I thought I would share some of my favourite books from around the world. I have reviewed some of them already, so if you’d like to check out the full reviews, click the links below.
Crossroads is a collection of autobiographical essays written by Ugandan women. They describe their lives and the difficulties they have encountered, discussing a broad selection of topics relating to both ‘Ugandan’ issues and universal ones – from sex, sexuality and gender roles to NGOs, torture and corporal punishment. The women, living in modern Uganda, insightfully describe Western influences versus traditional customs, exploring their benefits and drawbacks. A largely unknown book, Crossroads is perfect if you are interested in Ugandan life and stories about women’s coming-of-age.
It’s likely that you already know her story – the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for going to school. Malala’s memoir offers valuable context to her experience: her father ran the local girls’ school, so growing up, she had always been an eager student. As the Taliban gained influence in the Swat Valley and Pakistan as a whole, she increasingly became an international spokeswoman for girls’ rights to learn. Unlike many men in Pakistan, her father encouraged her wholeheartedly, despite fearing her safety all the time. This book is inspiring; I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in Malala’s story and what’s happening with the Taliban in Pakistan now.
Germany: The Book Thief – By Markus Zusak
The Book Thief is a book (and celebrated film) about Liesel Meminger, a young girl living in WW2 Germany. After her brother’s death, she goes to live with foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Whilst Hans becomes a father-figure, teaching her to read and encouraging her passion for writing, Rosa takes a sterner approach, but is nonetheless caring and protective over her foster daughter. Liesel becomes great friends with a local boy, Rudy, who falls in love with her. The girl gradually learns more about the war, realizing that the Nazis persecuted her parents for being Communists. Her devastating and sometimes extraordinary experiences shape her as a strong-minded, somewhat rebellious young woman. Like many people I know, I loved reading this book, and would recommend it for people looking for readable, relatable historical fiction.
United States: The Help – By Kathryn Stockett
The Help, set in the early 1960’s in Jackson, Mississippi, recounts the lives of three women: Skeeter Phelan, an aspiring writer, Aibileen, a caring, loving maid who is raising her 17th white child, and Minny, an angry, outspoken maid who is fired for giving her employer a piece of her mind. Skeeter decides to write a highly controversial book that accounts the lives of maids in Jackson, describing their female bosses, for better or for worse. Aibileen is the first of the maids to agree to tell her story to Skeeter, and helps her in the making of the book; she is the driving force in encouraging the other maids to write about their lives. Read The Help if you are interested in segregation in the South, but want to learn about it in an easy and accessible way.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is set in a remote area in Hunan province in nineteenth-century China. At seven years of age, a “so-so” girl named Lily is paired with a well-educated girl as a laotong, or “old same”, to be emotionally matched and friends for life. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a token of her hopes for their relationship in the future in the form of a silk fan. On the fan she writes a poetic greeting in nu shu, an exclusive, ancient language that Chinese women created to communicate in secret, away from the domination of men. Most girls at her age are part of sworn sisterhoods until marriage, but Lily and Snow Flower maintain a relationship for many years, sharing their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments through sending messages on the fan and composing stories on handkerchiefs. Both heart-warming and educational, this book is a must for people who like coming-of-age novels or historical fiction.
What are your favourite books from around the world?