Today's Discussion Topic: Books/Fave Authors from Africa or Asia
Africa and Asia are my two favorite continents for reading around the world. Probably because these two continents include many peoples and cultures vastly different from my own. India, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco, Congo, Sudan. A multitude of intriguing mysteries, sympathetic personalities, harsh realities, and exotic locales bring me back to these destinations in my armchair travels. Here are a few books that I recommend:
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
After 103 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and with four million copies of The Kite Runner shipped, Khaled Hosseini returns with a beautiful, riveting, and haunting novel that confirms his place as one of the most important literary writers today.
Propelled by the same superb instinct for storytelling that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love.
Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them—in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul—they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.
A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love.
A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman
In her heart, Latha knows that she was not meant to be a servant. She was born for finer things like the rosesmelling Lux soap she steals, the glasses of fresh lime juice that she helps herself to, and the brand new shoes she begs for. But her fate is dictated by the Vithanages, the family she has been working for since she was five years old. We follow Latha’s story for thirty years as she fights for her dignity and navigates the loss of her innocence, competing with Thara Vithanage—a girl her own age who enjoys every freedom that Latha yearns for but is denied, including the love of an ordinary boy. Interwoven with Latha’s story is the tale of Biso, a devoted mother who has decided to leave her coastal Southern town and escape from her abusive husband, taking her three young children with her. But her journey toward a better life in the mountains results in a series of devastating missteps that connects her life with that of Latha’s in an unexpected and heartbreaking way. A Disobedient Girl is a compelling exploration of personal desire set against the volatile backdrop of class and prejudice as two women journey toward their future, united by a shared history but separated by different fates.
The Writing on My Forehead by Nafisa Haji
A free-spirited and rebellious Muslim-American of Indo-Pakistani descent, willful, intelligent Saira Qader rejected the constricting notions of family, duty, obligation, and fate, choosing instead to become a journalist, making the world her home. But when tragedy strikes, throwing Saira's life into turmoil, the woman who circled the globe to uncover the details of other lives must confront the truths of her own. In need of understanding, she looks to the stories of those who came before—her grandparents, a beloved aunt, her mother and father. As Saira discovers the hope, pain, joy, and passion that defined their lives, she begins to face what she never wanted to admit: that choice is not always our own, and that faith is not merely an intellectual preference.
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.
Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.
A poignant story of one college student's romantic coming-of-age, Norwegian Wood takes us to that distant place of a young man's first, hopeless, and heroic love.
The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran
The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the Eighteenth Dynasty’s royal family–with the exception of Nefertari, the niece of the reviled former queen, Nefertiti. The girl’s deceased family has been branded as heretical, and no one in Egypt will speak their names. Nefertari is pushed aside, an unimportant princess left to run wild in the palace. But this changes when she is taken under the wing of the Pharaoh’s aunt, then brought to the Temple of Hathor, where she is educated in a manner befitting a future queen.
Soon Nefertari catches the eye of the Crown Prince, and despite her family’s history, they fall in love and wish to marry. Yet all of Egypt opposes this union between the rising star of a new dynasty and the fading star of an old, heretical one. While political adversity sets the country on edge, Nefertari becomes the wife of Ramesses the Great. Destined to be the most powerful Pharaoh in Egypt, he is also the man who must confront the most famous exodus in history.
Scared by Tom Davis
Stuart Daniels has hit bottom. Once a celebrated and award-winning photojournalist, he is reeling from debt, a broken marriage, and crippling depression. The source of Stuart's grief is his most famous photo, a snapshot of brutality in the dangerous Congo. A haunting image that indicts him as a passive witness to gross injustice.
Stuart is given a one last chance to redeem his career: A make-or-break assignment covering the AIDS crisis in a small African country. It is here that Stuart meets Adanna, a young orphan fighting for survival in a community ravaged by tragedy and disease. But in the face of overwhelming odds, Adanna finds hope in a special dream, where she is visited by an illuminated man and given a precious gift.
Now, in a dark place that's a world away from home, Stuart will once again confront the harsh reality of a suffering people in a forgotten land. And as a chance encounter becomes divine providence, two very different people will find their lives forever changed.
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
At the age of twelve, Ishmael Beah fled attacking rebels in Sierra Leone and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he'd been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. At sixteen, he was removed from fighting by UNICEF, and through the help of the staff at his rehabilitation center, he learned how to forgive himself, to regain his humanity, and, finally, to heal. This is an extraordinary and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achibe
THINGS FALL APART tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo's fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society.
The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries. These twin dramas are perfectly harmonized, and they are modulated by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. THINGS FALL APART is the most illuminating and permanent monument we have to the modern African experience as seen from within.
There are so many great books about Africa and Asia, I wish I could share all the ones I've read. What are some you have read?