The Nepal Nexus
By Sudheer Sharma. Translated by Sanjaya Dhakal.
Publisher: Penguin Viking (2019)
The author, a seasoned journalist with an insider’s perspective on the inner workings of the Nepali government, as well on as the long Maoist insurgency, other popular uprisings, and the long state of emergency, examines two turbulent decades that shaped present-day Nepal. He stresses that the dire conditions of poverty and oppression sparking revolt also inspired the commitment to the country’s sociopolitical transformation. Presenting important figures from kings to rebels to current Nepali and Indian leaders, he analyzes their interactions and respective roles in what became a project of nation building.
“The author deserves congratulations for making this very insightful study accessible to a wider readership. […] The book is meticulously presented and makes fascinating reading.” (Raj Kumar Verma, South Asia Research)
Heremakhonon: A Novel
By Maryse Condé. Translated from the French by Richard Philcox.
Publisher: Lynne Rienner Publishers (1999; 1st edition: Three Continents, 1982; 1st French edition: 1976)
Maryse Condé, winner of the New Academy Prize in Literature (2018) and the Cino Del Duca World Prize (2021), began her prolific novel-writing career with this first-person narrative set in Guinea. She has explained that its title means “waiting for happiness” in the Mandinka language. Although she has insisted that Heremakhanon is the opposite of autobiography, her main character shares many of her own formative experiences: a Guadeloupean childhood, university studies in Paris, a teaching career, and a move to newly independent Guinea in search of roots and a sense of identity. The resemblance ends there, however. The fictional character’s introduction to life in Guinea proves sobering and fraught with tension as she is torn between her respect and affection for activist colleagues and students at the university and her social ties to Conakry’s privileged elite and ambivalent relationship with a high-ranking member of the government.
“Heremakhonon [… grapples with] a theme which has concerned writers and artists of the African Diaspora in important and interesting ways. Drawing upon her own experiences […] in Guinea, Condé’s novel complicates the well-known trope of locating an unproblematic homeland […] and urges her readers to reflect on the relationship between travel and empire ….” (Nandini Dhar, Words of Color)
The Argentina Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Edited by Gabriela Nouzeiles and Graciela Montaldo
Genre: Anthology (essays, memoir, primary documents, poetry, song, fiction, photography, maps)
Publisher: Duke University Press (2002)
ISBN-10: 0822328852, 082232914X,
ISBN-13: 978-0822328858, 978-0822329145
This book covers more than 200 years of Argentine history, from the country’s independence in 1810 through its relentless 20th-century tumult and crises. Once one of the richest nations in the world, it struggled with a failing economy and constant social tensions under Peronism and the period of terror under the military dictatorship, emerging in the 1980s with a renewed commitment to democracy but also with an urgent need to confront the daunting challenges of the new global economy.
Photographs, poems, and excerpts from writings never before translated into English cover the full variety and breadth of Argentine life, including often overlooked population groups (indigenous and Black Argentines, women, workers). Excerpts of texts by or about such major political figures as José de San Martín and Juan Perón are also included. Pieces from literary and social figures largely unknown in the United States appear alongside works by celebrated writers such as Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar.
“[It is] impossible to find a better introduction to the labyrinth, enigma, and delight that is Argentina, from the first sightings to the latest curses. Splendid and indispensable!” (Ariel Dorfman)
“[T]his collection subtly conveys the admirable and loathsome qualities of a complicated and in many ways unfathomable society.” (Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic)
In the Country of Others
By Leila Slimani. Translated by Sam Taylor.
Publisher: Penguin (2021; 1st French edition: 2020)
For this first volume of a planned Moroccan trilogy, Goncourt Prize-winning feminist writer Slimani draws on stories passed down in her own family to construct a convincingly realistic fictional world around themes of belonging, displacement, and the incomprehension inevitable in a community defined by social, cultural, and class divides. Her French-Moroccan grandparents, who lived as newlyweds and young parents in colonial Meknes, serve as models for the characters at the heart of the novel. “In a world whose rules she does not understand […], Mathilde goes from being reduced to a farmer's wife to defying the country's chauvinism and repressive social codes by offering medical services to the rural population. As tensions mount between the Moroccans and the French colonists, [her husband], Amine, finds himself caught in the crossfire: in solidarity with his Moroccan workers [… despite his position as] a landowner” (Publisher’s note).
“Mathilde’s journey in In the Country of Others is a rite of passage as much through language and motherhood as through war. In Sam Taylor’s seamless, poetic translation, Slimani masterfully captures these nuanced shifts [from French to Arabic to] the Berber that she picks up as a healer for local women, who ‘[…] shared with her their most intimate memories.’” (Meena Kandaswamy, New York Times, August 10, 2021)
“Between intimacy and the political, […] Slimani leaves no stone unturned: nationalism, religion, sexuality, feminism, agriculture. And the power of description of everyday life in 1950’s Morocco is captivating.” (Le Devoir [Montreal], April 4, 2020)
“An affecting tale of evolution and revolution.” (Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2021)
”Her willowy prose is dense with emotional depth and insight, and blunt observations elucidate every scene with force.” (Boston Globe, August 6, 2021)
Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe
By Doreen Baingana
Publisher: Harlem Moon (2006; 1st edition: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 2005)
"In her fiction debut, […] a powerful novel told through stories, Doreen Baingana follows a Ugandan girl as she navigates the uncertain terrain of adolescence to become a worldly but conflicted woman. Set mostly in pastoral Entebbe […], Tropical Fish depicts the reality of [a family’s] life […] after Idi Amin's dictatorship." (Publisher’s note)
“Baingana’s richly detailed stories are lush with cultural commentary.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Marks the debut of an unflinching, graceful new voice.” (David Anthony Durham, novelist)
“[Baingana’s] prose is rich in specifics unknown to most of us, but what is truly dazzling is the way this brilliance of detail mounts into rare, subtle, surprising drama.” (Joan Silber, novelist)
“Doreen Baingana shows mastery of language, a painter’s eye for detail, and a compassion so deep, I imagine her heart has no bottom.” (Reginald McKnight, novelist)
Winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in the Africa region
Finalist for the Caine Prize in African Writing
Voices of Jordan
By Rana F. Sweis
Publisher: Hurst & Co. (2019)
Rana Sweis, a widely published Jordanian journalist, conducted in-depth interviews with everyday people from across the country’s spectrum, from refugees to Jordanians from all walks of life. “With her deep knowledge of Jordan's landscape, language and culture, [she] sketches an intimate portrait of the intricacies and complexities of life in the Middle East. Rather than focusing on how individuals are affected by events in the region, she reveals a cast of characters shaping their own lives and times. Voices of Jordan shares those stories in all of their rich detail, offering a living, breathing social and political history” (Publisher’s note).
“A vivid, varied and revealing portrait of a country often ignored by Western media. All of the Arab world's pressures are here: unemployed youth, religious extremists, Syrian refugees, and a restive population competing to shape the future of Jordan.” (Deborah Amos, international correspondent for NPR)
“An exquisite mosaic of personal lives, social commentary, political insight, and historical context. Sweis has brought Jordan to life with deep sensitivity and a world-class journalist's penchant for nuance. The result is a true masterpiece of story-telling.” (Wendy Pearlman, author of We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria)
“A delight to read because of the sensitivity, sincerity and pure grace with which Sweis describes the character, lifestyle, dreams and disappointments of those she interviewed” (The Jordan Times)
The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself
By David Bushnell
Genre: Nonfiction; history
Publisher: University of California Press (1993)
This comprehensive history traces the process of state-building in Colombia from the 19th-century struggle for independence, territorial consolidation, and reform through its recent economic development and social and political democratization. Stressing how Colombia consistently defies modern Latin American stereotypes, it examines the country’s success in maintaining economic growth and democratic government, as well as its rich artistic and literary life, even amidst the turmoil of the cocaine wars and guerilla conflict in the late 20th century.
“One of the joys of reading this book is the frequent reference to everyday life….” (Marco Palacios, Journal of Latin American Studies)
The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Edited by Orin Starn, Robin Kirk, and Carlos Iván Degregori
Publisher: Duke University Press (2005)
ISBN-10: 0822336553, 0822336499
ISBN-13: 978-0822336556, 978-0822336495
This anthology draws from a vast array of sources to cover Peru’s history from pre-Columbian times to the 21st century: “essays, folklore, historical documents, poetry, songs, short stories, autobiographical accounts, and photographs. Works by contemporary Peruvian intellectuals and politicians appear alongside accounts of those whose voices are less often heard—peasants, street vendors, maids, Amazonian Indians, and African-Peruvians. Including some of the most insightful pieces of Western journalism and scholarship about Peru, the selections provide the traveler and specialist alike with a thorough introduction to the country’s astonishing past and challenging present” (Publisher’s note).
“[A] thoughtfully-chosen range of primary historical documents, anthropological and journalistic analyses, and literary endeavors. . . . The book is a compelling and convincing mix; there’s nothing else like it.” (Jessaca B. Leinaweaver, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology)
“A livelier, more literate introduction to a foreign world could not be hoped for. A Peruvian trove, indeed; so much that one hardly knows where to begin dipping into its treasures.” (Alma Guillermoprieto, author of Dancing with Cuba: A Memoir of the Revolution)
“This is an extremely deep, broad, and insightful collection on Peru.” (Jorge Castañeda, author of Utopia Unarmed: The Latin American Left after the Cold War and former Foreign Minister of Mexico)
My First Coup d’Etat: And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa
By John Dramani Mahama
Genre: Nonfiction, autobiography
Publisher: Bloomsbury (2012)
Ghanaian Vice-President Mahama was soon to become his country’s president when he published this intimate memoir of a childhood and youth marked by both great privilege and devastating loss during Ghana’s early decades of independence. His schoolboy’s world was suddenly upended when his father, a prominent government minister, was imprisoned following the 1966 coup that overthrew Ghana’s founding president, Kwame Nkrumah—an episode Mahama recalls as sparking his then seven-year-old self’s earliest stirrings of political and historical consciousness.
“… he intertwines memories and history, offering a political yet emotional perspective on the post-independence period […] after the heady days of success in overthrowing colonial powers. Mahama evokes fear, horror, and hope as he recalls a turbulent period in Ghana's history. (Booklist, July 1, 2012)
A wonderfully intimate look at the convulsive changes, and deep scarring, in post-colonial Africa.” (Kirkus Reviews, July 14, 2012)
”In fluid, unpretentious style, Mahama unspools Ghana's recent history via entertaining and enlightening personal anecdotes […]. As he writes: ‘The key to Africa's survival has always been... in the story of its people, the paradoxical simplicity and complexity of our lives.’” (Publishers Weekly, March 26, 2012)
"…he uses [the term “lost decade”] to describe the mammoth cultural changes that were taking place in Ghana as old tribal ways died out. [He] is at his best in describing this vanished world. He does so with the eye of a historian and the flair of a novelist.” (Melanie Kirkpatrick, The Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2012)
“In a collection of remarkable vignettes that blend a historian’s sensibility with a novelist’s prose, Mahama captures the evolution of that consciousness and, with it, glimpses of a nation’s recovered soul.” (James McAuley, Washington Post, August 17, 2012)
“A much welcome work of immense relevance” (Chinua Achebe)
So Long a Letter
By Mariama Bâ. Translated from the French by Modupé Bodé-Thomas.
Publisher: Heinemann (1981; 1st French-language edition: 1979); Waveland Press (2012)
ISBN-10: 1803289120, 0435905554
This brief novel is widely regarded as a classic work of African women’s literature. In the form of a long, intimate, journal-like letter, it addresses some of the challenges facing 20th-century Senegalese society: religious and patriarchal traditions at odds with modern life and everyday injustices and cruelty underpinned by unquestioned customs of polygamy and caste. In seclusion while observing the long ritual mourning period for the husband who betrayed her, a newly widowed teacher and mother writes to a close childhood friend, vividly reminiscing and—with a clear eye while she gives voice to both grief and anger-- comparing their life choices, marital troubles, crushing disappointments, and hopes for a better future.
"…the most deeply felt presentation of the female condition in African fiction" (Abiola Irele, Journal of African and Comparative Literature)
Winner of the 1980 Noma Award for Publishing in Africa
Unknown Sands: Journeys Around the World’s Most Isolated Country
By John W. Kropf
Genre: Nonfiction, travelogue
Publisher: Dusty Spark (2006)
Long thought of as a vast and fearsome desert virtually impenetrable by outsiders but now known for its vast wealth of natural gas reserves, Turkmenistan remains largely veiled in mystery. While working there as the Country Director for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the author resolves to lift that veil at least partially by exploring the country’s length and breadth. His very personal story of discovery includes accounts of Turkmenistan’s tumultuous and intriguing history along the ancient Silk Road to broaden the context of his eye-witness present-day profiles of the land and its people.
"Kropf's peek at this isolated corner of a shrinking world is a fascinating narrative bound to hook adventurers." (Publishers Weekly)
Bangkok Wakes to Rain: A Novel
By Pitchaya Sudbanthad
Publisher: Riverhead Books (2019)
ISBN-13: 978-0525534761, 978-0525534778
A house in the heart of rain-drenched Bangkok witnesses the yearnings, regrets, and hopes of generation after generation of its Thai and foreign inhabitants. Their interlocking stories set in the captivating, chaotic, and ever-changing city’s past, present, and future come together in a novel that makes for a “wildly imaginative, mesmerizing reading experience."
“Sudbanthad proves to be a generous author with a keen eye for unique characters, who expertly evokes a sense of place — his descriptions of Thailand are gorgeous; the reader feels transported there. Bangkok Wakes to Rain is well worth reading. It's a strong debut from an intelligent, self-assured author." (Michael Shaub, NPR)
“… we see a city racing to digitize itself, to transfigure people and objects into an incorporeal state beyond the water’s reach. It’s a vision oddly terrifying and ethereal, and another demonstration of this author’s extraordinary range, flowing gracefully from historical fiction to contemporary realism to science fiction.” (Ron Charles, The Washington Post)
“[Sudbanthad] creates a portrait of Bangkok that sweeps across a century and a teeming cast of characters yet shines with exquisite detail. […] This breathtakingly lovely novel is an accomplished debut, beautifully crafted and rich with history rendered in the most human terms.” (Kirkus Reviews, Dec. 1, 2018)
“Important, ambitious, and accomplished.” (Mohsin Hamid, author of Exit West)
Arresting God in Kathmandu: Stories
By Samrat Upadhyray
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin: Harper Perennial (2001); Mariner Books (Kindle edition 2014)
This collection of short stories focuses on the private realm of love and family through characters balancing lives bound by tradition while awakening to the call of modernization and change. In a city where gods are vividly omnipresent and where privacy is elusive and family defines identity, they search for both transcendence and connection, often finding themselves caught between the pull of their desires and the demands of their society.
“Upadhyay's polished, transfixing stories are set in his hometown of Kathmandu, and the particulars of that fabled city and Nepalese culture as a whole infuse each tale...” (Booklist Online)
“These beautiful stories -- about appearance and reality, vanity and compassion, and the temporal and the spiritual -- are full of tender grace, woven in words that are not only perfectly set like beads in a necklace but also flow smoothly from sentence to flawless sentence without a bump. They are immensely enjoyable and insightful....” (World Literature Today)
House of Snow: An Anthology of the Greatest Writing about Nepal
Edited by Ed Douglas, et al. Introduction by Ed Douglas. Foreword by Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Genre: Anthology of fiction and nonfiction
Publisher: Head of Zeus (2017)
After the devastating earthquake in April 2015, this collection of essays and literary works was conceived as a tribute to Nepal, its mountainous landscape, and the Nepali people’s cultural and artistic heritage. It brings together contributions from travelers, explorers, and mountaineers—some famous, others not; journalists, fiction writers, poets, and literary scholars—both western and Nepali.
“Even as destruction and difficulty run as an unbroken thread through the more than 500 pages of this extraordinary anthology, so too do immense courage and forbearance.” (Times Literary Supplement)
“If you want a book in English that tells you about Nepalese thinking, and gives a taste of the country's contemporary literature, you could hardly do better than House of Snow.” (Daily Telegraph)
“A well-curated sliver of works that highlight the richness and variety of Nepal's literary contribution” (Kathmandu Post) “House of Snow is the biggest, most comprehensive and most beautiful collection of writing about Nepal in print.” (“Five Great Books Set in Nepal,” tripfiction.com, May 31, 2020)
Homegoing: A Novel
By Yaa Gyasi
Genre: Anthology (short essays, primary documents, poems, speeches)
Publisher: Knopf (2016)
ISBN-13: 978-1101947135, 978-110197106
A New York Times 2016 Notable Book
An ALA Notable Book
NPR's Debut Novel of the Year
One of Time's Top 10 Novels of 2016
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
Tracing up to the present day two strikingly dissimilar branches of a family rooted in 18th -century West Africa, this novel has been hailed as both a Ghanaian and an African-American epic. Two half-sisters, born in different villages—one Fante, the other Asante--and unknown to each other, face cruelly divergent fates: one is abducted, endures the Middle Passage, and is enslaved on a plantation in the American South; the other weds a British colonial and enjoys a life of privilege. The lives of these foremothers determine those of their descendants: slavery, the Civil War, toil and struggle, the Great Migration, 20th-century Harlem for one family branch; for the other, comfort, education abroad, and positions of influence in both the British- administered Gold Coast and independent Ghana, but also migration, disconnection and loss.
"Homegoing is an inspiration." (Ta-Nehisi Coates)
"A sprawling epic, brimming with compassion” (NPR)
The Ghana Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Edited by Kwasi Konadu and Clifford C. Campbell
Genre: Anthology (short essays, primary documents, poems, speeches
Publisher: Knopf (2016)
ISBN-10: 0822359847 (hardcover); 0822359928 (pbks.); 082237496X (e-book)
ISBN-13: 978-082249845(hardcover); 978-0822359920 (pbks.); 9978082237 (e-book)
This edited volume draws from a wide range of texts--historical documents, poems, treaties, articles, and fiction--to present key moments from more than 500 years of Ghana’s history. Casting light on the many intersecting histories of the country’s development as a nation, the selections show clearly that the path to understanding Ghana requires acknowledging its ethnic and cultural diversity and listening to its population's varied voices.
"... The Ghana Reader's rare documents and publications are indispensable to the understanding of Ghana's historical, cultural, and political narrative.... The Ghana Reader is a treasure trove of information." (Kwaku Nti, Journal of Global South Studies)
"[A] wonderful introduction to Ghana and its people, stretching all the way back to prehistoric times.” (Nicolas van de Walle, Foreign Affairs)
"A celebration of the dynamism, complexity, and allure of Ghana. . . .” (Jacqueline Ignatova, African and Black Diaspora)
China in Ten Words
By Yu Hua. Translated by Allan Hepburn Barr
Genre: Nonfiction; essays; memoir
Publisher: Pantheon Books (2011)
Esteemed novelist and essayist Yu Hua examines ten common two-character words--people (人民), leader (领袖), reading (阅读), writing (写作), Lu Xun (鲁迅), revolution(革命), disparity (差距), grassroots (草根), copycat (山寨), bamboozle (忽悠)--as guideposts for exploring personal memories from half a century of life in a fast modernizing and globalizing China that nonetheless remains grounded in age-old tradition. An acute observer of his country and countrymen, he also explains how those words illuminate some fundamental defining traits and trends in Chinese society and culture writ large.
