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Bookworm In Your Ear: From Bah-stan To Nahwleans

The two novels here highlight two cities at a particular juncture in time - Green is set in 1980’s Boston; while King Zeno is New Orleans, 1918.

Green by Sam Graham-Felsen

Green is a unique coming of age novel, thanks to its acute sense of time and place, and set of circumstances. Our protagonist is Dave Greenfield, and he’s one of only two white boys studying at Boston’s Martin Luther King public high school —and the other boy is half-Armenian, so often mistaken as Puerto Rican. It’s the year Larry Bird retired from the Celtics; and Green is Dave’s emcee name. After being constantly picked on and bullied, Dave is surprised when Marlon comes to his defence; and a friendship is forged. How race, privilege, class, and a sense of entitlement all form elements that determine whether this friendship can endure, are just some of the major strands of this entertaining story. Amidst all the bluster & posturing, be ready for offbeat Life Lessons. Great read.

King Zeno by Nathaniel Rich

It’s New Orleans in 1918, a segregated city about to give birth to the music form jass—later called jazz. Ragtime still rules, but one cornet player named Isidore Zeno is out to make a name for himself, if he can get a break and be noticed. A spate of ax-killings haunts the city and one detective, recently returned from Europe and the war, is trying to solve the crimes and redeem himself for his cowardice during said war. And there’s a mob boss’ widow, Beatrice Vizzini, ready to legitimise the business and move it away from the shadows, with the help of her bear-man son. But everyone is playing crooked in New Orleans, cause it’s a city that spits you out for breakfast and is ready to chew you again come dinner time. An engrossing crime mystery, that’s also a societal snapshot of a city in flux.