Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged family

Come Over

Patty Carpenter and the Dysfunctional Family Jazz Band (PCATDFJB) are a troupe of musicians who are also family members. Singer Patty was married to saxophonist Scotty, and they had daughter (who is also the band’s other singer) Melissa. Patty and Scotty broke up, and Patty married the band’s manager, Charles, and together they had son Travis who plays bass. This album is essentially like being trapped on a couch in the living room of your new neighbors watching an endless slide-show of their family’s summer vacation.

Last Train Home

The establishing longshot of this documentary tilts down to show a few policemen in an open, paved space. Slowly the camera pans left, and the entire frame fills with thousands of people standing in a drizzle. Many hold bright, pastel-coloured umbrellas. It’s a beautiful image. The following shot, from ground level, shows that huge crowd rushing in pandemonium past the camera into a train station. These two shots are emblematic of the film: beauty and chaos inextricably interwoven.

In Good Time

When I first popped it in, my iTunes player categorized Annie Fitzgerald’s album In Good Time as country. As I began listening, I found this to be wholly misleading. As a matter of fact, I was unable to categorize her music as any one genre. A little bit folk, a little bit pop, this thoughtfully produced album is a gem. Fitzgerald has managed to create new music with a message that is thoroughly original by today’s musical standards.

Monica & David

One of the many things people take for granted—Americans especially—is free will. Basic human rights. When you are able-bodied, physically able to take care of yourself, the ways to access free will seem limitless—there are plenty of things you are able to participate in, such as having a job, living on your own, and preparing your own meals. In Monica & David, novice filmmaker Alexandra Codina documents the wedding and first year of marriage between Monica and David, two adults living with Down’s syndrome.

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

Heidi W. Durrow’s novel swirls out from and obsessively around the moment when a mother and her three children fall from the rooftop of a Chicago building. The narration crystalizes around this striking event, with multiple narrators adding their points of view to the interpretation of the mystery surrounding the plunge. Rachel, the sole survivor, struggles to adjust to the losses and changed that characterize her life after the fall.

Dream of Ding Village

Grandfather Ding is the patriarch of the family that founded Ding Village. He dreams of a world that sometimes comes true and sometimes should but doesn't. Both of his sons are ne’er-do-wells, one a crooked, arrogant man who becomes a high level Communist cadre with boatloads of money, the other a layabout who makes nothing of his life. The older son makes his money from being a “blood head," a man who buys and sells blood in the rural communities and ultimately infects an entire Chinese province with AIDS through contaminated blood.

Dear Pyongyang

Yonghi Yang and her parents are Zainichi, meaning a Korean who lives in Japan. During the division of Korea in 1948 and the war that followed, the Zainichi took sides just as those who dwelled on the peninsula did. Yang’s parents had never been to North Korea, but were so enamoured of communism and the country that in 1971 Yang's father sent his three teenage sons to live in Pyongyang, the capital, as part of the Zainichi “Return Project.” This emigration occurred between the 1950s and 1970s when “Returnees” hoped for a better life in the “fatherland.” This better life never materialized, yet Returnees were forbidden to go back to Japan.

World and Town

It is really tough to review Gish Jen’s World and Town. The novel is, on the one hand, drawn through an interesting narrative focalizer who often takes on the “wordspeak” of the characters that the narrator observes the representational terrain through. So when the narrative is concentrating on the Cambodian American teenager Sophy, we have the narrator constantly employing words such as like and whatever. Typical teenspeak, we might say. On the other hand, the novel has an exceedingly complex and varied topography in terms of its character webs, where Hattie Kong, one of the ostensible protagonists, is looking after a new family that has moved to the area, a small town in the New England area known as Riverlake (somewhat reminiscent of the continuing movement of ethnic minority populations to such towns as Lowell, MA).

Going Away Shoes

The protagonists of Jill McCorkle’s exciting collection of stories, Going Away Shoes, are middle-aged heterosexuals deep in the doldrums of life’s disappointments. Whether because of a stalled career, a divorce, a death, or simply the exhaustion born of juggling family, work and social obligations, these are women who’ve been battered by everyday tragedies and everyday pressures.

Cuba On My Mind

Cuba, in my mind: cigars, Fidel Castro’s beard, Elian Gonzalez, and a very murky high school level comprehension of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Let’s get more specific and, arguably, more self-incriminating. What comes to mind when I think of pre-Castro Cuba? The Godfather: Part II. That lavish New Year’s Eve party where Michael discovers Fredo’s betrayal. Oh yes, and the actual history: Fulgencio Batista stepping down (read: fleeing), leaving Cuba to Castro.

Crow Mercies

When picking up a new poetry collection, I give it an initial read and then sit with it a while, thinking about whether any particular poems or lines stuck in my mind, or whether I had any specific feelings while reading. Sometimes I draw a big blank, which usually means that particular collection doesn't merit another read. Collections like Crow Mercies are different. Even during my first reading of this collection, I found myself stopping to reread poems again out of excitement. This is certainly the kind of book that ends up a permanent fixture on my bookshelf that I come back to again and again.

Daniel & Ana

Daniel & Ana is an opinion piece, the film equivalent of an op-ed. While it is a forgone assumption that a film will represent the opinion of its authors and that every film necessarily adopts a particular point-of-view on its subjects, Daniel & Ana endorses a position.

