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Reading More Broadly – A Guest Post by Andi Miller

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I am so tickled to write a guest post here at AndiLit. I’ve known Andi for many years through social media…first as a blogger and then the addition of Facebook and Twitter, and I’ve always been humbled by her wonderful spirit and her willingness to take the most meaningful path, even if it isn’t the easiest one. 

 I was touched by Andi’s recent post, “Thoughts On Diversity in Reading,” and taking inspiration from that post, I’ve decided to challenge myself in the remainder of 2013 and the entirety of 2014 to read more broadly…with more cultural, ethnic, and geographic diversity in mind. Andi laid out the following goal categories in her post: 

  • Books published outside the United States
  • Books written by people who are not white
  • Books written before 1950
With these categories in mind, and the stock of existing books on my shelves, these are the first books on my radar for this self-challenge. 
 
Note: the blurbs are modified from Goodreads.com.  
 

 

A Free Life, by Ha Jin, has been on my shelves for a number of years, but my eyes come to rest on it regularly. Now is the time to pick it up! 

This a novel takes place in 1990s America. We follow the Wu family–father Nan, mother Pingping, and son Taotao–as they fully sever their ties with China in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and begin a new, free life in the United States.

The Makioka Sisters, by Junichiro Tanizaki recently came to my attention through a fellow YouTube book vlogger. I’m excited to tackle a book in translation published outside the US in the 1940s. 

In Osaka in the years immediately before World War II, four aristocratic women try to preserve a way of life that is vanishing. As told by Junichiro Tanizaki, the story of the Makioka sisters forms what is arguably the greatest Japanese novel of the twentieth century, a poignant yet unsparing portrait of a family–and an entire society–sliding into the abyss of modernity.

 


 

We Need New Names, by NoViolet Bulawayo is a sentimental early favorite as the author graduated from my alma mater (same department!) and was recently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize! As you can imagine, the department is very excited about this development. 

Darling is only 10 years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas, try to get the baby out of young Chipo’s belly, and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen, before the school closed, before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad. But Darling has a chance to escape.

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie went immediately onto my e-reader when I viewed Adichie’s glorious TED presentation the dangers of a single cultural story

Teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu—beautiful, self-assured—departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze—the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor—had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. 

 

 

A Mountain of Crumbs, by Elena Gorokhova came to me by happy accident when I ran across it on Goodreads. This is the only memoir on the list, and it’s a favorite genre of mine. I’m also woefully under-read when it comes to Russia. 

Elena Gorokhova grows up in 1960’s Leningrad where she discovers that beauty and passion can be found in unexpected places in Soviet Russia. A Mountain of Crumbs is the moving story of a young Soviet girl’s discovery of the hidden truths of adulthood and her country’s profound political deception.

While I still think I have some work to do in moving away from immigrant stories that take place in the US, I think this is a good first step. As I mentioned, these books are largely confined to the books I already own.

I would love your recommendations! Feel free to leave them in the comments. 

Andi Miller blogs regularly at Estella’s Revenge, one of my favorite book blogs. Plus, she teaches writing AND has a great name so . . .

 

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Author: Andi

I am a writer, editor, and writing teacher whose most recent book, The Slaves Have Names, tells the story of the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. When I'm not working, my husband and I are working to make our small farm - God's Whisper Farm - a retreat here at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  • Raye Cage

    I too was touched by Andi’s Thoughts on Diversity in Reading post. As an African-American, I realized that even though I’ve been an avid reader for the last 35 years, I don’t know nor have read any books by authors of my race or any other ethnicities other than white authors. I never gave it much thought until Andi’s post. I too am on a campaign to broaden my reading tastes. I’m starting with the list she suggested & went online to my local library & placed a hold on these books:

    Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
    Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer
    Celebrations: Rituals of Peace & Prayer by Maya Angelou
    I, too, am America by Langston Hughes (he was the first black author/poet I was introduced to in elementary school in the late 1960s)

    This will be a real stretch for me because I like murder mysteries by Agatha Christie (Miss Marple & Hercule Poirot), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), P.D. James (Adam Dagleish) , G.K. Chesterton (Father Brown), etc. However, I am looking forward to getting out of my reading rut & trying some new genres, writing styles, & cultures.

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