Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP by Mirin Fader

Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP is a book that details Giannas Antetokounmpo’s rise to greatness. 

In 2008, if I told you that a skinny Nigerian kid living in Greece was going to become the face of the NBA and win 2 MVPs, would you believe me? If you said no, you would agree with the majority of people. However, if you said yes, would you stick with your answer if I told you that this kid had illegal immigrant parents, and he had to sell on the streets every day to get his family food to eat? If you would still say yes, you would have predicted the rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

Giannis had to go through many struggles as a kid. He would go with his mom to sell sunglasses for a couple of euros each just to try to get food on the table. Sometimes, he would have to go to sleep with a rumbling stomach, imagining the food that he wasn’t able to eat. He would always try to smile, so his brothers wouldn’t start to worry. His family would get evicted a lot, and they would have to move to a different apartment often because they couldn’t pay the rent. However, basketball was a way out. Giannis would forget about all of his worries when he was on the court, playing his heart out. He would dream of playing in the NBA and having his family all with him along the journey. 

Giannis’s childhood was difficult, but he worked hard and didn’t complain. His story should be a lesson to all of us: Anything is possible as long as you put in the effort and work extremely hard. His childhood shows us that we should never count anyone out based on their circumstances. 

The author, Mirin Fader, did a great job including interviews and quotes from people who played a role in Giannis’s childhood. His mom, brothers, and former coaches all had quotes in this biography of Giannis Antetokoumpo. 

While reading about Giannis’s rise to stardom, I was not able to put the book down. It was so intriguing to read about the struggles that he faced and overcame to get to where he is today, and I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Giannis Anteokounmpo. Also, anyone who wants to learn a thing or two about the challenges that some people face would find this book interesting, too. 

-Mert A.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Disclaimer: There are two versions of Persepolis: the graphic memoir version and the literary memoir. The graphic memoir version is divided into two parts. I have only read the first graphic memoir book of Persepolis, not the actual memoir. Therefore, there’s still some of Satrapi’s writing that I haven’t been exposed to (yet). I will definitely try to find the second graphic memoir or the actual memoir soon, but for now, this review is based solely on the first graphic memoir.

Persepolis is both a graphic memoir and autobiography published in 2000. With the memoir originally written in French, Satrapi has received numerous awards for her work including the Cannes Jury Prize and the César Award for Best Writing.

The narration is written through the eyes of the main characterMarjane “Marji” Satrapi, the author herselfduring her childhood at the time of the Iranian Revolution. A series of small stories are written in the memoir based on her own experiences, portraying political upheaval and how her own family was affected by the Iranian Revolution, Iraq’s oppressive regime, and the Iran-Iraq War. Marji’s accounts mainly focus on her and her family who live in Tehran, as well as how they attempt to rebel against the regime and take part in Iranian history.

As a daughter of immigrant parents but of non-Middle Eastern descent, I felt like I could connect with aspects of this memoir all while still learning more about Iran’s history. The memoir is a beautiful representation of Islamic and Iranian culture from the first-hand perspective of an Iranian citizen. The illustrations themselves are unique and drawn to perfectly fit the memoir, making Satrapi’s experiences seem more significant.

Although it’s a graphic memoir, I highly recommend Persepolis to high schoolers more than elementary or even middle schoolers. Some topics and drawings can be graphic, making the memoir a difficult read, and there are often parts that simply cannot be taken lightly. However, the book itself is unique at being able to broaden readers’ perspectives on other cultures as a memoir, historical account, and comic book all at once.

– Natisha P.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Amazon.com: Into the Wild (Picador Classic Book 78) eBook : Krakauer, Jon:  Kindle Store

On April 28, 1992, twenty-four-year-old Christopher McCandless walked into the untamed wilderness of northern Alaska. Having donated all his savings to charity, abandoned his car, and burned all the cash in his wallet, he was fully prepared to forge a new life for himself. However, only four months later, he was found dead by the Sushana River.

In Into the Wild, acclaimed journalist and outdoorsman Jon Krakauer attempts to crack the case of what killed Chris McCandless. He retraces McCandless’ steps from his former life as a member of a well-off family in Virginia to his increasingly meandering, wanderlust-filled travels across the continent to, eventually, the fatal trip to Alaska. Krakauer intersperses his findings with personal information and claims, including facts about McCandless’ home life and how it led to his Alaska trip, as well as events from Krakauer’s own life, such as his ascension of the Devil’s Thumb.

Into the Wild balances the themes of the call of the wilderness with the pull of familial ties, the desire to explore the world with the need to settle down, the need for belonging with the desire to discover one’s true identity, and more. Though it is a nonfiction book, it certainly reads like an adventure novel, admittedly tinged with sadness because of the inevitable conclusion.

While I am personally not one for the outdoors, I appreciated and was intrigued by Krakauer’s writing style. He manages to create an investigative survival story out of McCandless’ story in a way that keeps the reader hooked on both McCandless’ adventures and his family’s concern back East. In the end, although McCandless’ story has a tragic ending, it not only serves as a lesson for aspiring naturalists who wish to “live off the land” as he tried to do, but also to regular people living their lives, encouraging them to follow their dreams, whatever they may be, or wherever they may lead them.

