Showing 41 - 50 of 98 annotations tagged with the keyword "Asian Experience"

The Calcutta Chromosome

Ghosh, Amitav

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the not too distant future, the morose Egyptian, Antar, works in New York City, as a home-based computer employee, monitoring artifacts which he can study holographically through cyber space. He conjures up the I.D. card of one L. Murugan, who had supposedly disappeared in Calcutta back in 1995. Murugan is/was an expert on Nobel laureate Ronald Ross, discoverer of the role of the anopheles mosquito in the transmission of malaria.

Through flashbacks to the intense week of his disappearance and to episodes in the late nineteenth century, the virtual Murugan roams Calcutta trying desperately to understand and expose a subtext of counter science in Ross's laboratory. He is joined by Urmila, a journalist whose life is endangered by their collaboration.

Murugan theorizes that Ross was sloppy, intent on fame and fortune though a simplistic rendering of the parasite-host relationship; his discoveries were fed to him by others and he was blind to the spiritualistic ambitions of Mangala, his Indian laboratory technologist. Conceiving of the powerful significance of malaria prevention and control, Mangala held different views on the purpose and means of investigating the disease and, Murugan thinks, she anticipated the later discovery of another Nobel laureate, J. Wagner-Jauregg, in the use of malaria for the treatment of syphilis. The travels of Murugan and Urmila imply that these views are still there awaiting their own discovery.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

The book opens with a thought "exercise": thirteen short essays, each in a different national voice and beginning "We, the people of a nation . . . " The honest, intelligent "speakers" love their countries and traditions; however, they try to express the ugly truths about their homelands as challenges for the future.

For example, American smugness over its know-how and wealth combines with American failure to recognize the resentment sparked elsewhere by these same attributes. Similarly, the mutual intolerance of Canada's linguistic and religious duality is portrayed as a grotesque irony. The U.S.S.R. has exchanged an old tyranny for a new; Japan must face the issue of controlling its population, if it is to control its impulse to aggression.

Chisholm then returns to his role as a socially committed psychiatrist who hopes to avert a war that could annihilate the human species. World aggression, he writes, is caused by the "anxiety" that emerges from intolerance typifying narrow parental guidance and even narrower systems of education and religion. People must learn to be comfortable with differences in population, race, language, and wealth. The message is simple: "anxiety" leads to "aggression." The book ends with a ideal curriculum for "world citizenship," surprisingly different from any currently in use.

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Reading Lolita in Tehran

Nafisi, Azar

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The author reminisces about her experiences teaching English literature in Iran before, during, and after the revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. Chronology is not important and the book opens near the end of her sojourn in Tehran. A small group of young women who met when they were University students gather in her home to read and discuss English literature. They wear western clothes, remove their veils, and eat sweets. Some have been in prison. They conceal their simple purpose from fathers, husbands, brothers, because their gathering to read Western fiction would be construed as an act of defiance.

In four sections, two named for twentieth-century novels and two for nineteenth-century authors--"Lolita," "Gatsby," "James," and "Austen"--Nafisi constructs a series of flashbacks that describe the events of late 1970s to the 1990s in the inner and outer world of an academic woman. The books and writers used in the section headings have walk-on parts or starring roles that jar in this ostensibly alien context. Yet, they work surprisingly well for the women students, stimulating them to think in new ways about the situation in which they find themselves. Conversely, as the students assimilate the English and American writers into their world, we learn more about their Iran.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

A collection of short stories loosely connected to each other by centering on the experiences of four people from their first encounters during medical school and continuing into young middle age.

The first and third stories “Getting into Medical School, Part I” and “Part II,” are about study partners, Fitzgerald and Ming, who have trouble admitting their love for each other until she is accepted to medical school and he is not. Ming teaches Fitzgerald how to prepare successfully by passing along learning tips her physician-cousin provided her in exchange for sex. In the second story, Ming meets fellow students Sri and Chen and drifts away from Fitzgerald. In the third, he wrestles with feelings of rejection and misery as he realizes she has opted for a relationship with the more culturally “appropriate” Chen; however, her study tips pay off in more than one way when he meets Ming’s unsavory cousin at his medical school interview.

Later stories describe clinical encounters with specific cases, one of the most memorable being “Winston,” about Sri’s relationship with a paranoid person; the tale is told alternatively from the doctor’s perspective and the patient’s. in “Afterwards,” Sri must explain to a man’s wife and son, how he died suddenly at a strange hairstylist salon; the news disturbs the family who discover that the supposedly impotent diabetic had been a regular at a sex shop.

Fitzgerald and Chen become emergency physicians. Less settled, Fitzgerald tries several settings, including working for an air ambulance company. His problem with alcohol emerges from deep disaffection and brooding resentment over Ming’s callous rejection years earlier and her subsequent marriage to Chen. The problem begins to threaten his judgement and seriously compromises his health when he falls ill.

In the ironically titled “Contact Tracing” both Fitzgerald and Chen contract SARS (the latter from the former) during the (real) 2003 Toronto epidemic. They are isolated in adjoining rooms separated by glass and phone each other for support and discussion. They reminisce about Sri who has died of cancer and muse on the relevance of do-not-resuscitate orders. The outcome is both humorous and surprising.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune, 1890-1939, (Donald Sutherland) journeys 1500 miles into China to reach Mao Zedong's eighth route army in the Wu Tai mountains where he will build hospitals, provide care, and train medics. Flashbacks narrate the earlier events of his life: a bout with tuberculosis at the Trudeau sanatorium; the self-administration of an experimental pneumothorax; the invention of operative instruments; his fascination with socialism; a journey into medical Russia; and the founding of a mobile plasma transfusion unit in war-torn Spain.