"...an outstanding set of essays on the general topic of why modern China is the way it is... Very much worth reading." (James Fallows, The Atlantic)
"Yu Hua has a fiction writer's nose for the perfect detail, the everyday stuff that conveys more understanding than a thousand Op-Eds.... Perhaps the most bewitching aspect of this book is how funny it is....” (Laura Miller, Salon)
Armenia’s Velvet Revolution: Authoritarian Decline and Civil Resistance in a Multipolar World
Edited by Anna Ohanyan and Laurence Broers
Publisher: I.B. Tauris (2021)
ISBN-10: 1788317173, 788317181
ISBN-13: 978-788317177, 978-88317184
This volume of articles examines Armenia’s April 2018 popular uprising against corruption and ineffective government, which culminated, counter to most expectations, in the peaceful overthrow and replacement of the prime minister and continuing impassioned commitment to further reform. The diverse approaches and perspectives of the contributors anchor an unusually full review of the context and likely future repercussions of the landmark event.
“This is the definitive history of Armenia's Velvet Revolution. The volume provides context, analysis, and nuance regarding Armenia's impressive show of people power in 2018, and prospects for longer-term transformation. Kudos to the editors and authors of this masterful collection.” (Erica Chenoweth, Harvard University)
Paper Mountains: An Armenian Diary
By Jonathan Maiullo
Genre: Nonfiction; diaries
Publisher: Gomidas Institute (2016)
The author shares the diaries he kept during the two years (2008-2010) he spent teaching English as a Peace Corps Volunteer in provincial Armenia. Determined to see and learn everything he could about the land, society, and culture, he explored the country, often on foot, whenever he could. Numerous online reader reviews praise his sensitive, culturally attuned way of looking into everyday Armenian life and the subtlety and elegance of his writing.
The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution
By C.L.R. James
Genre: Nonfiction; history
Publisher: Random House/Vintage (1989: 2nd Edition Revised; 1st edition: 1938)
A groundbreaking account of the Haitian Revolution of 1794-1803, this classic study tells how Toussaint L’Ouverture led the enslaved people of the French colony of Saint-Domingue (San Domingo} in a successful struggle against successive invasions by overwhelming French, Spanish, and English forces and in the process helped form the first independent nation in the Caribbean.
“Contains some of the finest and most deeply felt polemical writing against slavery and racism ever to be published.” (Time Out)
The Feast of the Goat
By Mario Vargas Llosa. Trans. By Edith Grossman.
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (2001; 1st Spanish-language edition: 2000))
ISBN-10: 0312420277, 0374154767
Through interlocking storylines, this novel draws from documented events in 20th -century Dominican history to delve into the mind of the ailing dictator Rafael Trujillo at the end of his life. Conveying a visceral sense of the terror through which his regime ruled, it depicts the cruel complicity of his loyal henchmen and explores the thoughts of opponents plotting to bring that rule to an end. An invented character, the daughter of one of those henchmen, herself a child victim of the terror and now an attorney in the US, returns decades after fleeing the country as a teenager. Through her inside-outside lens and memories, readers gain access to an understanding, at once shocking and nuanced, of the lived experience of the dictatorship and, years later, its lingering shadows.
“This is an ambitious novel, as sure-footed as it is graphic in integrating the private aspects of daily life in the [Trujillo dictatorship] years with the public, or hypothetical motives with real events.” (The Guardian)
"A fierce, edgy and enthralling book ... Mr. Vargas Llosa has pushed the boundaries of the traditional historical novel, and in doing so has written a book of harrowing power and lasting resonance." (The New York Times)
A “masterpiece of Latin American and world literature, and one of the finest political novels ever written” (Bookforum)
By Abdulrazak Gurnah
Publisher: The New Press (2022; 1st Edition 1994)
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize (1994), Shortlisted for the Whitbread Award (1994)
Awarding Gurnah the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature, the Nobel Prize Committee called Paradise his “breakthrough” achievement. The novel tells the story of a wide-eyed small-town boy as he leaves his childhood behind when, as payment for his father’s debts, he is sent to work as a servant to a wealthy merchant. Caught up in a complex, often corrupt world he could never have imagined, he witnesses events marked by violence and incompetence, all symptomatic of the plight of colonial East Africa on the eve of World War I.
"[Gurnah’s novels] recoil from stereotypical descriptions and open our gaze to a culturally diversified East Africa unfamiliar to many in other parts of the world." (Committee for Literature, Swedish Academy)
“An evocative portrait of Africa on the brink of change. . . . A poignant meditation on the nature of freedom and the loss of innocence, for both a single sensitive boy and an entire continent.” (The New York Times Book Review)
“Gurnah masterfully interweaves Yusuf’s story with the larger historical forces transforming the continent, all in a lush, seductive language that revels in its powers of storytelling.” (Los Angeles Times)
“A fascinating coming-of-age story and an indictment of the European colonization of Africa, with side ventures into African social and religious dynamics . . . warmly recommended.” (Library Journal)
The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Edited by Sinclair Thomson, Rossana Barragán, Xavier Albó, Seemin Qayum, Mark Goodale
Publisher: Duke University Press
ISBN-13: 978-0-8223-7152-6 (Pbk.), 978-0-8223-7135-9 (Hardcover)
This edited volume of texts--drawn from fiction, poetry, memoir, primary government documents, journalism, and political speech-making--offers a multifaceted view of Bolivia that challenges long-held assumptions and stereotypes and contributes to a nuanced understanding of the country's complex history and people. The source documents, many published for the first time in English, cover centuries of Bolivian history, from the reign of the Inca to the Spanish conquest and empire building, and then to the challenges of independence and the struggles of nation building, including the important role of indigenous peoples’ activism in making the country what it is today.
“...[U]ntil now, no single book [has] offered a compelling and comprehensive overview of the forces that have shaped the country into the twenty-first century. The Bolivia Reader performs this difficult task splendidly.” (Kevin A. Young, The Historian)
“The editors have selected an exceptionally rich range of perspectives from before the Spanish conquest to the era of Evo Morales, from right and left, elite and popular, society and politics, literature and art. Their magisterial commentaries will assist all—newcomer and specialist alike—through the spellbinding Bolivian experience.” (James Dunkerley, author of Rebellion in the Veins: Political Struggle in Bolivia, 1952–1982)
The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine
By Serhii Plokhy
Genre: Nonfiction, history
Publisher: Basic Books (2021: Revised edition; 1st Edition: 2015)
ISBN-13: 978-1541675643 (Pbk.)
For centuries a meeting place of diverse peoples, cultures, religions, and armies, Ukraine has long served as a borderland, a gateway to both East and West. Covering the land’s history from the time of the ancient Slavs to today’s embattled sovereign nation state, award-winning historian Plokhy enlivens his narrative with portraits of key historical figures through the centuries.
"An exemplary account of Europe's least-known large country" (Wall Street Journal)
“No one can understand today’s sad, tangled confrontation over Ukraine without some knowledge of the complex, crosscutting influences that have shaped eastern Europe over the millennia. For that history, readers can find no better place to turn than Plokhy’s new book. [...] Plokhy demonstrates a remarkable ability to untwist the dozens of trends, forces, and players marauding across this land and to take their measure in clear, compact segments. Ukraine’s history has always been contested, and never more intensely than now. Plokhy navigates the subject with grace and aplomb.” (Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs)
“Complex and nuanced, refreshingly revisionist and lucid, this is a compelling and outstanding short history of the blood-soaked land that has so often been the battlefield and breadbasket of Europe.” (Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar)
"This is present-minded history at its most urgent. Anyone wanting to understand why Russia and the West confront each other over the future of Ukraine will want to read Serhii Plokhy's reasoned, measured yet passionate account of Ukraine's historic role at the gates of Europe." (Michael Ignatieff, Harvard Kennedy School of Government)
"For a comprehensive, engaging, and up-to-date history of Ukraine one could do no better than Serhii Plokhy's aptly titled The Gates of Europe. Plokhy's authoritative study will be of great value to scholars, students, policy-makers, and the informed public alike in making sense of the contemporary Ukrainian imbroglio." (Norman M. Naimark, Stanford University)
By Andrey Kurkov. Trans. by Boris Dralyuk.
Publisher: Deep Vellum Publishing (2022; 1st Russian-language edition: 2018; 1st English edition: MacLehose Press [London] 2020)
In an otherwise abandoned village in the Donbas region’s neutral “Grey Zone” separating Ukraine’s defense forces from separatists and Russian soldiers holding the breakaway territory to the east, one of the two remaining residents, a retiree-turned-beekeeper, goes about living his largely apolitical daily life, often appreciating his bees more than his fellow humans. Long accustomed to the background sounds of bombs and gunfire, he almost takes them in stride. His bees, however, need a more peaceful atmosphere for their springtime pollen collecting, so he ventures out for his hives’ sake. As he wanders in both directions beyond the battle lines, he encounters separatists and loyalists, fighters and peace-seekers, often disarming them with his simplicity and kindness. He also makes a Crimean Tatar friend.
“Grey Bees is as timely as the author’s Ukraine Diaries were in 2014, but treats the unfolding crisis in a more imaginative way, with a pinch of Kurkov’s signature humour. Who better than Ukraine’s most famous novelist to illuminate and present a balanced portrait of this most bewildering of modern conflicts.” (Dublin Literary Award 2022 Longlist)
"Strange and mesmerizing . . . In spare prose, Ukraine's most famous novelist unsparingly examines the inhuman confusions of our modern times and the longing of the warm-hearted everyman that is Sergeyich for the rationality of the natural world." (John Thornhill, Financial Times)
"Sergey is at once a war-weary adventurer and a fairy-tale innocent . . . His naive gaze allows Kurkov to get to the heart of a country bewildered by crisis and war, but where kindness can still be found . . . Translated by Boris Dralyuk with sensitivity and ingenuity." (Uilleam Blacker, Times Literary Supplement)
“...a wistful elegy for a nation being slowly torn apart” (Publishers Weekly, February 7, 2022)
Music of the Ghosts
By Vaddey Ratner
Publisher: Touchstone (2017)
ISBN-10: 1476795789, 1476795797
ISBN-13: 978-1476795782, 978-476795799, 978-1476795805
Returning to Phnom Penh many years after fleeing Cambodia as a child, Teera traces links to her father, whose arrest and disappearance into a Khmer Rouge prison has always haunted her. Along the way, she comes to see her former home as a place where victims and perpetrators live together in the shadow of their tragic past, but also as a land where beauty, hope, and forgiveness hold the promise of renewal.
“This tenaciously melodic novel explores art and war as an orphaned Cambodian refugee travels from her new home in Minneapolis to the Buddhist temple where her father was raised by monks, hoping against hope that he is still alive. The author discerns the poetic even in brutal landscapes and histories.” (New York Times)
“As the title suggests, the songs and stories of ghosts fill the pages of this novel. Ratner, who lived through the rule of the Khmer Rouge herself, weaves a moving tale of hope and heartbreak that will accompany readers long after they finish the last page.” (Publishers Weekly, February 6, 2017)
“Music of the Ghosts is a moving and often gripping exploration of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime and its aftermath. Ratner relentlessly shows the devastating impact of traumatic history on families and the nation, but leaves us with a carefully measured hope for insight and renewal.” (Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer and winner of the Pulitzer Prize)
The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History
By Aida Edemariam
Genre: Biography; history; oral history; memoir
Publisher: Harper (2018; Originally published in Great Britain in 2018 by Fourth Estate)
ISBN-10: 062136038, 0008191751
ISBN-13: 978-0062136039, 978-08191757
Winner of the Ondaatje Prize, the Royal Society of Literature’s annual award to a work that best evokes “the spirit of a place” (2018).
Spanning almost one hundred years, the life of the author’s grandmother intersects with many of the most momentous events of 20th -century Ethiopian history. After a timeless-feeling childhood in Gondar, marked above all by tradition, festivals, and rituals (including marriage at the age of eight to a politically engaged priest-poet), she becomes a courageous and determined wife and mother, a widow, and a powerful storyteller while living through the Italian invasion and occupation, the restoration and eventual end of the Ethiopian Empire under Haile Selassie, revolution, and civil war.
“What brings this narrative flaring to life[...] is [...] its imagination and novelistic tone; Edemariam’s prose climbs inside Yetemegnu’s memories to inhabit them and bring her solidly, vividly, to life.” (The Guardian)
“... pulses spectacularly with heart and soul, vividly depicting one inimitable woman centred within the swirling winds of politics, religion, patriotism and change.” (Sabrina Mahfouz, British-Egyptian poet and playwright; Ondaatje Prize judge)
The Shadow King: A Novel
By Maaza Mengiste
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (2019)
ISBN-10: 039308356X, 03933585
ISBN-13: 978-0393083569, 978-0393358513
Shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize
A New York Times Editors’ Choice
Amid domestic tensions in the household of a tyrannical master and mercurial mistress, an orphaned servant-girl quietly contrives private acts of revolt, eventually gaining the strength of character and courage to join the Ethiopian resistance to Mussolini’s invasion and occupation (1935-36), first as a field nurse, then as a woman warrior inspiring others to take up arms, and finally surviving as a prisoner of war.
“[T]he reader feels [...] in the steady hands of a master. ... [A]ll this grandeur, all this grace, is in the service of a tale of a woman, Hirut, as indelible and compelling a hero as any I’ve read in years. This novel made me feel pity and fear, and more times than is reasonable, gave me goose bumps.” (Namwali Serpell, author of The Old Drift, in The New York Tines Book Review, October 13, 2019)
“A memorable portrait of a people at war—a war that has long demanded recounting from an Ethiopian point of view.” (Kirkus)
“The importance of memory — of those that came before us, and of things we'd rather forget — is at the heart of The Shadow King, [...] a sprawling, unforgettable epic from an immensely talented author who's unafraid to take risks. [...] The star of the novel [...] is Mengiste's gorgeous writing, which makes 'The Shadow King' nearly impossible to put down.” (Michael Schaub, NPR)
My Uncle Napoleon: A Novel
by Iraj Pezeshkzad [Īraj Pizishkzād]. Translated by Dick Davis.
Publisher: Mage Publishers (2014; 1st Edition 1996; 1st Persian-language edition: 1973); Random House/Modern Library: Introduced by Azar Nafisi with an Afterword by the author (2006)
ISBN-10: 0-934211-48-5 (Hardcover), 0-8129-7443-3 (Pbk.)
Set during the Allied occupation of Iran during World War II and narrated by a lovelorn young man living among a vast cast of eccentric relations under the roof of the family’s tyrannical and increasingly unmoored patriarch, who also happens to be the father of the narrator’s beloved, My Uncle Napoleon is considered one of the most popular and influential pieces of 20th -century Persian literature. In 1976, a multi-episode series based on the novel became a runaway hit on Iranian television. Banned after the Revolution, both the novel and its adaptation remain underground favorites.
“Let us imagine we are in the process of creating a much-needed reading list for experts and analysts on Iran. I would put My Uncle Napoleon in a cherished place very near the top. One reason for this choice is that it is a great read. More pragmatically, I believe this novel provides its readers - in a delightful and deliciously politically incorrect manner - with many important insights into Iran, its culture and traditions, its present conflicts and past history, as well as its paradoxical relation to the west.” (Azar Nafisi, The Guardian)
“A masterpiece of contemporary world fiction” (Baltimore Sun)
“a love story enfolded in a bildungsroman and wrapped in a conspiracy theory” (Christopher Hitchens, quoted in the AP’s obituary of Pezeshkzad, January 14, 2022)
“... one of Iran’s great literary figures – Iraj Pezeshkzad – whose subtle yet powerful satire is an enduring window onto Iranian culture,” (Simon Shercliff, UK Ambassador to Iran, Tribute on Twitter, January 2022)
Iran: A Modern History
by Abbas Amanat
Genre: Nonfiction; history
Publisher: Yale University Press (2017)
ISBN-10: 0300231466, 0300112548
ISBN-13: 978-300231465, 978-0300112542
This richly documented history of Iran from the 16th-century Safavid Empire to today’s Islamic Republic looks at the country both chronologically and thematically, paying special attention to the 20th century, political history, and to developments that contribute to our understanding of today’s Iran and its place in the world.
“A meticulously researched account of the past 500 years of Iranian history, beginning with the rise of the Safavid dynasty and the entrenchment of Shia Islam and its clerical establishment into the Persian ruling classes. Amanat spent two decades writing his book, not only tracing historical tales of political intrigue but also delving into Iran’s shifting position in imperial geopolitics. In so doing, he attempts to draw meaning from this history by looking for parallels between Persia’s unstable Safavid past and Iran’s current theocratic regime.” (Nazanine Hozar, “Top 10 Books about Iran” The Guardian, May 13, 2020)
"The defiant spirit of [Iran] is brought to life in this monumental history of the past 500 years." (Richard Spencer, The Times [London])
"A majestic work that goes a long way in unraveling . . . the country's enigmas and apparent contradictions." (Ervand Abrahamian, New York Review of Books)
Letters from Burma
By Aung San Suu Kyi
Genre: Nonfiction; essays; correspondence
Publisher: Penguin (1997; 2010)
Following her release from house arrest, the winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize wrote these 52 short essays in the form of letters from late 1995 through 1996, at the height of a heroic period in her long resistance to Myanmar’s oppressive rule by military junta. Reissued the year of another release from extended detention, at a time of growing, albeit fleeting, optimism and belief in the spirit of reconciliation, the collection reflects her determination to reveal the cruel impact of that rule on the traditions and daily lives of the Burmese people and to propose pathways to a better future.
A Savage Dreamland: Journeys in Burma
By David Eimer
Genre: Nonfiction; travel writing; history
Publisher: Bloomsbury (2019)
ISBN-10: 1408883813, 1408883880, 1408883872
ISBN-13: 978-1408883815, 978-1408883860, 978-1408883877, 978-108883884
Journalist Eimer, formerly the China correspondent and the Southeast Asia correspondent for major British newspapers, travels the length and breadth of Myanmar, seeking to dispel lingering colonially tinged assumptions about Burma/Myanmar by focusing on the voices of the country’s people. Within a rich historical context, he creates a mosaic-like view of a still mysterious land by sharing the stories of local people from all walks of life: rural and urban, members of diverse religions and ethnicities, the wealthy and privileged as well as the desperately poor.
