Assignment for September 27, 2016:
Emerging World Literature Benchmark: Everyone reads Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao & Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah
Appeal to be read for September 2016 meeting: Focus on all the appeal factors, but really think about frame, character, and tone.
Please post your 3rdd title in this genre on our blog.
Handouts: Carr, David. “Getting Up to Speed in Literary Fiction.” NoveList Plus. 2016.
Latham, Bethany M. “Trends in Literary Fiction.” NoveList Plus 3/29/16
Saricks, Joyce, G. The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction. “Literary Fiction.” 2nd ed. ALA. 2009. pp.177-195
Please post Adrenaline Suspense: Lone Wolves; Thrillers: Spies, & Psychological Suspense second title choices on the RA RT Blog, as well as World Literature.
BLOG: Above under Submit 2nd Title Info.
EMERGING WORLD LITERATURE: SUGGESTIONS
This list is representative – not exhaustive.
Cisneros, Sandra. Caramelo. (2002) Mexico
Coetzee, J.M. Disgrace. (1999) South Africa
Danticat, Edwidge. The Farming of the Bones. (1998) Dom.Rep/Haiti
Desai, Kiran. The Inheritance of Loss. (2006) India/Himalayans
Farah, Nuruddin. Hiding in Plain Sight. (2014) Somalia
Jin, Ha. Waiting. (1999) China
Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Namesake. (2003) India
Mengestu, Dinaw. The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. (2006) Ethiopia
Mo Yan. Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out. (2008) China
Muller, Herta. The Appointment. (2001) Romania
Murakami, Haruki. Kafka on the Shore. (2005) Japan
Pamuk, Orhan. Snow. (2004) Turkey
Parkin, Gaile. Baking Cakes in Kigali. (2009) Rwanda
Umrigar, Thrity N. The Space Between Us. (2006) India
wa Thiong’o, Ngugi. Petals of Blood. (1997) Kenya
Yu Hua. Brothers. (2009) China
Six Suspects – Vikas Swarup
Appeal Factors: Complex plot, well drawn characters, beautifully drawn world
Six Suspects opens with a murder. Vicky Rai, a disreputable playboy from Uttar Pradesh, is having a party to celebrate getting off on a charge of murdering a bartender. In the middle of the party Rai is shot to death and, as the title of the book suggests, there are six suspects. Mohan Kumar, retired corrupt Chief Secretary for Uttar Pradesh who thinks he’s possessed by Mahatma Gandhi. A cell phone thief. The beautiful Bollywood actress, Shabnam Saxena. A native of the Andaman islands in search of a sacred relic. A dimwitted American who thinks he’s marrying Saxena. Finally, Jagannath Rai, Home Minister of Uttar Pradesh and Vicky Rai’s father.
Swarup slowly unwinds the lives and motives of the characters over the course of multiple chapters. These are very complex stories that seem to exist almost independently of the larger plot. For example the American starts out in Texas where he’s duped by spammers into providing a dowry for a woman he thinks he’s going to merry. To convince him they send him a picture of Shambnam Saxena. Mohan Kumar is accidentally possessed by the spirit of the Gandhi during a disrupted seance. He spends much of his time flipping back and forth between his own corrupt and venal persona and that of Gandhi.
The one thing the suspects all have in common is their connection to the seamy underbelly of Indian life. All the stories highlight the extreme corruption and poverty of India. The cell phone thief lives with his mother and adopted sister in a Hindu monastery. His sister was victim of the Union Carbide Bhopal Gas Disaster and is horribly deformed. Jagannath Rai is in the process of getting a police inspector transferred to the boondocks for arresting one of his henchmen for raping a woman.
By the book’s end you’ve almost forgotten about the death of Vicky Rai you are so caught up in the lives of the suspects themselves. This is an excellent book for anyone who likes complex and intertwining plots. It’s also an window on Indian life and culture from the very top of society to the very bottom.
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Appeal Factors: Pace: leisurely, compelling; Characters: authentic; complex; relatable; Story: character-driven; Language: compelling; gritty; lyrical; 1st person; Tone: moving; Dramatic; Haunting; Thought-provoking; Frame: 1970’s – 2000; Afghanistan, Pakistan, United States
The things we do or don’t do, can haunt us throughout our lives. Amir, a young Afghan boy, is wealthy, privileged, and lacking in confidence. He feels he is a disappointment to his glorious father and the cause of his mother’s death in childbirth. His best friend and servant Hassan is loyal, humble and courageous and possibly more favored by Baba, Amir’s father.