Bethune twice married and twice divorced his wife, Frances (Helen Mirren) who chooses abortion over child-rearing in her unstable marriage. By 1939, Bethune had been dismissed from his Montreal Hospital for taking unconventional risks and from his volunteer position in Spain for his chronic problems of drinking and womanizing. As his friend states: "China was all that was left." Even there, Bethune confidently ignores the advice of Chinese officials, until heavy casualties make him realize his mistake and lead him to a spectacular apology. The film ends with his much-lamented death from an infected scalpel wound.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

In the year 2000, Nafas (Niloufar Pazira) a 29-year old Afghan-born Canadian journalist travels back to her homeland in search of her sister. The sister was maimed by the long war, and her life under oppressive Taliban rule is no longer worth living; she has resolved to commit suicide on the last solar eclipse of the century.

Dependent for her travels on the uncertain help of men, Nafas encounters many other charismatic women hiding under the seclusion of the burqas. The inquiries she makes to find her sister raise the veil just enough to reveal the torment of Afghan women, deprived of rights, education, and basic health care. A doctor must question his women patients, who are hidden from him by a canvas wall, through a child intermediary; he does not touch them. The ending is inconclusive.

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Persimmons

Lee, Li-Young

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In the poem, persimmons are a symbol of several elements that have figured importantly in this Chinese narrator's life: they stand for painful memories of cultural barriers imposed by language and custom, and for a present-day loving connection to an elderly, blind father. The poet begins with a schoolboy incident in which he was punished for not knowing the difference between "persimmon" and "precision" and makes a play on other words which sound similar and "that got [him] into trouble." He takes revenge later, when the teacher brings to class a persimmon that only the narrator knows is unripe, as he "watched the . . . faces" without participating. Persimmons remind him of an adult sensual relationship with Donna, a Caucasian woman, and of his attempts to teach her Chinese words which he himself can no longer remember.

The second part of the poem describes the role persimmons have played in his father's life and in their relationship. To comfort his father, gone blind, the narrator gives him a sweet, ripe persimmon, so full and redolent with flavor that it will surely stimulate the senses remaining. Later yet again, the father and he "feel" a silk painting of persimmons, "painted blind / Some things never leave a person."

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Kitchen

Yoshimoto, Banana

Last Updated: Jan-08-2007
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

This is the wonderfully strange story of Mikage Sakurai, a young woman who has just lost her grandmother, her last living relative, and serendipitously finds a new "family" when Yuichi Tanabe and his mother Eriko invite her to live with them. The story weaves around Mikage's growing sense of safety and attachment to this unusual family; Yuichi's own coming of age issues as a young man; and Eriko's unconventional life as a nightclub owner . . . and the fact that she was formerly Yuichi's father.

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A Perfect Life

Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee

Last Updated: Jan-08-2007
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator, Meera, is an Asian Indian American with a "good life": a beautiful apartment in San Francisco, a challenging job at a bank, and an attractive, attentive, and successful boyfriend Richard. Despite her mother's constant urgings for marriage ("prelude to that all-important, all-consuming event--becoming a mother" [76]), Meera feels no compulsion to do so. Then one day her life is irreversibly changed when she finds, huddled under a stairwell in her apartment building, a young boy, who she take in and cares for as her own.

Fearful and wordless, the boy adapts to life with Meera, and she to him. Her friends, especially Richard, do not have a clue as to her intense attachment to Krishna, the name she has given him. Worried that she might lose him to child protective services, Meera goes through the process of becoming a foster parent without informing the authorities that she has Krishna living with her. When they find out, he is taken from her, placed in foster care elsewhere, and eventually runs away.

During the following year, Meera looks for him everywhere and grieves as a mother who had lost a child. She briefly considers moving back to India and taking her mother up on some of the men her mother had found for her, "if she could find me a widower with a little boy of about seven. Such a man, I reasoned, would understand about mother-love far more than Richard--or any other American male, for that matter--ever could." (106) But she does not, and eventually marries Richard, on the condition that they not have children.

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Kim

Kipling, Rudyard

Last Updated: Jan-04-2007
Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Kim, a young Irish boy living in Lahore, India, decides to accompany a Tibetan lama on his search for the River that washes all sin. Kim’s canny street smarts and gift for disguise protect the gentle lama along the Grand Trunk Road, bustling with the peoples of various races, castes, and creeds who make up India’s complex culture and history. Kim’s abilities also inspire Mahbub Ali, an Afghani horse-dealer, to ask him to deliver a coded message to the spymaster Colonel Creighton, who taps Kim to help the British in their Great Game against the Russians for control of the northwest territory of India.

When Kim is discovered by an Irish regiment and nearly sent to an orphanage for soldiers’ children, the lama and Creighton intervene to send him to St. Xavier’s school instead, for training in mathematics, map-making, and other skills of the Great Game along with a classical education. Kim visits Lurgan Sahib for memory training and assessment of his potential, and journeys with the Bengali Hurree Babu to steal survey information from two Russian spies in the Hills bordering Tibet.

When Kim succumbs to exhaustion, uncertain whether to follow the lama’s vision of paradise or to join the Great Game for good, an elderly Sahiba nurses him back to health with traditional remedies. The lama, having discovered the River, invites Kim to bathe in it as well, to attain freedom from all worldly cares, although Mahbub waits for Kim to accompany him on another expedition for the State. The novel ends without Kim’s reply.

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