TLR Recommends: Book Reviews

Girl, World
Stories by Alex Poppe
ISBN: 978-0996490559
Laughing Fire Press

Amid the frequent debates over politics, culture, and identity in America, we sometimes forget that at least in this country we can have them. Alex Poppe, who has spent much of her adult life serving as a teacher and aid worker in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, reminds us in her stories that in much of the world, those discussions are rarely an option, especially for women. From her experience as witness she’s crafted a record of lives broken by battle and prejudice: young women and girls tricked into prostitution and slavery with promises of a better life, adjustment and resignation made necessary by crippling war injuries, the beauty of human birth made horrible by the politics of borders. There is a sense of family throughout these stories (which include a Pushcart nominated tale, “Room 308”), but the cozy relationships that dominate most fiction today are here subordinated to political and cultural regimes. Gender and difference is not a cause to celebrate in much of the world, it is a flaw to be oppressed—a real-world truth too often ignored. Poppe’s stories may, with their stark portrayals of injustice, may frighten or enrage, but they also encourage us to look beyond our borders, be they national or personal, and recognize just how much work still needs to be done to affect change.

JP

 

A Small Revolution
by Jimin Han
ISBN: 978-1503929721
Little A

Prisons, real or virtual, may be the only places in our world where we have the time and the lack of distractions to reflect for more than a few moments. Jimin Han effectively places her protagonist in such a place when Yoona Lee and three college friends are taken hostage in their dorm room. The gunman is a former friend himself, Lloyd Kang, who has become unhinged following the death of his friend, and Yoona’s one-time lover, Jaesung Kim, in Korea. Once past the initial violence and panic of the situation, Yoona’s mind cycles among memories of Lloyd and Jaesung, searching for portents and meaning in the way their lives culminated. The signs were there, but who acknowledges signs as such until they manifest into actions that affect others? Yoona’s memories are woven into the present action, and the extreme tension of the hostage situation feeds her memories, until what she has believed for so long about Jaesung, Lloyd, and herself, is questioned.

A Small Revolution is filled with psychological twists, which allows it to develop the kind of ambiguities that keep readers turning pages. Han’s first novel exhibits an emotional depth that, coupled with the pace of the narrative, marks her as an author worth following.

JP