Archives for category: Weekend Reads

What I'm Reading: The People in the Trees

The People in the Trees* is a story about what happens when the quest for immortality unravels humanity’s dark side. It is also a story about what happens when cultures clash; or when one culture imposes itself on another to detrimental consequences.

In Hanya Yanagihara’s novel, the story is told as scientist Norton Perina’s memoir. Perina, our protagonist, discovers a fountain of youth during an anthropological excursion on a remote, thickly forested island in Micronesia. The golden ticket: a special turtle the native population eat when they reach a certain age.

Unfortunately, vitality of body does not equally mean vitality of mind. Those who eat this special turtle live far beyond the normal lifespan, and while the body keeps up physically the mind deteriorates with time.

We follow Perina through discovery, ambition, recognition and a moral reckoning he – and we – must grapple with.

Language runs longer than concise and footnotes throughout – which are annotated by Perina’s friend (lover?!) – read academic, with lots of scientific citations and tangential anecdotes that paint a picture of Perina’s meteoric career and the savory (and not so) characters in his orbit.

Yanagihara’s novel is a literary adventure, and a timely read given current conversation about globalization, the me too movement and environmental concerns.

Read this book to lead your moral compass through its acrobatic paces. The author poses these questions, in an interview with Vogue,

“It’s so easy to affix a one-word description to someone, and it’s so easy for that description to change: if we call someone a genius, and then they become a monster, are they still a genius? How do we assess someone’s greatness: is it what they contribute to society, and is that contribution negated if they also inflict horrible pain on another? Or—as I have often wondered—is it not so binary?”

For further reading from Polynesia, check out this insider’s travel guide to Honolulu I wrote for New York magazine or this essay about the breakfast plate in Hawaii that unlocks its multicultural history, for Food 52.

*Some links are affiliate links, which mean that if you sign-up or purchase I may get some perks, but all opinions and product selections are my own.



Photo credit: AFAR magazine

The Girl Who Smiled Beads* is both a revealing and introspective memoir by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil.

The book shifts from past and present frequently; Wamariya’s past as a refugee who moves through more than seven African countries before she and her older sister arrive in the United States, and the internal and physical challenges and tragedies of survival and of a life suspended.

In the present narrative, Wamariya struggles to reconcile how her turbulent past has shaped her into the woman she is now, and the person she wishes to be.  

Read this for a first-person perspective on the consequences of war – the 1994 Rwandan genocide, specifically – and the complicated relationships we have with our family and our selves.

Rwanda travel

For further reading, I enjoyed this story from AFAR magazine that considers a Rwanda as a travel destination in the decades following the conflict. The New York Times’ travel section also published a 36-hour itinerary of Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city.

*Some links are affiliate links, which mean that if you sign-up or purchase I may get some perks, but all opinions and product selections are my own.


Photo credit: California Sunday Magazine

History is a subject that interested me in school, but I had trouble retaining the information. I’d read the text and listen to the lecture, yet when it came down to take the test my rewards for my efforts rarely reaped top marks.

I love history for providing a framework for why the world is, context for why it isn’t and a blueprint for what it could be. When history unfolds through the lens of food, its lessons stick with me much longer than a stubborn jar peanut butter. Even more so when I’m in an interactive experience, like the tapas tour in Madrid where I learned that the origins of the Spanish tapa may have began as a small snack to tide over field workers when they got too tipsy during their lunch break.

We soaked in this factoid while sipping a vermouth and chowing down on tostas at Los Gatos in the historic Huertas neighborhood, a more appealing environment than a sterile lecture hall by spades.

This weekend, I’ve rounded up a handful of nuggets that look at the origins of things using food as a flashpoint for historical, cultural momentum:

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Weekend Reads is an almost-weekly series on The Curious Passport and features a round-up of travel news, features and other related links (probably related to food, fitness or the outdoors) I’ve either found around the internet or has been sent my way by friends and family.

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