The Switch

The Switch is getting a lukewarm reception, unless of course you count Capone's review over at AintItCoolNews.com, which makes the film sound like the culprit behind most major World Wars.

The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter

Holly Robinson begins this book by saying that, essentially, this is a story she has never told. That this is a story she didn’t want to talk about. I am so glad she did. I am not much for holding back information about my own life and it is completely unfathomable to me how anyone could manage to grow up with a father who raised, became an expert on, and built an empire out of gerbils.

The Things We Carry

The Things We Carry tells the story of two sisters coping with the death of their drug-addicted mother Sunny (Alexis Rhee). After leaving her mother and sister Eve (Catherine Kresge) to travel the globe, Emmie (Alyssa Lobit) returns home upon news of her mother’s death.


Sandy Bloomgarten is a writer you either envy, pity, or outright hate. In theory, she's an excellent reporter, but often, to pay the bills, she resorts to working for gossip rags like The Enquirer. Who of us in a bind hasn't resorted to similar means?

The Bradshaw Variations

In earlier times, a set of variations on a theme in classic art music was a chance for a composer to play around with a melody, try it on in various guises, and allow the audience to hear possibilities. Each variation was minute, an aural petit four to be savored briefly while one contemplated on the sweet yet temporal nature of life.

Bone Worship

After finishing Bone Worship, I wanted to let it sit for a while before I reacted. Full disclosure: Elizabeth Eslami is a friend, and has blessed a book of mine with a glowing review. Situations like this can be awkward, so over the years I’ve developed a de facto policy when I find myself faced with reviewing a work by a friend. Generally speaking, if I find a friend’s book lacking in more respects than is acceptable, I tend not to review it.

The Kids Are All Right

In an attempt to beat the glorious heat last week, I ducked in to the cool air conditioned walls of The Archlight theater in Hollywood to catch an afternoon showing of Lisa Cholodenko's new high femme film, The Kids Are All Right.

Despicable Me

A few years ago my eleven year old sister was writing an essay on violence in schools. During our discussion of different types of violence, she astutely pointed out that not all violence is physical, and that a mean comment can be just as violent as a punch in the face. This led to an involved conversation about bullies in which, at one point, my sister looked at me and said, “I think bullies are mean to the kids at school because no one is nice to them at home.

Winter’s Bone

In my review of 2009’s Oscar-nominated film Precious I stated that it was incredibly difficult to objectively review the film because the realism that is presented is so detached from my own circumstances.


Every year, one of my nieces comes to visit my husband and I for a week over the summer. This year we took her to a couple of art museums, a jazz concert, and her first comic book store. We also did fun things at home like painting our nails and playing video games. On the last day of our visit, we decided to see a movie, and she wanted to see Grown-Ups. I did too, as a matter of fact. I’m happy to report that I genuinely liked the movie.

Made in Pakistan

These days, political analysts on both sides of the aisle are calling Pakistan a failed state. While the “most dangerous place in the world” does face profound political and social turmoil, such sweeping commentary fails to capture the more personal intricacies of the lives of ordinary people living inside the country’s borders. Pakistan is more than the Taliban fighters implementing Sharia law in the Swat Valley, and it’s more than the frequent bombings of embassies and hotels from Islamabad to Karachi.

Just Don't Call Me Ma'am: How I Ditched the South, Forgot My Manners, and Managed to Survive My Twenties with (Most of) My Dignity Still Intact

Who better, I ask you, than a Yankee like me who moved to Texas to review Just Don't Call Me Ma'am, a book by a Texas-girl who moved to the East?

Half Life

Love stories aren’t really my thing, but Roopa Farooki’s newest novel, Half Life, shows many shades of love in a way that warms the heart, wets the eye, and expands the mind. The book opens with Aruna Ahmed Jones’ seemingly crazy and impulsive decision to leave her year-old marriage.

The Horse Boy

The Horse Boy is an emotionally stirring, thought-provoking examination of autism and its effects on familial life.

The Prospect of Magic

The Prospect of Magic, a collection of ten stories, sets up a wonderful world where the real and magical live side by side. It’s enchanting. Some of the stories are hopeful, some are tragic, and some are sad, just like real life. All of them feature flights of fancy, just like the best magic trick. The story centers around Fluker, Louisiana, where the World Famous Ploofop Travelling Circus decides to stay after its owner, Abidail Ploofop, dies.

The Woodmans

The prize-winning documentary The Woodmans chronicles the histories of a family of artists through conversations, monologues, journals, and both fine art photographs and family snapshots. The film’s narrative, from its start with the marriage of George and Betty Woodman to its finish with their lives today, is marked by their daughter, photographer Francesca Woodman, whose reputation has skyrocketed in the decades after her suicide in 1981 at twenty-three years of age. After the Tribeca Film Festival screening, director C.

The Demons of Aquilonia

The Demons of Aquilonia is a journey through a verdant panorama of beauty and a rich tapestry of the generations of families that comprise a small mountain village in the Italian region of Calabria. Lina Medaglia does a great job describing the push and pull forces that drive domestic and international migration.

A Thread of Sky

Six Chinese American female characters form the main narrative perspectives of Deanna Fei’s ambitious first novel, A Thread of Sky. There is family matriarch Lin Yulan, once a revolutionary for the nationalist party in China, and her daughters Irene and Susan.