“Eimer is a meticulous, fair-minded and empathetic observer, he takes interest in people of all kinds and from all walks of life, and is adventurous and curious enough to go off the beaten track. [...} One probably cannot understand Myanmar without going there, but Eimer’s book may be one of the best alternatives.” (Peter Gordon, Asian Review of Books, July 9, 2019)
“Eimer's journey takes him to all these trouble spots, including many not reported in the West. It's a remarkable achievement because most are off limits to tourists and especially westerners ... The result of Eimer's intrepid endeavours is a revelatory and moving book, enriched by vivid descriptive colour and an incredible cast of characters” (James Holland, The Times) "A descriptive look at a struggling country that squeezed itself into democracy after half a century of military rule ... Eimer gives Burma a voice by letting her people tell their stories." (San Francisco Book Review)
Still Waters in Niger
By Kathleen Hill
Publisher: TriQuarterly Books (2002; 1st edition: 1999)
A New York Times Notable Book for 1999
Best Fiction of 1999, the Los Angeles Times Book Review
Finalist for the Dublin IMPAC Literary Award (1998)
The American narrator of this semi-autobiographical novel once lived with her young family in Niger, where her husband was doing academic research in Zinder. Years later, she returns there to visit a daughter, now grown and working at a clinic in the small provincial town of Matameye. Sharing her daughter’s daily routine of medical rounds and time spent with women friends, she pieces together memories of her life two decades before in nearby Zinder and gradually gains a new, deeper understanding of the country’s people and their place in the harsh landscape of the Sahel.
“Although modest in plot, it is abundant in understanding.” (Los Angeles Times)
“A beautiful book, with great lyric power and emotional resonance. In combining her passion for her daughter with her passion for experience and to know the world, Kathleen Hill makes a great contribution to our store of information about how women live. I am full of admiration for this small miracle.” (Mary Gordon, novelist, memoirist, critic)
“… a novel of fine social and cross-cultural observation.” (Robert Coles, child psychiatrist, author)
Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Woman’s Letter to Her Son
By Homeira Qaderi, translated from the Persian by Zaman Stanizai
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins Publishers (2020)
An accomplished author, professor, and government advisor, Qaderi writes the story of her life, addressing it to her beloved son, who as a toddler was taken from her when she divorced. Her dearest hope is that he will come to know her more fully by understanding their country’s tumultuous history—Soviet occupation, Taliban rule, American invasion—which indelibly marked her childhood and early adulthood. As a teenager—and, surprisingly, with the blessing of her parents--she defied Taliban orders by holding clandestine classes for children deprived of formal schooling. A passionate storyteller even as a small child, she was determined to become a published writer—a goal encouraged by her proud father—and succeeded. Chafing at the strictures of traditional Afghan society, she fought for her education and independence and now fights for the rights of Afghanistan’s women and girls.
“Dancing in the Mosque is heartbreaking, but it’s also alive with curiosity and subversive joy.” (The New York Times)
By Duanwad Pimwana [Dư̄anwāt Phimwanā]; translated from the Thai by Mui Poopoksakul
Publisher: The Feminist Press (2019)
ISBN-10: 978-1936932563; 978-1936932566
Thirteen short stories, originally published in Thai between 1995 and 2014, show villagers, prostitutes, and everyday urban workers coming to terms with the incompatibility between their aspirations and dreams and their drudgery-filled lives. According to the publisher, “With curious wit, this collection offers revelatory insight and subtle critique, exploring class, gender, and disenchantment in a changing country.”
A social realist exploration from Thailand's preeminent contemporary woman writer: “each of her stories poses its own moral challenge, pleasurable and unsettling at once.” (NPR.org)
A Girl is a Body of Water
By Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Publisher: Tin House Books (2020)
Raised by the community of women in her tiny village, thirteen-year-old Kirabo yearns to learn about her absent mother. Hoping to discover the hidden truth about her mother’s life, she sets out on a village-wide campaign of questioning and story sharing, even seeking out the company of a knowledgeable witch. In the process, she gains not only a sense of the enigma shrouding her birth but also a new understanding of her changing inner self as she approaches womanhood.
“Makumbi’s prose is irresistible and poignant, with remarkable wit, heart and charm―poetic and nuanced, brilliant and sly, openhearted and cunning, balancing discordant truths in wise ruminations.” (The New York Times Book Review)
By Thomas Mofolo. Translated from the Sethoto by Daniel P. (Mazisi) Kunene
Publisher: Waveland Press, Inc. (2013 ©1981); First Sethoto edition: 1925
This is a mythic, novelized retelling of the rise and tragic fall of the great Shaka Zulu (1787-1828), also called uShaka (Zulu) or Chaka (Sesotho), king of the Zulus.
Named one of the twelve best works of African literature of the 20th century at the 2002 Zimbabwe International Book Fair.
The River and the Source
By Margaret A. Ogala
Publisher: Focus Books (Nairobi; 1st edition: 1994)
This epic tale of three generations of Luo women takes the reader from a nineteenth-century rural village in Western Kenya to the end of the 20th century in modern-day Nairobi. Drawing upon their ancestral legacy of courage and reserve, the descendants of family matriarch Akoko confront daunting social and cultural upheavals, from the coming of Catholicism to the AIDS crisis.
Winner of the Jomo Kenyatta Literature Prize (1995) and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book in the Africa Region (1995).
A required text on the Kenyan national secondary school syllabus.
The Ecuador Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Series: Latin American Readers)
By Carlos De La Torre and Steve Striffler
Genre: Anthology (primary sources, essays, interviews, poetry, fiction, recipes, etc.; illustrations)
Publisher: Duke University Press (2009; 1st printed 2008)
ISBN: 978-0-8223-4374-5 (Paper); 978-0-8223-4352-3 (Cloth)
Examining Ecuador’s history, culture, and politics from many different perspectives, this anthology addresses colonialism, independence, the nation's integration into the world economy, and its tumultuous twentieth century. The voices and creations of Ecuadorian politicians, writers, artists, crafts people, scholars, activists, and journalists fill the Reader. Complementing selections by Ecuadorians, many published here for the first time in English, are samples of some of the best writing on Ecuador by foreign authors, including an account of how an indigenous group with non-Inca origins came to see themselves as definitively Incan and an exploration of the timeless fascination exerted by the Andes.
Haiti: The Aftershocks of History
By Laurent Dubois
Publisher: Henry Holt (1st edition: 2012)
ISBN: 978-0805093353; 0805093354; 978-1250002365; 1250002362
Maligned and misunderstood, Haiti has long been blamed for its own wretchedness. Unfairly so. As the author, a historian who has written extensively on the Haitian revolution, demonstrates, Haiti's troubles owe more to a legacy of international punishment for the original sin of staging the only successful slave revolt in the world. He vividly depicts the isolation and impoverishment that followed the 1804 rebellion: the crushing indemnities imposed by the former French rulers, which initiated a cycle of debt; the multiple interventions and twenty years of occupation by the U.S. armed forces; and the internal divisions and political chaos that are the inevitable consequences of centuries of subversion. At the same time, he also explores Haiti's overlooked successes, showing how its revolution inspired a resilient culture insistent on autonomy and equality. Revealing what lies behind the familiar shorthand description of Haiti as "the poorest nation in the western hemisphere," Laurent also points to the foundations on which Haiti might strive to build a more just, democratic, and hopeful future.
“Readers will welcome further work by this major historian of this ‘small country but big nation.’ Summing Up: Essential.” (Choice, July 1, 2012)
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
By Katherine Boo
Genre: Narrative nonfiction
Publisher: Random House (First edition: 2012)
ISBN: 978-1400067558 (hardback); 1400067553 (hardback); 978-0812994186 (paperback); 9780812979329 (paperback)
This award-winning book vividly introduces readers to a community whose daily life gives human shape to a bewildering age of global change and inequality, telling the dramatic story of families striving for a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport.
As India starts to prosper in the early years of the century, the Annawadi’s begin conceiving of a hopeful future for themselves. Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees "a fortune beyond counting" to be made by recycling garbage. Ambitious Asha sets her sights on the chance her beautiful daughter, known as Annawadi's "most-everything girl," will become its first female college graduate. Even the poorest children have started to believe their dreams might one day come true. Then Abdul is falsely accused of shocking crime; terror and global recession rock the city; and tensions over religion, caste, money, sex, and power, rise to the surface.
The product of years of uncompromising, insightful reporting, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, presents an overlooked, largely hidden world inhabited by unforgettable characters.
“A tour de force of social justice reportage and a literary masterpiece.” (Judges, PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award)
Winner of: The PEN Nonfiction Award, The National Book Award, The Los Angeles Book Prize, The American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, The New York Public Library's Helen Bernstein Book Award.
Moving with the Seasons: Portrait of a Mongolian Family
By Norma and Dorothy Kehmeier
Genre: Nonfiction, photographic essay
Publisher: Saltwind Press (2014)
Language: English; captions also in Mongolian; additional text in Russian
This stunning book documents a way of life that is under tremendous pressure to change, blending ancient practices surviving since the time of Genghis Khan with elements of the modern world. Carter's experience living with a single family over the course of a year reveals the unique culture of Mongolian nomads and their capacity to thrive in one of the world's harshest environments. The family's willingness to share the ancient yearly cycle of their life on the steppe enables the author-photographer to create an unusually intimate portrait.
“I thought I already knew a good deal about [Mongolia], but this book taught me so much more. It gave the distant nation and little-known culture a face and heart. […] It was an effortless read; uplifting even when through tears. If your library has no other book on Mongolia, this should be this one.” (Randall K. Barry, acquisitions librarian for Mongolian materials, Library of Congress, Washington, DC)
"This beautifully illustrated and well-researched story is a tribute to the life of a typical Mongolian herding family. We are given a glimpse into just how close many people live to the edge of survival. Their environment is becoming harsher with the impacts of climate change—raising the question of much longer they can remain nomadic herders. This book is timely and important. " (Clyde E. Goulden, Ph.D. Director, Institute for Mongolian Biodiversity and Ecological Studies, Academy of Natural Sciences)
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders
By Daniyal Mueenuddin
Publisher: W. W. Norton (2009)
Ranging from the grand interiors of Lahore’s privileged to a rural estate in Punjab province, and from modernity to a place of seemingly timeless feudalism, interlocking stories explore the lives and worlds of an aging landowner, his extended family, servants, managers, and the peasants working his land.
“In his gracious stories, Mueenuddin ponders that imperative of Pakistan, asking whether a home can be made among a people and place so splintered by change.” (The Boston Globe)
“If one of the aims of fiction is to create empathy with those outside one’s ken, Daniyal Mueenuddin’s short stories score a bull’s eye. Each room in this world is worth lingering in.” (The Indian Express)
Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book – Eurasia (2010)>
Winner of the Story Prize (2009), Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize (2010) and the National Book Award (2010)
Short-listed for the Ondaatje Prize (2010)
Three Apples Fell from the Sky
By Narine Abgaryan, translated by Lisa C. Hayden
Publisher: Oneworld (2020; Russian original: 2015)
Tucked away in their mountain village and connected only precariously to the modern world, the aging villagers of tiny Maran go about their daily lives following the routines and traditions observed in remote Armenian villages for centuries. Against this timeless background of practices and beliefs rooted in age-old legends and proverbs, one character’s sudden premonition of death, an unlikely marriage proposal, and the arrival of children and grandchildren visiting from a city in the distant “North” bring a sudden jolt to Maran’s unchanging rhythms, enlivening the villagers’ gossip and perhaps even giving them unexpected reasons to believe in their future.
“Highly-engaging… The loose-lipped characters […] offer a snapshot of the region’s unfaltering fondness for storytelling.” (The Calvert Journal)
“Abgaryan impresses with finely phrased descriptions of daily activities and homes with ‘chimneys that clung to the hem of the sky,’ and indelible details of complex, humble characters. This magical tale transcends familiar mystical tropes with its fresh reimagining of Armenian folklore.” (Publishers Weekly)
Yasnaya Polyana Award (2016)
Yak Girl: Growing Up in the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal
By Dorje Dolma
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Sentient Publications; 1st edition (January 7, 2018)
This unusual memoir immerses the reader in the fascinating story of a spirited girl in a remote, undeveloped region of Nepal near the border of Tibet. Life above 13,000 feet in northern Dolpo―often called the last paradise because of its breathtaking snow-capped peaks, untouched beauty, and hand-irrigated green pastures―was one of constant risk and harsh survival. In the 1980s, Dolpo had no running water, electricity, motor vehicles, phones, school, or doctors, other than the local lamas trained in the use of herbs and prayer.
Dorje Dolma's life centered around the care of her numerous younger brothers and sisters and the family's sheep, goats, and yaks. At age five she began herding and was soon taking the animals high in the mountains, where she fought off predatory wolves and snow leopards. Covering her first ten years, the story takes Dorje from her primitive mountain village to the bewildering city of Kathmandu, and finally to a new home in America, where she receives life-saving surgery.
With humor, soul, and insightful detail, the author gives us vividly told vignettes of daily life and the practice of centuries-old Tibetan traditions. She details the heartbreaking trials, natural splendors, and familial joys of growing up in this mysterious, faraway part of the world with its vanishing culture. The sharp increase in recent years of western trekkers to the area, and the introduction of modern communication and transportation, is causing rapid change in Dolpo. This wonderful and surprising tale of survival, loss, and self-reflection offers us entry to this difficult, yet magical, place.
Above all, this is the inspiring story of an indomitable spirit conquering all obstacles, a tale of a girl with a disability on her way to becoming a dynamic woman in a new world.
About the Author
Dorje Dolma was born in the remote Dolpo region of Nepal, high in the mountains bordering Tibet. She was the oldest of eleven children, only six of whom survived the harsh conditions of their lives. Dorje began herding the family's goats and sheep at age five and by seven she was defending them from attacks by wolves and snow leopards.
When she was ten, Dorje's parents took her on a month-long trek to Kathmandu to find help for a serious health problem she had. There they encountered Westerners who arranged to bring Dorje to the United States and get her the surgery she needed to save her life.
Adopted by her new American family, Dorje eventually graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in Fine Arts. She now works as an early childhood teacher in Boulder, Colorado, and continues to develop her art. This is her first book.
Yak Girl: Growing Up in the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal is a vivid testimony of growing up and learning to survive in a harsh, rugged, yet astonishingly beautiful land. The author’s story includes a long and sometimes perilous journey, since her parents took her on a month-long trek to Kathmandu at age ten, followed by travel to the United States for surgery to save her from a life-threatening condition. A candid, true-life story of hardship, strength, family ties, and culture shock, Yak Girl is highly recommended. (Midwest Book Review, May 2018)
Baobabs and Camelthorns: 13 Years in Namibia
By Dr. Lucy Steinitz and Bernd Kiekebusch, with Mary Konopka
Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 12, 2018)
Lucy Steinitz and Bernd Kiekebusch responded to their midlife crisis in the United States by moving to the newly independent country of Namibia for one year in 1997, together with their children and dog. They arrived as the AIDS crisis exploded and found that their skills were in much demand. As they settled in—and as one year became thirteen—they wrote almost 250 descriptive “diaries” to friends and family. In 2017, they condensed these into this book, with the help of their friend Mary Konopka.
Amazon Reader Reviews
Beautiful stories from adventurous professionals in Namibia I finished reading in two sittings this wonderful book about the authors' experiences in Namibia. I am a sucker for learning about the work of adventurous, development do-gooders. And what an adventure it turned-out to be: one year becoming 13, watching your kids grow up in an incredible setting, and contributing in meaningful ways to Namibia's economic and social development. I also appreciated your acknowledging the tensions that exist for expats making a difference, but still living in a schizophrenic state, wanting to become part of the local community, but not fully able to do so.
Enjoyable and unforgettable lessons This tale mixes so many elements-- including family adventures, effective and creative humanitarian development work, the story of the growth and development of family as well as captivating descriptions of a country full of natural wonders, struggling to become a viable government and economy and overcome huge HIV related health problems. The books tells many personal stories of youth emerging from poverty and lack of family into the hands and home of these authors to become successful and independent adults.
Knitting the Fog
By Claudia D. Hernández
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: The Feminist Press at CUNY (July 9, 2019)
Setting: Guatemala and United States
Weaving together narrative essay and bilingual poetry, Knitting the Fog is the complex self-portrait of a young Chapina girl who wakes up to find her mother gone. Claudia and her two older sisters are taken in by their great aunt and their grandmother. When her mother returns three years later, they begin a month-long journey to El Norte. Once settled in California, Claudia has trouble assimilating—she doesn't speak English, and her Spanish is "weird"—but when back in Guatemala, she is startled to find she no longer belongs there either.
A harrowing story told with the candid innocence of childhood, Hernández’s memoir depicts the struggle and resilience inherent to immigration today.
About the author:
Claudia D. Hernández is a poet, editor, translator, and bilingual educator, born and raised in Guatemala. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and writes in Spanish and English, and sometimes weaves in Poqomchiʼ, an indigenous language of her Mayan heritage. Hernández is the founder of the ongoing photography project ”Today’s Revolutionary Women of Color.” She currently resides in Los Angeles.
“In Knitting the Fog, Hernández eloquently captures the hardship, joy, magic, and resilience of three generations of women enduring ‘the battles of this dream’—border after border—from the family home in Mayuelas, Guatemala, through the desert across the Río Bravo, to the streets of Los Angeles. Magnificent!”
—Carol Potter, author of Some Slow Bees
“Knitting the Fog brings us the immigrant experience in a refreshingly new light. This memoir of hybrid forms—moving evocatively between poetry and prose—is not only timely but resonant in sense of place and purpose. How exciting that Hernández's voice joins the canon of contemporary Latina stories.”
-Bridgett M. Davis, The World According to Fannie Davis
"Claudia D. Hernández knits together so much in this necessary, unforgettable book—poetry and prose, Guatemala and El Norte, Spanish and English, innocence and awakening—blurring borders with humor and heartache and the richest, most vivid detail. Hernandez’s harrowing yet joy-laced journey will knit its way deeply into your heart."
—Gayle Brandeis, The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother's Suicide
“Hernández gives us a multi-faceted look at a young girl and her family from Guatemala.”
Journey and Struggle
Amazing memoir about the author’s strong family matriarchy in Guatemala and their journey to the USA and the struggles they encountered once in the promised land.
Important and Deeply Affecting
Hernandez beautifully defies genre convention in this memoir that uses narrative and poetry to recall her family’s immigration story. Her language is at times subtle, and other times cuts straight to emotion, pulling the reader through her own emotional journey and what she has to hold in to make it through. This book is important not only right now, but to our country’s history. This is one I anticipate being devoured by my students.
A memoir weaving bilingual poetry with an economy of words that are full of such linguistical riches that truly prove that sometimes less is more. I’m not sure how Claudia D. Hernandez was able to do it but she truly transported us back to her childhood and we got to see her life through that innocence. The importance of this story is that it gives voice to three generations of women that are simply trying to survive
A moving memoir told through essays and poems about the author’s childhood in Guatemala and migrating to the US at the age of 10. It’s a very slice-of-life book, full of the details that a child remembers about playing with neighbors, the oddities of the neighborhood, and being raised by strong women.
