From a trailer park to Chicago: two books

BLESS YOUR HEART: Fairy Tales of a Trailer Park Queen I by Kimbra Swain is an urban fantasy whose protagonist, Grace, is a fae royal in exile, currently living in an Alabama trailer park. Under the orders of this mythos’ magical council, the Sanhedrin (I have no idea why a magical body composed mostly of fae would pick a distinctively Jewish name) she helps out local law enforcement so she and top cop Dylan Riggs wind up investigating the supernatural murder of two kids, plus dealing with their relationship.

This one didn’t work for me. No sooner do we visit the crime scene, which Grace declares the most horrible thing she’s ever seen than she and Dylan take several chapters to discuss their relationship. I’m fine with this being a fantasy romance but the juxtaposition didn’t work. Nor did one big reveal which I won’t go into. And Grace doesn’t feel particularly fae — if she were a wizard or a djinn it wouldn’t have changed much.

CLARK AND DIVISION by Naomi Hirahira works very well. It’s 1944 and Nisei protagonist Aki Ito and her family have just been released from Manzanar and sent to Chicago (the government doesn’t want Those People back in California). Aki’s adored older sister, Rose, went on ahead to set things up but by the time Aki and her parents arrive, Rose is dead. The police consider it a suicide, possibly linked to her getting an abortion.

Aki can’t believe it so she begins moving through the Japanese-American community in Chicago, and sometimes the white world, trying to find answers. The mystery works and didn’t play out as I expected, but the real pull is the setting. A world of Nisei and Issei (Japanese-born Americans) uprooted from their homes, needing work but having a hard time finding it, dealing with racism and wondering about their friends or family still in the camps or fighting in Europe with the 442nd Nisei. Hirahira knows her stuff — she collected oral histories of post-camp life for a nonfiction book — and it shows.

As it’s Halloween, rather than post a book cover, here’s an unrelated but spooky one by Joseph Eberle.#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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