An innovative novel, a biography of George Floyd and a story of autism – Twin Cities

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If you’re in need of brain food after those Memorial Day burgers, we’ve got you covered with an innovative novel, an in-depth look at the life and legacy of George Floyd, and a brief recollection of life as George Floyd’s aide. personal care for an autistic boy.

“If an Egyptian can’t speak English” by Noor Naga (Graywolf Press, $16)

“If an Egyptian Can’t Speak English” by Noor Naga

The boy from Shobrakheit wanted an intermediary. A foreigner would be too obvious a symbol of Empire, come in a crop top to colonize his body; she would be out of her league, historically humiliating. Sleeping with her would be a betrayal at best. On the other hand, a real Egyptian doesn’t work either. Self-loathing bleeds beyond itself until the thought of taking a fellow lover feels paradoxically beneath it, a waste of its potential – it would sell short. With me, he gets the cream of both worlds. I a m Egyptian – recognizable but also enhanced by Western inflection, carrying in my sense of fashion and orthodontically straight teeth the smell of opportunity, opulence and pride.

Winner of the Graywolf Press African Fiction award, this experimental debut novel by a professor at the American University in Cairo tackles issues of race, colonialism, disappointment in a failed revolution, and sex as a weapon.

The protagonists do not have proper names. She calls him “the boy from Shobrakheit” (a village in Egypt). She is “the American” for him. They meet in a café in Cairo the day after the Arab Spring. He was a revolutionary photographer but now he is unemployed and addicted to cocaine, carrying his useless camera around his neck all day. She is the daughter of immigrants “returning” to a country she has never been to, teaching English and living in a bright apartment.

They fall in love and he moves in with her, but the relationship falls apart. He is filled with self-doubt and a bit of disgust that comes out of his physical attacks on her. She takes the abuse for reasons that bring to the fore their different expectations, social status and cultural norms.

The first part of the novel is made up of questions such as “If a town is actively trying to kill you, should you take it personally?” The answers move the story forward with glimpses into both characters’ childhood lives.

There is no direct dialogue. The village boy and the American speak in alternating chapters. She is most disadvantaged because she does not speak Arabic well enough to tell him how she feels. He is at ease in his own country; she is not. When she is robbed, she admits that in Cairo she wants to blend in: “I spend the rest of the day canceling credit cards over the phone, wondering if I’ve been robbed because I look like a stranger, or robbed because I don’t look like a stranger. doesn’t quite look like one.

When tragedy strikes in her apartment, the American must question her assumptions and her life.

Award-winning Nigerian writer A. Igoni Barrett. who judged the Fiction Prize competition, said in his winner’s statement that Naga’s writing is “fearless, virtuosic and lapidary of aphorism, its sentences sharp to dagger point, vibrant with booty”.

An interesting part of this book is at the end, in which a writing class reviews Noor’s book. She can only listen and not defend herself. As her classmates question her plot, characters, and handling of domestic violence, it’s as if the author answers questions in her mind.

If you want a new and different reading experience, make it a point to meet this village boy and this American girl who are part of the generation of young people of the 21st century who will get to know each other by meeting in new places.

“His Name is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Fight for Racial Justice” by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa (Viking, $30)

Book jacket for Like those of anyone else, Floyd’s actions were informed by his situation. Growing up, his surroundings had been such an essential part of his identity, but as he got older, he learned that his status as a poor black man meant he couldn’t embrace a whole new lifestyle by osmosis. Just before him in suburban St. Louis Park, Floyd met so many white neighbors who were his age and thriving — nice homes, pets, kids who weren’t terrified of the police. He could never fully enter the new world. And he could never completely leave the old one behind… And in that world, men of Floyd’s age were beginning to die.

Washington Post writers Samuels and Olorunnipa interviewed more than 400 people who were in George Floyd’s life to write this heartbreaking story of a great black man whose aspirations to “become someone” were constantly shattered by the effects of growing up in poverty in Houston’s Third Ward, his encounters with the police in Texas and Minnesota, where he would die, and his drug addiction.

The authors refer to the help they received from fellow Washington Post reporters who produced “George Floyd’s America,” the award-winning six-part series published in the Post.

For Minnesotans, parts of that story have seeped into our culture, from when Floyd was killed in Minneapolis and as we lived through the aftermath of protests that also led to buildings burning down along University Avenue in St. Paul. We watched the trial of the Minneapolis police officer who killed Floyd at 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis.

“The image that emerged from the series and our following year of reporting,” the authors write, “is of a man facing extraordinary struggles with hope and optimism, a man who has managed to make do in death what he so desperately wanted to accomplish in life: to change the world.

It is not possible to write about George Floyd, or any black man in America, without telling the long and ugly history of harassment and police brutality against African American communities and the dangers of being black. in this country. As the book’s subtitle suggests, that’s the shameful reality that underlies Floyd’s death on Memorial Day in 2020.

The authors trace Floyd’s journey from Texas, where he was in prison, to Minneapolis, where he thought he had a better chance of getting off drugs in order to gain custody of his beloved daughter.

He took his drug addiction north with him, but he still tried to achieve his big dreams. He was in a relationship, hoping to find a job, when he was killed by Derek Chauvin, known to Minneapolis police as a cowboy who used heavy-handed tactics, such as kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly 10 minutes while Floyd was screaming he couldn’t breathe and “I’m dead.”

The final part of the book deals with Chauvin’s trail in Minnesota, when he was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He is serving a 22 and a half year sentence.

When Floyd was a boy, he talked about “being somebody.” That’s what happened to him in death; his name sparking protests and calls for police reform around the world.

Publishers Weekly, in a star-studded review: “(the authors) deliver an impeccably researched biography of George Floyd…interwoven with the biographical details are incisive sketches of the political and historical events that shaped the lives of Floyd’s family and others. American blacks. This multi-faceted and exceptionally informative account is both a moving testimony from Floyd and a devastating indictment of America’s racial inequalities.

“Traveling the Bumpy Road: Inspired by a true autism story” by J. Hines (independently published, $15)

Book jacket for You may find the experiences I had with Justin interesting and perhaps even humorous – many were – but many were also difficult, frustrating, scary, dangerous, embarrassing, endearing and sometimes costly for me and Justin’s parents. , both financially and emotionally… This book shows the reader what it was like for Justin to live with his autism and his daily seizures, but more importantly, what his family has been through because of it.

Jerry Hines of White Bear Lake has worked with children for 35 years in St. Paul Public Schools. When he retired in 2006, he took a part-time job as a personal care attendant (PCA) for Justin, who was 10 at the time. The boy suffered from high-functioning autism as well as epilepsy which led to seizures.

Hines (who is called Gary in this bittersweet book) has become one of Justin’s favorite people over the years of having fun together. He “got” Justin’s behaviors, from his signature “Tell me about that GAAAry.” I want to know,” to his need to cycle the same route every day. The two friends swam, laughed and sometimes avoided danger, like when Jerry had to drag the boy away from the water. As Justin grew and got stronger, he became more and more of a challenge to Jerry and his parents. Eventually, the young man’s father died by suicide after years of trying to navigate a difficult job and son who didn’t know he was difficult. In the end, Justin is happily in a group home, still calling Jerry sometimes to talk about his life.

Hines wrote another memoir, an adult thriller, and two books of chapters for young readers.

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