5 books from different countries showcasing ethnicity, culture, language, traditions, food, and geography.
My love of reading knows no borders and boundaries. I am equally fascinated by stories from different regions of the world as these introduce me to different cultures and languages. I guess my first ever truly diverse read was the set of Russian books that my mother foraged out of a bookshop in New Delhi. One of them was a sort of YA in illustrated form. Each story’s protagonist was either a boy or girl, aged 11-12 years (same age as me at that time) and it was a beguiling read for someone growing up in the 80s in India.
Since then I have looked forward to picking up books through the globe. I discovered Indian regional language literature during my college days when one such book was prescribed reading in the course. I devoured books by Premchand, Ismat Chughtai, Rabindranath Tagore, Satyajit Ray, Gopinath Mohanty, Amrita Pritam, and many more.
I have written about some of these books on my blog in the past and will talk about books from 5 regions of the the world here. I hope you will enjoy reading about this diversity in the post.
Intrigued? Pin it for later!
I think the first book that I read from this region would be the debut novel Things Fall Apart (published in 1958) by Chinua Achebe,(1930-2013) a Nigerian writer and poet who is bequeathed the sobriquet of being the central pillar of Modern African Literature. This book revolves around the pre-colonial life in Nigeria and the subsequent European invasion in the late 19th century. The entire culture stands at the brink of a change and the resistance of traditions against that change is the central theme of this plot. Though the book ends in a tragedy, I fell for the writing, topics and the issues surrounding this region. My diversity bookshelf recommends a few gems from this region like:
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Ghanaian-American)
- Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigerian)
- Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigerian)
- Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (Anglo-Nigerian)
The culture and traditions of the South-East Asian communities shares many similarities with the Indian culture. I have enjoyed discovering these parallels in the books from this region and can happily recommend the following:
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
- How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee
- The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
- The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Books from this region feel and smell familiar as we have adopted so many of the traditions; be it food, language or fashion from here. The adoption is so seamless that now its often hard to remember a time when they didn’t belong to us. One of my favorite authors from this region is Elif Shafak, who writes eloquent multi generational tales, all featuring women and traditions. A few literary gems that I would recommend from here are:
- Kite runner by Khalid Hosseini
- The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
- The Island of Missing Tress by ELif Shafak
- One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi
- Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
Japanese fiction can take a little getting used to and I am divided about how I feel about this one. The writing is very clinical, almost devoid of emotion and flowery imagery and follows logic above all. There is a liberal sprinkling of Japanese food, traditions and culture throughout the story which is what keeps me hooked in these books. Some of the books that I have read from and of this region are:
- The Water Child by Ellen Mcginty
- Before the Coffee gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
- Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
- The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
- The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
Spanish / Chilean / Mexican
This is one of the most eloquent genre in the diversity section and has the most romance even in war settings. The tale telling is beautiful as the people and culture possess immense passion and love for everything they do. Some of the most beautiful poetry is from this region. I love the exotic food recipes and almost gothic folk tales from here. Some of my favorite reads are:
- Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
- A long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende
- The Alchemist by Paulo Cohelo
- Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
I do have quite a few of the critically acclaimed books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez but try as I might, just haven’t been able to get hooked into these books so far.
Well that is it from me on diversity in my reading. What books do you have on your bookshelf that you would recommend to me from different regions of the world? I look forward to reading about a few recommendations in the comments below.
For the uninitiated, AtoZ challenge is a blogging challenge wherein one has to write on every alphabet from A to Z and post on all days of April, except Sundays. Usually its better to devise a theme as it makes it easy to write the posts. Plus readers have a reason to stay hooked too.