I Have Come on a Lonely Path

Seo Choi has put out multiple successful Kickstarter projects, including several books, that highlight various aspects of traditional Korean spiritual practices. The latest one that just went to print was Keum-Hwa Kim’s I Have Come on a Lonely Path: Memoir of a Shaman. (Original Korean: 비단꽃 넘세)

According to Choi’s initial Kickstarter description, the original edition of I Have Come on a Lonely Path published in 2007 was popular enough to be made into a movie, but fell into obscurity (or maybe just “hard to obtain” territory) when the publisher went out of business in 2011. An American friend of Choi’s happened to have a copy and gave it to Choi, who has made it available for the first time in English through her micropublishing company Alpha Sisters. I supported the Kickstarter at the ebook tier and received my copy back in April.

Seo Choi’s copy of the original Korean edition. Read more at the Kickstarter page.

The book isn’t especially long; I read the entire thing on commutes, lunch breaks, and waiting for friends at bars. The chapters are relatively short so you can dip in and out as you have time. Peace Pyunghwa Lee’s translation is excellent, with plenty of explanatory footnotes for historical context and specific cultural or technical terminology—the names of items of clothing, food, or particular rituals and so on.

Through Lee’s translation, Kim presents her story directly, without needless digressions or flowery ornamentation. The introduction to I Have Come on a Lonely Path includes a content warning for “domestic abuse, physical violence, war, mental illness, suicide, poverty, police brutality, and discrimination” but the depictions thereof were rather plain and brief. I’ve read much more unsettling accounts, in fiction as well as non-fiction. Through it all, Kim remains humble, compassionate and empathetic. We follow her from her birth in 1931 in what later became North Korea, through early poverty and her shamanic initiation as a teenager, to her middle years living on the fringes of society in South Korea, until the latter stage of her life as a recognized carrier of intangible cultural property (the Seohaean baeyeonsingut) with performances in the US and on live South Korean television, a feature-length biopic, and the founding of her shrine on Ganghwa-do. She speaks frankly of these accomplishments without any sense of self-aggrandizement, maybe because the struggles of her early years kept her humble. First and foremost for Kim is the preservation of a tradition and living a life of service; those honors seem to be more about that preservation and service than about herself. She also lived through interesting times, as the expression goes. We don’t get any commentary on the titans of twentieth century Korean  history here, however. Kim only mentions events directly impacting her or her clients. This is mostly in the form of ill-tempered Japanese officials or South Korean discrimination against North Koreans, but to my embarrassment her story was also the first I’d heard of the New Village Movement.

In light of the New Village Movement, particularly the less savory aspects that bring to mind Mao’s Cultural Revolution, translation projects like I Have Come on a Lonely Path are important for maintaining the traditions and integrity of a culture. The thought struck me sometime afterwards that in some ways it’s comparable to the translation movement in Arabic that preserved so many manuscripts in Greek and Latin for scholars in Medieval Europe to rediscover and to include in the early years of the European academic tradition. Sometimes knowledge, ideas, and stories need to drift from one language or culture to another to ensure their own longevity. Power consolidation, especially within the structure of colonialism, is often based on rendering these ideas forgotten.

Overall this was a quick and fascinating read, at least for any Koreaboo (such as myself) curious about Korean folklore and traditions. The English edition includes an afterword from Kim’s niece, who continues in the same shamanic tradition (she is Kim’s “spirit daughter”—mentee—in addition to being her brother’s daughter) and currently maintains the shrine Kim established on Ganghwa-do. If it’s not your bag, it’s not your bag, but in the informal itinerary I’m building for my next trip to Korea I just added Incheon and Ganghwa-do.

Turkish Tag Team: Requiem över en förlorad stad during Cold Nights of Childhood

I was debating whether to make this one post or two, and in the end decided to make this a single post for a variety of reasons:

  • In terms of sheer practicality, my posting schedule and reading schedule are such that my usual rate of posting will have me bleeding 2023’s books into 2024, which I emphatically do not like.
  • These are authors that are in a kind of dialogue with each other, or rather one of them is clearly inspired by the other.
  • The books themselves were even very similar in terms of mood, themes, structure, etc.
  • I didn’t have much to say about either book on their own.

So, first of all, which books are we talking about?

