Since I spent yesterday lamenting my love/hate relationship with the AA section, I wanted to spend today helping people diversify their reading list. I will be the first to admit that the AA section of most bookstores is not overflowing with great literature. You may have to go to Amazon, Overstock, or a bookstore website to get the books I would argue are worth reading, but it’s worth the extra effort (I recommend the library, as well. They usually have great exchange programs with other libraries if they don’t carry the book you want).
The selections that I am going to give you are composed from two sources: books I’ve read and books on my to be read list. I encountered many of them through classes such as Native American Literature, Women in Literature, African-American Literature, and through my own stumbling attempts to find other works by authors of short stories I liked from class. I will give you a very brief overview of what each book is about (what I remember). Feel free to take up any suggestions, and add your own in the comments section. *Note: These list is multicultural in that several cultures are represented here. No other claims of multiculturalism are being made.
- The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston: I’ve read this book for classes at least three times, from junior year of high school to Women in Literature, this one keeps cropping up, and for good reason. Maxine Hong Kingston is the child of Chinese immigrants, born in America. She’s also edited a Best American Short Stories collection and written other books. This is a memoir.
- There Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: This is the only book on the list I’ve read more than The Woman Warrior. I’ve read this ins Great American Books, African-American Literature, Zora Neale Hurston Major Author Study, Women in Literature, high school–everywhere, and once just for fun. This has some of my favorite literary quote. If you have issues trying to read vernacular, it can be tough going in spots, but Hurston’s prose it beautiful.
- How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez: The story of a Spanish family (Puerto Rican, I think), whose daughters go through the identity crises brought up being raised in America in a different culture. The girls struggle to identify themselves and be acceptable to both their family and society.
- The Godfather by Mario Puzo: Yes, I actually read this for a class. It is a novel about Italians and Italian-Americans, primarily in New York. Aside from some harsh language and violence, the story portrays the life of struggling immigrants, a little race relations in the poor areas of town, certain ideas that are associated with the Italian-American culture (loyalty and family), and the rise of mob/crime families.
- Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys: I’m sure many of you have read (and loved) Jane Eyre. If you’re like me and wondered about the wife in the attic (and thought she was done a disservice in that book), you may be interested in Wide Sargasso Sea. WSS tells the story of that wife, from her upbringing in the Caribbean to the fateful fire in Jane Eyre.
- Love Medicine by Louise Erdich: A Native American novel encompassing generations of a Native American tribe. It’s a complicated one to try to explain, but well worth a read. It’s interesting to follow the evolution backwards and forwards in time and see the impact of losing their ancestral lands and their quickly disappearing languages and culture. Erdich’s writing is lyrical and crisp.
- Persepolis by Majane Satrapi: The story of a woman’s early life to adult growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. Satrapi’s narrative shifts to her schooling in France as well. Told as a graphic novel in black and white, there are two books/parts to the tale. I bought the complete Persepolis. It’s a fast read and a rare look into a much maligned or misunderstood culture.
I’m going to have to break this up a bit. I’ll add more in the next post.