Challenge Accepted: Read Harder 2017
A new year means new year resolutions and challenges. One reading challenge that I love to do is Book Riot’s 2017 Read Harder challenge. Instead of having people focus on a specific number of books, "Read Harder" challenges people to read different genres or authors that they may overlook. This year, there are 24 prompts for readers, and a complete list may be found here on the Book Riot Goodreads page. Today, I'll address the fifth challenge, to read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. The books with (MG) after the title are middle-grade children’s books, but are enjoyable for older readers as well!
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
Ifemelu and Obinze are high school sweethearts living in Lagos and they seem to have the world in front of them. But Nigeria is under a military dictatorship and Ifem gets an opportunity to go to university in the United States. Adiche portrays the immigrant experience, specifically the African immigrant/ expat experience with the expert storytelling and gripping prose we’ve come to know over the past decade. Ifemelu is a fantastic heroine, and as the reader sees her grow into herself, it’s impossible to not cheer for her success and happiness.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Yaa Gyasi tells the multi-generational story of a family, unknowingly torn in half. We start with two half-sisters: Esi kidnapped and sold into slavery in America, while Essia is married off to a British slaver. Each chapter tells the story of a new generation and alternates between each side of the family, showing the devastating effects of slavery and the legacy of oppression. Gyasi emigrated from Ghana, and the love that she has for her country is clear in her writing: the horrors of colonization are brutal, but the landscape and its people are complex and beautiful.
Inside out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (MG)
Hà loves her life in Saigon, but she knows that the war is making life hard. Her mother is doing the best she can, but as food grows scarce and the Vietnam war escalates, Hà and her family flee from Saigon and arrive in Alabama. Told in verse, Hà’s insights are beautiful and evocative. We experience the cruelty of her classmates and from her teachers, even when they don’t mean to be. The prose also makes it difficult to put down; I ended up reading this book from start to finish in one sitting!
It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas (MG)
Set in the 1970’s, It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel tells the story of Zomorod, a sixth grader about to start a new school in a new town. Zomorod may only be in the sixth grade, but she’s moved around. A lot. Originally from Iran, when her family moves to Newport Beach, California, she decides to ditch her brainy nerd persona and reinvent herself as Cindy - adopted from the totally cool show The Brady Bunch. But as anti-Iranian sentiments start to appear on television and in her life, Cindy struggles with what it means to be an American.
Snow Hunters: A Novel by Paul Yoon
At the end of the Korean War, Yohan decides to defect and emigrate to Brazil instead of stay in North Korea. Life in Brazil is better, but lonely. Yohan longs to connect with the people in his life, but to fully embrace life in his new country means that he must face his past. Yoon captures the loneliness that immigrants can face coming to a new country, and does so with picturesque prose.
The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
Sepha has lived in Washington D.C. for the past seventeen years, ever since he fled the Ethiopian Revolution for a new beginning. However, his new beginning is incredibly lonely - all he has for company are a few other expats from African countries and the few customers that come into his grocery store. As his neighborhood, Logan Circle, starts to change, his new neighbors bring the hope that life in the U.S. doesn’t have to be so lonely after all.
Did you read something else for this challenge? Share it with us on Twitter by using #readharderdcpl!