Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I really did not expect to enjoy reading “The Beauty Queens” by Libba Bray, but I did. I found it to be both dark and hilarious, serious and wacky, and sometimes way over the top, but containing truth and heart. I wish I could have read it when I was 18 and might have learned something which would have given me a much clearer perspective on being a young woman.
I listened to the audio-book read by the author. It was very well read with amazing vocal imitations of Sarah Palin, valley girls, southern belles, etc.
Here is the synopsis: a plane with teenage beauty contestants from 50 states crashes on a remote jungle island complete with a volcano, deadly snakes, bad guys, and handsome pirates. All the adults and about 3/4 of the girls who were on the plane are killed in the crash. The surviving girls wait for rescue, but when they realize that might never happen, they begin to lay aside their competitive worries about who has the smoothest hair, softest skin, best smile, most compelling “platform” and exciting talent and begin to work together. They also learn respect for each other: feminists, handicapped individuals, trans-gender individuals, lesbians, those of different races, etc.
In short, this story is a satire which criticizes pop culture and modern American consumerism and mannerisms. It is on the short list of YA books which the young adult librarians are planning to discuss as the best of 2011. I can’t wait for the discussion.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
My book club decided this year to read books that were being made into movies. It is fun and fulfilling to read and discuss a book and then later be able to discuss the adaptation of that story by film-makers. Most of the time we feel that the film falls far short. Recently a group of us went to see the film adaptation of ‘The Help’ and we were actually pleased with the way it had been transformed for film.
This month we are discussing ‘Sarah’s Key’. Sarah’s key has a different flavor than ‘The Help’ although there are some similarities. They are both books that highlight the bigotry and racism of Caucasians. How did that mindset even happen? How did Caucasians somehow become “elevated” to some level that made many (far too many) feel superior… so superior that they could believe it was alright for others to be treated as slaves or even killed!?
In reading Sarah’s Key I was also jolted by the similarities between the V’el d’Hiv and the stadium in New Orleans during Katrina and its aftermath. In both cases there were too many people crammed into a stadium without food or sanitary conditions. The images we’d seen from New Orleans actually helped me to visualize the V’el d’Hiv scenes described in the book.
The story of Sarah is tragic. I can understand how Julia’s life was transformed because of her research and knowledge about Sarah. After reading many historical novels and several non-fiction books on the holocaust about two decades ago, I was haunted with thoughts and images of that time for many months. After watching ‘Schindler’s List’ I was devastated and had nightmares. I had to quit reading about the events of that era for awhile, though I am now again reading them because they are so compelling.
I am both anticipating and dreading the movie ‘Sarah’s Key’. I hope the film-makers can convey the story as well as ‘The Help’ was portrayed, but I know that the images may keep me awake at night afterwards. Nevertheless, I agree with the mantra ‘remember and never forget’. We must not allow another race or culture to be demonized. We need to remember that today when some attempt to demonize Muslims.