An Elephant Kissed My Window: and Other Stories from the Tea Plantations of South India
By M Ravindran and Saaz Aggarwal
Genre: Blog-derived fiction and nonfiction
Paperback: 270 pages
Publisher: black-and-white fountain (August 19, 2019)
Far away, high up on top of gentle blue hills, tea is grown. It is a beautiful, surreal world and the people who live here lead isolated lives under brilliant skies, immersed in pure air and surrounded by jungles in which animals roam. Some of their stories will make you laugh, some will fascinate you. By the time you finish enjoying them, you will find that you have become knowledgeable not just about how tea is made, but also the history of how tea became the most popular drink in the world!
Amazon Reader Reviews
Short stories, seamlessly stitched together, transporting us to a bygone era
Even as the world moves forward and changes at an ever quickening pace, there are some pockets in the world, in which the past simultaneously and stubbornly endures.
The Nilgiri Hills in South India—where I went to a boarding school in the 1970s—is one such pocket. Nestled in these divinely beautiful “Blue Hills” are tea plantations and boarding schools where some of the best traditions and practices of the British era endured.
A compilation of (1) short stories by one of the authors, M Ravindran—bulk of the book, (2) articles from people associated with this world, some from the late 19th century, and (3) explanatory articles by the other author Saaz Aggarwal, who has seamlessly stitched all of the material together into a delightful reading experience.
… for anyone who enjoys well-crafted stories, and enjoys learning about others, about other cultures, and other times … a captivating set of stories of bygone cultures and bygone times.
Stories set in tea plantations in a different era. Knowing the author and the characters written in the book made it more interesting. Priceless photographs. I thought the narration lacked continuity and seemed a tad disjointed. Later towards the end of the book learnt that the articles were originally written for a blog. That probably explains it. Definitely entertaining.
Nostalgia for the good times
The book takes you back to an era that is now almost forgotten. It has captured the lifestyle in the plantations of the 1960s and 1970s. The anecdotes related are funny and good natured taking you back to a time when one could sit down and talk to neighbours and friends without getting angry and annoyed. A wonderful, feel good book I would recommend to one and all.
Especially for those who once lived in Estates
Ravindran and Saaz have put together a fascinating firsthand account of life in the Nilgiri tea estates of the 60's and 70's. For me it was like a trip back into my childhood. My parents traversed this area between 1955–1970, and my dad served as the estate doctor in these places.
The writing is fluid and easy, the descriptions vivid and sans the flowery language used by British planters of yore. Truly enjoyable and recommended for anybody who wants to know how tea estates functioned and how life went in those days, with some electricity, a herald or landmaster car or a bike to take you from point A to point B, a kerosene burning refrigerator, if you are lucky and wild animals in your backyard...
The Costa Rica Reader: History, Culture, Politics
By Steven Palmer and Iván Molina, eds.
Series: The Latin American Readers
Paperback: 383 pages
Publisher: Duke University Press Books (October 29, 2004)
Long characterized as an exceptional country within Latin America, Costa Rica has been hailed as a democratic oasis in a continent scorched by dictatorship and revolution; the ecological mecca of a biosphere laid waste by deforestation and urban blight; and an egalitarian, middle-class society blissfully immune to the violent class and racial conflicts that have haunted the region. Arguing that conceptions of Costa Rica as a happy anomaly downplay its rich heritage and diverse population, The Costa Rica Reader brings together texts and artwork that reveal the complexity of the country’s past and present. It characterizes Costa Rica as a site of alternatives and possibilities that undermine stereotypes about the region’s history and challenge the idea that current dilemmas facing Latin America are inevitable or insoluble.
An essential introduction to Costa Rica that includes more than fifty texts related to the country’s history, culture, politics, and natural environment. Most of these newspaper accounts, histories, petitions, memoirs, poems, and essays are written by Costa Ricans. Many appear here in English for the first time. The authors are men and women, young and old, scholars, farmers, workers, and activists. The Costa Rica Reader presents a panoply of voices: eloquent working-class raconteurs from San José’s poorest barrios, English-speaking Afro-Antilleans of the Limón province, Nicaraguan immigrants, factory workers, dissident members of the intelligentsia, and indigenous people struggling to preserve their culture. With more than forty images, the collection showcases sculptures, photographs, maps, cartoons, and fliers. From the time before the arrival of the Spanish, through the rise of the coffee plantations and the Civil War of 1948, up to participation in today’s globalized world, Costa Rica’s remarkable history comes alive. The Costa Rica Reader is a necessary resource for scholars, students, and travelers alike.
About the editors:
Steven Palmer is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Windsor in Ontario. He is the author of From Popular Medicine to Medical Populism: Doctors, Healers, and Public Power in Costa Rica, 1800–1940 (published by Duke University Press).
Iván Molina is Professor of History at the University of Costa Rica in San José. He is a coauthor of Stuffing the Ballot Box: Fraud, Electoral Reform, and Democratization in Costa Rica.
"[W]orthwhile. . . . complex and compelling."
—Heather Wisner, Costa Rica Outdoors
"Because Costa Rica is a small country, and because its history has been less horrific and dramatic than that of its Central American neighbors, it often receives short shrift in the classroom. This book makes an implicit and convincing argument that the details, the exceptions, and the complexities can be just as important as the generalizations and trends for understanding the whole, and that concerted attention to Costa Rica can deeply enrich our understanding of Latin America."
—Aviva Chomsky, The Americas
"Readers of The Costa Rica Reader can be assured they are getting a genuinely current 'flavor' of what the country and its people are like, as well as historically grounded materials that help explain the 'why' of this generation's flavor. The editors have deftly drawn together an extraordinarily wide-ranging set of materials, erring quite rightly on the side of brevity and variety. For the student, there are innumerable pathways opened; for the tourist, given the industry's avowed focus on repeat visitors, a single roundtrip flight may not suffice, but the reading will be cover to cover."
—Lowell Gudmundson, "Hispanic American Historical Review"
"This is an essential introduction to a very special country admired by many for its peaceful pursuits. The authors reveal a country with a rich heritage and diverse population."
—Tim Boxer, 15 Minutes Magazine
Amazon Reader Reviews
Rarely does an anthology of original documents of historical value mingled with insightful interpretative essays come together as a coherent work. These editors, against those odds, have put the ball in the back of the net with just such a book.
The Costa Rica Reader's three-part subtitle (`History, Culture, Politics') is honored along the way with an even touch. Everyone with an interest in Costa Rica as more than a tourist destination with great beaches will find between the covers of this recent collection the stuff that builds insight and understanding.
The editors guide us through a nuanced qualification of `Costa Rican exceptionalism'… and the 70-odd pieces are brief, illuminating, and usually excerpted from something larger. Individually and as a collection, they leave the reader wanting more…not unlike Costa Rica itself in the experience of many sojourners, many of whom will never go back but who at the same time never manage entirely to leave.
Recommend… but a little dry.
An informative, historical journey through Costa Rican culture. The different formats of content (poems, stories, etc.) gives you a holistic understanding of the culture without leaving you bored.
Obroni and the Chocolate Factory: An Unlikely Story of Globalization and Ghana's First Gourmet Chocolate Bar
By Steven Wallace
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Skyhorse (November 21, 2017)
What country makes the best chocolate? Most people would answer "Switzerland," or, if they're discerning, "Belgium" or "France." But, how many cocoa trees grow in Zurich? Lyon? Antwerp? Shouldn't the country known for growing the best cocoa beans be the one that makes the best chocolate? So, captivated by theories of international trade but with precious little knowledge of cocoa or chocolate, Steven Wallace set out to build the Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company in Ghana—a country renowned for its cocoa and where Wallace spent part of his youth—in a quest to produce the world's first export-ready, single-origin chocolate bar. What followed would be the true story of an obroni—white person—from Wisconsin taking on the ultimate entrepreneurial challenge.
Written with sensitivity and devastating self-awareness, Obroni and the Chocolate Factory is Steven's chaotic, fascinating, and bemusing journey to create a successful international business that aspired to do a bit of good in the world. This book is at once a penetrating business memoir and a story about imagining globalism done right. Wallace's picaresque journey takes him to Ghana's residence for the head of state, to the Amsterdam offices of a secretive international cocoa conglomerate, and face-to-face with key figures in the sharp-elbowed world of global trade and geopolitics. Along the way he'll be forced to deal with bureaucratic roadblocks, a legacy of colonialism, corporate intrigue, inscrutable international politics, a Bond-esque villain nemesis, and constant uncertainty about whether he'll actually pull it off. This rollicking love letter to both Ghana and the world of business is a rare glimpse into the mind of an unusually literate and articulate entrepreneur.
"A solid primer on how to build a business with all the added obstacles of working in a developing nation, this story of the Omanhene Coco Bean Company contains plenty of bitter along with the sweet."
"Frequently funny and always informative."
—John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
"We live in an interconnected world where every business--from your neighborhood coffee house to a multinational aircraft manufacturer--is affected by global trade. Wallace makes the case that a New Globalism, based on seeking true comparative advantage, can lead to wealth generation and sustainable employment for everyone. The Omanhene story teaches us that, rather than be scared by globalization, we should embrace it and benefit from it. This is an entrepreneurial story that needs to be told--and it's delicious, too."
—Peter M. Robinson, President and CEO, United States Council for International Business.
"Steve Wallace's highly personalized obroni story begins with a teenage experience in West Africa that forged bonds strong enough to overcome excessive red tape, a secretive and opaque commodities market, and even dangerous intrigue. This captivating account will both inspire young social marketeer entrepreneurs and reveal a fascinating 'public-private' model for creating prosperity in the developing world."
-J. Brian Atwood, former administrator of USAID
Amazon Readers Reviews
Wallace is a master storyteller
Steve Wallace writing is concise, crisp, readable, and informative. He has a gift for storytelling. I finished his journey from high school exchange student to chocolate manufacturer wanting more. ... It is a testament to his entrepreneurial spirit that he was able to succeed despite so many obstacles, but he took it all in stride with his Midwestern sense of humor and humility. Hard to categorize, since it is full of history, personal memoirs, business advice, and homespun philosophy of what is important in life. I enjoyed it immensely.
A laugh-out-loud story
I have lived and traveled in the third world and appreciated his ability to battle the bureaucracy with cultural sensitivity. But his wry treatment of his experience had me laughing out loud in every chapter. I am a fussy reader and only finish about half the books I start. This entrepreneurial tale was definitely riveting from start to finish.
Under the Dragon: A Journey Through Burma
By Rory MacLean
Series: Tauris Parke Paperback
Paperback: 248 pages
Publisher: Tauris Parke Paperbacks; First edition (September 15, 2008)
The memory of a brief visit to Burma had haunted Rory MacLean for years. A decade after the violent suppression of an unarmed national uprising, which cost thousands of lives and all hopes for democracy, he seized the chance to return. Travelling from Rangoon to Mandalay and Pagan, into the heart of the Golden Triangle, he hears stories of freedom fighters, government censors, basket weavers, farmers and lovers—ordinary people struggling to survive under one of the most brutal and repressive regimes in the world. Under the Dragon is a perceptive and heartbreaking portrayal of contemporary Burma, a country that is shot through with desperation and fear, but also blessed—even in the darkest places—with beauty and courage.
“Maclean takes the reader to the root of the problems of the country. [He] shows rather than tells his reader what it is like to live in Burma. He does it with humour and honesty. He expresses his feelings of a cowed and crushed people who can’t find words to express their sufferings.”
—Pascal Khoo-Thwe, Spectator
“After reading Under the Dragon, one can never again see Burma’s masses as faceless hordes. Maclean shows Burma to be a country of repression and fear, but also one of great individual kindness and passion.”
—Independent on Sunday
“A work of great political commitment, powered above all by the authors’ outrage at the injustices, brutalisation and mass violation of human rights that he witnessed in Burma. Yet for all its pain, Under the Dragon is a beautiful book. It remains his masterpiece; and in the light of the continuing tragedy in Burma is now more relevant than ever.”
“I cannot imagine a better book on the beauty and terror of Burma. Rory Maclean is more than a gifted writer. He is a man whose artistry is underpinned by a powerful moral sensibility. Read it. Read it. Read it.”
—Fergal Keane, writer and broadcaster
Amazon Reader Reviews
In-depth view. Provided a more in-depth view of the events that shaped the current situation in Myanmar, helped me understand the various ethnic groups and there role on its history.
Gripping. Part history, part travelogue, part memoir. I read this book as I traveled in Myanmar and could hardly put it down.
Short Walks from Bogotá: Journeys in the New Colombia
By Tom Feiling
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Penguin UK (August 1, 2013)
For decades, Colombia was the "narcostate." Now it's seen as one of the rising stars of the global economy. Where does the truth lie? How did a land likened to paradise by the first conquistadores become a byword for hell on earth? And how is it rebuilding itself after decades of violence? Writer and journalist Tom Feiling has journeyed throughout Colombia, down roads that were until recently too dangerous to travel, talking to people from former guerrilla fighters to nomadic tribesmen and millionaires. Vital, shocking, wry, and never simplistic, Short Walks from Bogota unpicks the tangled fabric of Colombia to create a stunning work of reportage, history and travel writing.
About the author:
Tom Feiling spent a year living and working in Colombia before making Resistencia: Hip-Hop in Colombia, which won numerous awards at film festivals around the world, and was broadcast in four countries. In 2003 he became campaigns director for the TUC's Justice for Colombia campaign. His first book was The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over the World.
"Creates a portrait of Colombia that is perceptive, unsensational, and full of humanity. . . Feiling is a brilliant reporter, lucid, unflinching, morally engaged, and with an occasional deadpan sense of humour. . . one of the most consistently intelligent and compelling books to have appeared on any South American country in recent years."
"Tom Feiling takes us on an enlightening journey through a changing country that few understand."
—Rachel Aspden, Observer
"A deeply political account of one man's journey to the violent heart of modern, rural, Colombia. . . a must read."
"The best British travel writers like Norman Lewis or Bruce Chatwin give the reader more than simple travelers’ tales. Feiling is of their company. . . a brilliant, penetrating and highly readable account."
"Some of the best insights in the book come from the people Feiling meets, and memorably portrays. . . a well-written, thoughtful book."
—Times Literary Supplement
Amazon Reader Reviews
The best contemporary book about Colombia
…Feiling knows his stuff. You may not agree with the politics but as you will soon gather this is no average book on Colombia, cutting away at general travel chaff—and there's a lot out there—Feiling explores the politics through personal interviews, in depth research and what can only be described as a profound understanding of Colombia and a love of its people.
Very interesting and informative book that is easy to read and provides very good information about the recent history of Colombia and the current culture and flavor of Bogota and other unique areas around the country. I read it in preparation for my first trip to Colombia and felt very much up to speed on the culture and recent history of Colombia. Highly recommend.
Buy this and you won’t look back
If there's only one book you will read about Colombia, make sure this is it. It's an excellent read. I have never been to Colombia but I'm very interested in the culture and this book throws the windows wide open. The narrative follows the time-tested format of the travelogue and the author always maintains the delicate balance between personal story (the writer's inner journey) and the reality of the landscape and its people.
It's a personal, heartfelt and very astute observation of Colombia and its people.
Mother of God: An Extraordinary Journey into the Uncharted Tributaries of the Western Amazon
By Paul Rosolie
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 17, 2015)
Illustrated with 16 pages of color photos
Naturalist and explorer Paul Rosalie’s extraordinary adventure in the uncharted tributaries of the Western Amazon is a tale of discovery that vividly captures the awe, beauty, and isolation of this endangered land—and presents an impassioned call to save it. In the Madre de Dios—Mother of God—region of Peru, where the Amazon River begins its massive flow, the Andean Mountain cloud forests fall into lowland Amazon Rainforest, creating the most biodiversity-rich place on the planet. In January 2006, a restless eighteen-year-old hungry for adventure, Paul Rosolie embarked on a journey to the west Amazon that would transform his life.
Venturing alone into some of the most inaccessible reaches of the jungle, he encountered giant snakes, floating forests, isolated tribes untouched by outsiders, prowling jaguars, orphaned baby anteaters, poachers in the black market trade in endangered species, and much more. Yet today, the primordial forests of the Madre de Dios are in danger from developers, oil giants, and gold miners eager to exploit its natural resources. In Mother of God, this explorer and conservationist relives his amazing odyssey exploring the heart of this wildest place on earth. When he began delving deeper in his search for the secret Eden, spending extended periods in isolated solitude, he found things he never imagined could exist. “Alone and miniscule against a titanic landscape I have seen the depths of the Amazon, the guts of the jungle where no men go,” Rosolie writes. “But as the legendary explorer Percy Fawcett warned, ‘the few remaining unknown places of the world exact a price for their secrets.’”
“A rousing eco-adventure. . . . This is old-school nature writing, unabashedly romantic and free of alienation. . . . Rosalie’s powers of description are so vivid and engrossing that readers will be swept along in his passion.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Rosolie writes with intrepid curiosity and a passion for ecological preservation.”
“A great adventure with a great and enduring point: we simply must protect these last, vast slices of the planet that still work the way they’re supposed to.”
“Thanks to fastidious journal-keeping that preserved a wealth of detail and emotion, Rosolie delivers an old-fashioned jungle adventure, one with rare immediacy and depth of feeling for the people and creatures he encounters.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“Paul Rosalie’s Mother of God is more than a thrilling adventure tale, it’s an old-fashioned boy-meets-jungle love story. Be prepared to fall for it.”
—Mark Adams, author of Turn Right at Machu Pichu
“An extraordinary book…His vivid writing immerses you in his adventures as he explores an ancient pristine forest where no white man has been, where he encounters amazing creatures, and experiences the relentless power of untamed nature…There are parts that will haunt you, scenes you will never forget.”
Amazon Reader Reviews
Mysterious adventure awaits you
Vivid is the best word I can use to describe this book. This year, I have read several "Amazon adventure" type books, beginning with The Lost City of Z, then The Lost City of the Monkey God, and finally this one...which might be my favorite. … It takes you right into the Amazon with the author, and you really can envision the wondrous world he describes as if you are right there with him, stalking predators and observing thousands of species. This story gets right into the action, and places the reader right where you want to be—in a hammock listening to wild bird calls, crawling on the jungle floor looking for ants, floating down a river surrounded by the real possibility of getting lost forever. The author has a very good grasp on his privilege in the world and how he might be able to use that to save the jungle he grows to love. It's really an astounding tale, with great imagery and real tension. If you like adventure in mysterious places, this is a great pick!
