Hiding in Plain Sight by Nuruddin Farah @RecordedBooks

cover image of audiobook on CDHiding in Plain Sight by Nuruddin Farah begins with a violent terrorist attack on the United Nations office in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, but from that suspenseful opening springs a surprisingly uneventful domestic drama about being (or feeling like) foreigners in a country, with discussions of cultural differences and cultural attitudes about homosexuality threaded throughout.

When her half brother, Aar, who worked for the United Nations, is killed by the bomb explosion, just before he headed home to Nairobi, a grieving Bella hurries from her apartment in Rome to Nairobi to care for her teenaged niece and nephew, whose mother had left them at a very early age. The situation becomes more complicated when the long-estranged mother shows up in Nairobi with her lesbian lover, Padmini. These five become the main cast of characters in the story, with Aar at the center, though not present.

Actress Robin Miles has won many awards for her audiobook narrations; she voices all the parts well here, especially Bella’s. Bella, as her name indicates, is model-quality beautiful and also an acclaimed art photographer who travels around the world and has lovers in several countries –no baggage or strings attached – but she seems to have no second thoughts as she (devoted sister and aunt) drops everything to fly to Kenya and pick up parental responsibility for her brother’s children. (Granted, the children are teenagers who attend boarding school in Nairobi, so won’t require constant care.) Robin Miles creates empathy for Bella in the listener, despite Bella’s perfect life.

Hiding in Plain Sight is a believable story about a well-off, well-educated, but unconventional family, and I grew to care about the characters. Recommended for audiobook listeners who are interested in thinking about the different forms that intimacy can take, and the push and pull of family and society vs. the individual, with the addition of characters from various countries, races, and cultures to make it more interesting. (Countries on four continents are represented.)

Hiding in Plain Sight
Farah, Nuruddin, author
Miles, Robin, narrator
Recorded Books, 2014
11.5 hours/10 CDs

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this audiobook from the publisher.

Yum, Yum, Pappadum #weekendcooking @bethfishreads

Inspired by these two cookbooks and my shopping trip to the Indian grocery store, I made a few Indian-inspired meals recently. I had fun frying up pappodum to go with the meal, so I thought I’d share a little video for anyone who doesn’t know what it looks like.

Q:What is pappodum or papadum?
A: Lightly spiced fried yummy things made from lentil flour or other bean flours.

Photo of cooked papadum with package
You can buy them readymade. Maybe I’ll try making my own someday.

Check out Madhur Jaffrey’s professional video on cooking papadum here:

Here’s the Indian-inspired meal we had the pappadum with:

plate with dal over basmati rice
Easy Vegetable Dal made with red lentils (from Everyday Gluten-Free Slow Cooking by Kimberly Mayone & Kitty Broihier) served over basmati rice (used white beans instead of chickpeas in the dal because that’s what I had on hand)

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Weekend Cooking buttonThis post is part of Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click here for more Weekend Cooking posts from bloggers around the world.

What Writers Talk About When They Talk About Themselves — I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel by David Shields & Caleb Powell

cover imageI was totally disappointed in I Think You’re Totally Wrong by David Shields and Caleb Powell. From the reviews I saw, I was expecting a My Dinner With Andre-type of book – a book made up entirely of an extended conversation between a younger and an older writer, off for a weekend trip, who would branch off into a wide range of other topics, but always be circling around the art of writing.

And, actually, I suppose, that’s what I got, but their conversation was boring. Maybe because I wasn’t familiar with either of the authors to begin with? They argued and seemed to be competitive in their work (their relationship was originally teacher-student) but a few weeks after finishing the book the only thing I can remember was that they argued over whether Caleb (the younger of the two) should drink a beer on a summer weekend morning while mowing the lawn or if that signified a drinking problem.

Here’s the opening paragraph of The Boston Globe review that probably put I Think You’re Totally Wrong on my radar:

“You probably think of me as — I don’t know — neurotic, overly interior, solipsistic, whatever. But I find you extremely didactic, moralistic, polemical, self-righteous, preachy. Is that unfair?” Whether David Shields’s accusation, directed at his friend and former student Caleb Powell, is fair, is best left to the judgment of readers. That it is outrageously entertaining, as is the rest of this talking book, constructed out of four days’ worth of unceasing dialogue between two old friends and sometime rivals, should go without saying.

I Think You’re Totally Wrong is published as fiction, which is another thing that made me think it would be more interesting, as real conversations are usually never as good as fictionalized ones. This excerpt is from the publisher’s description:

I Think You’re Totally Wrong also seeks to confound, as much as possible, the divisions between “reality” and “fiction,” between “life” and “art.” There are no teachers or students here, no interviewers or interviewees, no masters in the universe—only a chasm of uncertainty, in a dialogue that remains dazzlingly provocative and entertaining from start to finish.

I did finish the book, but I was clearly not the best reader for it. Could be I’m just not cool enough for this book; the Globe review goes on to report that James Franco – another former student of David Shields’ – is adapting it to film.

Have you read this and think I’m totally wrong? What book would you suggest I read, instead, to listen in on writers talking about writing and their lives?

Disclosure: Borrowed from the public library – thankfully!

I Think You’re Totally Wrong
Shields, David & Powell, Caleb
Knopf Doubleday, Jan 2015
272 pp. (lots of white space)


Suggestions from a Massachusetts Librarian


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