Happy World Book Day! I realize that World Book Day is more for…young children, but I liked the idea of it. In celebration, I’d like to recommend recognize some books by authors from around the world. Yeah, I’m hijacking this day.
Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih
This is a beautiful story that gives an immense sense of culture and place. A Sudanese man goes to study in the UK and sleeps with women because they are exotic. It turns out that women sleep with him for the same reason. After he returns back to his culture, he mourns his loss of cultural identity--being neither anymore from ‘here’ nor ‘there’.
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
I love Murakami and will take every opportunity to sing his praises. I’ve read many of his books, and Kafka on the Shore is one of my favorites. A boy, Kafka, runs away from home, has strange, subversive, and dark magical realism-ish adventures, and as you would expect, there are cats. Lots.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusack
Listen to the audiobook and you will not regret it. You may regret wearing mascara though. Set in WWII Germany, a compassionate (though not particularly soft) couple takes in young Liesel, and later on a Jewish man. As Liesel’s world begins to open up through a stubborn love of books, it is physically drawn smaller as the war marches onward.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Orphan Jane is abused by all whom she should be able to trust. After she is hired by Mr. Rochester to become a governess, she begins to unravel his secret and unconventional life, which wraps her up in its dark mysteries as well.
Happy Birthday or Whatever by Annie Choi
This is a hilarious memoir about balancing the expectations of your family’s culture with the culture that you live in. Annie is Korean-American and her conversations with her mom had me in tears. If bicultural identity isn’t the thing that has made North America the way it is, then I don’t know what to tell you. PS Here’s a fun interview with the author.
Don’t let the fact that this is a classic Brazilian novel published towards the end of the 19th Century scare you off. This isn’t one of those books that has a bazillion (a brazillion?) cultural references that you won’t be able to understand (I’m giving a stink eye at you, The Tale of Genji). Told from the first person perspective of Bento, he recounts his relationship with his lover from childhood up to old age. But as the story progresses, you realize that not everything is as it seems to be, and it finishes with a haunting question that not only drives Bento mad, but continues to plague Brazilians today: Did she do it?
Leave a comment and tell me some of your international favorites!