The first was a Swedish translation of Aslı Erdoğan‘s Requiem över en förlorad stadI read an interview with her in an old issue of Karavan that I brought with me on vacation for airplane reading; in the end I was so taken by how insightful and interesting and brainy she was that when I got back to Stockholm I immediately grabbed what book of hers I could from the library.

The second book was a recommendation from a American friend now residing in Turkey that served to underscore an author I had apparently added to my Storygraph TBR (probably mentioned in the same issue of Karavan): Tezer Özlü. An English translation of her Cold Nights of Childhood was published this year, which I was able to track down at the Stockholm library.

My process was something like this:

  1. Read Erdoğan
  2. Solicit an opinion on her from a bookish American friend in Turkey, who recommends Özlü
  3. Read Özlü

As you might guess from that turn of events, I wasn’t entirely taken with Requiem. It’s a lot of mood and imagery and lovely turns of phrase, but nothing I could really sink my teeth into (or that I can remember now, at the time of writing, a week or two later). Trying to summarize the book is a struggle: “unnamed woman wanders around an unnamed city at night”? I guess?

My best explanation is that Requiem functioned as a sort of literary therapy for Erdoğan, and therefore concrete experiences are abstracted into an etheric dream world rather than relived in all their terror. Art as a process rather than a product, written for Erdoğan and not for an audience. The end result is that I would finish each chapter unsure of what happened and without any sense of the human being behind the words, and that last point is ultimately the make or break thing for me.

As Bookish American friend in Turkey tactfully put it, Erdoğan’s literary reputation might be overstated due to her (obviously important and brave and impressive!) political activism. But I also get the sense that Requiem is a very different beast than her earlier books, so perhaps I don’t have an entirely fair picture of her work. The same bookish friend also tipped me off that Tezer Özlü had finally been published in English for the first time, in an off-the-cuff follow-up to her estimation of Erdoğan that implied a comparison in Özlü’s favor.

What bookish American friend couldn’t have known, or maybe she did, was that Requiem reads like a riff on, and a response to, Cold Nights of Childhood. Both books ground a woman narrator in a city (or several cities) as she wanders not only through space but also through time, emptying their memories on the page the same way you empty your pockets before throwing a pair of pants in the wash. But if Requiem is an etheric and abstract dream world, then Cold Nights is waking life, or maybe better put a lucid dream. Instead of fuzzy, surreal abstraction, Özlü names everything with precision and clarity: people, streets, cafes, flowers. The same clarity holds throughout, even as the narrative skips through time or across space; she eschews poetic metaphor and favors stark depictions of her external circumstances and experiences, whether it’s stays at psychiatric wards or adolescent sexual desire or family gatherings in their cramped rural home. I might not have learned anything about Özlü by the end of Cold Nights, but unlike Requiem I still felt like I had met her. All of the English summaries make comparisons to The Bell Jar and it’s honestly a pretty apt one.

Both of these books raise the question of I’ve been taught to expect in stories, not only through school and writing advice, but also in the kinds of stories available for consumption in popular culture. Building expectations through repetition is another way of teaching, after all, and the stories in most conventional media usually have story arcs, character arcs, conflicts, changes, a sense of narrative unity. By the end of the story, situations and characters should be different from how they started, and we should be able to clearly trace the progression of those changes. How many of these expectations can go unmet and a story (a book, a movie, a TV show) still be satisfying? How else can we look at stories? What other shape can they take? What other purpose can they serve?

Emil and the Detectives

Both of my parents moved at least part of their childhood libraries into our home where they became the foundation for my collection (and my brother’s, for that matter). Some of these ended up being my own favorites while others simply hung about the house, in various common area bookshelves, forever unclaimed and unread by either me or my brother. Not for any particular reason, either; I think I would just forget about them as soon as I left the room or hallway. Such was the fate of Emil and the Detectives, which I finally sat down to read because sometimes the world is a bummer and you just want to read children’s books from a happier time.

Young Emil from the small town of Neustadt is sent off to visit his grandmother in Berlin with a not insubstantial sum of money, but is robbed en route. A local gang of plucky young boys come to his aid, hijinks ensue, and Emil and the detectives get their man. It’s very wholesome without being cloying, which would explain why there are approximately one million (or just five) movie adaptations of it. It’s cute, it’s a fast read, it’s fun, there’s not much else to say.