– Mahak M.

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Flip the Script by Ed Orgeron

Ed Orgeron, LSU’s football coach, led the team to a national championship in 2019. Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy to get there. Coach O, now in his 60s, had a troubled start to his career at different universities like Ole Miss. He had to fight through his addiction to alcohol and he had to flip the script of the way his life was going. Instead of staying at rock bottom, he decided to climb the ladder, one rung at a time, to make his way to the top. He persevered to stop his addiction to drinking and alcohol. This book is an autobiography about his life, written by Coach O and about Coach O. 

If you have an interest in football or want to become an athlete or coach one day, I suggest reading this book. Not only does it have many important lessons inside, but it also is fun to read and learn about the inside of the locker room during those games and events that you might have seen on TV. For me, it was cool and interesting to be able to learn about Coach O’s journey to becoming one of the best coaches in all of college sports. 

The book talks about Coach O’s early career in coaching and how he had many different jobs at different universities. He was a defensive line coach (DLC), assistant head coach (AHC), assistant strength coach (ASC), as well as a head coach (HC) throughout his coaching career. He is still the head coach of LSU, but he played a role in the pasts of the University of Miami, USC, University of Arkansas, Ole Miss, LSU, and other universities. He also was a part of the New Orleans Saints coaching staff at one point in his career. That is why this book is a perfect book for athletes looking to play in college and professionally. This book shows what coaches in different levels of the sport look for and care about! 

I give this book a 10/10 rating. It shows Coach O’s insights on college and high school football players as well as coaching. He explains how to coach and Coach Orgeron talks about the different ways you can connect to players. If you want to be a coach, this book can be a big help to your career and you can learn from one of the best coaches out there in Coach Ed Orgeron. You can learn how to recruit, talk to players, and how to handle the media. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning from not only an experienced coach, but also a very experienced person.

-Mert A.

Hiroshima By John Hersey

As a lover of fantasy, mystery, and thriller novels, reading a nonfiction book comprised of a newspaper report doesn’t necessarily appeal to me. However, Hiroshima was surprisingly different compared to other historical novels. Obviously, it’s based on a journal excerpt, but John Hersey managed to create a book from real-life situations of different survivors–all from a story-telling and personalized perspective. To say that the book was eye-opening or underrated would still be an understatement.

Published by The New Yorker, Hiroshima takes place in 1945 during World War II, with intricate descriptions of the Hiroshima atomic bombing and multiple remarks from traumatized survivors. Hersey focuses on six people specifically, recording what happened and how they felt both before and after the explosion. His writing was very smooth for a journal report; he wrote about completely different lifestyles diminished into pure survival to make each more comparable, almost like fictional characters.

As a forewarning, this book can get gruesomely detailed and saddening. Death lurks everywhere as the main character and it can become suffocating to read at times because it’s so overwhelming, especially when you know that this information isn’t fiction. Nonetheless, this novel holds such a big impact on its readers to this today, even when it seems so depressing.

I will admit that there are some parts where the book can drag in change in regards to the plot, albeit this book is genuine, not sugar-coated to make America look like the heroes compared to Japan. It wasn’t made to entertain, it was made to inform. John Hersey, an American journalist, managed to expose America’s wrongdoings and use his own experience of witnessing the aftermath as a lesson for future generations of our society.

Initially, the United States kept the Hiroshima bombing as a secret from the public, so it essentially revealed the horror and consequences of violence as a whole. The idea of innocent people wrongfully suffering from the hands of political views and ideology proves that the truth is much more terrible than fiction, but also much more valuable. This was a mistake in our history that Hersey wrote about to prevent such a thing from happening again–to look towards basic human decency instead of who’s right and who’s wrong.

No matter what genre one may interest in, this book is definitely worth reading. It stems from much more than a plot or pages of information, helping readers understand the heavy reality of our world.

– Natisha P.

Hiroshima by John Hersey is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Film Review: Raya and the Last Dragon

I remember watching Mulan from the floor of my living room, gazing up to the screen, a little girl absolutely fascinated by a princess who looks like me–and yet, doesn’t at the same time. As a first-generation of Southeastern Asian descent, I felt like Mulan didn’t represent my culture. Even as Disney created a female Asian who takes the lead role, I still felt left out. After watching Raya and The Last Dragon, I felt like my culture was now being appreciated.

A heroine who doesn’t undergo typical coming-of-age experiences, but instead carves her own path to save her world and even becomes the villain of her own story–Raya is undoubtedly one of the best Disney princesses for Asian Americans to look up to. In the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons used to live in harmony. With different kingdoms who are separated by hate, Raya finds the last dragon Sisu and embarks on a quest to restore their uninhabitable land.

I have quite a few things to mention about the movie. In regards to animation, the movie is bright and colorful with realistic shots–the perfect setting for a hero’s journey. To be honest, the plot itself was often predictable; it seemed too straight forward, especially as a quest plot. The characters however, were extremely diverse and versatile in personality and never fall short to entertain the audience. There’s never a specific villain, but rather applies to everyone in the movie–a well-thought aspect to include. All of the characters show real human emotions at the right times; negative characteristics such as anger, hatred, and mistrust contributes greatly to the story’s plot and message.

