The Imaro Review

Nerd Redefined

I’m ashamed to admit it has taken me this long to finally read Imaro by Charles R. Saunders. Having finally read one of the seminal works in sword and sorcery, I’m glad that I finally did. Imaro is amazing. This book is going on my shopping list.

But first, some background. Charles R. Saunders, in the 1970s, desired to write the stories he wanted to read- stories inspired by his African heritage.  Thus was born the character Imaro and his world of Nyumbani. The Imaro stories where published throughout the later seventies and early eighties before being reissued (and revised) in the 2000s.

Imaro is a short story novel that depicts the life of Imaro, an Ilyassai youth, at various ages from five (when his mother abandons him) to late teens or very early twenties (when he leads his haramia band). The novel, and the component short stories, explore Imaro’s…

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Review of Octavia E. Butler’s “Dawn: Book One of the Xenogenesis Trilogy” & Tea Recipe

A Bibliophile's Reverie

Amazon/Barnes & Nobles/ Books-A-Million/Goodreads

Be sure to check out the special literary tea recipe below, inspired by Octavia Butler’s “Lilith’s Brood” series!

Inadvertently, I was introduced to this gem of a science fiction novel, all due to lead woman Charlotte Wessels, from Dutch metal act Delain, citing this series as the main source of inspiration for the title and concept of Delain’s recent album “The Human Contradiction.” Having just seen the band live and being blown away by their very energetic performance, I bought myself a copy of the album, and have been listening to it incessantly since last Friday, without any serious doubts, whether my interest in the album will suddenly wane. The premise and themes behind some of the lyrics only deepened and crystallized in my mind, as I was reading Dawn by Octavia Butler, carefully and conscientiously, for the last few…

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Bizarro Reading Challenge

If you want a decent intro into the realm of bizarro fiction, then the very smart John Edward Lawson is pointing you in the right direction here.

John Edward Lawson

ParamournCoverI’m happy to announce that my recent fiction collection Paramourn: Unfortunate Romances has made the preliminary ballot for the Wonderland Book Award, alongside a ton of great bizarro books by other authors. The Wonderland Book Award was established to recognize achievement in the field of bizarro fiction. Votes can be cast to determine the final ballot at — just select your top three candidates in each category and email to the address listed. The award is then voted on by members of the bizarro community and presented at BizarroCon, held annually in Portland, Oregon.

Everywhere I go professionally, people ask me: what is bizarro? Who are the authors? What books do you recommend? It’s hard to know where to begin usually. Today, however, it’s easy to say that anyone curious about bizarro fiction ought to familiarize themselves with those titles populating the preliminary ballot. There are 60…

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Prophecy by Ellen Oh

Prophecy by Ellen Oh

Korean-based young adult fantasy featuring a female character not constricted to gender roles.  What’s not to love here?  I picked up the book solely on it being Korean-based in my effort to actively avoid fantasies based on a European-Medieval model.  I’ve grown tired of that particular setting and I’m so glad to see that there are writers actively working against that typical backdrop.  Now I’ll freely admit this up front; I’m ignorant about Korean culture and thus during much of my time reading this book I was looking up images to match with words I didn’t know.  A great learning experience for me and I’d do it again honestly.  But with that said, you don’t need to have an in-depth understanding of Korean culture to get into this book.

At its core this is a great action adventure.  The main character, Kira, consistently kicks butt throughout the story and one of the strengths of it is that the author knows how to write action.  I didn’t have any issues visualizing the movements of Kira and her supporting cast as they battled their way through their foes.  So don’t buy into the sexism and think boys couldn’t get into this story because it stars a girl.  Of course, the very idea of blood and gore being primarily the interests of boys is sexist in itself…but we won’t go there.

So Kira is our guide through this story, but she’s surrounded by some great characters.  Her older brother, Kwan, is an excellent companion and serves a bit as her anchor, keeping her steady.  Then there’s Taejo, a young prince and her cousin that she has been sworn to protect since childhood.  Along the way they meet Jaewon and Seung, a comedic duo that adds so much life into the story.  I love them the most, especially Seung who is so genuinely innocent and seems to be the light of the story.  Some of the minor characters have bigger moments as well that really stood out.  The role of King Eojin, their uncle, played against my expectations a number of times and his sister pulled out quite the moment towards the end of the story.