Adventurous, captivating, inspiring, relevant
Benjamin Franklin once said, "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." Well, Paul Rosolie did both. Mother of God is an incredible account of Rosalie’s interactions with nature and wildlife in the Amazon Rainforest, and with every turn of the page a new adventure awaits. Eloquently written, Rosolie successfully and passionately portrays his love of all things wild and makes you feel like you are right at his side as he describes animals like anacondas, anteaters, and jaguars along with the pristine wilderness he witnesses in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, specifically along the Las Piedras River. Rosolie is a conservationist with a gift for fighting for what matters with his words. An adventurous, captivating, and inspiring read, Mother of God tops my list of incredible books.
Rwanda: From Genocide to Precarious Peace
By Susan Thomson
Paperback: 344 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press (April 24, 2018)
A sobering study of the troubled African nation, both pre- and post-genocide, and its uncertain future. The brutal civil war between Hutu and Tutsi factions in Rwanda ended in 1994 when the Rwandan Patriotic Front came to power and embarked on an ambitious social, political, and economic project to remake the devastated central-east African nation. Susan Thomson, who witnessed the hostilities firsthand, has written a provocative modern history of the country, its rulers, and its people, covering the years prior to, during, and following the genocidal conflict. Thomson’s hard-hitting analysis explores the key political events that led to the ascendance of the Rwandan Patriotic Front and its leader, President Paul Kagame. This important and controversial study examines the country’s transition from war to reconciliation from the perspective of ordinary Rwandan citizens, Tutsi and Hutu alike, and raises serious questions about the stability of the current peace, the methods and motivations of the ruling regime and its troubling ties to the past, and the likelihood of a genocide-free future.
“This is the best guide to an understanding of a society torn to bits by genocide. Thomson cuts through the veil of prejudice and ignorance surrounding one of the continent’s most controversial dictatorships in a way no other book does. Truly excellent.”
—René Lemarchand, University of Florida
“An indispensable guide to the complex politics in Rwanda since the genocide of 1994. Based on years of research and a longstanding interest in the experiences of ordinary Rwandans, this accessible and nuanced study challenges many assumptions on the role of the state in the East African country.”
—Catharine Newbury, author of The Cohesion of Oppression
“A powerful and important reexamination of the history of the Rwandan genocide and its aftermath under Paul Kagame. This is a book that challenges much of the received knowledge about Rwanda's recovery from one of the worst bouts of atrocity in the 20th Century, and deserves reading by anyone who wishes to understand this country's many modern traumas.”
—Howard W. French, author of A Continent for the Taking
“A vital contribution towards understanding the link between Rwanda's 1994 genocide and its current precarious peace."
—Anjan Sundaram, author of Bad News
Amazon Reader Review
Insightful, nuanced overview of Rwanda
I first came across Susan Thomson's work through her previous book Whispering Truth to Power: Everyday Resistance to Reconciliation in Post-genocide Rwanda. As someone who spent a semester studying abroad in Rwanda, I was impressed by Thomson's deep respect for rural Rwandans, her knowledge of Kinyarwanda, and her deviation from a state-sanctioned canon that views reconciliation and the current president as the pinnacles of success. In this new title, Rwanda: From Genocide to Precarious Peace, Thomson provides a nuanced, insightful overview of precolonial history, the 1994 genocide, and the present stakeholders in the country. The book refreshed my memory on a lot of history leading up to the genocide, affirmed some of my biggest fears about the country, and clarified information I had only guessed was happening. Incredibly grateful for this book.
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
By Nelson Mandela
Paperback: 656 pages
Publisher: 1995 Back Bay Books; 1st Paperback Ed edition (October 1, 1995)
Setting: South Africa
Nelson Mandela was one of the world's greatest and charismatic leader, president of the African National Congress and head of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. His lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country. This record of his life's story tells of renewed hope and his life behind bars.
The famously taciturn South African president reveals much of himself in Long Walk to Freedom. A good deal of this autobiography was written secretly while Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years on Robben Island by South Africa's apartheid regime. Among the book's interesting revelations is Mandela's ambivalence toward his lifetime of devotion to public works. It cost him two marriages and kept him distant from a family life he might otherwise have cherished. Long Walk to Freedom also discloses a strong and generous spirit that refused to be broken under the most trying circumstances — a spirit in which just about everybody can find something to admire.
Amazon Reader Reviews
Even better than I knew it would be! I can't fully express in words what this book means to me. I put off reading it for years. Mr. Mandela was released from prison in my college years and so I knew who he was, and what he accomplished on a very surface level. I always knew I wanted to know his life’s story on a deeper level.
The writing is forceful, and beautiful and honest. I received inspiration, education and amazement from reading this book.
…the best way I can describe this book is that after reading it, it made me determined to be a better person!
Should be required reading in all schools! This was incredible! This book shed so much insight on Mandela's thoughts and his reasonable outlook throughout his life that I gained an enormous respect for him and his cause. I've been really in the dark about racial prejudice—maybe because I wanted to stay ignorant about something I cannot understand nor fathom. We have come so far in triumph against these injustices of humanity, though if not enough of us are paying attention then we are doomed to repeat history. This is one of the top-most inspirational books of all time. Powerful in forgiveness and progressive! The school system needs to throw out the boring, pointless books of the past and introduce ones of more depth- thought provoking. If children of today were taught to reason as Mandela did in this book, can one imagine what powerful leaders we would have tomorrow? A must read!
Chadian Diary: A Peace Corps Experience
By Norma and Dorothy Kehmeier
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: lulu.com; First Edition edition (May 14, 2010)
An American couple exchanges US farm life for Peace Corps adventure near Lake Chad in Chad, Africa, in 1978–1979 during civil post-independence turmoil in the African Sahel. A journal of the thirteen months in the Peace Corps preparing for and living in Chad, and a description of the habits and the traditions of the Islamic Kanembous of Matafo.
Amazon Reader Review
Excellent Peace Corps Memoir!!! Chadian Diary is so well written that you feel like you are there with the authors during their incredible Peace Corps journey. The book is a quick read mainly because you cannot put it down. The writing is at times poetic in its descriptions of the people and landscape, yet the harsh realities of life in Chad comes through loud and clear. Highly recommend!
A Dream in Polar Fog
By Yuri Rytkheu, translated by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse
Paperback: 337 pages
Publisher: Archipelago Books (September 1, 2006)
Setting: Russian Arctic Circle
A Dream in Polar Fog is at once a cross-cultural journey, an ethnographic chronicle of the Chukchi people, and a politically and emotionally charged Arctic adventure story. Both elegant and exciting, it serves as a living anthropology of a gone world. It accomplishes everything a novel should.
A Kiriyama Prize Notable Book For 2006
About the author:
In the 1950s Yuri Rytcheu emerged as not only a writer of considerable literary talent, but as the unique voice of a small national minority. His fiction about Chukotka and the people who inhabit the extreme north of Siberia introduced readers to their history and mythology. Born in Belarus, translator Chavasse came to the US with her family in 1989. She studied English at Vassar and Oxford, and at University College London.
Thousands of books have been written about the Arctic aborigines by intruders from the south. Yuri Rytkheu has turned the skin inside out and written about the way the Arctic people view outsiders. A Chukchi himself, Yuri writes with passion, strength, and beauty of a world we others have never understood. A splendid book.
Rarely has humanity’s relationship to nature been so beautifully and vividly depicted . . . It recalls, in both substance and style, the best work of Jack London and Herman Melville, and it is a novel in the grandest sense of the word.
A Dream in Polar Fog gave me the same haunting and powerful reading experience as did Melville's travel fictions. Yuri Rytkheu is a world-class writer. Part lyrical ethnography, part uncanny adventure movie, part historical saga, part spectral tone poem, this novel miraculously brings Siberia to the center of our lives.
Amazon Reader Reviews
What it means to be human
This is one of my favorite books. The characters will capture you, and you will be transported to a different culture and time period. This book makes you think about what it means to be human.
Simple, stoic, serene
I recommend this remarkable book to anyone interested in the culture of people living in far off corners of the world. The novel gives an insight in the Chukchi community. A look at the map in northeast Siberia will give an idea of the remoteness of the Chuktoka Region where Chukchi’s live. The author of the novel hails from Chuktoka Region. In this novel he has woven a beautiful narrative and rich ethnographic detail .
A story that draws you in, a world as different as you can imagine. Extreme yet enticing. A great read.
Beautifully written, spare and poignant
This is a real gem of a book! Written about a native community in the Arctic, the reader is captivated by the splendor of the landscape, the warmth of the people, and one man's struggle to adapt.
This was an unusual and interesting book that got deeply and empathetically into a very extreme lifestyle. it's written in a naïve style, and being translated from the Russian sometimes gives it an alien quality, but it's a valuable experience.
Life & Afterlife in Benin
By Okwui Enwezor, Alex Van Gelder
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: July 6, 2005, by Phaidon Press
This collection of portraiture, comprising the work of nine photographers from Benin, mostly working during the 1960's and 1970's, opens a new chapter in the history of African photography. Most people's knowledge of West African photography is limited to the Bamako school of Mali, whose masters Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibe were widely discovered at the beginning of the 1990's. But where Keita and Sidibe worked predominantly to establish the modernity of their lives, here in Benin, photographers such as Sebastien Mehinto (otherwise known as Pigeon) often travelled miles by bicycle to find their clients in far-flung villages, and sometimes developed their exquisitely crafted photographs in makeshift darkrooms constructed in the bush. Marked by dark dramas and deep mysticisms, their portraits record a people caught between a pre-colonial past and a post-colonial future. For many of the people in the photographs it would be their first and last encounter with a photographer. Amongst the weddings and communions, the courting couples and proud parents, lie astonishing images of revenants and ju-ju men; voodoo priests and priestesses; thieves and murderers; prostitutes and pimps— and most startlingly, an extraordinary sequence of aprèsmort or deathbed portraits. For if you happened to live in the People's Republic of Benin (formerly known as the Kingdom of Dahomey) during the 1960s and 1970s, photography was likely to play a role not just in your life—but in your afterlife. It is a commonly held belief, and source of fear, in many African cultures that a person's soul lives on, trapped, within the photograph. In Benin, with its mixed spiritual traditions of Catholicism and voodoo (born in Benin and now its official religion), the photograph came to play a fascinating role in rituals of death.
Fools, Thieves and Other Dreamers: Stories from Francophone Africa
By Florent Couao-Zotti, Abdourahman A. Waberi, Seydi Sow (Translations by the Dept of Modern Languages, University of Zimbabwe)
Paperback: 52 pages
Published: January 1, 2001, by Weaver Press
Original Title: Fools, Thieves and Other Dreamers: Stories from Francophone Africa
Setting: Senegal, Benin, Djibouti
This is a rare achievement: translation of contemporary francophone African literature into English, and published within Africa, with the aim of promoting greater understanding and links across the continent. The impetus came from the focus on francophone Africa at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair 2001. Supported by the French Embassy, three lecturers at the University of Zimbabwe, assisted by nineteen students, undertook the translations of three short stories.
The writers are Seydi Sow from Senegal, Florent Couao-Zotti from Benin, and Abdourahman Ali Waberi from Djibouti. Couao-Zotti's story, ‘Small Hells on Street Corners,’ was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing, 2002.
Love Above All: Forgiveness of a Young Rwandan Genocide Survivor
Jean De Dieu Musabyimana
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: January 10, 2011, by Authorhouse
In 1994, in Rwanda, a country in Central East Africa; genocide was perpetrated against Tutsis by some extremist Hutus. In less than 100 days, over one million (1M) Tutsis were exterminated—and my family perished among them. Eleven years old then, I became an orphan.
My life struggle started then, commemorating my lost family and the way they died, searching if any of my relatives survived, and fixing to earn everyday life as I did not hope for the future. This struggle took long. However, as time went on, I started gaining hope for the future. I first started thinking beyond myself, then about helping my fellow genocide survivors and finally about contributing to the reconstruction of my country in particular—and assisting to people of all generations in general.
My belief in God generated love, love brought me to forgiving people who killed my family, and forgiveness took me to making them my friends. Peace and forgiveness resulting from love is what I preach and this is what I wish for everybody.
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel García Márquez, translated by Gregory Rabassa
Paperback: 417 pages
Published: June 24th 2003 by Harper (first published June 5th 1967)
Original Title: Cien años de soledadLanguage: English
Literary Awards: Premio Internacional de Novela Rómulo Gallegos (1972), Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger for Roman (1969)
The brilliant, bestselling, landmark novel that tells the story of the Buendia family and chronicles the irreconcilable conflict between the desire for solitude and the need for love—in rich, imaginative prose that has come to define an entire genre known as "magical realism."
One of the world’s most famous novels, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, blends the natural with the supernatural in on one of the most magical reading experiences on earth.
"What is your favourite book, mum?" How many times have my children asked me that, growing up with a mother who spends most of her time reading - to them, alone, for work, for pleasure - or looking for new books in bookstores wherever we happen to be.
"I can't answer that, there are so many books I love, and in different ways!"
"Just name one that comes to mind!"
And I said, without really knowing why, and without thinking, "One Hundred Years Of Solitude!"
This novel taught me that chaos and order are two sides of the same medal - called family life. It taught me that sadness and love go hand in hand, and that life is easy and complicated at the same time. It taught me that many wishes actually come true, but never in the way we expect, and most often with a catch. It taught me that sun and rain follow each other, even though we might have to wait for four years, eleven months and two days for rain to stop falling sometimes. It taught me that there are as many recipes for love as there are lovers in the world, and that human beings are lazy and energetic, good and bad, young and old, ugly and beautiful, honest and dishonest, happy and sad, all at the same time, - together and lonely.
It taught me that we are forever longing for what we do not have, until we get what we long for. Then we start longing for what we lost when our dreams came true.
This novel opened up the world of absurdities to me, and dragged me in like no other. In each member of the Buendía family, I recognise some relation, or myself, or both. Macondo is the world in miniature, and wherever I go, it follows me like a shadow. It is not rich, peaceful, or beautiful. It is just Macondo. No more, no less.
My favourite book? I don't know. There are so many. But I don't think any other could claim to be more loved than this one.
Mama Namibia, Based on True Events
Paperback: 350 pages
Published: April 2, 2013, by Wordweaver Publishing House
Surviving on her own in the desert, 12-year-old Jahohora searches for her family while hiding from the German soldiers. It's 1904, and Germany has claimed all of South West Africa. Since the Herero would rather fight than surrender their ancestral homes, Gen. von Trotha has declared that they all should be forced into the Omaheke to die. Wasting away in the desert, Jahohora is about to give up her desperate struggle for life when she finds hope in a simple act of kindness from a Jewish doctor serving in the German army.
“… moving and compelling, heart-wrenching and hopeful.”
“… a beautiful tale of perseverance and survival, and really an easy and enjoyable read!”
“This is a book of the love of family, the desire to live, resilience and getting a helping hand along the way. A must-read not only for those who want to know more about the history of the Herero people, but for everyone who loves a good novel.”
“… standout historical novel … fascinating and heartbreaking narrative … by turns joyous and tragic … Mama Namibia is a heartwarming but wrenching story. ...”
This is a book I am passionate about, given that my son is currently living in Namibia where he is serving in the Peace Corps, but also because this is a chapter of history that has largely been ignored and of which many are ignorant. If that is true for you, as it was for me, I encourage you to read this well-written, engaging, and informative book about a shameful chapter from the past.
This is a very well researched historical novel that takes place in South West Africa, Namibia. The Germans are at war with the Herrero and the Nami tribes. The Herrero are cattle raisers. The cattle herd is their most important way of surviving. When the Germans arrive, they decide to steal the cattle and land of the Herrero. Also, it is important to exterminate the Herrero. It is hoped that a genocide will be successful. I had to brace myself for all the horrors these people endured. The main character is Jahohora. She loses most of her family in death as they try to escape their lands and head out to the desert. For two years Jahohora wanders alone. She depends on her strength to survive and her wisdom to survive every day without being murdered by the soldiers. Her journey is long and amazing.
Her journey is so long and slightly repetitive that I almost gave up on the novel. However, I am glad to have finished it. As I think about it, a true journey like this one for the sake of survival and not pleasure would be tedious and repetitive. Mama Namibia by Mari Serebrov is worth every bit of time a reader gives it. Along the way Jahohora meets a Jewish doctor whom she will meet again. He is very compassionate. This led me to think of hope while reading the novel. No matter how horrible mankind becomes in his thoughts to other humans there is always a remnant of good people left with the bad. I suppose this happens so that we don't give up hope in living life on earth with our fellowman. All races of people have good people populating the world.
Mari Serebrov, the author, on this journey made me think about, as written, hope as well as enduring love. As Yaakov, the Jewish doctor, fights to hold on while seeing man treat other people so brutally, he writes his wife. When he gets to go home from the battlefield, he seriously doubts that he will be the same man. It is all he can do not to lose his faith in his God as well as in man. He gives her the choice to go on with her life and not wait for him. He also has a little boy. This part of the novel is about what soldiers live through on the war front and what their families endure at home. While reading the novel, I was anxious to see what decision his wife would make.
I will never forget the Herrero. I will never forget Namibia or South West Africa. It is beautiful country. While reading I had the thought if not for man's vile deeds, Africa might be likened to the Garden of Eden. The flowers and animals are abundant. The people are cheerful givers. It is a rich land. This is Mari Serebrov's first novel. I hope she quickly writes another one.
Death in the Andes
Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Edith Grossman
Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: Picador; 1st edition (October 2, 2007)
In a remote Andean village, three men have disappeared. Peruvian Army corporal Lituma and his deputy Tomás have been dispatched to investigate, and to guard the town from the Shining Path guerrillas they assume are responsible. But the townspeople do not trust the officers, and they have their own ideas about what forces claimed the bodies of the missing men. To pass the time, and to cope with their homesickness, Tomás entertains Lituma nightly with the sensuous, surreal tale of his precarious love affair with a wayward prostitute. His stories are intermingled with the ongoing mystery of the missing men.
Death in the Andes is an atmospheric suspense story and a political allegory, a panoramic view of contemporary Peru from one of the world's great novelists.
About the author:
Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010 "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat." Peru's foremost writer, he has been awarded the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's most distinguished literary honor, and the Jerusalem Prize. His many works include The Feast of the Goat, The Bad Girl, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, The War of the End of the World, and The Storyteller. He lives in London.
“Peru's best novelist—one of the world's best.”
―John Updike, The New Yorker
“Well-knit social criticism as trenchant as any by Balzac or Flaubert . . . This is a novel that plumbs the heart of the Americas.”
―The Washington Post Book World
“Remarkable . . . a fantastically picturesque landscape of Indians and llamas, snowy peaks, hunger, and violence.”
―Raymond Sokolov, The Wall Street Journal
“Meticulously realistic descriptions of this high, unforgiving landscape and the haunted people who perch there . . . merge into a surreal portrait of a place both specific and universal.”
