“Prayer Number Twenty”

Prayer Number Twenty

Wind carry me up and away,

my loves’ voices in the air as echoes

and the taste of all words in my mouth.

I want no sight but the shimmer of darkness,

no touch but yours,

and the smell of rain

as we skim the surface of the world

— Medina Martin

“Part of Eve’s Discussion” by Marie Howe

“Part of Eve’s Discussion”

It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand, and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem to still and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they wheel and drop, very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin, like the moment just before you forgot what it was you were about to say, it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only all the time.

— Marie Howe, The Good Thief, Persea Books, 1988

posted at poets.org

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/21277

A Review of Cara Chow’s Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon by Cara Chow (Scholastic 2011) has great moments and weak ones. The protagonist, Frances, is complex and engaging, and there is some great interaction between her and her best friend, Theresa. The core ideas — finding a way to speak one’s truth, navigating the path between loyalty to one’s mother and to one’s self — are important and compelling. It takes on the experience of a first-generation teenager in valuably familiar and unfamiliar ways.

However, the plot has trouble finding its rhythm in many places — we no sooner find out that Frances despises Theresa than they become instant best friends, for example, and the key conflict reaches several false climaxes.  The characterization of Frances’s mother is confusing because she borders on psychotic at times, yet we seem to be expected to take her instead as a very flawed but ultimately loving person. In addition, two key characters, Frances’ speech teacher and her boyfriend, veer on flawless and thus flatness.

All that said, Frances is a character you root for, and Chow’s voice is original. And of course, there is a lot to be said for any young adult book with an Asian-American woman on its cover. Chow might tell Frances’s story inexpertly, but her truth is worth listening to.