Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops: A Memoir by Allison Hong Merrill is a brutally honest, self-deprecating, and intimate account of the events in the narrator’s life. Allison is a young bride who is deceitfully abandoned by her husband of 16 months, Cameron Chastain. Without family members or friends to depend on for help, she is alone without much knowledge of the local language. Allison is a lonely mess, betrayed and cold. Will she be able to find peace or solace? Will she make it in the ruthless world?
Merrill writes with intensity and simplicity; you cannot remain untouched. She expresses her deepest pain in candid words. Her memoir is raw and ruthlessly sincere. As a little girl, she is unbroken even after multiple torments; she fights with an invincible spirit and has incredible internal strength. You cannot help but admire the lost, fragile but hopeful girl who is desperate to find love and acceptance.
This memoir is not a fairy tale or feel-good type, but I found it to still be empowering and ultimately uplifting. Due to her Toxic childhood and self-sabotaging behavior, Allison is not entirely flawless, as she points out, and she is not only abused by others but also by herself. While this is a memoir, I felt that Allison goes through a character arc, of the sort one would find in a contemporary coming of age story, but this one is much more emotional and vivid.
Another charming aspect of the book is the beautiful representation of Taiwanese culture and Chinese history. Extensive details of rituals and traditions feel exotic, and the patriotism feels relatable despite the lousy childhood. Facts are well placed and give historical and cultural depth to an otherwise character driven memoir. This book is a prime example of the quote by mark twain, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.”
Spirituality overshadows most of the writing, with preachy discourse and moralism filling most of the space, and in these parts the author attempts to justify her beliefs in sections that feel like sermons. This was an awe-inspiring story that falls just shy of being a tell all type memoir, but is still riveting nonetheless.
Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops: A Memoir is an enthralling and thought-provoking memoir that showcases the trials and triumphs of a fiercely strong and charismatic women in the face of adversity. This book is a strong example that speaks to women’s empowerment. Following an extraordinary life journey, this memoir will provide a glimpse at one Asian-American’s life and will appeal to anyone looking for an emotionally charged and meaningful true story.
Pages: 256 | ASIN: B08QZGQQMG
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Love and Other Moods follows a young woman who has to start life over in a foreign country where she learns a lot more about life than she expected. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
Much like Naomi, I left the U.S. in my early twenties and moved to China, a country I had never stepped foot in. The move was initiated by a job, but later was motivated by romance. Both would go up in smoke after a short while. Although the novel is very much fictional, there are some elements that are inspired by real-life events.
Naomi is an intriguing and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
We meet Naomi when she is in her early twenties, having just left New York and is embarking on a new chapter of her life in an entirely foreign country. But the adventure is off to a rocky start when things don’t pan out as planned.
I think personal growth happens most often when we’re thrown out of our comfort zones and into unchartered waters. That’s what happens to Naomi. At the same time she’s adapting to her new environment, issues from her past continue to confront and haunt her. She struggles with juggling the balance between forging ahead and letting go of regrets. I think that’s something most of us can relate to.
The story explores the city of Shanghai as well as the different people and relationships Naomi has. Was there anything you pulled from your own life and put into the story?
Yes. This is very much an “own voices” story. After I moved to Shanghai, my grandfather revealed that his father had once lived in Shanghai as well, during the World War Two era. I myself had lived in China for nearly a decade, and had worked on projects for the 2007 Special Olympics in Shanghai, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.
Shanghai is one of the most fascinating cities I’ve ever been to, and I’ve traveled to over thirty countries. There are contrasts abound in every corner—east and west, old versus new, modern meets tradition. Every day I was meeting somebody interesting, from all walks of life, all corners of the globe. There was endless inspiration from the streets of Shanghai, from its inhabitants, architecture, cuisine, history, etc.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book is a children’s book, and will be published sometime in 2021. My kids are very excited about this!
Posted in Interviews
Tags: asian american, author, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, china, coming of age, contemporary fiction, Crystal Z. Lee, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, Love and Other Moods, love story, new adult, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, romance, story, travel, urban fantasy, writer, writing
A Rift That Lies Between Us is a coming of age story about love, tradition, race, and the impact of unlikely friendships. Farisa is an art-major, who escaped the pressures of her highly traditional Muslim family, by going to college out of state. This is where Farisa meets Caiden, a charming, but sometimes overly dramatic classmate who Farisa forms an unexpected friendship with. Despite their drastically different backgrounds often getting in the way, Farisa’s relationship with Caiden shifts something inside her that proves to be the exact push she needs to start living her life, for her and not just everyone else.
Following a coming of age story that starts in college and goes through early adulthood was refreshing in and of itself, but the fact that this novel also tackled the difficulties of first-generation kids growing up with the conflict of traditional family pressures, and more modern beliefs face was a delightful departure from the norm. Muna was able to bring us into the conflict and pressures of Farisa’s Muslim Bangladeshi-American family in a way that is accessible and eye-opening.
While Muna was able to give us a well-rounded view of Farisa’s family life and what that demanded of her, some of the attempts at representation seemed a bit forced. I’m all for more representation for minorities in books and media, but some of the lesser storylines about LGBTQ+ issues and mental health didn’t get the focus and the detail that it deserved and as a result didn’t feel as meaningful as it should have.
I was invested in Farisa’s life and her relationship with Caiden but the book could have used a bit more time to develop some of the other storylines that were brought in to have the impact they deserved to have on Farisa’s life, self-discovery, and beliefs.
Farisa and Caiden’s relationship and all the forms it took over the 8 years this novel covered provided a refreshing look at the evolution of how cultural differences can inform relationships, for better or worse, and the importance of finding your own voice before it’s too late.
I haven’t read a book in a long time that I couldn’t put down in the way that I couldn’t put A Rift That Lies Between Us down, I found myself giddy with excitement, devastatingly sad and completely engrossed in Farisa and Caiden’s story.
Pages: 278 | ASIN: B07T324W4L