For such a slim book, Emil and the Detectives invites a bit of a Wikipedia rabbit hole. The author, Erich Kästner, was the odd duck who was able to remain a vocal critic of the Nazis without being sent to a camp or having to flee the country. While his much more risque and controversial adult novel, Fabian, was the subject of Nazi book burnings, his children’s work was popular enough to keep him more or less out of trouble. Another one of his children’s books, Lisa and Lottie, eventually became the basis for The Parent Trap.

The English translation is another rabbit hole, though a murkier one. It was published thanks to the efforts of legendary children’s book editor May Massee. By all accounts, in addition to her publishing and editing work, Massee also produced the first English translation of Emil and the Detectives, though a later one by Eileen Hall is purportedly the most readily available one in Europe. And yet there’s not much to be found online or in Massee’s biography about any other translation efforts. Was this the only translation she ever produced, a la Alexandra Dick and The Dwarf?

There is lively discussion (read as: this blog post) around the subsequent translations of Emil and the Detectives, and how English translators have approached the question of slang and dialect in the story. My German is several years out of use by this point, though all of this is tempting enough for me to dive back in.

Terminal Boredom

I’m a big fan of email newsletters. Everyone gave up on RSS feeds, apparently, but now email newsletters are making a comeback. Or maybe they never left, who knows. I’m a big fan of LitHub, which keeps me up to date on at least some of the happenings in the literary world. This is how I stumbled on Izumi Suzuki and news of her first translation into English in 2021 through Verso Books, titled Terminal Boredom. Now in 2023 another collection has been published (Hit Parade of Tears), and the Austin Feminist Sci-Fi Book Club made Terminal Boredom a read for March.

While I can’t comment on the quality of the translations qua translations, it would probably be fun to compare them against each other, as six translators were engaged for the seven stories in the collection: Polly Barton, Sam Bett, David Boyd, Daniel Joseph, Aiko Masubuchi and Helen O’Horan.

There are similarities to Murakami (references to music are deeply embedded in the stories) and Oyamada (the mood in Terminal Boredom is about as queasy as Weasels in the Attic). I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Suzuki was an influence on both of them; in particular, it’s worth noting that Murakami and Suzuki were exactly the same age, and Murakami would have owned a jazz club for the same period of time Suzuki was married to avant garde jazz saxophonist Kaoru Abe. A cursory internet search didn’t turn up anything linking the two biographically but I expect I’d have to go excavating in Japanese to really find out more.

Somewhere in all of the hasty background reading I did for this entry I saw Suzuki’s work described as “SF short stories of manners,” which I’d argue rises above being merely a disservice to becoming a gross misunderstanding, but maybe that was a reference to work that’s not in the Terminal Boredom collection. (For an actual science fiction novel of manners, I would direct your attention to The Sky is Yours.) A blurb on the back compares Suzuki to Ursula K. LeGuin, which is a much more apt comparison. Our disaffected protagonists live in a variety of dystopias, some on Earth and some on other planets. All of these dystopias reflect and magnify troubling dynamics we already see today: hyperpatriarchal norms and power structures, overconsumption of mass media, colonialism and its fallout, addiction.

I think one of the problems I have with dystopias is that authors insist on being dramatic and emotive about how terrible this reality is. My personal conspiracy theory is that someone, somewhere along the editorial process (the authors themselves? their editors at the publisher?), knows that the world building in those novels is flimsy and lazy, like a mustache-twirling villain who’s simply evil for no other reason than the author needs conflict in their story. But this conspirator also knows that good world building takes precious time that they don’t have in the consumer capitalist book publishing world, so all of that is skipped in favor of The Rule of Drama. Populate the book with meticulously detailed, almost comical misery and punctuate it with emotionally-charged scenes to paper over the shoddy groundwork. The Hunger Games is a great example of this. Lots of drama, lots of pathos, but if you stop and think about the actual logic of the world for more than five minutes, you realize it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

The Rule of Drama does not apply to Suzuki’s stories. Pathos is minimal; emotions are most often muted, which makes actual teary moments stand out. There is no litany of “here are all the terrible consequences waiting for you in this world”; they are gestured to when relevant and left largely to the imagination. The result is a somewhat ironic city pop vibe, like city pop from hell. The indifferent resignation characters display about their surroundings—flatly accepting their reality as a trivial matter of fact instead of being wild, passionate rebels advocating for change—is ironically enough what makes the dystopia land and feel real. As a result, the setting has enough internal consistency to stand up to the five minutes of thought under whose weight The Hunger Games collapses.

