Neshama’s Choices for September 4th

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The Fraud Squad by Kyla Zhao   

One of Samantha’s best friends in Singapore is Anya. Their backgrounds are very different: Anya comes from high society and Sam is a scholarship student whose single mother toils as a manicurist and house cleaner. They meet at work where Sam has a good job in public relations, but she’s always wanted to write for a luxe magazine. When the two connect with Timothy, a rich young man who chafes against parental expectations, they come up with the following scheme: using their extensive connections to insert Sam into this exclusive world as the new it-girl which will give her a leg up on her ambitions. Tricky indeed and many possible slip-ups but she almost makes it when…I suspended disbelief often but had fun with this bonbon book in the Crazy Rich Asians corner.   

Unraveling by Peggy Orenstein   

Subtitled What I Learned About Life While Shearing Sheep, Dyeing Wool, and Making the World’s Ugliest Sweater. She learned a lot and so did I!  All the processes are arduous and very hard for a novice to tackle. She also references the history of these trades which has significant political and social ramifications.  Lots of humor, which leaves descriptions of her struggles.  As for her ultimate product, it’s not the world’s ugliest in my opinion, but too thick to be comfortable in everyday life. (One tiny detail that confounded me: mysterious interjections of, for example (SLFHM). What does that stand for? Google didn’t help.)   

A Stone Is Most Precious Where It Belongs by Gulchehra Hoja   

Subtitled A Memoir of Uyghur Exile, Hope, and Survival.  I’d read about the plight of this ethnic group in the newspaper, but this front-line story brought it home vividly and tragically. Hoja was a talented, enthusiastic youngster growing up in East Turkestan, but the Chinese regime used severe measures to expunge local culture. She finally fled to America, saddled with a husband she’d married to assuage her parents. She has now found true love and broadcasts for Radio Free Asia.  But the family she had to leave behind has disappeared and she fears the worst. Very well written, in what must be her fifth language. Such bravery and determination!   

Confidence by Rafael Frumkin   

Ezra and Orson meet at a camp for bad boys. Ezra’s very smart, awkward, and sight-impaired.  Orson is devastatingly handsome and charming. Ezra falls in love, and they join forces to spawn NuLife which promotes bliss via a cheesy device and later, a cult-like encampment where seekers can bask in Orson’s presence.  It’s disturbing to witness the power of suggestion harnessed to the desire we have to feel good. Lots of manipulation and betrayals along the way and ultimate “justice.”  But when these talented con men reunite in prison, they’re back in business. Wicked satire.