A blog about travel, books and navigating your twenties in one piece

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Recently I'm Reading // Your Heart Is A Muscle The Size Of A Fist

Happy March! It completely baffles me that we're already into the third month of 2016, hasn't the new year only just started?! But, while it baffles me, I've been ready for spring for a while now so here's hoping the sun puts his hat on a little more and this gloomy winter waves goodbye.

I was lucky enough to be sent a bound proof of Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa in January and have only just got around to finishing it - the perks of having so much uni reading! - but I absolutely loved it and thought it was an incredible debut from Yapa so wanted to share some of my thoughts here.

"A heart-stopping debut about protest and riot ...1999. Victor, homeless after a family tragedy, finds himself pounding the streets of Seattle with little meaning or purpose. He is the estranged son of the police chief of the city, and today his father is in charge of one of the largest protests in the history of Western democracy. But in a matter of hours reality will become a nightmare. Hordes of protesters - from all sections of society - will test the patience of the city's police force, and lives will be altered forever."

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is set over one day in history; the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organisation protests. In November 1999 an estimated crowd of 40,000 people protested globalization, preventing delegates from reaching the convention centre where world trade deals were set to take place. The police were eventually overwhelmed by protesters and what followed was known as one of the most violent cases of police and public brutality at a US protest.

Some of my favourite moments from the book ::

"A thousand voices joined in rhythm. It was a primal sound, a roar like a waterfall, a thousand voices becoming for the briefest of moments one voice, one roar, threaded through with frustration and yearning, their desperation to break through to another place. One where the city beloned to them and they had no reason to be afraid."

"The human survival mechanism: to say your prayers, thank your gods, and hold your breath when you passed the slums. The sweet poison of privilege, wasn't it? To think blindness a preferable condition. And yet, there they were whether you wanted to see or not. The unwanted of the world."

"She began to walk towards that ring of men who were grunting and growling like dogs on a deer. Because how do you stop a pack of men who have been wounded in the fight, who have scented blood on their adversary and are closing in for the kill? How do you stop a pack of dogs who have lost their minds in fear and rage? You remember that they are not dogs, but men. Frightened and angry human beings."

It seems odd at first glance to think that a story which takes place over just one day could fill a three hundred page book. But Yapa executes it beautifully. He tells the story from a range of characters' perspectives, which is something I absolutely love in fiction and have only seen done so effectively by Jodi Picoult. The fact that you have an insight into so many perspectives, from the police to the protesters to a delegate, shows you what a protest truly is from all sides and allows Yapa to highlight the state of our world both then and now.

To be perfectly honest, much of what I read reminded me of news stories we still read today. Of police brutality and racism and the right to protest - these things have only been re-emerging in recent years from what I've seen.

But what I love most about this book are the subtleties Yapa includes. It's not only a story about protest and globalization; at its root it's a story about a father and son's relationship, an outsider striving to make the world better and young people beginning to understand what the world is really like. This was such an incredible debut, I can't wait to see what Yapa writes next.

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