That said, the language itself in all of the stories felt a bit stilted and clunky. It was present in some more than others, so it becomes hard to know if it’s a variation in the source material or a variation in translator. It’s also similar to the prose in Weasels in the Attic, but since that was translated by one of the translators in this collection, it’s hard to ascertain whether it’s a similarity in writing style, a quirk of translating Japanese to English generally, or a personal choice of that particular translator.

In the end Terminal Boredom was one of those “eat your vegetables” books for me. From a larger, overall perspective: yes, more overlooked writers translated into English, objectively good thing, especially overlooked women writers. To that end, my aesthetic response to the book doesn’t even matter.

On a personal level, I still think it was definitely good for my bookish self to have read Terminal Boredom. Whatever the prose, it’s still full of lots of good ideas, the kind that are fodder for kickstarting other people’s imaginations. It’s also a quick read; none of the stories are overly long or meandering because Suzuki gets right to the point in all of them. I’m even curious enough to look up Hit Parade of Tears. But I didn’t walk away from this with a new favorite short story, either.

The Dwarf (and Alexandra Dick)

Revisited a book from last year in translation, purely for the fact that a work friend brought it up in conversation on two different occasions.

“It’s like…amazing. That translator found solutions that weren’t even there to be found.”

Dvärgen came out in 1944, and appeared in English in 1945 in a translation by Alexandra Dick. A year is not a long time to translate a whole novel, especially before the era of word processors and CAT tools and the Internet. Even more astonishing, then, that the translation is good. Or maybe not so astonishing? I suppose I don’t have the ideal frame of reference to make that call. Over seventy years later and this seems to be the only English translation in town. Why mess with perfection?

What struck my coworker was that Dick didn’t really have any other substantial translation career he could uncover beyond that one really good translation, leading him to wonder if it was “some genius on drugs.”

Fortunately, Steve Holland at Bear Alley Books did some fantastic detective work so I don’t have to! Turns out that Dick wasn’t entirely a flash in the pan. (I’d argue she was some kind of genius, and who knows about the drugs.) Her translation career was, indeed, fairly limited, with just Dvärgen and Birger Dahlerus’s autobiography, Sista försöket, to her name (the combination of which invites speculation on her personal anxieties about war and Nazism). Her literary career, on the other hand, was prolific. She put out some two dozen novels from 1937 to 1964—including three in 1944 and one in 1945, coinciding with when she would have presumably been working on Dvärgen. Then, for whatever reason, her writing career ended in 1964, maybe because she was living in Florence and why would you stay shut up indoors to write all day when you live in Florence?

Any review of this, like with the original, is superfluous. Good book, good translation, have at.

Weasels in the Attic

All told I’m in three different book clubs, to whom I have varying levels of allegiance. At one end of the spectrum there’s the Austin Feminist Sci-Fi Book Club, to which I am more or less firmly committed and which accounts for around 25% of my annual book consumption. One step below that is the neighborhood dinner and book club, which I abstain from attending during The Season at work, but whose selections I often read on my own because I’m otherwise not plugged in to new, or at least recent, Swedish releases. At the other end of the spectrum is the ultra casual “buddy read” group in one of my Discord servers, which I usually ignore unless I’ve already read the book. Such was the case with Light From Uncommon Stars, which was an Austin Feminist Sci-Fi Book Club pick for November and then a Discord buddy read for December, meaning this was the rare occasion I was part of the Discord book chat and witness to the process of selecting the next buddy ready book.

That was a long preamble to say, “I read Hiroko Oyamada’s Weasels in the Attic because it was a book club read for a book club I don’t normally attend.”

I also read it because it was short, because as a translator I appreciate reading works in translation, and because it sounded intriguing. It’s hard, even, to decide between classing it as a novella or as a short story collection. We have the same characters throughout, all riffing on the theme of indifference, or even antipathy, towards parenthood, but their only common thread is the same narrator. Each story? chapter? on its own feels a bit unearthly: deliberately flat and almost imagist, where the point isn’t a clever plot or character development but just the mood of the scene.

