A loving and approachable coming-of-age story about generational change.

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Strict traditions face encroaching modernity in this memoir of a Muslim girl.

The author was a jeweler’s daughter in Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka, in the community of Galle Fort—at first blush, a traditional Muslim neighborhood. But in the 1950s, things were changing; already, the women of the island went out more than they had in years past and veiled themselves less. Before she reached the age of 12, Azad was allowed to spend time with her Christian friend Penny, ride a bicycle, and wear a bathing suit in public, and her doting, conservative father (whom she calls “Wappah”) was rarely unable to deny his daughter’s wants. However, her father still was committed to “the fierce protection of female honor” and still expected the women of his family to make a “good marriage,” so the author was “brought inside” when she came of age. But she was still interested in furthering her education and charmed by her English friends and Western comic books, so she hoped to attend university in the near future. But after her cousin ran off with a young man and Wappah reacted to the situation in an unexpectedly violent manner, subtle changes to custom and culture became more difficult to achieve. Azad’s debut memoir focuses on her memories of childhood and how she struggled against the more stringent aspects of her Muslim upbringing. However, her story is also the story of Galle Fort as the old-school residents struggled with young people becoming more Westernized. The setting is beautifully drawn, and its history comes alive. Just as important is the author’s father’s journey as a man who’s open to change but unsure of it. The book introduces many facets of Muslim culture with great respect, and Azad stingingly portrays Western prejudices, as when the author’s classmates face ridicule for using henna. She also relates her older family members’ opinions on such subjects as marriage while showing just how radical seemingly small changes can be in a traditional environment.

A loving and approachable coming-of-age story about generational change.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2020


Page Count: 249

Publisher: Perera Hussein Publishing House

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A well-crafted, tender collection that emphasizes exploration.


Tonnessen’s poems examine transitions and transformations in all their danger and beauty.

In her debut collection, Tonnessen knits together images that, however disparate, depend in some way on the notion of crossing and redrawing boundaries—most significantly, those reflecting her experiences as a transgender woman. References range widely—pop culture, religion, myths and fairy tales, other poets, birds and flowers, and contemporary events, like Covid lockdowns. In “Theosis,” for example, the speaker is shaving her legs, seemingly a quotidian act but one connected with her hard-won project of claiming her feminine identity: “I want to be a real girl. I want this one thing.” She’s visited by Sophia, considered in the Orthodox Church (Tonnessen’s academic focus is Slavic studies) to be the sainted, feminine personification of divine wisdom. Sophia tells the poet she’s been listening all along and trying to respond, assuring her, “I want you to be a woman too.” The poet asks to be called by their shared name, signifying their mutuality: “(Whisper it to me / like you love me). Whisper it like you want to be inside me.” This conclusion fulfills the poem’s title; theosis means transformation into union with God. Tonnessen’s sprawling poems often employ pauses or unfinished lines, sometimes to convey wry or fraught understatement. As throughout the collection, the speaker works her way from anguish to a deeply felt sense of spiritual union (with herself? with Sophia?): “I will lay with you in the sun until / we both burn swim with you in the river til we both drown,” then “Dance with you until / we are tired / and no longer ashamed.” It’s particularly moving that the speaker in these poems, so often distracted by porn or TikTok or Netflix, continually achieves lyrical moments of grace that feel utterly authentic, making these seeming dislocations into a connected whole and a beautiful manifestation of her experiences.

A well-crafted, tender collection that emphasizes exploration.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9913780-1-2

Page Count: 118

Publisher: Unbound Edition Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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A personal view of karma, likely to appeal mainly to readers curious about reincarnation and related topics.



A semiautobiographical guide to the dynamics of karma in everyday life.

A Los Angeles–based shaman and “spiritual empath,” Dunblazier stays faithful to the spirit of her earlier books, which include Heal Your Soul History (2017). She sees karma as “the accumulation of the energy of all your actions and the responses to them over time and space”—in both your past and present lives—and says that in her past lives, she’s been an African tribal leader from around 1000 BCE and a French American from the 1900s. Each of the five parts of her book begins with a parable from one of her past lives and goes on to cover a range of everyday challenges from time management to how to handle feeling attracted to someone already in a relationship. At the end of each section, the author suggests a self-help ritual that can help you achieve a goal, such as “Free Yourself from the Opinion of Others.” Dunblazier keeps her message positive, reflecting her belief that “regardless of your circumstances right now, your patterns do not obligate you to continue them if they no longer serve you,” and she packs an extensive amount of material into 325 pages. Not everyone will buy her views on subjects like demons or telepathy, and Penn’s bold illustration of a concentration camp prisoner, in an image that also shows a crowd of smiling, well-dressed people around a table bearing a vast amount of food, will strike some as insensitive. Nevertheless, even readers skeptical of whether they are reading the words of a reincarnated Chief Running Bear may be intrigued by her information on how people make use of concepts like totem animals. For most readers, this book will provide different ways of looking at things. And who wouldn’t want to believe, as the author does, that in the end “you are the master of your universe”?

A personal view of karma, likely to appeal mainly to readers curious about reincarnation and related topics. (notes, bibliography)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9963907-6-7

Page Count: 324

Publisher: GoTracee Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2020

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