Category Archives: Historical Fiction

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

balzac$13.95, 184 pages, Historical Fiction

Two teen boys fall for the same young woman while working in a small Chinese village.

Author Profile


NY Times

Powell’s Books

Could you fathom a world in which reading books or learning something new is not only discouraged but punishable, as well?  Welcome to the period of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s to early 1970s.  During this time, two young city boys were sent to work in a small village.  Luo and Ma are those young men and they were forced to endure hard labor for a period of three years.  All the while, the two boys independently fall in love with a local girl, the Little Seamstress.  Part romance, part adventure and part mystery, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is a semi-autobiographical book written by Dai Sijie.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and only wished it were longer.   The characters are richly developed and the story is an intriguing tale.  I found myself rooting for the young boys in their pursuit of reading.  The book is guaranteed to make you think differently about how fortunate we are with the availability of reading materials at local libraries or bookstores

Appeal Factors: Character-Driven, Dramatic, Romance, Cultural

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (accessed May 4, 2013).

Library Journal Best Books of the Year 2001

Reading Group Guide and Discussion Questions

This book was recommended by a former supervisor.  The shoes on the cover always caught my attention as I distributed the book to patrons and I was curious as to the semi-autobiographical story.


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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

12tribes$24.95, 256 pages, Historical Fiction

The story of Hattie Shepherd as told through the voices of her children and grandchild, her twelve tribes.

Author’s Website


NY Times

Journal Gazette & Times Courier Review

This book is the story of young Hattie Shepherd, who moved from Georgia to the city of Philadelphia in search of hope and possibility.  The chapters alter voices and are told from the perspective of her eleven children and one grandchild, hence the title.  The stories often intersect and portray the immense difficulties Hattie faces as she endures a difficult marriage, poverty and the loss of her first two children.  As her children make choices in life concerning their futures, loved ones and their own children, the result is a book that is sometimes heartwarming and sometimes heartwrenching.

I will admit that there were portions of this book that absolutely tugged at my heart.  Told in the changing voices of the offspring of Hattie Shepherd, I loved the variety and change in perspective.  A few of the characters I found harder to follow, however, I would recommend the book to others.  The glimpses of life through Hattie’s children were often disturbing, challenging and difficult to endure.

Appeal Factors: Character-driven, Moving, Heartwrenching

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include:  Jazz by Toni Morrison, Cane River by Lalita Tademy and Long Distance Life by Martia Golden. (accessed May 4, 2013).

Oprah 2.0 Book Club Selection

Book Discussion Questions

After seeing this book for sale in numerous bookstores, I decided to see what the storyline was all about.  An Oprah book club fan (her earlier picks), I was also curious to see what the “new” Oprah 2.0 book club involved.

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