Tag Archives: love

Book Review: The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger

the-newlywedsIn light of the recent immigration ban, reading stories of those who have navigated across cultures to a new life in the United States seems even more important. Even when those stories appear in the novel you turn to when you need a break from the world.

Stories, like the one found in The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger, humanize the immigrant experience. The book follows Amina Mazid who leaves her home in Bangladesh for a new life in New York. While her story is not one of religious persecution or civil war, she is in search of happiness. A different happiness than what she can find in Bangladesh. The same happiness so many are seeking when they step onto American soil. But like the immigrants before (and after) her, Amina must carve out a space for herself amidst her American reality and the other happiness she knew before. A home she can never forget.

Amina Mazid is twenty-four when she moves from Bangladesh to Rochester, New York, for love. A hundred years ago, Amina would have been called a mail-order bride. But this is the twenty-first century: she is wooed by—and woos—George Stillman online.
 
For Amina, George offers a chance for a new life for her and her parents, as well as a different kind of happiness than she might find back home. For George, Amina is a woman who doesn’t play games. But each of them is hiding something: someone from the past they thought they could leave behind. It is only when Amina returns to Bangladesh that she and George find out if their secrets will tear them apart, or if they can build a future together.

At it’s core, this book is a rather nuanced portrait of a young woman’s transition from one culture to another. This theme reminded me of another great book, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. And I think fan’s of Lahiri’s work will also find value in picking up a copy of The Newlyweds.

Freudenberger shows an immense depth of knowledge about Bangladesh, it’s culture, and Islam. The acknowledgements section of the book makes it clear that she did her research by way of extensive interviews and immersive travel to the country itself. (Even more amazing? This research, and the subsequent novel, was inspired by a Bangladeshi woman Freudenberger met on a plane! #talktostrangers)

However, there is a note of inauthenticity to the story, most notably the character of Amina herself. Freudenberger explains the duality that I’m sure many immigrants experience…

“[Amina] had thought that she’d been born with a soul whose thoughts were in no particular dialect, and she’d imagined that, when she married, her husband would be able to recognize this deep part of herself. Of course she hadn’t counted on her husband being a foreigner…In a way, George had created her American self, and so it made sense that it was the only one he would see.”

And perhaps it is this duality, which Freudenberger explains but hasn’t experienced, that makes Amina’s character lack just an inkling of depth. Because, at the end of the day, Amina’s husband George didn’t create her American self, the author did.

The story itself is captivating and full of suspense. It is an entertaining depiction of the effects of honesty (or lack thereof) on relationships and navigating cross-cultural experiences. Check it out! 

Have you read The Newlyweds? Would you? Let me know below!

P.S. Books to read if you love the Commonwealth and a book I could NOT put down.

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My Reverse Bucket List

my reverse bucket list

I love a good Bucket List as much as the next guy or gal. It’s incredibly enlightening to jot down the things you want to accomplish, the places you want to travel, the experiences you long to take part in. But as my mom used to tell me as a child, whenever I looked longingly down the road towards 13 or 16 or totally grown up, “you shouldn’t wish your life away.”

And she’s right. If we’re always focusing on the future, we miss out on the NOW and totally lose sight of the past. Now I’m not saying to throw your Bucket List out the window! It’s fantastic to have wild aspirations; it’s wonderful to set your sights on far off lands. I just hope that, once accomplished, the bullet points of your list get stuck with star stickers and big, fat check marks instead of crossed through or deleted. 

Why not take a few moments today to craft a REVERSE Bucket List? Instead of creating a list of all the things you want to do, why not make a list of things you already HAVE?!

I’ll go first…

My Reverse Bucket List

1. Read over 12 books a year for as long as I can remember.

2. Snorkeled in the Florida Keys, caught crabs on the coastline of Louisiana, and took a boat ride down the Danube.

3. Ended a successful 11 year Speech and Debate career with State, National and International accolades under my belt along with a familiarity with more college campuses than you’ve probably been to in your life.

4. Cooked food grown by farmers whose names I know. Grown plants. Learned to love the act of making simple meals to nourish my body.

5. Cultivated relationships with friends who make me a smarter, more passionate, better human.

6. Watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.

7. Trained in classical ballet for 17 years and have the feet, knees, and turn-out to prove it.

8. Hiked through rain and hail, lighting and thunder in the Rocky and Wicklow Mountains.

9. Explored, by foot, the streets of Buenos Aires and Bowling Green and everywhere in between.

10. Paid off all my debt.

11. Helped fix-up houses for under-privileged families in Chicago and South Carolina.

12. Learned how to write a grant and a blog post and a speech and a cover letter like a badass.

13. Knitted a scarf.

14. Moved in and out of a gajillion apartments and navigated the wild rental world of slumlords, mice, theft, illegal eviction, and general property negligence.

15. Started my very own blog!! (And kept up with it for over a year.)

16. Fell in love with the smartest, cutest, most supportive boy in the world.

17. Spent my childhood flexing my imagination, exploring the world, and voraciously reading.

18. Enjoyed 17 years with the most wonderful father a girl could ask for.

There’s so much I still want to do but I’m so thankful and happy to have already done so much. xoxo

What are you waiting for? Go write your own Reverse Bucket List! And tell me one item from your list in the comments below.