Sunday, June 17, 2012

Same Sun Here by Silas House & Neela Vaswani

Yesterday morning, I read Silas House and Neela Vaswani's Same Sun Here, a book about Meena, an Indian immigrant living New York City's Chinatown, and River, a coal-miner's son in Appalachia.

The story is told in alternating voices, through a series of letters.  It shares the vastly different experiences of these two unlikely friends who develop an intimate understanding of one another through their written correspondence.

The book is not subtle in its agenda.  It is clear House and Vaswani have something to say: about acceptance, about ignorance, about race relations, about the immigrant experience, and about our land, our resources, our environment.  Sometimes it's unfair to be subtle. Given the importance of these issues, perhaps it's not appropriate to be so tenuous.  

While I do realize this book is not written for an adult audience (but really, what does that mean? the book was written, does it matter who for?), I did wish for less of a beat-over-the-head message.  I believe, very strongly, in the intelligence and ability of young people to make connections and figure themes out for themselves.  Despite that, I found the book refreshing.  And really important. There are some beautiful images that struck me, that will stay with me for a long time.  A story of Meena's father and a bride who peels potatoes is one that comes to mind (you'll just have to read it to see.)  And I am a sucker for beautiful descriptions of my city, even those that come with a one-sentence-extra nudge:

"We could hear the sound of cars on the West Side Highway, but somehow it was so far away and mixed with the river's voice that the cars sounded like trees swaying in a forest.  I had not seen hills or sat on a big rock in many years.  The city, the skyline, looked blue and distant.  It made me feel like we are all very small and unimportant.  It is just when you are inside something that you forget that.  But when you are outside of it and looking from far away, you can see.  Kiku says that's called "perspective.""

Perspective is something we could all use.  I read a wrap-up in the New York Times about this year's college commencement speeches and, as Condoleeza Rice told the graduates of Southern Methodist University, "At those times when you're absolutely sure that you're right, talk with someone who disagrees.  And if you constantly find yourself in the company of those who say 'amen' to everything that you say, find other company." 

Same Sun Here is about the beauty of finding company in that 'other company'.

1 comment:

  1. I love the quotes you used! I'll have to copy and paste in my "great quotes" file. Thanks. I do love the title of the book - I'd probably pick it up just based on the cover and title.