Coming of Age / Coming into Your Own: Two Canlit Novels

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Featured below are two different stories, both with a coming of age theme, or coming into your own, your own identity, each with strengths of their own, two women at varying stages of life finding themselves, finding their identity and where they fit. Thank you to Caitlin Press for sending Becoming Lin and to Simon & Schuster Canada for sending Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety. Both Canlit and both at their finest.

28481693Thank you to Caitlin Press for sending a copy of Becoming Lin. This was a very good story about finding yourself, finding your identity, and the identity that is all of your own making – not the one others give to you. This also carried a strong theme of finding your feminist identity. I quite enjoyed Lin’s journey from Linda to Lin, to the Lin where she feels completely self-assured and secured in being all of her own person.

Kerri, from Pickle Me This has written a fine review of Becoming Lin here, and really, there is so much captured in there, I don’t think my adding anything in greater detail would do it justice. I can only say that I enjoyed reading about the “Linda” that leaves behind the identity created for her by the residents of her home town and flees with a charming and daring young man, thinking this is how she will find her own true self, only to be disenchanted with the identity he plans and shapes for her. Lin flounders a bit here, desperate to discover who she really is and then when she does find herself, and her feminist self, all in her own way, without anyone else dictating their opinions and plans, it makes for great reading. A woman to champion and cheer for.

014318248xI had previously marked to read Tricia Dower’s earlier novel, Stony River, when it was first published, but when I was offered to read Becoming Lin, I jumped at that chance to read it first before Stony River. I enjoyed taking this journey with Lin becoming Lin. And now, I’m super happy I waited before buying Stony River, because it is available now with this snazzy new paperback cover! I’ve gone and purchased it, and it now sits waiting anxiously for me to read it.

29218113Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety is a strong debut, and like Becoming Lin, features this strong coming of age perspective.

Choi’s debut gives a peek into what it is like for Mary being Korean in Canada and the challenges she faces about only being seen as Korean while wanting to be seen as Canadian too. How can Mary do this but in a way that still honours her parent’s culture, and how that fits into her identity as well. Mary shares her many struggles while she works through how to best shape and assert her identity. It’s a constant struggle as she is expected to meet the expectations of her parents like where she would study, to what she will study, to what her future holds for her – a future that is already planned and decided for her.

Mary’s friends are all multicultural and one of her closest friends returns to India to be married into an arranged marriage. She still has that one friend though, Erin, that often rails against their differences, their ethnicities, their subservience to their families and cultures…

“God, I don’t know how you people do it. You’re like trained animals. Even with your cages unlocked, you refuse to escape.”

Mary’s response to this was, “I knew it must be impossible for her to understand the chains that kept immigrant girls – especially Asian ones – in place, but I was still irritated.”

I was quite taken with Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety and I was always eager to reach for it to continue reading Mary’s story, but there was no denying  or getting away from the strong and prevalent current of violence against women running throughout. It became hard to ignore and perhaps that is what Choi was wanting to accomplish. It was a strong declaration to the injustices towards women, however, at times difficult to continue reading when every single woman in the book faced assault, sexual assault, rape, degradation and inferiority.

I get it, I understand, it is the unfortunate reality, but it was not easy getting away from this message (not that we should) – one part that really struck me was the part where Mary was taking a tour of the University of Toronto campus, and the first words out of the campus tour guide’s mouth were explicit warnings for the girls to never walk alone at night, and tips on how to protect themselves against sexual assault, date rape, and to take self-defense classes offered by the campus police. What does this say about…ugh…just everything?!  :-(

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for sending this to us, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety was already on my radar to read, so I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to read the advanced reading copy.  I was quite taken with Mary’s story, but it was also a bittersweet read given the pervasive message of violence against women running throughout.

Literary Hoarders Penny