Browser: A child’s shame at her mother’s cultural difference

Brief reviews of Speak, Okinawa by Elizabeth Miki Brina, Jaipur Journals by Namita Gokhale, This is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth

Elizabeth Miki Brina expresses shame for having denied her mother’s experience, and the history and culture of Okinawa. Photograph: Getty

Elizabeth Miki Brina expresses shame for having denied her mother’s experience, and the history and culture of Okinawa. Photograph: Getty

 

Speak, Okinawa

By Elizabeth Miki Brina

Granta, £14.99

Brina’s father, a Vietnam veteran, met her mother, a waitress working in a nightclub, when he was stationed in Okinawa. They married shortly after and moved to the US where Brina’s mother found herself faltering in this new world. In this raw memoir, the author explores the shame she felt at her mother’s difference; her perceived inability to become fluent in Brina’s world. Aged five, she is watching Karate Kid II, a film set in Okinawa. She turns to her father to ask about the unusual Okinawan practices in the film because he is “the smartest person in the world because he is from Manhattan”. Now as an adult, Brina expresses shame for having denied her mother’s experience, and the history and culture of Okinawa which is weaved artfully throughout the book. A graceful and sad read. – Brigid O’Dea

Jaipur Journals

By Namita Gokhale

HopeRoad, £9.99

“So here she was, with 135,000 words, handwritten in sloping italics…UNSUBMITTED.” Rudrani Rana, a varicose-veined 70-something, is a walking dictionary whose unpublished novel is now on its 12th draft, but she is reluctant to let it go. She is one of several participants at the Jaipur Literary Festival, a weekend full of writers and readers, fragile dreams, poison pen letters and delicate egos. The novel races and almost like a festival programme you hanker to linger longer with each of the many characters, so vivid, real and often funny that they are; each is worthy of their own book. Literary types will laugh in recognition as the novel overflows with pithy observations about the book world. You rarely stop to draw breath, but this is what gives Namita Gokhale’s novel its warmth, charm and vivacity. – Ruth McKee

This is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyber Weapons Arms Race

By Nicole Perlroth

Bloomsbury, £14.99

We realise part of the internet is placing our personal details and documents into a tech-giant box, which hangs low on a huge digital tree as millions of others pass by. Nicole Perlroth’s brilliant book documents the passersby with climbing gear and tools to access these boxes if they fancy. They target higher electronic branches too: government defence, weapons systems, power grids, water supplies, hospital networks, chemical factories, aeroplanes, elections; all susceptible. There are financial and/or nefarious reasons for this, and Perlroth has met many of the hackers. She’s also met the architects of our new digital dawn who outline the inherent problems in securing and regulating these systems and the dark operators within it. This book is a wake-up-call on the next potential global crisis. – NJ McGarrigle

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