The word “sinister” comes up in different reviews of the book, but maybe a better word would be “uneasy.” You get that horror movie knot in your stomach, but the other shoe never drops. The narrator’s friends, Urabe and Saiki don’t come across as great husbands, or even decent men, but the narrative doesn’t stick around long enough to confirm or deny those allegations. It’s possible that the young, vulnerable girl Urabe caught eating his stock of fish food is now his wife, but then again, maybe she isn’t. We don’t find out either way. Both of them boss their (significantly) younger wives around and do very little to help in entertaining their guests, but things fail to rise about the level of the inconsiderate to demeaning or abusive. Likewise, the infants in the story are not particularly cuddly or even robust creatures, and in the stories where they appear you have the sense that they’re not going to survive until the end of the chapter (but they do).

If great art, according to Aristotle, is supposed to elicit some sense of catharsis in its audience, then he would have hated this book. (We’ll pretend for a minute that he would have understood the context of modern suburban Japan.) Oyamada shows you a few uncomfortable scenes and then leaves. The result is unsettling.

Did I like it? Hard to say. But it’s so short and goes so quickly—I read it cover to cover before I rolled out of bed one Saturday morning—that I’m not mad I read it, either.

Short Stories, H. C. Schweikert

This was one of a couple short story anthologies that made their way from my Dede’s library to my parents’ house to my own bookshelves, for the simple reason that I’m a sucker for old books. This, especially, is a piece of family history to hold in my hands, with my Dede’s name and old Kensington address in neat, old-fashioned cursive in blue ink right on the flyleaf. I finally sat down to read it after a long stint with Swedish, when I could only muster enough brain for 1) something in English and 2) something short.

In a serendipitous turn of events, while I was reading this collection my sambo had taken to devouring old pulp magazines from the extensive collection at the Internet Archive—publications that were contemporaneous with this collection, and about which the editor (Harry Christian Schweikert, a prodigious anthologizer it seems) had this to say:

The pupils who will use this book are already confirmed short story readers, many of them, unfortunately, addicts of the popular and more sensational magazines. To condemn these magazines is worse than useless, especially if the teacher adopts a “high-brow” attitude. Pupils like nothing better than to shock the teacher. The situation is often complicated by the fact that many of these journals often contain good stories. Perhaps the best way is to ignore the magazines entirely at first. If the teacher is successful in stimulating genuine interest in the discussion of stories, the pupils will themselves dispose of the trashy magazines.

The second entertaining morsel about this collection is seeing how many of its featured authors are referred to in the present tense and whose death dates had not yet come to pass.

A table of contents in a short story anthology. The authors birth and dates are given, but several authors who have been long dead, such as Sinclair Lewis, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle and James M. Barrie, lack death dates.

Since it’s a textbook, each story comes with an author biography, though as whole they’re more editorializing and nakedly subjective than anything I would have read in an English textbook in school. Discussion questions and “subjects for composition” also accompany each story, which make for a fun little peek into the English teaching of yesteryear. The same can be said for the actual selection of stories, a snapshot of prevailing tastes of the time. Several of the authors chosen were already well-established giants in 1925 (O. Henry, Anton Chekhov, Alexandre Dumas); others are familiar household names today that were still in their productive years (the above Sinclair Lewis et al.); still others were popular at the time of publication but later faded into obscurity (Joseph Hergesheimer or Frances Gilchrist Wood).

The vast majority of the stories were new to me, even if I knew around half of the authors. Is this another sign of changing times? Or am I just woefully ill-read when it comes to short stories? Hard to say. But the best part is how many new authors—especially women writing in the first half of the twentieth century—I can look up and enjoy for the first time.

The Venus Project

To start with, note that this is a novel heavily inspired by the real-life Venus Project non-profit organization associated with Jacque Fresco, which might be confusing. What I mean by “The Venus Project” here is the English translation of a debut Turkish sci fi novel from Ilker Korkutlar.

Cover of the English edition of The Venus Project by Ilker Korkutlar
Image courtesy Portakal Kitab

As a novel, The Venus Project is amateur and flawed. There’s simply no beating around the bush there. I nearly went on about those flaws at length, but I decided that would be unasked for and unkind. The truth of the matter is, despite all of its problems, I still had a pretty good time (mostly). It’s not a great novel, or even a competent one, but it’s bonkers and different.