The day of Amir’s greatest triumph is also the worst day of his life, the day he did not defend his friend and the guilt from which drove them apart.
The drama of the relationships occurs in the violent climate of the fall of the monarchy and the rise of the Taliban.
This is a beautifully written novel with deeply involving characters and issues of class, caste and war. The conflict between priorities and personalities of father and son separate them. Their sins and their guilt make for parallel lives. The Kite Runner is a memorable story of growth and redemption.
Highly recommended. And why did it take me so long to read it?
Red flags: violence, cruelty
Yasmina Khadra – The Swallows of Kabul; Naomi Benaron – Running the Rift; The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya; Kamila Shamsie – Burnt Shadows; Simon – Pretty Birds; A. (Abraham) Verghese – Cutting for Stone; Chris Cleave – Little Bee.
Here Comes the Sun – Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn
Appeal Factors: FRAME—Place&Culture; CHARACTER TONE
Taking place in the 1990s as a drought begins, this very complex and atmospheric novel takes place on the island of Jamaica and is infused with the sounds, tastes, and sights of this Caribbean environment—both the beauty emphasized for the tourists who support the most of the island’s economy and the native Jamaicans, most of whom live in dire poverty. Foremost, this is a relationship story about a mother and her two daughters struggling with their day-to day existence. Delores sells what she makes to the tourists and has done whatever it takes to survive. Her oldest daughter Margot works as a prostitute by night and a hotel clerk by day and they both are supporting the youngest teenage daughter Thandi through private school as they pin all of their dreams on her to succeed. Delores does something to Margot when she is a child because she feels it will “fix” her—fearing that she may be sexually attracted to women—something culturally that is unacceptable and evil. This action shapes Margot and her subsequent choices. Identity, self-respect, class, social status, religion, sexual preference and practice, prostitution and the exploitation of the powerless and poor, poverty, corrupt government and the white subculture’s dominance are all themes that are deftly and soundly explored in character-driven, candid and dialect-filled prose. Margot tries to protect Thandi from sexual exploitation hoping that she will pull all of them up the social ladder when she becomes a doctor. Thandi longs to be an artist, falls in love with someone poorer than she is, and tried to find her identity as she struggles with skin whiteners and what others want for her. This is a striking debut and portrayal of a vibrant community where everyone is related and every action reverberates, and how shame can define you. There is no happy ending but there is closure of sorts for main characters who are not really easy to like. This would make for an interesting and enlightening book discussion. Good readalike for Jennine Capo Crucet’s Make Your Home Among Strangers (Indonesia) search for who defines us; Bharati Mukherjee’s Desirable Daughters (India) status of women and sexuality, and Chinelo Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees (Nigeria) poverty-stricken young woman pursues love affair in spite of cultural taboos.
RED FLAGS: Violence, overt graphic sexual exploitation; homosexuality; heavy dialect-driven dialogue
Make Your Home Among Strangers – Jennine Capo Crucet
Appeal Factors: Protagonist: a likable, reliable, and resilient narrator; underdog succeeds; coming-of-age novel
Lizet or “El” has dreams that extend beyond the boundaries of her Cuban-American neighborhood in Miami. Applying and getting accepted to Rawlings College, a prestigious liberal arts school in the Northeast puts her at odds with her family, her boyfriend, and even some in her community. To her surprise, at college she is called “Liz, the Cuban girl”, and she discovers during a mandatory orientation week meeting for “students of color” that only 20% of minority students will end up graduating. Although a straight-A student in high school, Lizet quickly finds Rawlings is much more challenging and she fears that she might be one of the diversity students who fails as she allows outside expectations to overshadow her ambitions and confidence. During school breaks, when Lizet returns home she discovers that nothing and everything has changed. She finds her mother has become deeply involved with other Miami-Cubans holding protests and vigils to keep a young boy in the U.S. after his mother drowned while attempting to cross over the ocean from Cuba. This is based on the 1999 real-life story of Elian Gonzalez. Her sister meanwhile is a struggling single parent, and expects Lizet will use her free time to take care of her son. Torn between cultures and loyalty to family and community, Lizet struggles to go beyond the expectations of others to discover who she is in this wonderful debut novel. The book holds your attention from beginning to end and although the story of coming into one’s own is universal, the additional dimension of growing up in two cultures and the ensuing personal struggles that brings adds to the appeal.