There are some typical elements to the plot such as the fulfillment of a prophecy and the idea of the “one” but Ellen does succeed in turning that a bit on its head.  Honestly, I could have done without so much focus on that, but it does sort of serve as the axis of the story so my gripe is perhaps a bit much.  Also, I would have liked to have actually seen the demons instead of their possessions.  But I have a feeling that might be rooted in some part of Korean culture I’m unfamiliar with.

Overall, this is a quick, fun read.  You’ll like the characters and will root for them throughout the story.  Don’t look for a lot of emotional heft and some of the heavier bits we’ve seen lately from fantasy.  This book knows its audience and perfectly zooms in on that.  There’s nothing wrong with that and in fact, it gave me a nice breather from some of the heavier books I’ve been reading as of late.  That alone allows me to see the appeal and boom in YA among older readers.  Prophecy can consider itself a part of that boom and I think its greatest contribution is diversity.  For a Korean teen who’s never seen themselves in a fantasy book before, I’m sure this felt like absolute gold.  And that’s why books like Prophecy have to exist.

The Amado Women by Desiree Zamorano

Amado Women by Desiree Zamorano

When I finished this book, I immediately hugged it.  Kind of ridiculous I know, but it felt necessary because the book ended so completely and so powerfully I felt like that was the only way to release all the emotions pent up in me.  Amado Women is the Latina’s Waiting to Exhale.  Much like that book showed the ups and downs of both womanhood and being black, this book shows the ups and downs of being a woman and Latino.  The writing style is addictive, having an almost perfect rhythm.  It’s sparse where it needs to be and knows exactly when to deliver its punches.

The book centers around the women of the Amado clan.  There’s Mercy, the recently divorced mother who is beautiful in so many ways but harbors far too much guilt and pain.  The oldest child, Celeste, who is successful in her career and has the finances to back it up.  But in the eyes of her youngest sister, Nataly, that success has made her cold and distant.  Nataly is a starving artist who doesn’t quite seem to know where she’s going in life despite knowing exactly what she wants.  Then there is the middle child, Sylvia.  She’s the only one of her sisters with children (two daughters) and is trying to navigate her way out of an abusive marriage.

There are men in the novel and how they relate to the women is a part of the story, but the author avoids making the men the central to these women’s lives.  They’re there and they are important, but how these daughters and their Mother relate to one another is where the heart of the story lies.  If I have to say, I think the story of Mercy is the most powerful one in the entire novel to me.  I’m a momma’s boy so I’m always a sucker for a good mom overcoming in a story and that’s exactly what Mercy does.  What the author really excelled at in writing Mercy was showing her children that their Mother was only human.  It’s a lesson that we kids don’t really learn until we’re much older and I think there will always be a part of us that still thinks they’re invincible anyway.

Sylvia’s story arc is a delicate one because it tackles the very controversial and sticky subject of domestic abuse.  The author doesn’t get into gory details, but the emotions of Sylvia on display as she goes through this is enough to horrify you.  She doesn’t shy away from the unfortunate role that children sometimes play in domestic abuse and the shame and resentments that crop up from that.  There’s a lot of pain to be dealt with here, but the author does bring it up to a satisfying resolution.

This novel has all the trappings of a late-night soap opera with all the tragic reality of everyday life.  It’s a roller coaster, but if you don’t read this book for ANY other reason then please read it to get to the end.  I promise you that you’ll get to the end and smile.  There’s just no way around it.  How this story concludes is reason enough to pick up this book.  I hugged that book because it was the only way I could hug those characters.

AAPI Month Profiles: Day Eleven

Andrea Wong 

The Basics: Andrea Wong is the president of international production for Sony Pictures Television (SPT) and the president of international for Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE).  In her SPT position, Wong heads the studio’s international television production business, overseeing the creative teams outside the U.S. as well as the eighteen owned and joint venture international production companies around the world. As the head of Lifetime, she oversaw Army Wives becoming a hit show and also facilitated the acquisition of Project Runway to the network.  Both shows remain the network’s highest rated programs.

