my post about Joss Whedon has been reposted in Womanist Musings! It delights me to be featured on a blog that has a strong WOC authorship as well as readership.
I’ll be back next time with more original thoughts and content, I promise.
Posted by RK on August 19, 2010