Book Reviews

Book Review: The Last Story of Mina Lee

“What would the world look like if she made it her own, even temporarily, for a moment, fleeting, so that she could experience again the throb, the hunger of being alive, eyes wide, teeth showing?”

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a gripping tale. It’s addictive, edgy, and so full of truth.

And I really mean addictive! I could not resist picking this up while I was still in the middle of another book. But I had to finish it asap. No regrets!

The story goes back-and-forth between Margot and Mina, two women trying to make their way on the West Coast.

Margot, set in the present, discovers her mother’s body, still and unmistakably dead. Despite her initial shock, suspicion immediately sets in. As Margot goes on a quest to discover the truth about her mother’s untimely demise, she ends up discovering more about her mother – and herself – than she thought possible.

The story of Mina, Margot’s mother, is set in the beginning of her new life in the United States, years that lead up to and include Margot’s birth. She finds, with mixed feelings, camaraderie in coworkers and a few new friends. Through her new relationships and finding her way in a new place, Mina must navigate the murky waters that come with starting over while coping with the pains of the past.

As Margot traverses the mysteries surrounding her mother’s death, she must also grapple with the mysteries of her own mind. How much of her life has been shaped by who she thought her mother was? Who could Margot be if she allowed herself to just be?

This novel explores immigration, power, status, the American dream, loss, heartbreak, and what it means to belong. The characters learn lessons on owning their lives for who they are and what they have done – and it some cases, what they have not done.

This is a mystery without reading like a mystery. The characters are diverse and well-developed. I like that the storyline alternates between Margot and Mina – vastly different but similar in ways that run deeper than the surface.

Have you read The Last Story of Mina Lee? Leave me a comment and let me know what you thought or if it’s on your tbr!

Happy reading, friends! 🙂

Book Reviews

Book Review: THICK and Other Essays

THICK and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom, PhD, was one of my August Book of the Month Club selections. It is eye-opening, descriptive, and academic (the 20 pages of notes and references rocked my world).

THICK is not a history book. While McMillan Cottom draws on personal experiences, it is not specifically autobiographical enough to be a classic memoir. It is academic without reading like a textbook. It does combine all of these elements. McMillan Cottom says in the text that it’s a loose version of “opinion writing”.

THICK is not a long read, but it is hefty. It’s not a book that feels right to devour in one afternoon because a) some of the sentences I had to read five times, out loud, slowly, and reword to make my brain comprehend them and b) this is Important Stuff.

What is Important Stuff? Historically, those who held power, money, and title decided what other people should think was important. For a long time, certain groups’ opinions on what was and was not important did not matter – especially if they couldn’t read, couldn’t write, and couldn’t speak English, and therefore could not vote.

“If my work is about anything it is about making plain precisely how prestige, money, and power structure our so-called democratic institutions so that most of us will always fail.”

Tressie Mcmillan cottom – “Girl 6” in THICK AND OTHER ESSAYS

Black women and Black peoples should not be delegated to the role of a statistic. Yet they are. And people still don’t believe them, and they choose to not believe or rely on statistics that don’t mesh with a pre-determined opinion.

Important Stuff includes anti-racism not only by educating ourselves and admitting to ourselves, if not others, that we are wrong – even if we don’t profit from systemic traits, we at least are not worse off because of it – but by also acting upon it. I look at my life and think of how so many people say “I don’t see color” and I remember when that’s something i would thought was progressive. But it only hides the issue. It doesn’t change reality.

Reading THICK and Other Essays can be part of the catalyst for us all to learn more while we do more.

To learn more about Tressie McMillan Cottom, PhD, and her other works, visit her website.