Monday, February 28, 2011

Book #15: Peru – Go and Come Back by Joan Abelove

First, love and support and hope to anyone who’s going through hard times at the moment – the Christchurch Earthquake, unrest in North Africa/Middle East and anything else that might be happening large or small-scale. Hearts are with you.

And sorry I haven't posted until now...

My round-the-world book this week is set in Poincushmana, an Icabo village in the Peruvian Amazon. The author is an anthropologist, and while names of people and places are different, the characters and events are drawn from the author’s own experience.

The novel covers a year in the life of Alicia, a teenage girl in Poincushmana. Most of the village is mistrusting of the two ‘old lady’ anthropologists, or at least amused by their attempts to understand Icabo life and fit in. In this year, Alicia adopts a baby, becomes friends with the anthropologists, and tries to get them to appreciate what they’re doing wrong.

It’s hard, though – when you live in a culture, some things are so glaringly obvious to you that you don’t think to mention them. A lot of learning is done through trial and error, and there can be resentment when neither party understands what the other is doing and why.

Go and Come Back makes you shift your thinking and reflect on what you take for granted. It’s told in first person by Alicia, and strikes a difficult balance between assuming audience inside knowledge (as if she’s telling it to someone who knows the culture) and making sure the reader understands everything. I really enjoyed Alicia’s observations on life, and the ‘old ladies’’ slow acceptance into the community.

I think it's really good to read something like this if you’re thinking of inventing a complete fantasy world. You realise that normal everyday things you thought were universal can be very different in a different culture. Most of the fantasy worlds you read about are based quite definitely on western traditions (at least, in English-language fantasies), and it would be cool to see something that’s entirely new.

Or maybe that would screw with peoples’ head too much.

Or is that a good thing? :D

Any books you know and like set in Peru?

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