There’s a certain class of English language genre author that has developed a steady fan following over the years. Each book they produce panders more and more to that following, rehashing proven formulas and tropes, further insulating their writing and their fans from everything else. For a reader outside of the target demographic, the problem isn’t that they “just don’t get it.” The problem is that there isn’t anything to fail to get—there’s no “there” there. It’s a reading experience that’s bland at its best and insufferable at its worst. It’s the book equivalent of a Marvel movie.

I will take a flawed, amateur novel experience over a Marvel movie book any day of the week. Bring on the crackpot conspiracy theories! Tell me all about graphene! Yes, bees are pretty cool! As long as you’re not advocating for violence or genocide, I’m here for it!

Fiasco

My third Stanislaw Lem book comes by way of a gift-recommendation from a friend, possibly after he noticed The Cyberiad on my book pile last October.

Calling Fiasco “relentlessly pessimistic” is maybe a bit harsh, but only a bit. It’s a Stanislaw Lem novel, after all. Sometimes I want to talk about a book as soon as I finish it—I think most times I do—but this was a case where I re-read the last paragraph a few times, closed the book, and sat quietly for a while. I appreciate when a book makes me do that.

I think in the end, all I can say is that Fiasco was a more invigorating “first contact” take than Axiom’s End, which I read back in March and which is total garbage. Fiasco was also an unintentionally interesting choice to read right before another Austin Feminist Sci-Fi Book Club pick on the first contact train, A Desolation Called Peace. 

The House by the River

Cover of The House by the River, by Lena Manta, translated from Greek by Gail Holst-Warhaft

I’m glad that Lena Manta isn’t my mother.

That’s really the only takeaway I have from this book. It seems to be a novel-length riff on “your mother will always love you and be there for you no matter what, also she was right all those years ago but she’ll never say I told you so because she’s just such a saint, but maybe she’ll write a novel instead.”

Theodora meets a much older man when she’s twelve, falls in love a few years later, and then marries him as soon as she turns eighteen. They have five daughters and then her beloved husband dies from stepping on a rusty nail and refusing to have his gangrenous leg amputated because he definitely has some PTSD from fighting in World War II that includes an abject, if poorly articulated, fear of amputation. This is the only remotely interesting piece of characterization in the book.

Theodora raises her daughters as a single mom and doesn’t consider for a moment remarrying (because she’s too old….at the ripe old age of 34). All of her daughters grow up to be breathtakingly beautiful (of course), leave home and in one way or another meet terrible tragedies and eventually come home, chagrined and heartbroken. The daughters who tried to have careers and interests outside of Blissful Domesticity are duly punished, whether it’s a career or an affair (or, in one case, both), but no one comes out of things unscathed. The ones who got married followed in their mother’s footsteps and married older (in one case, much older) men.

It’s possible to distinguish one daughter from the other in the beginning of the book, when they’re still young, but that’s perhaps mostly a function of the narration being fairly distant. As adults, when things switch to a closer third person perspective for each daughter, they become interchangeable. Even as they live somewhat different lives, their internal monologue is indistinguishable from the other because the writing is robotic. Not terse, not sparse, not subtle. Robotic. Robotic and repetitive. I think literally every single sister is described as a “volcano” during their first formative sexual experience.

Each sister has a tragic, melodramatic chapter about their life outside of the village, setting them up for the inevitable fall that will send them back to their mother who loved them and only wanted to protect them, after all. Of course, how stupid they were for thinking they could ever leave home! Their mother had been right all along! Structurally it feels like the book is trying to build a story about resilient women and the power of sisterhood, but it never rises beyond mere melodrama. All of this is why I’m glad Lena Manta isn’t my mother because I expect I would get a lot of guilt tripping over not calling enough, not visiting enough, why don’t you have some more food, when are you going to give me grandchildren, etc.

The only highlight in this book, and the part that was interesting enough that I actually slowed down to savor the reading, was the part of the book that took place under the Nazi occupation of Greece and the subsequent civil war. A whole book about Theodora trying to raise her family and keep things together would have been far more interesting, particularly in a novel by a Greek author of an age to have parents who lived through that history. Instead Manta breezes over that in favor of melodrama that swings between merely uninteresting (oh no, an affair!) or outright cringeworthy (egregious White Saviorism; hamfisted Mafia tropes).

Like so many other people, I got this book for free on World Book Day, so I suppose I can’t complain. You get what you pay for.