Rebel Queen

I read Michelle Moran’s Nefertiti a few months ago, and was completely drawn into her historical fiction, so when NetGalley offered me the ARC of her new book Rebel Queen my reaction was a resounding YES PLEASE!!!!!!

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There is “historical fiction” that is loosely based on a time period or event, but I never really take it any more seriously than any other fiction book that I read.

Than there is REAL HISTORICAL FICTION, where the author does buckets and buckets of research, and the end product is more fact than novel. There’s usually a hefty author’s note at the beginning, and an even bigger one at the end, explaining all of the changes made to the real events. And when you read the book, it does not take long to imagine yourself in ancient Egypt, or in India during the British colonization.

This is how I feel when I read Michelle Moran’s books. I really liked Nefertiti…I LOVED Rebel Queen. It is one of those books that even when I am not actively reading it, I’m playing parts of it in my head. Serious book hangover here. Last night while I was cutting potatoes for dinner, I was definitely reliving scenes from the Rani Mahal.

There’s such a vast spectrum of culture described in this book, and I was completely enthralled. And then when the bright colors of India clash up against Victorian England–it is almost comical to watch–the difference in modesty rules:  showing belly but not breasts vs breasts but not belly, men eating with women, kissing hands. Brightness does not always mean vulgarity.

The strength of female characters in this history is what struck me the most. The Rani and her Durga Dal are fierce competition for the British. In a country where most women are in purdah, and where in the rest of the world women are seen as meek and mild socialites, having a group of educated, strong, fighting women is such an amazing thing to me. These are good heroes. Can we start teaching our girls about these women in school?

This book is a win. It’s release date is set for March 3, and it is definitely on my TO BUY list!

Disclaimer:  This ARC was given to me by NetGalley.

I’m going to count this as #28 on PopSugar Challenge (A book with antonyms in the title), because it’s probably as close as I’m going to get.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

I will confess that Indian culture is not one I know much about. I’m learning more, since I work with some wonderful people in Bangalore, but it is such a diverse and vibrant country.

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When I saw that the Nerdfighters were reading Beyond the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, I jumped on the bandwagon, hoping to learn more about Mumbai and the Muslim side of Indian culture. What I got was a massive awakening to a very impoverished side of things. This is not the colorful Bollywood India we imagine here in America. Boo is writing about the slums and corrupted politics, collecting garbage for money, and attempted suicide. There is no pretty picture here.

I would love to say I connected deeply with the people Boo writes about, and the problems they face, that I was deeply moved by this book. But I wasn’t. I wanted to be, honestly, but I felt very disconnected. I think it is because the writing was very journalistic and disjointed for me. Sometimes it felt like a narrative, sometimes it was magazineish…I just didn’t really care for the style and it never really hooked me.

I think that it is a very important subject matter, and there is some good stuff here that people need to be aware of. I just don’t think it was as well done as it could have been. At least for someone not already informed or intune to that part of the world. Bring me into the heart of it, draw me in. I need to feel it.