This was an excellent story with great characters and captivating narration. Lituma is now stationed in the mountains in Naccos (after being ejected from Piura after Palomino Molera and needs to solve a triple homicide which superficially looks like it may be the work of the Sendero Luminoso terrorists (whom we also get glimpses of during the book through some of their victims). The pace never lets up and we also are treated to local folklore like in The Storyteller which plays an important part in the story as well. I liked the triple narrative framing of each chapter and found each character engaging and realistic. … Mario Vargas Llosa is an extraordinary storyteller and novelist and this was another standout book for me.
After finishing Death in the Andes, it’s easy to see why Llosa is Peru’s most famous novelist, and why he earned the Nobel Prize.
In the beginning, I didn’t like it much. It seemed very dark and overly masculine. A policeman and his assistant are stationed at a remote post in the Andes, charged with rooting out the Shining Path terrorists. The assistant entertains his boss by telling the story of his unrequited and tragic love. Meanwhile, mysterious and sinister forces in the village coalesce and make the corporal almost crazed with curiosity.
Some of the themes, masterfully interwoven into a gripping novel, include
- Practices and tenets of the Shining Path, a Maoist group that wreaked havoc in Peru from the 1980s to the 2000s. I hadn’t known about their senseless brutality, or how they drove people from the highlands int cities, destroying infrastructure as they went.
- How boring and oppressive life in a mining town could be.
- Mixture of ancient spirituality with current life for highland villagers; belief in witchcraft, belief in “apus”, or spirits of the mountains, who must be appeased, etc.
- Tensions between Quechua- and Spanish-speaking people, and distrust between highland and lowand groups
- Widespreadness of corruption (even before druglords became more powerful)
- Harshness of high-altitude climate
- Power of romantic love, despite all odds
- Role of storytelling in maintaining hope and creating bonds between people
As a female reader, I was constantly aware of the lack of women characters with whom I could identify. Also, as a North American, I very much felt like an outsider looking into an alien culture. These aren’t necessarily bad things, just something to note.
It was fascinating to watch the author develop a relationship between the policeman and the local bartender (aptly named Dionisio) and his wife. The latter are at first repulsive, embodying paganism, wild abandon, alcohol abuse, sexuality, and everything the more “civilized” policeman considers abhorrent. His obsession with solving three disappearances, however, leads him to become a more sensitive (and possibly even believing) listener. This plot line was one of the most important for an outsider like me wanting to peek inside Peruvian village life.
Also, without giving anything away, be forewarned that the ending is a punch in the gut that you won’t soon forget.
Notes from the Hyena's Belly: An Ethiopian Boyhood
Paperback: 368 pages
Published: January 5, 2002, by Picador (first published 2000)
Winner of the Governor General's Award
A Library Journal Best Book of 2001
Part autobiography and part social history, Notes from the Hyena's Belly offers an unforgettable portrait of Ethiopia, and of Africa, during the 1970s and '80s, an era of civil war, widespread famine, and mass execution. "We children lived like the donkey," Mezlekia remembers, "careful not to wander off the beaten trail and end up in the hyena's belly." His memoir sheds light not only on the violence and disorder that beset his native country, but on the rich spiritual and cultural life of Ethiopia itself. Throughout, he portrays the careful divisions in dress, language, and culture between the Muslims and Christians of the Ethiopian landscape. Mezlekia also explores the struggle between western European interests and communist influences that caused the collapse of Ethiopia's social and political structure—and that forced him, at age 18, to join a guerrilla army. Through droughts, floods, imprisonment, and killing sprees at the hands of military juntas, Mezlekia survived, eventually emigrating to Canada. In Notes from the Hyena's Belly, he bears witness to a time and place that few Westerners have understood.
"Hyenas are the most common, notorious predators in Ethiopia," notes Mezlekia, thus their power in local myth and as a metaphor for the forces that have torn Ethiopia apart in recent decades. This lyrical memoir of an Ethiopian childhood echoes both the myth and the violence of the hyena. In the first third of his literary debut, Mezlekia intersperses accounts of his mischievous, rebellious childhood with the magical tales told by his family to interpret various experiences: magic and spirits were part of everyday life for young Mezlekia. He also carefully delineates the customs of and relations between the Christian and Muslim communities in his hometown of Jijiga. (Mezlekia's mother, though a Christian, took her son to a Muslim medicine man to cleanse him following a series of boyish escapades.) But a third of the way through the text, the material world supplants the world of the spirit and innocence that governed Mezlekia's early childhoodAsocial and political upheaval ruled Ethiopian life in the late 1970s and '80s. At times, Mezlekia, who now lives in Canada, does not clearly describe the various factions that wrestled for power when he was a teenager and college student. But he treats the chaos and famine that enveloped his country with seriousness and styleA"The revolution was eating Ethiopian children at an alarming rate"Aand even while recounting famine and war, he never loses the wit that no doubt helped him to survive some of the worst humanity has to offer. (Jan.) Forecast: This lovely and terrible memoir will undoubtedly be well reviewed and thus reach readers interested not only in the fate of Africa but also in a lyrical account of a foreign childhood.
Born in 1958, the year he calls "the year of paradox," Mezlekia has written an intriguing book about growing up in Jigiga, Ethiopia. Full of adventure, political struggle, and intrigue, his memoir works as a coming-of-age story as well as a glimpse into a world of political corruption and change that Westerners rarely get to know so intimately. Mezlekia writes, "We children lived like the donkey, careful not to wander off the beaten trail and end up in the hyena's belly." He describes the careful divisions in dress, language, and culture between Muslims and Christians and brings them to life through vivid portraits of the people who populated his landscape. Mustafa and Ms. Yetaferu, two permanent houseguests, provide beautiful insight into these two religious and cultural stances in life. Mustafa's business adventures and Ms. Yetaferu's religious ceremonies stand in contrast to each other, creating a dynamic household. Mezlekia's tales of the spiritual and religious beliefs are some of the most fascinating parts of his life. He honors us with the telling of this rich story. Highly recommended for all libraries. —DBarbara O'Hara, Free Lib. of Philadelphia
The author's personal memories of growing up in Ethiopia are interwoven with everyday life - traditions, rituals, tales, as well as political events. The authors' general tone of narration is playful, which, with a change in the regime, changes into a serious, tragic (both at the personal and national level) narrative that offers a fairly general insight into the recent history of Ethiopia. Not bad, but also not great..
The book is aptly titled because it is a series of notes. The first are notes are from Nega Mezlekia's childhood which is heavily influenced by folklore and superstition. The culture accepts child abuse at school and at home and if corporal punishment fails, healers are called on to expel demons in the most unscientific ways. The writing style of this memoir evokes novels of magical realism.
The content and dearth of material on Ethiopia make this an important book. We see how the fall/murder of Haile Selassie unleashed years of instability on a population. Not joining one side or another could be more dangerous than choosing up. Mezlekia experiences the chaos as a fighter, a refugee, prisoner, and family head. While the country aches in misery he finds a niche.
The book is not only part memoir, history and literature, it is also one part travelogue. Every trip—be it a march, a water seeking mission, a refugee exodus, a visit to home or relatives or going off to school—is an adventure. Cities with interesting features are visited and through them we learn more of Ethiopia's history.
These "notes" capture the reader such that it is only pages later the reader wants to know more. Mezlekia dodged a lot of bullets both literally and figuratively, managed to get a very coveted university slot and then easily attained asylum in Canada. There has to be more to this story, but with the title "Notes" the book does not purport to be more and this is part of its charm.
This is an extraordinary, poignant memoir of a young life lived in a country, Ethiopia, that passed through turmoil into chaos. The most remarkable thing about the narrative is that there is no sense of bitterness or resentment. He tells the tale of himself and his family in a clear-eyed manner, a tale filled with insight and sympathy and a great deal of humor.
For those looking for one, this is also the story of Ethiopia itself during its tumultuous 1960s and 1970s.
One of the most humorous and touching stories that I’ve ever read in my life. Nega manages to successfully describe the horrors of his childhood in Ethiopia and his stint as a child soldier in a funny and touching manner. At times I felt as if the author was not even aware of how funny he is. I recommend this read for anyone who wants to know more about Ethiopia and Somalia's history through the eyes of an actual Ethiopian. There are moments in this book that will make you both laugh and cry.
By Chingiz Aitmatov, translated by James Riordan
Paperback: 96 pages
Published: July 2007 by Telegram Books (first published 1958)
Setting: Kyrgyzstan, USSR
Jamilia is the first major novel by Chingiz Aytmatov, published originally in Russian in 1958. The novel is told from the point of view of a fictional Kyrgyz artist, Seit, who tells the story by looking back on his childhood. The story recounts the love between his new sister-in-law Jamilya and a local crippled young man, Daniyar, while Jamilia's husband, Sadyk, is "away at the front" (as a Soviet soldier during World War II).
Based on clues in the story, it takes place in northwestern Kyrgyzstan, presumably Talas Province. The story is backdropped against the collective farming culture which was early in its peak in that period.
Louis Aragon lauded the novelette as the "world's most beautiful love story".
About the author:
Chingiz Aïtmatov was born in Kyrgyzstan in 1928. His work appeared in over one hundred languages, and received numerous awards, including the Lenin Prize. He was the Kyrgyz ambassador to the European Union, NATO, UNESCO and the Benelux countries.
I bought this little book in a charity shop on a total whim, purely because I didn't think I had ever read an author from Kyrgyzstan. I am so glad I did, because it was absolutely wonderful.
The narrator of the tale is teenager Seit, and Jamilia is his sister-in-law. The story tells of the love between Jamilia and a shy newcomer to the village, Daniyar. I think because it is told by the youngster, there is a certain innocence in the telling, which is very effective.
My copy of this book has a quote on the front cover to the effect that this is "the most beautiful love story in the world". What that doesn't convey is that this is not just a love story in the sense of a romance, but also about a deeper love— a love for the land, for tradition, for music, for art, for life itself. …
There is such a wonderful sense of time and place here too—I felt totally immersed in rural life on the steppe. The language/translation is lyrical and flowing. I loved the fact, too, that the romantic heroine Jamilia is a strong, capable and assertive woman.
This book is an absolute gem. I loved it - can you tell?!
I think the confusion about what this Aitmatov's 1958 short lyrical novella actually *is* stems from the often-quoted remark by the French writer Louis Aragon, hailing it as 'the most beautiful love story in the world'.
It *is* a love story of sorts, but it's *not* a romance. Seeing it as just a tale of two lovers is akin to reducing 'Anna Karenina' to nothing more but Anna and Vronsky's affair.
Love in this novella is far more than simply romance. It has a multitude of faces; it encompasses everything - from tender attraction between two young people to kind familial affection to deeply ingrained love for the quiet beauty of your homeland to the love of art and longing for self-expression.
Set in 1943, in a small Kyrgyz village on the shores of a turbulent river in the shadow of the mountain range and teetering on the edge between old tribal life and the new expectations of Soviet living. Tribal laws still hold strong, but the former nomads are now living in the villages and working in kolkhoz; patriarchal customs are observed, but the young men are away at war…
This 'most beautiful love story in the world' is because of the exhilarating, all-encompassing love and admiration for life and land that stems from every word in it, going lightyears beyond the simple romance, pouring its soul out on the pages, beckoning the reader to look past the familiar and into the heart of real wondrous beauty, and to find something wonderful deep inside our souls on this journey.
Speaking Soviet with an Accent: Culture and Power in Kyrgyzstan
By Ali F. Igmen
Paperback: 248 pages
Published: July 30, 2012, by University of Pittsburgh Press (first published January 1st 2012)
Speaking Soviet with an Accent presents the first English-language study of Soviet culture clubs in Kyrgyzstan. These clubs profoundly influenced the future of Kyrgyz cultural identity and fostered the work of many artists, such as famed novelist Chingiz Aitmatov.
Based on extensive oral history and archival research, Ali Igmen follows the rise of culture clubs beginning in the 1920s, when they were established to inculcate Soviet ideology and create a sedentary lifestyle among the historically nomadic Kyrgyz people. These “Red clubs” are fondly remembered by locals as one of the few places where lively activities and socialization with other members of their ail (village or tribal unit) could be found.
Through lectures, readings, books, plays, concerts, operas, visual arts, and cultural Olympiads, locals were exposed to Soviet notions of modernization. But these programs also encouraged the creation of a newfound “Kyrgyzness” that preserved aspects of local traditions and celebrated the achievements of Kyrgyz citizens in the building of a new state. These ideals proved appealing to many Kyrgyz, who, for centuries, had seen riches and power in the hands of a few tribal chieftains and Russian imperialists.
This book offers new insights into the formation of modern cultural identity in Central Asia. Here, like their imperial predecessors, the Soviets sought to extend their physical borders and political influence. But Igmen also reveals the remarkable agency of the Kyrgyz people, who employed available resources to meld their own heritage with Soviet and Russian ideologies and form artistic expressions that continue to influence Kyrgyzstan today.
Tales of the Tikongs
By Epeli Hau’ofa
Paperback: 104 pages
Published: July 1, 1994, by University of Hawaii Press (first published June 7th 1988)
Tiko, a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean, faces a tidal wave of D-E-V-E-L-O-P-M-E-N-T, which threatens to demolish ancestral ways and the human spirit. From Sione, who prefers to play cards with his secretary during work hours, to Ole Pasifikiwei, who masters the twists and turns of international funding games, all of the characters in these pages are seasoned surfers, capable of riding the biggest wave to shore. These are not stories of fatal impact so much as upbeat tales of indigenous responses to cultural and economic imperialism. Epeli Hau’ofa uses devices derived from oral storytelling to create a South Pacific voice that is lucid, hilarious, and compassionate in a work that has long been regarded as a milestone in Pacific literature.
Though a very slim volume, this book contains 12 short stories set in a fictional Pacific island nation that most readers assume to be an analogue for Tonga, the author’s home country. These stories satirize the government, religion, the foreign aid apparatus and aspects of the culture, following island men through various misadventures.
The stories are well-written and enjoyable, and even a reader without personal knowledge of the Pacific can easily grasp the aspects of island life that the author skewers. It seems to be an incisive work and would likely be an especially entertaining (if a bit painful) read for someone from the area. My rating is rounded down because the stories are too short to provide for much character development, and because a week after finishing the book, not much stands out to me. But I would certainly recommend it to anyone interested in Pacific literature.
Tales of the Tikongs, is a short collection of short stories by the great writer Epeli Hau’ofa.
The stories describe life in a small island nation in Oceania. Like some countries in Oceania, the people are exceptionally devout (and in the book somewhat intolerant) Christians. They are very isolated geographically, so acquiring simple things is very difficult. The people in the stories tend to get on each others' nerves, because they frequently know each others' business.
The book is very humorous, but throughout there is a melancholy tone. Some years ago Paul Theroux wrote a book called The Happy Isles of Oceania, about a kayak journey he took throughout Oceania. I haven't read his book, but after reading Tales of the Tikongs, I am not so sure that everybody is always happy in Oceania.
One story is about a man who had spent his leisure time in his life collecting folklore from the people of his island. He decides that he would like a typewriter, so that he can organize his notes into a readable collection that others could enjoy. The only way that he finds to get a typewriter is to apply to what Hau’ofa calls "The Great International Organization" (what he always calls the United Nations in his fiction). The man gets his typewriter, but he is soon sucked into representing his nation at UN conferences and workshops around the world. Before he can complete his original project, he discovers that all of his notes have been destroyed. They were ruined page by page in an undignified manner. (Read the book: You'll see what I mean!)
As you can tell, the book is very satirical. And I like the stories a lot! I recommend them strongly to anyone who reads fiction.
The author has written a series of modern folk tales, in which he is very rude and very funny about post-independence Tonga, Tongans, the Sabbatarian Church, a few other churches and the failure of development projects. I wonder if he is allowed back.
Tonga: A New Bibliography
by Martin Daly
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: University of Hawaii Press (February 4, 2009)
Best for: Web, Tablet, Phone, eReader
EBook features: Flowing text, Original pages
Tonga is a fascinating and subtle combination of a traditional Polynesian kingdom―the only one to survive the impact of colonization in the nineteenth century and remain independent―and a thoroughly Christian country. This comprehensive bibliography is a selective guide to the most significant and accessible English-language books, papers, and articles on every aspect of the kingdom’s history, culture, arts, politics, environment, and economy. It is a much updated and expanded edition of the original version that was published in 1999 as part of the World Bibliographical Series, with the addition of more than 200 new entries. Each of the approximately 600 described and annotated items is organized under broad subject headings, and indexed by author, title, and subject. In addition―and new to this edition―all known Ph.D. theses, although not annotated, are shown within their appropriate subject categories and indexed. Also new is a section on the most important Tonga-related websites. A general introduction describes the Tongan kingdom, its history and society, and its current situation. Tonga: A New Bibliography will be an invaluable resource for anyone with a serious interest in Tonga and an indispensable volume for academic libraries, reference collections, and policy makers focused on the Pacific islands.
"A trustworthy introduction to Tonga in all its diversity, a splendid point de depart for all, layman or scholar, needing a reliable guide to the essential literature about this remarkable Polynesian kingdom."
"Tonga is unique among bibliographies in its perception and understanding, and in its affection for Tonga and its people. … Daly’s work stands on exceptionally sound foundations. … His summaries are excellent, indeed, but Daly writes always with the authority of first-hand knowledge, with a keen eye for the essential, and the ability to interpret and clarify obscurities. … A trustworthy introduction to Tonga in all its diversity, a splendid point de départ for all, layman or scholar, needing a reliable guide to the essential literature about this remarkable Polynesian kingdom."
―Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
"The book is so arranged that it is easy to locate any of the items listed. … I found myself spending pleasant hours perusing Daly’s comments on the different publications. … I hope the rumor of a second, revised edition of this bibliography is true."
―Journal of the Polynesian Society
Cry, the Beloved Country
By Alan Paton
Paperback: 316 pages
Published: November 25, 2003, by Scribner (first published 1948)
Setting: South Africa
Literary Awards: Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction (1949)
Summary: Cry, the Beloved Country, the most famous and important novel in South Africa’s history, was an immediate worldwide bestseller in 1948. Alan Paton’s impassioned novel about a black man’s country under white man’s law is a work of searing beauty.
Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.
The eminent literary critic Lewis Gannett wrote, “We have had many novels from statesmen and reformers, almost all bad; many novels from poets, almost all thin. In Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country the statesman, the poet and the novelist meet in a unique harmony.”
Cry, the Beloved Country is the deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.
This is a classic, written by a white South African about a time before apartheid. Two fathers, one white, one black and their sons. It is stylistically unusual. Quotes are not used, for example. Conversation is indicated by leading dashes. Also the speech is quite formal most of the time, which conveys some of the culture of the place, I expect. Dark forces are abroad, but hope shows its face here as well, as there are leaders trying to prevent a descent into the madness to come. Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son Absolom are the focus. Absolom, as an adult, leaves to go to the big city, Jo’burg. He falls in with a bad crowd and is involved in a robbery. He unintentionally shoots a man who surprises them. The man, an idealistic white, is the son of Kumalo’s neighbor out in the country. Kumalo goes in search of his missing son, only to find him, and this horror, at the same time. Characters are portrayed sympathetically, white and black. There is much shared fatherly pain, much humanity here. It is indeed a classic.
