Three books serve up a taste of far away places

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I often hunger for memoirs, biographies and other books about social studies, history and the human condition. Doors opened for me in high school through language arts courses. The worlds of Mikhail Sholokov, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Lev Tolstoy broadened my horizons as did works by Yukio Mishima, Pearl S. Buck, Maya Angelou, Amy Tan and Maxine Hong Kingston.

I've made it a point to explore outside my normal comfort zone. Sometimes reading one book by an author will lead me to a local second-hand bookstore for everything the person ever wrote.

I recently and brought home books by Lisa See, Elizabeth Gilbert and master chef Julia Child.

Child's "My Life in France" reveals her life in Europe, primarily in France, right after World War II. Julia and husband Paul went there with his work for the U.S. government. This is where Child discovered food and cooking as its own form of heaven. Through letters and reminiscences Julia shared with co-author and nephew Alex Prud'homme, readers can live, eat and breathe her Paris and Marseilles, France, and a bit of Germany and Denmark. Their story whetted my appetite for explorations there and in the world of food.

As I enjoyed the Chinese-American perspective of Amy Tan's characters, I was curious about Lisa See's novel, "Shanghai Girls." The privileged world of the Chin sisters comes crashing down around their ears in 1937 when their father loses their fortune and days later the Japanese attack Shanghai. Before making it to America, they narrowly escape death. Their father forced them to marry before he disappeared in China.

Post World War II, they endure at least 10 years of fear and anxiety about their legal status in America and the threat of being dubbed Communists or "red" and being sent back to Mao's idea of a new Republic of China.

The book delves into the lives of Chinese immigrants who were bound by discriminatory restrictions.

It's a strong testament to family, sisterhood, perseverance and adjusting to a new environment and society.

I'm glad See can accommodate me with more of her work.

Good reviews coaxed me into getting Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love," which I'm just beginning. But the subhead, "One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia," is enough of an enticement.

Another reason I enjoy these kinds of stories is being able to travel at leisure without leaving home.

I recommend the See and Child books and perhaps will be back with a report after I've plowed through Gilbert's meditation. As Julia Child always closed her cooking show, "bon appetit!"

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