Why I Chose Them:  Achievement is such a powerful way to blaze trails and create opportunities for your community.  I think for any marginalized group, it is understood that you have to work twice as hard to get half as much.  But there is something to be said for still pursuing positions of power anyway.  Because it is from these positions that change can be made.  Simply be existing in such a position of power, you are inspiring and altering the landscape.  As always, that’s important.

AAPI Month Profiles: Day Ten

Hubert Vo

The Basics: Mr. Vo is the only Vietnamese-American to ever be elected to the Texas legislature.  A Democratic representative, his District includes parts of west Houston.  Born in South Vietnam, he moved to America to avoid the community government there.  He endorsed a program in 2014 that would allow food stamp users a wider variety of places to eat by opening up their usage at some restaurants.

Why I Chose Them:  It’s an achievement to be a minority and become an elected official in this country, but an almost miracle to become one in a state like Texas.  That alone makes this man worthy of coverage.  Representation is important and it always will be.  Even when I may not agree with every aspect of a person’s politics I’m still always happy to see when inclusion is at work.

AAPI Month Profiles: Day Eight

Teddy Zee

The Basics: He is one of the most visible champions for Asians in Hollywood.  The movies that he has produced and supervised have amassed 2/5 billion in revenue.  The man has a list of titles having served as Executive Vice President at Columbia Pictures, Senior Vice President at Paramount Pictures, President of Sony-based Overbrook Films, President of Fox-based Davis Entertainment, and now under the banner of Teddy Zee Productions.   He has done a lot of work to bridge the country of China and Hollywood together.

Why I Chose Them:  When we find success, we have to reach back and help our community.  We have to uplift others trying to do the same thing as us because that is the only way we’re going to find the diversity that we’re looking for.  This man is such a lesson and example for those of us who want to see more diversity in the media.  We have to operate behind and on the scenes to make these changes happen.  Without that alliance of people coming together to make things happen, it’s always going to be an uphill battle to get America to see its many different colors.

AAPI Month Profiles: Day Seven

Jhumpa Lahiri

The Basics: Born in London to two parents from West Bengal, she moved to America when she was two.  She grew up in Rhode Island and it was there she got her nickname of Jhumpa from a teacher.  A recipient of multiple degrees, Jhumpa has taught creative writing at Boston University and the Rhode Island School of Design.  Her short story worked faced rejection for years but her first collection was finally released in 1999.  That book, Interpreter of Maladies, received the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her work focuses on the struggles of Bengali communities and Indian American groups first moving to America and the trials they face upon arrival here.

Why I Chose Them: I was first exposed to Jhumpa Lahiri in college and I absolutely loved her work.  Her writing was powerful and made you understand the difficulties facing a group of people you might not know a great deal about.  Writers like her are the reason we need books and the reason we all need to make reading a part of our daily routines.  Reading is that thing that draws upon and develops your empathy skills.  When you can empathize with another culture and find yourself in it, that is how bridges to understanding are built.  Writers like Lahiri are our architects.

AAPI Month Profiles: Day Six

Amy Tan.jpg

Amy Tan

The Basics: One of America’s most well-known authors, the Chinese-American Oakland native writes novels that deal with the experience of the Chinese as a family unit here in America.  Her first novel was The Joy Luck Club, which some may know from its movie adaptation.  Her Mother’s hardships inspired the novel and served as the basis for Tan’s work moving forward.  Unfortunately, she is suffering from late-stage Lyme’s disease, but still continues to write.  Her last novel was released in 2013.

Why I Chose Them:  I’m ashamed to say I’ve only read The Joy Luck Club and as I write this, I’m rectifying that.  A woman with the caliber of work she has can’t only have one of their books read.  In my mind, she’s the Maya Angelou of the Chinese-American community and say that only having read one book.  She writes with such authority y and authenticity about the Chinese-American experience that you can’t ignore her.   It’s poetic in how she deals with the most tragic of things and somehow finds beauty in them.