Tag Archives: Non-Fiction

Review, Book Tour & Giveaway: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Animal Vegetable Miracle Book Cover

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
By Barbara Kingsolver
HarperCollins
April 2008
400pp

The Short of It:

This is a life-changing book for anyone who has ever stopped to think about where food comes from. Not preachy, just wonderful.

The Rest of It:

Barbara Kingsolver is known for the many books she’s written. Many of which, I have grown to love. What I didn’t know is that she is an advocate for buying local. Local produce, local meats, dairy, etc. There is a huge advantage to the planet when a purchase is made locally. When you think of fuel costs and what it costs to transport food half-way across the country, it just makes more sense to buy things locally.

In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Kingsolver and her family move from Tucson to their farm in the southern Appalachians for a year of growing their own food, raising their own livestock and testing out their ability to survive on what’s available to them locally. What struck me with this book is that it is truly a book of discovery. No lectures. No pointing fingers telling you what you must do, etc. It’s just a beautifully written “year in the life” memoir that happens to be about my favorite thing, food.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this book is life-changing. It is. It really makes you question where your food comes from. As a nation, we are used to walking into a grocery store and having everything available to us at all times. Take watermelon for example. It’s available to us year-round but just because it’s available, doesn’t mean it’s good.

Think about where that melon came from for it to be available in the off-season. Then think about how much it costs to transport that fruit. If you’re so inclined, go one step further and think about taste. How fresh could it be if it was driven half-way across the country for it to end up in our shopping cart?

In addition to buying wisely, Kingsolver also touches on sustaining your family on what you can grow or raise at home. This isn’t a “how-to” book by any means but it’s gotten my wheels turning and it’s made me look at gardening in a different way. Even someone without a lot of property can grow some herbs or tomatoes to add to salads and other home cooked meals. The gesture need not be big. It could be as simple as buying produce at your local farmer’s market.

I know with my time constraints I will never have the vegetable garden that I’ve always dreamed of, but I have the land so this spring I am going to grow something. Not sure what quite yet but something good. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has inspired me to at least try. If you’ve ever been interested in the food chain, I encourage you to read this book.

Barbara Kingsolver

To visit Barbara Kingsolver’s website, click here.

To visit the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle website, click here. The site includes recipes from the book!

To view Kingsolver’s other TLC tour stops, click here.

Source: A big ‘thank you’ to TLC Book Tours for asking me to be a part of this tour and to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of the book and a second copy to giveaway.

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:

I am so excited to be giving away a copy of this book. If I could afford it, I’d give a copy to everyone I know. For a chance to win, read the details below and simply leave a comment under this post.

1. Open to the U.S. and Canada.

2. Make sure I have a way to contact you.

3. Giveaway is open until Sunday, 10/17/2010 (Pacific).

4. A winner will be announced on Monday, 10/18/2010.

Good luck!

Review: First They Killed My Father

First They Killed My Father Book Cover

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
Loung Ung
HarperCollins
April 2006
288pp

The Short of It:

A young girl’s heart wrenching tale of her family’s struggle for survival during the Cambodian Genocide (1975-1979). Hard to stomach at times but beautifully written.

The Rest of It:

Ung’s tale begins in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Once known at “the pearl of Aisa”, Phnom Penh is the home of the Ung family which consists of her mother and father, and her siblings, Meng, Khouy, Keav, Kim, Chou, Loung (the author) and Geak. Life in Phnom Penh is quite pleasant for Loung. Her father (Pa) works for the government and is highly respected in the community.  Due to his class standing, they live in a nice house and Loung’s mother (Ma), does not need to work. However, as the Khmer Rouge invade Cambodia, the Ung family is forced to leave their home. This is Loung’s story of what happened to them on their way to Thailand.

As you can imagine, this is a very tough story to read. Loung is so young when her family is forced to move. She is only five-years old. Caring for her younger siblings and sometimes even the older ones, must have been very tough for her. As her family makes their way from one work camp to another, their fight to stay alive becomes more difficult as food rations dwindle, and violence abounds all around them.

This is from page 149/50 of the paperback. Loung is referring to her younger sister’s emaciated body:

My eyes stay on Geak. She does not talk anymore. She is so thin it is as if her body is eating itself up. Her skin is pale yellow, her teeth rotten or missing. Still she is beautiful because she is good and pure. Looking at her makes me want to die inside.

Ung’s story is quite compelling. Her relationship with her father comes through as being strong and solid, so much so, that when the soldiers take him away, her world falls down around her. Since it is impossible to know exactly what happened to her father, she fills in the gaps with visions she has of the event. These visions seem plausible and serve as closure for her, and I found them to be quite effective. She uses this technique again towards the end of the story and although I saw it coming, it was just as effective and shook me to the core.

What was particularly poignant for me, were her memories of life in Phnom Penh. The clothes they wore, the food they ate. She never realized how good she had it until all of it was taken away. Those moments seemed so small to her at the time, but in reflection, they end up being the cement that holds her together.

My book club chose this book for May. We meet to discuss it next week. I didn’t know too much about the Cambodian Genocide before reading it. Although it is a tough read and hard to stomach at times (it took me a really long time to finish), I am glad I read it. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about this topic.

Source: Purchased.