I can’t say enough about this book. It is lyrically written, reads almost like an epic out of Ireland. The dialog between characters is straightforward, and the book manages to give you a glimpse of Apartheid S. Africa, from the richest people, to the poor urban laborers, to the criminals, to the peaceful rural farmers trying to maintain their land after many years of neglect. This is a classic that I have read probably 3 or 4 times. My copy is beat to hell, but readable.
… this book is excellent. More than a story of racial inequality, social problems, and injustice (which is what I remember about the plot from high school), this is first and foremost a story of forgiveness and hope.
There are many reasons for South Africa, the country commanded to “cry” in the title, to do just that: poverty and famine drive many to choose paths that are less than admirable, sometimes immoral. And there and many reasons for the main character, a humble priest from a rural Zulu tribe, to give up his faith in both God and humanity — and yet throughout the story there is a calm sense of hope for the future. Stephen Kumalo meets good men along his tragic journey that give hope to him and to the country as a whole: friends, family, and even one who should be his deepest enemy. And Kumalo himself is one to be emulated: for his meekness and gratitude, for his acceptance of trials, for his charity, and even for his occasional human-ness but then sincerely repentant nature. To enjoy a book, I have to have a main character to at the least empathize with — Kumalo is one that I not only appreciate but admire.
And the writing is downright lyrical in some places. It’s easy to see why it’s a modern classic.
Being awakened to the injustices of prejudice and poverty is all right, but this book does more than that—it inspires hope in the midst of hard times. A book to add to my long list of favorites.
From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey
By Pascal Khoo Thwe
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (December 2, 2003)
Winner of the 2002 Kiriyama Prize in Nonfiction
The astonishing story of a young man's upbringing in a remote tribal village in Burma and his journey from his strife-torn country to the tranquil quads of Cambridge. In lyrical prose, Pascal Khoo Thwe describes his childhood as a member of the Padaung hill tribe, where ancestor worship and communion with spirits blended with the tribe's recent conversion to Christianity. In the 1930s, Pascal's grandfather captured an Italian Jesuit, mistaking him for a giant or a wild beast; the Jesuit in turn converted the tribe. (The Padaung are famous for their 'giraffe women' -- so-called because their necks are ritually elongated with ornamental copper rings. Pascal's grandmother had been exhibited in a touring circus in England as a 'freak'.) Pascal developed a love of the English language through listening to the BBC World Service, and it was while working as a waiter in Mandalay to pay for his studies that he met the Cambridge don John Casey, who was to prove his saviour. The brutal military regime of Ne Win cracked down on 'dissidents' in the late 1980s. Pascal's girlfriend was raped and murdered by soldiers, and Pascal took to the jungle with a guerrilla army. How he was eventually rescued with Casey's help is a dramatic story, which ends with his admission to Cambridge to study his great love, English literature.
“A political statement as well as a poetic lament, the book is a true work of art.”
“A page-turner…deeply moving, beautifully written, and most inspiring. My heart was filled with joy and gratitude.”
—Nien Chang, author of Life and Death in Shanghai
“A distinguished accomplishment that radiates both intelligence and spiritual awareness.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A heartbreaking tale, told with lyricism, affection and insight.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Unique as much for the riveting story it tells as for the sublime way it is told.“
“[A] writer of uncommon elegance and sensitivity.”
—New York Times Book Review
by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Paperback: 446 pages
Publisher: Transit Books; Reprint edition (May 16, 2017)
First published in Kenya in 2014 to critical and popular acclaim, Kintu is a modern classic, a multilayered narrative that reimagines the history of Uganda through the cursed bloodline of the Kintu clan.
Divided into six sections, the novel begins in 1750, when Kintu Kidda sets out for the capital to pledge allegiance to the new leader of the Buganda Kingdom. Along the way, Kintu unleashes a curse that will plague his family for generations. In this ambitious tale of a clan and of a nation, Makumbi weaves together the stories of Kintu’s descendants as they seek to break from the burden of their shared past and reconcile the inheritance of tradition and the modern world that is their future.
An award-winning debut novel, including:
- Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2017
- Winner of the Windham-Campbell Prize
- Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize
—The New York Review of Books
"With a novel that is inventive in scope, masterful in execution, she does for Ugandan literature what Chinua Achebe did for Nigerian writing."
—Lesley Nneka Arimah, Guardian
"Kintu is a masterpiece, an absolute gem, the great Ugandan novel you didn't know you were waiting for."
—Aaron Bady, The New Inquiry
"A masterpiece of cultural memory, Kintu is elegantly poised on the crossroads of tradition and modernity."
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"A soaring and sublime epic. One of those great stories that was just waiting to be told."
—Marlon James, Man Booker Prize-winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings
"Postcolonial literature is often thought of as a conversation between a native culture and a Western power that sought to dominate it . . . Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s marvelous Ugandan epic, Kintu, explodes such chauvinism."
"Reminiscent of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, this work will appeal to lovers of African literature."
—Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Passionate, original, and sharply observed, the novel decenters colonialism and makes Ugandan experience primary."
Abyssinian Chronicles: A Novel
by Moses Isegawa
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Vintage (November 13, 2001)
Like Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children and Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, Moses Isegawa's Abyssinian Chronicles tells a riveting story of twentieth-century Africa that is passionate in vision and breathtaking in scope. At the center of this unforgettable tale is Mugezi, a young man who manages to make it through the hellish reign of Idi Amin and experiences firsthand the most crushing aspects of Ugandan society: he withstands his distant father's oppression and his mother's cruelty in the name of Catholic zeal, endures the ravages of war, rape, poverty, and AIDS, and yet he is able to keep a hopeful and even occasionally amusing outlook on life. Mugezi's hard-won observations form a cri de coeur for a people shaped by untold losses. Abyssinian Chronicles was written in English but first published in Dutch in the Netherlands in 1998.
“Precious few first novels are as phantasmagoric or as haunting as this one.”
“His story has a strange amoral power, an immediacy and raw energy that capture the mood of the times.”
— Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“This big, transcendently ambitious book offers an unparalleled picture of a culture in crisis?. Brimming with vividly rendered scenes.”
— The Boston Globe
This book is a must read before travel to Uganda. It contains wonderful character development and provides a learning experience about life in Uganda and its history. Written from a Ugandan perspective. I read this book and the Brandt travel guide on Uganda before a 8/04 trip to Uganda and was enthralled with both. Much better than "Gravity of Sunlight". Read Abyssinian and be prepared for hours of fascinating people, culture and history.
— Paul S
A narration that simply stands taller and taller than any comparison... deep, reflective, spellbinding and richly told. Full of character.
— Tom Owiyo
Isegawa's narrative of postcolonial Uganda teases out some of the most culturally pervasive themes in Ugandan social life without rendering them as caricatures. His critiques of Amin and Obote, of Indians and Europeans in Uganda, and of the entire colonial enterprise are spot on. Despite some occasionally clunky or repetitive prose--possibly necessary features of conveying Kampala life--this book is a triumph of Ugandan literature!
— Kigozi Peter
Visions of Ararat: Writings on Armenia
By Christopher J. Walker
Paperback: 157 pages
Published: July 22, 2005, by I. B. Tauris (first published March 1997)
Despite the great geographical gulf that separates them, Armenia and Europe have maintained links for many centuries--at least since the late Middle Ages when the King of Armenia traveled to London to try and reconcile the warring kingdoms of England and France. Since then, diverse travelers have written perceptively and affectionately of that far off, beautiful land and of a people who have shown great inner tenacity in the face of a difficult history. This anthology brings together the best writing on Armenia--accounts by travel writers, early anthropologists, historians, soldiers, poets and politicians. Each section is annotated and placed in context. The result is a lively and colourful picture of a resilient and resourceful people.
Stories My Father Never Finished Telling Me: Living with the Armenian Legacy of Loss and Silence
By Douglas Kalajian
Paperback: 258 pages
Publisher: 8220 Press; 1 edition (April 16, 2014)
Stories My Father Never Finished Telling Me recounts author Douglas Kalajian’s lifelong attempts to overcome his father’s reluctance to speak about his life as a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. In piecing together the scattered bits his father reluctantly shared, Kalajian reflects on how his father’s silence affected his own life and his identity as an American of Armenian descent. Kalajian is a retired journalist who worked as an editor and writer for the Palm Beach Post and the Miami Herald.
The Sandcastle Girls
By Chris Bohjalian
Hardcover : 299 pages
Published: July 17th 2012 by Doubleday
Paperback: 299 pages
Published: April 16th 2013 by Vintage
Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction-2012
The Sandcastle Girls is a sweeping historical love story steeped in Chris Bohjalian's Armenian heritage.
When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Aleppo, Syria, she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The year is 1915 and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to help deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide. There Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo and travels south into Egypt to join the British army, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.
Fast forward to the present day, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents' ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed "The Ottoman Annex," Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura's grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family's history that reveals love, loss— and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.
“A deeply moving story of survival and enduring love.”
“Bohjalian deftly weaves the many threads of this story back and forth, from past to present, from abuse to humanity, from devastation to redemption. . . . Utterly riveting.”
—The Washington Post
“Bohjalian—the grandson of Armenian survivors—pours passion, pride, and sadness into his tale of ethnic destruction and endurance.”
“Dead-solid perfect. Bohjalian is a literary novelist unafraid to reference Proust's madeleine and expect readers to get it. But his books are also filled with artfully drawn characters and great, passionate storytelling. The Sandcastle Girls is all that, but different, more powerful.”
—The Seattle Times
“In his latest novel, master storyteller Chris Bohjalian explores the ways in which our ancestral past informs our contemporary lives—in ways we understand and ways that remain mysteriously out of reach. The Sandcastle Girls is deft, layered, eye-opening, and riveting. I was deeply moved.”
—Wally Lamb, author of The Hour I First Believed
“A searing, tightly woven tale of war and the legacy it leaves behind. . . . A nuanced, sophisticated portrayal of what it means not only to endure, but to insist on hope.”
Beyond the Rice Fields
By Naivo, translated by Allison M. Charette
Paperback: 368 pages
Published: October 31, 2017, by Restless Books (first published November 3rd 2016)
Literary Awards: BTBA Best Translated Book Award Nominee for Fiction Longlist (2018)
The first novel from Madagascar ever to be translated into English, Naivo’s magisterial Beyond the Rice Fields delves into the upheavals of the nation’s past as it confronted Christianity and modernity, through the twin narratives of a slave and his master’s daughter.
Fara and her father’s slave, Tsito, have been close since her father bought the boy after his forest village was destroyed. Now in Sahasoa, amongst the cattle and rice fields, everything is new for Tsito, and Fara at last has a companion. But as Tsito looks forward to the bright promise of freedom and Fara, backward to a dark, long-denied family history, a rift opens between them just as British Christian missionaries and French industrialists arrive and violence erupts across the country. Love and innocence fall away, and Tsito and Fara’s world becomes enveloped by tyranny, superstition, and fear.
With captivating lyricism, propulsive urgency, and two unforgettable characters at the story’s core, Naivo unflinchingly delves into the brutal history of nineteenth-century Madagascar. Beyond the Rice Fields is a tour de force that has much to teach us about human bondage and the stories we tell to face—and hide from—ourselves, each other, our pasts, and our destinies.
“His lyrical chronicle traces the lives of Tsito, a young slave whose community is destroyed by Merina soldiers, his new master Rado, and Rado’s young daughter Fara…. Naivo gives dramatic intensity to the time of the Imerina monarchs, beginning in 1785 with the reign of Nampiona, a reformer king who declared, “the seas are the limits of my rice fields,” and ending in 1849, when the persecution of Christians and sympathizers reaches its peak under Queen Mavo. Translated from the French by Allison M Charette, this is a fascinating window into Malagasy history.”
—Jane Ciabattari, BBC Culture
“The best historical fiction shines light on past horrors through the eyes of everyday people who have to find their way forward no matter how tortuous the path. Naivo’s debut, the first novel from Madagascar to be translated into English, does just that….the narrative arc, complete with lush descriptions of the rice fields of Sahasoa and the capital, Antananarivo, or the “City of Thousands,” is precise and effective. In all, Naivo has created a sharp and memorable tale of young lives caught in the crossfire of seismic events, and a significant novel that deservedly shines light on a little-known chapter of world history.”
—Poornima Apte, Booklist
“With quiet surety, the novel pairs an elegantly poetic narrative with an intensifying brutality of events as Madagascar finds itself beset by internal strife, French industrialism, and the zealous efforts of Christian missionaries. … Rich with historical and cultural detail, Beyond the Rice Fields demonstrates with omniscient sadness mankind’s ability to commit horrific acts in the name of tradition, or for whoever holds power at the moment.”
—Meg Nola, Foreword Reviews
“A love story and coming-of-age-tale set in one of the most tumultuous periods in Madagascar’s history, the publication of this book is an exciting moment for world literature—this is the first ever novel from the nation to appear in English! Naivo’s gift for storytelling is evident in Allison M. Charette’s graceful translation. Beyond the Rice Fields is a breathtaking monsoon of a book.”
—Noah Mintz, Green Apple Books on the Park (San Francisco, CA)
“Naivo’s novel … pairs a sweeping, tragic love story with the 19th-century history of his island, when it teetered “on the verge of catastrophe.” … Naivo’s encyclopedic attempt to capture Madagascar’s history is admirable ... the novel’s characters [are] fully realized in the novel’s thrilling conclusion. … Naivo provides readers with an astonishing amount of information about Madagascar’s culture and past.”
This story is so original and that, in and of itself, is very refreshing. I found the two narratives of Fara and Tsito compelling and their perspectives unusual and innovative. They struggle through life's obstacles but I felt the storytelling about their lives was new and pushed my expectations and experiences beyond what I have read in other books. I was truly invigorated by this author and how he crafted this book.
There is intrigue and a few mysteries that are confronted and uncovered. But wow— with an intricate plotting and many "new" elements or new approaches to story elements, this book took me to a different time and a different place. I was engrossed by these characters and what they went though. This read was so immersive.
This book is touted as the first from Madagascar to be translated into English from the original French; the author is a Madagascar native and writes in French. I believe Naivo is an ethnocultural and linguistic native to Madagascar and thus provides an insider's touch. And because he writes in French (and English), he has already helped bridge some of the linguistic gaps.
—Ming [Here's a link to an interview with the translator: https://www.arts.gov/art-works/2017/a... ]
Took me awhile to finish this but I blazed through the last hundred pages. The action really picks up at the end after building these characters and really setting the scene of early and mid 1800's Madagascar as the country first embraced, then rejected, Europeans and Christianity. I learned a lot about a country I wasn't as familiar with and I came to care about Fara and Tsito and their family. Brutal but beautiful.
Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India
William Dalrymple, 2011
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 14, 2011)
“…an enlightening book that explores with remarkable compassion and expansive insight nine varieties of religious devotion in India today.
In portraits of people we might otherwise never know William Dalrymple distills his twenty-five years of travel in India to explore the challenges faced by practitioners of traditional forms of faith in contemporary India. For two months a year, a man in Kerala divides his time between jobs as a prison warden and a well-builder and his calling as an incarnate deity. A temple prostitute watches her two daughters die from AIDS after entering a trade she regards as a sacred calling. A Jain nun recalls the pain of watching her closest friend ritually starve herself to death.
Together, these tales reveal the resilience of individuals in the face of the relentless onslaught of modernity, the enduring legacy of tradition, and the hope and honor that can be found even in the most unlikely places.”
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Historian-travel writer Dalrymple (The Last Mughal) knows his Asian subcontinent, having moved to New Delhi in 1989. The engine of Indian economic development is bringing rapid change, and Dalrymple spotlights changes and constancies brought about in India’s dizzyingly diverse religious practices. The titular nine lives are those of a variety of religious adherents: a Jain nun, a sacred dancer, a Sufi mystic, a Tantric practitioner, among others. His subjects, for the most part, do their own show-and-tell in explaining their religious paths, which differ but share the passionate devotion (bhakti) that characterizes popular religion in India. Dalrymple has a good eye, a better ear, and the humility to get out of the way of his subjects. It helps to know a bit about the subject coming in, as it saves endless flipping to a very helpful appended glossary. The author also notes in his introduction he has made a special effort to avoid exoticizing “mystic India,” yet he has picked some extremes to exemplify different kinds of religious beliefs and practices. Still, those are minor quibbles about this ambitious and affectionate book that respects popular religion.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Dalrymple, author of prizewinning works of far-roaming inquiry, including The Last Mughal (2007), knows when to let others speak. Which is what he does with great finesse in this evocative set of portraits of nine spiritual seekers living across India. Nine lives that open doors onto nine of India's many arduous paths to the divine and reveal striking, nearly surreal juxtapositions between the old and the new. There's the haunting tale of a Jain nun who as a girl renounced her life of privilege and the wrenching story of Rani Bai, a devadasi, or servant of the goddess Yellamma, who was forced into prostitution as a girl. Hari Das describes what it feels like “to be taken over by a god” when he performs theyyam, the sacred possession dance of Kerala, only to return to his dangerous work as a prison guard. Dalrymple sets each vivid profile within an intricately drawn history of the ancient and now-endangered tradition each devotee is dedicated to preserving in the escalating battle between holiness and hustle that is transforming India.
Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali (Longman African Writers Revised Edition)
Retold by D.T. Niane, trans G. D. Pickett
Paperback: 120 pages
Publisher: Pearson; Revised Edition (2006)
This is a revision of Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali, a bestseller for 30 years.
Retold by griots, the guardians of African culture, this oral tradition has been handed down from the thirteenth century and captures all the mystery and majesty of medieval African kingship. It is the epic tale, based on an actual figure, of Sundiata (Sunjata). Part history and part legend, it tells how Sundiata fulfilled the prophesies that he would unite the twelve kingdoms of Mali into a powerful empire.
This Revised Edition includes background information which provides a geographical, religious, social, and political context for the story. A ‘who’s who of characters’ and ‘a glossary of places’ will enhance the reader’s experience.
About the Author:
Born in Guinea, author and playwright Djibril Tamsir Niane is a descendant of griots—African oral historians/storytellers. He translated Sundiata, as told by the griot Djeli Mamadou Kouyate, into French under the title Soundjata ou Epoque Mandiginue in 1960. It was later translated into English by G. D. Pickett in 1965.
Man Tiger (Lelaki Harimau)
Eka Kurniawan, trans Labodalih Sembiring
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Verso; Translation edition (September 15, 2015)
A wry, affecting tale set in a small town on the Indonesian coast, Man Tiger tells the story of two interlinked and tormented families and of Margio, a young man ordinary in all particulars except that he conceals within himself a supernatural female white tiger. The inequities and betrayals of family life coalesce around and torment this magical being. An explosive act of violence follows, and its mysterious cause is unraveled as events progress toward a heartbreaking revelation.
