A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
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Modern authors meet Asian mythology in stellar anthology.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Offers varied treatments of Asian myths, folk tales, heroic epics, ghost stories; follows each tale with author's note about the original story, its traditions. Several tales are steeped in regional lore, culinary traditions, etc. In particular, Preeti Chhibber's "Girls Who Twirl and Other Dangers" is full of Sanskrit and Hindi words and phrases, including conversation that never gets translated and so sends the unfamiliar reader on a quest and/or YouTube rabbit hole of Asian game shows. Lots of doors and intriguing paths open up.

Positive Messages

Collection ranges from ghost stories to high school to science fiction; some tales more positive than others. But many involve courage, love, determination, self-sacrifice, and ability to apologize when you've done wrong and learn from your mistakes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There are cruel and evil characters aplenty, but also devoted lovers and spouses, parents and children, and people who do the right thing at great cost to themselves.

Violence

Many a character we grow to like suffers a violent death due to war, famine, treacherous relatives, or a bad-tempered god. Ghosts, angry spirits are plentiful. One character finds himself part of an army of millions of doomed soldiers in the epic Mahabharata. Elsie Chapman's "Bullet, Butterfly" involves two star-crossed lovers and a bullet that kills with a gruesomely beautiful explosion. Melissa de la Cruz's "Code of Honor" involves vampires, gore, and centuries of blood-sucked lovers. Several characters are imprisoned, enslaved; one held as a concubine and threatened with death for displeasing her master.

 

Sex

Several sets of lovers, some of whom stay together long enough to have children. Some swoony romantic description but no explicit sex.

Language

Not an issue in most stories, but occasional strong language, including "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "d--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some stories involve adults drinking alcohol or beverages infused with bhang (an edible preparation of cannabis) at parties.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman (who also contributes a story), is a multi-genre anthology of short stories by modern YA authors of Asian heritage. The roots of each tale (explained after each one by its author) are deep in traditional Asian culture -- gods, ghosts, cosmic battles. The collected stories range from ghost lovers and star-crossed romance to android wars, virtual reality, and the social complications of high school. The storytelling is a treat; readers already familiar with the legends will get a kick out of the new treatments, and those new to the tales and the cultures will find lots to explore. There's occasional strong language (including "f--k" and "s--t") in some stories and gore here and there, some lovers who have children, a boozy-druggy dance party, and lots of death, some of it violent.

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What's the story?

A THOUSAND BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS brings a mysterious guy at a party who seems to know you. A centuries-old vampire trying to pass at a ritzy New York high school. A dark-skinned god who pops up in the passenger seat next to a guy who's feeling sorry for himself in the Oakland hills and promises him a heroic death. This is all just a taste of this collection of stories, based on Asian myths and traditional tales, and given a new spin by modern authors including Melissa de la Cruz, Elsie Chapman, Julie Kagawa, and others, who deliver page-turning plots and lots to think about.

Is it any good?

There's a lot to love in this collection of Asian myths and legends, retold, re-imagined, and re-examined by authors delving into their cultural roots. Myths of cosmic battle and love gone awry find surprising new forms in A Thousand Beginnings and Endings. And, as in The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, it's fascinating to watch noted authors spin new stories around old material, and explain what inspired them. With everything from science fiction and high school social woes to doomed lovers in dystopian worlds, different readers will be drawn in by different stories -- but then find plenty more to explore and like.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about myths and legends, such as those referenced in A Thousand Beginnings and Endings. How do they keep their appeal and find fresh forms over the centuries? Do you have any favorites? Is there a version of a legendary tale that you like best?

  • Do you have friends you know only in an online world? How would you find each other if the online world disappeared?

  • A Thousand Beginnings and Endings offers a window into many different cultures with Asian roots. Which ones would you like to learn more about?

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For kids who love mythology and multiculturalism

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