As for the Southeast Asian references, Raya and the Last Dragon does so well in including details from every Southeast Asian culture. From my perspective, I was finally able to see a representative of my culture, regardless of it being a nonfictional movie. Raya is a bold, empowering female figure that I believe many little girls can look up to, no matter the race. Unfortunately, I’ve already grown out of my childhood, yet I’m grateful nonetheless. Disney has finally created a movie that girls of Southeast Asian descent can watch on the floor of their living room, gaze up to the screen, and see a courageous princess who actually looks like them.

– Natisha P.

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild is a tale about Christopher McCandless and his journey to find himself while also escaping the traumas and problems that he had in the past from his family. Christopher McCandless was living a pretty much normal life he was just graduating from college and had a bright future ahead of him then he just decided to throw it all away and go on a journey to find himself and his true meaning of life.

McCandless does this by traveling across the United States to Alaska. He is not alone on his journey since he meets friends and people who he gets rides from or he does jobs for people so he can get money to go on his journey. Also on his journey, almost everyone he meets tries to get Chris to tell his parents where he is and that he should think this through more before he goes out into the wilderness by himself but Chris is stubborn and declines all the help and stays on his path alone. Which ended up being the reason for his lonely demise.

This book is a very good read. It talks a lot about problems people have with society and how they cope with them. Also talks about family issues since Chris had quite a few issues with his family mostly his dad. It also talks about the meaning of life and how it’s different for everyone.

-Howard M.

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Authors We Love: Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau - Wikipedia

Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 — May 6, 1862) was an American writer, philosopher, and representative of transcendentalism.

A graduate of Harvard University, he helped edit Emerson’s quarterly review of the Sundial. He was a lifelong supporter of the abolitionist movement. He preached abolitionism everywhere and attacked fugitive slave laws. Deeply influenced by Emerson, he advocated returning to the heart and getting close to nature. In 1845, he lived by Walden Pond, two miles away from Concord, as a recluse for two years, farming and eating by himself, experiencing a life of simplicity. Walden, a long essay on this subject, became a classic work of transcendentalism.

Thoreau was brilliant and wrote more than twenty first-class essays in his lifetime. Known as the founder of nature essays, Thoreau’s prose was concise and powerful, simple and natural, and full of thoughts, which was unique among the American prose in the 19th century. Walden is considered the most popular nonfiction in American literature. His other works include political treatise on Civil Disobedience, Life without Principle, Cape Cod, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack river, The Maine Woods, etc. Walden records his reclusive life in Walden, while Civil Disobedience discusses the injustices of government and power and justifies citizens’ voluntary refusal to obey certain laws.

Thoreau was not tall but very firm with pale skin and strong, serious blue eyes, and a solemn manner.Thoreau later in his life, had a beard that suited him. His features were sharp, his build strong, and his hands were strong and swift in the use of tools. He said that he used his feet better than his eyes to find his way through the woods at night, and that he could estimate the height of two trees with his eyes very accurately; he could estimate the weight of an ox or a pig as well as a cattle dealer. He was good at swimming, racing, skating and rowing, and could probably beat any countryman in the long walk from morning to night. The relationship between his body and his mind is even more subtle than we think. He said that every step of his leg was his. As usual, the longer he traveled, the longer he wrote. If you shut him in at home, he won’t write at all.

-Coreen C.

The works of Henry David Thoreau are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway

Amazon.com: Green Hills of Africa: The Hemingway Library Edition ...

From November 1933 to February 1934, Hemingway went hunting in Kenya with his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, and his good friend Karl. Upon his return, Hemingway vowed to write a “book of absolute truth” that would be “as good as fiction,” and hence came the Green Hills of Africa. Hemingway, with amazing memory and exquisite writing, recreated the hunting experience in the remote mountains and forests of Africa, allowing readers to feel the thrilling scene of the author’s battle of wits and courage with animals and listen to the unique roaring and howling of lions in Africa. At the same time, Hemingway vividly describes the competitive and jealous nature of his competition with Karl, mercilessly dissecting himself and displaying manly honesty.

A passage in the book about the critical community’s praise and abuse of writers makes it easy to read today. Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa is full of the powerful beauty of tension and yet life erupting. Even after getting used to this unimaginable activity, the author begins to look at the wildlife around him with a slightly wild, but not without beauty. Hemingway, after fierce fights with lions and other wild animals, began to appreciate this kind of life and gradually found his own fun through every bit of this life style. In the text, the roar of the lion and the low cry of the beast are not just a phenomenon of biological activity, but form a fascinating landscape painting.

Hemingway quietly observed in the dark, listening and finally appreciated what happened here scene after scene. In the end, the author also presents his observations and experiences of the natural scenery and living conditions in Africa through a long description. Through the description of these scenes, the author shows his inner love and yearning for nature and a simple natural life. After the long development of human society, people often get lost in many material needs. In the natural scenery, it can better show the real pursuit of human heart and human yearning for purity.

-Coreen C.