4 stars

Book Review: Lolas’ House

Lolas' House: Filipino Women Living with WarLolas’ House: Filipino Women Living with War by M. Evelina Galang

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Content Warning: This book contains explicit descriptions of rape and torture that could be triggering to some survivors.

Lolas’ House is part history book, part memoir, and part biography. Eveline Galang interviews sixteen women who survived imprisonment as Japanese “comfort women” during World War II. These “women” were most often young girls, barely teenagers, stolen off the streets while running errands with siblings. They watched as parents, siblings, and spouses were tortured and murdered before they themselves are hauled away and forced into sexual slavery.

Galang mingles her own personal narrative with the testimonies of the survivors and the history of Filipino life during WWII. It is impossible to not be moved by the strength of these women. They have experienced the worst that humanity has to offer. Not only were they stolen from their homes as children but after daily rapes and slavery, many were rejected by their families upon their return. Yet, the women pushed on and now as very old women, they are fighting the Japanese government.

The only real issue with the book is that it immersed in the history and culture of the Filipino people. As someone outside of that circle, I would have liked a little more context around some of the traditions that are discussed. Likewise, there is some dialogue that is in the original languages of the women. This is noted in the author’s introduction but it was difficult to understand the longer passages. However, this in no way diminishes the book for me — it’s still an exceptionally moving read.

Lolas’ House comes at a pivotal moment. Many of the lolas express their desire to end war. They say over and over that they hope to keep other children safe from this fate. With the world poised on the edge of the cliff, I would behoove everyone to read Galang’s book. It is an incredibly powerful testimony to the horrors of war and the power of the human spirit to persevere. We cannot let this happen again.

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Book Review: On the Spectrum

On the SpectrumOn the Spectrum by Jennifer Gold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not usually a fan of young adult novels but On the Spectrum is one that really grabbed me and refused to let go.

Clara lives in a world where she wants for little, if anything, but her life is incredibly complicated. Clara’s mother Catherine is a famous ballerina and food, or lack thereof, has always been a central part of Clara and Catherine’s relationship. Clara soon is diagnosed with an eating disorder and Catherine tries to do everything she can to make up for sixteen years of poor parenting. Everything is thrown into disarray one night at a party when Clara is duped by a cute Yale student.

Clara finds herself in Paris, living with the father she never really knew and his passive-aggressive anti-American wife. Clara also meets her little brother, six-year-old Alastair, who is “on the spectrum.” Charged with his care over the summer, Clara is worried about how she will ever know exactly what this weird kid needs when he needs it. Despite her trepidation, Clara and Alastair have a lot to teach each other.

As a step-parent to a kid on the spectrum, I was dubious as to whether the book could really capture what it’s like to be the kid and the parent. I was thrilled to find that Jennifer Gold was spot on when it came to both Alastair’s quirks (though they were really played-up at times) and his father’s fears about his future. This book was so touching and well written. It’s definitely a must-read and I highly recommend it!