Lyrical and bawdy, experimental and political, this extraordinary novel announces the arrival of a powerful new voice on the global literary stage.
A longlist nominee for the Man Booker International Prize.
About the Author and Translator
Author Eka Kurniawan was born in Tasikmalaya, Indonesia in 1975. He studied philosophy at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta. He has published several novels, including Beauty Is a Wound and Man Tiger, as well as short stories. His novels have been published in a number of languages, including English.
Labodalih Sembiring (translator) is a freelance features reporter for English-language publications, a writer of fiction in English and Indonesian, an amateur photographer, and a landscape designer.
“Against the killings of those years and the collective amnesia used to blank out the fate of [Indonesia’s] victims—a kind of second death, as it were—Kurniawan’s fiction summons its legions of ghosts. Against the strongmen who presided over violence and abuse, it raises the dead Dewi Ayu and brings to life a magic tigress hungry for justice.”
--Siddhartha Deb, New Republic
“Tight, focused and thrilling. Like a good crime novel, Man Tiger works best when read in a single sitting, and its propulsive suspense is all the more remarkable because Kurniawan reveals both victim and murderer in the first sentence.”
--Jon Fasman, New York Times Book Review
“Without a doubt the most original, imaginatively profound, and elegant writer of fiction in Indonesia today: its brightest and most unexpected meteorite.”
“The world Kurniawan invents is familiar and unexpected, incorporating mystery, magical realism, and folklore … Biting and beautiful … This wild and enthralling novel manages to entertain while offering readers insight into the traditions of a little-known South East Asian culture. Kurniawan has officially put the West on notice.
“What good fortune that English-speaking readers may now find ourselves enchanted, confronted, and perhaps transformed by Kurniawan’s work.”
“[Kurniawan] seems destined to join the ranks of our great storytellers like Salman Rushdie and Gabriel García Márquez.”
Kwame Nkrumah: The Father of African Nationalism
By David Birmingham
Paperback: 153 pages
Publisher: Ohio University Press (December 15, 1998)
The first African statesman to achieve world recognition was Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972), who became president of the new Republic of Ghana in 1960. He campaigned ceaselessly for African solidarity and for the liberation of southern Africa from white settler rule. His greatest achievement was to win the right of black peoples in Africa to have a vote and to determine their own destiny.
He turned a dream of liberation into a political reality. He was the leader of Ghana who urged Africa to shed the colonial yoke and who inspired black people everywhere to seek their freedom.
This revised edition of Birmingham's fine and accessible biography chronicles the public accomplishments of this extraordinary leader, who faced some of the century's most challenging political struggles over colonial transition. African nationalism, and pan-Africanism. It also relates some of the personal trials of a complex individual.
As a student in America in the late 1930s, Nkrumah, shy, disorganized, but ambitious and persistent, earned four degrees in ten years. For political training he then went to England. Nkrumah found writing difficult throughout his lifetime, but once back in his African homeland, with its oral heritage, Nkrumah blossomed as a charming conversationalist, a speechmaker, and eventually a visionary and inspiring leader.
Nkrumah's crusades were controversial, however, and in the 1960s he gradually lost his heroic stature both among his own people and among his fellow leaders. He lived his last years in exile.
This remarkable life story, which touches on many of the issues facing modern Africa, will open a window of understanding for the general leader as well as for graduate and undergraduate classes.
In this new edition, Birmingham also examines Nkrumah's exile and provides insight into the image of Nkrumah that has emerged in the light of research recently published.
About the Author
David Birmingham lived in Switzerland from 1947 to 1954 as a child and returned there in the 1990s as a visiting historian. From 1980 to 2001 he held the chair of Modern History in the University of Kent at Canterbury in England. He is the author of many books, including Portugal and Africa.
“This is a biographical study of one of the most complex African leaders of the twentieth century colonial era. The book admirably traces the problems Nkrumah faced as a student and aspiring politician…. The book is a colorful biography and assists the reader in understanding the tribulations and aspirations of Third World leaders in guiding their countries through the uncertain transition from colonialism to independence.”—African Studies Quarterly
God's Bits of Wood
By Ousman Sembène, trans Francis Price
Paperback: 248 pages
Publisher: Pearson; Revised edition (August 11, 2008)
In 1947 the workers on the Dakar-Niger Railway came out on strike. Throughout this novel, written from the workers' perspective, the community social tensions emerge, and increase as the strike lengthens. The author's other novels include Xala and Black Docker.
About the Author
Writer and film director Ousmane Sembène was born in Senegal and worked as a fisherman before attending l'Ecole de Ceramique at Marsassoum. He worked as a plumber, a bricklayer, and an apprentice mechanic in Dakar, and eventually became a docker and trade union leader in Marseilles. Out of this experience he wrote Le Docker Noir (1956). He also published Oh Pays, mon Beau Peuple (1957), L'Harmattan (1964) and the collection of stories, Voltaique (1962), which was translated as God's Bits of Wood and appears in the African Writers Series (AWS). He has made several films including one of Le Mandat (translated as “The Money Order” with White Genesis AWS). His film of Xala met with a great success in the New York film festival. More recently, Moolaadé ("Magical Protection") is a 2004 film.
Amazon Customer Review
5.0 out of 5 stars Warning! This well-crafter book will grow your perspective of life in Colonial Africa! God's Bits of Wood is a fantastic literary work that provides the reader detailed insight into French Colonial Africa. We are introduced to many diverse characters struggling with where they belong and how they fit into the modern world as a railroad strike requires them to step out of their comfort zones to survive. We have the solid and strong leadership of the mysterious Bakayoko. The book opens with a young Ad'jibi'ji who is starting to develop her own ideas of the world. Ramatoulaye and Mame Sofi combine the new world with the old as they fend for their families and support the men on strike. These are just a hand full of people from the many that you will meet as the story unfolds. Ousmane Sembène writes from every angle and perspective of the times so the reader can grasp many of the concepts each generation encountered throughout the strike and after it. Each personality grows throughout the story in a unique way. Sembène does an amazing job blending what had become traditional gender roles under colonial rule with the older, pre-colonial matrilineal traditions of Sudan and Senegal's past. The characters are all very relatable. Many will cause you to stop and really think about their experiences and lessons that we can all learn from to make the world a better place. —Cat Novelliere, Amazon Customer Reviews
The Last Time I Saw Mother
By Arlene J. Chai, 1997
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Trade edition (May 13, 1997)
Caridad's mother never writes. So when a letter arrives for her in Sydney from Manila, Caridad doesn't even recognize her mother's handwriting. There is more distance than just miles between the two women. And that is why Caridad is called home. Her mother needs to talk. And to reveal a secret that has been weighing heavily on her for years. As Caridad hears at last the unspoken stories, and the never forgotten tragedy of the war years, she will learn a startling truth that will change her life forever. For Caridad is not who she thinks she is. . . .
"an often lyrical and always tough-minded debut . . . Provides rare insight into the three cultures--Spanish, Chinese, and Filipino--that coexist in the Philippines."
The New York Times Book Review
"Beautifully written . . . Reading each chapter is like having a conversation with a close friend."
"A sensitive . . . portrait of a family of Filipina women . . . The novel illuminates much modern Philippine history."
The Boston Globe
Amazon.com Review When an oblique letter summons Caridad from Australia to her mother's side in the steamy Philippines, she travels there fearing loss. And loss she finds, but one that finally throws light on the whispers that dogged her life in this land where Spanish, Chinese, and Filipino cultures slap against one another. "The past defines us as much as the present," says Caridad. "Because mine was missing, I never felt whole." Four women--Caridad, her mother Thelma, aunt Emma, and cousin Ligaya--piece together the puzzle of a life begun in wartime. Their vantage points differ, but their stories are silver-tongued and spellbinding even as Ligaya's bitterness stains the pages and Emma's long, mute acceptance of fate's cruelty rings false. Wrapped around Caridad's story is a far bigger one of the years when the Japanese occupied the Philippines and American liberation forces decimated the country.
From Publishers Weekly
The central story in this interesting but uneven debut novel by Filipina author Chai concerns a woman who discovers the truth about her parentage. Caridad, a Filipino woman living in Sydney, Australia, with her teenage daughter, discovers on a trip home to Manila that her elderly mother, Thelma, is actually her aunt?and that her vivacious aunt Emma is her mother. Using multiple, shifting first-person perspectives, these three women, as well as Caridad's beautiful, bitter cousin, Ligaya, relate the long story of why this secret adoption took place. The voices of the four women are virtually identical, however, and sometimes lapse into cliched musings about life and love. More compelling is the seamlessly interwoven background Chai provides: 50 years of history in the Philippines?from the WWII Japanese invasion and its vividly recounted brutalities through the battle for liberation (in which systematic American bombing caused more damage than three years of Japanese occupation) to the Marcoses' 20-year rule and the subsequent People's Power revolution. Fascinating side lights illuminate the subtleties of race relations among native Filipinos and the other ethnic strands in the island's social fabric: "the Spaniards they feared and envied; the Chinese they hated and envied." Chai's prose is devoid of stylistic flourish and the narrative is often repetitious and digressive. When she tells of life in the evacuation camps or in war-decimated Manila, however, the descriptions are sensual and palpably detailed. Thus the truth about Caridad's past pales against Chai's evocation of her country's travails.
The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War
By Gioconda Belli, trans Kristina Cordero, 2003
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Anchor; 2002 Edition edition (October 14, 2003)
An electrifying memoir from the acclaimed Nicaraguan writer ("A wonderfully free and original talent" —Harold Pinter) and central figure in the Sandinista Revolution.
Until her early twenties, Gioconda Belli inhabited an upper-class cocoon: sheltered from the poverty in Managua in a world of country clubs and debutante balls; educated abroad; early marriage and motherhood. But in 1970, everything changed. Her growing dissatisfaction with domestic life, and a blossoming awareness of the social inequities in Nicaragua, led her to join the Sandinistas, then a burgeoning but still hidden organization. She would be involved with them over the next twenty years at the highest, and often most dangerous, levels. Her memoir is both a revelatory insider's account of the Revolution and a vivid, intensely felt story about coming of age under extraordinary circumstances. Belli writes with both striking lyricism and candor about her personal and political lives: about her family, her children, the men in her life; about her poetry; about the dichotomies between her birth-right and the life she chose for herself; about the failures and triumphs of the Revolution; about her current life, divided between California (with her American husband and their children) and Nicaragua; and about her sustained and sustaining passion for her country and its people.
From Publishers Weekly
Belli's upper-class Nicaraguan family was unsympathetic to the Somoza dictatorship, but would have been shocked to learn that their 20-something daughter was joining the underground Sandinistas even as she worked her bourgeois day job at a prestigious advertising agency. This lush memoir follows Belli from her sterile marriage to her first affair, from her first published poem to her first subversive act, and then through a series of exiles, until her triumphant return to her liberated homeland... only to face another struggle to liberate her own heart. The account is both intensely personal and informatively political. Belli (The Inhabited Woman) was no mere sympathizer or mistress to a companero but an active militant and strategist in her own right. She smuggled weapons, ran roadblocks, formed factions with revolutionary tendencies, argued strategy with Castro and represented liberated Nicaragua at Third World conferences from Moscow to Tripoli. An honest, insider's account of the very real debates surrounding this major revolution would be valuable in itself, but Belli offers more: a frank examination of her own struggle for love. Only after a series of disastrous affairs does she realize she must stop adjusting herself to how she expects her lover will react and just be herself. Next to the monumental upheavals of the Sandinistan revolution, such personal revelations may seem minor, but to Belli and her companeras, the battle was only half won if women were again relegated to mistress-to-the-mighty status. Belli shares her story in some 50 brief chapters, each subtitled to foreshadow content-an oddly reassuring format. From Booklist
*Starred Review* Belli, author of the acclaimed novel The Inhabited Woman (1994), could have simply enjoyed the benefits of upper-class Nicaraguan life as a young wife and mother, but privileged domesticity could not contain her questing spirit. She soon launched a successful advertising career in Managua, found her soul mates among writers and revolutionaries, and became both a celebrated poet and a Sandinista, risking her life in her country's fight for freedom. Belli's dramatic and heroic story is an epic of liberation both personal and communal, and she chronicles her harrowing experiences with magnetic candor and lithe lyricism, sharing her insider's view of the Sandinistas' hard-won, tragically brief victory and the wrenching anguish of their annihilation thanks to Reagan and Bush and the Iran-Contra debacle. Motherhood and love affairs under fire, gun running and media work, poetry prizes and exile, and ceaseless combat against misogyny and despair, Belli's powerfully told story reveals the symbiotic give-and-take of body and soul, art and politics, and altruism and pragmatism that make up the human continuum. A tribute to beauty, valor, and justice, Belli's giving and clarion book is also an antidote to fear and apathy, and a reminder that freedom is always a work in progress. Donna Seaman
The Sound of Things Falling (El ruido de las cosas al caer)
By Juan Gabriel Vásquez, trans Anne McLean, 2013
Paperback: 302 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Books (June 3, 2014)
Juan Gabriel Vásquez has been hailed not only as one of South America’s greatest literary stars, but also as one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation. In this gorgeously wrought, award-winning novel, Vásquez confronts the history of his home country, Colombia.
In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above.
Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend’s murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend’s family have been shaped by his country’s recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare.
Vásquez is “one of the most original new voices of Latin American literature,” according to Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, and The Sound of Things Falling is his most personal, most contemporary novel to date, a masterpiece that takes his writing—and will take his literary star—even higher.
*Winner of the 2014 International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, August 2013: Juan Gabriel Vasquez will draw comparisons to other major Latin American icons. But while the influence of Roberto Bolaño, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Gabriel García Márquez are present throughout his second novel, The Sound of Things Falling, he is a unique literary talent. Translated from Spanish (and exceptionally well, at that), Vasquez moves swiftly and subtly, opening in Bogota, Colombia, reflecting on the mid-’70s when the country was being taken over by drug lords and cartels (fueled by the U.S.’s hunger for cocaine). Law professor Antonio Yammara finds his fate intertwined with that of a shady ex-pilot named Laverde. But Things Falling is so much more than a drug story. This is a sensory novel. Antonio wrestles with the way he interprets by his surroundings, by how the external world affects the internal. “[I]t’s always disconcerting to discover, when it’s another person who brings us the revelation, the slight or complete lack of control we have over our own experience.” The Sound of Things Falling does so much at once: it’s a novel about how the U.S. dangerously influences Latin America, how the present never escapes the past, and how fragile our relationships--romantic and familial--can be. —Kevin Nguyen From Publishers Weekly
*Starred Review*. That story is to blame, declares a character in Colombian author Vasquez's latest novel (after The Secret History of Costaguana). Indeed, this book is an exploration of the ways in which stories profoundly impact lives. Around 1996, when murder and bloody mayhem fueled by the drug trade were commonplace in Bogotá, the young law professor Antonio Yammara befriends enigmatic stranger Ricardo Laverde. One night, assassins on motorbikes open fire on the two, killing Laverde and seriously wounding Yammara. Conflicted and at a loss to understand the damage Laverde has wrought, Yammara looks into his life story. Yammara suffers from crippling psychic and physical wounds as a result of the shooting, and his investigation takes him to Laverde's shabby Bogotá apartment, where he receives a gruesome clue from the grieving landlady. Yammara eventually finds Laverde's daughter Maya, a beekeeper who lives in the Colombian countryside. She shows Yammara photos and letters she's collected about the father she never knew. Together they lose themselves in stories of Laverde's childhood; of Maya's American mother, Elaine Fritts; and of Elaine and Laverde's love affair. Vasquez allows the story to become Elaine's, and as the puzzle of Laverde is pieced together, Yammara comes to realize just how thoroughly the stories of these other people are part of his own.
Muna Madan: A Play in the Jhyaure Folk Tradition
By Laxmi Prasad Devkota, trans Ananda P. Shrestha, 2000
Paperback: 286 pages
Publisher: South Asia Books; 1 edition (June 2000)
Written in popular Jhyaure folk tradition, the play weaves a moving tale of Madan, who goes to Lhasa to earn an honest dream of bedecking his beloved wife, Muna, with ornaments of gold and of fulfilling the final wishes of his ailing mother. On his way back home, Madan falls sick. Drama then unfolds to capture the agony of a human life caught up in the twilight of dreaming and knowing. Nepalese translator Anand P. Shrestha for the first time brings alive the immortal music that reverberates in the bloodstream of Nepalese people.
Muna Madan is the most commerically successful Nepali book ever published. A national legend, Devkota’s famous statement, made before his 1959 death, was that “it would be all right of all my works were burned, except for Muna Madan,” is a testament to the power that this text holds over Nepali culture.
"Muna Madan is a story of migration, of a movement outside the vale of mind, the geopolitical compulsion of moving out to labor and come back to live to the rhythm of the Himalayan hills..." --Yuyutsu Sharma in Foreword
"Here is perhaps first ever authentic English translation of Mahakavi Laxmi Prasad Devkota's magnum opus, Muna Madan... comes as a watershed in the history of Nepali literature... --The Kathmandu Post
"A perfect job... the translator's eighteen years devotion to the completion of this work deserves appreciation for maintaining rhythm, theme and rhyme of the original... Commendable." The Independent, Kathmandu
Aunt Résia and the Spirits and Other Stories
By Yanick Lahens, trans Betty Wilson, 2010
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: University of Virginia Press (February 4, 2010)
ISBN-13:978-0813929019 Series:CARAF Books: Caribbean and African Literature translated from the French
The Haiti of Yanick Lahens's path-breaking short fiction is a country demanding our compassion as it reveals to us its horrors. For decades among the forefront of Haitian writers, Lahens has embarked on a renewal of the genre of short stories that she inherited from Caribbean?and especially Haitian?traditions. Through her elliptical and sharp style she succeeds in conveying the authenticity of her people's tragic fight for survival within the scope of our shared human experience. Here is day-to-day life, packed with its myriad emotions, desires, and contradictions, against a backdrop of extraordinary circumstances. The men and women glimpsed in Lahens's stories are confronted with the overwhelming task of simply staying alive. "The Survivors" unfolds under the Duvalier dictatorship. The story, centered on a group of men who dream of somehow striking out against the regime, shows how fear is passed down from generation to generation. Life is no simpler in the post-Duvalier world of the title story, in which a young man is caught between a mother who lives a devout life filled with self-imposed restrictions and an aunt who religiously serves the spirits of Vodou but makes no apologies for working in the black market. The twelve-year-old girl who narrates "Madness Had Come with the Rain" finds herself swept up in a violent riot following the death of a modern Robin Hood. Lahens’s women, although they may act as the poto mitan (or "central pole") in family life and society, experience a particularly grim fate. In the eviction tale "And All This Unease" a beautiful girl reminisces about her happy childhood in the country in order to forget her current life as a prostitute. Yanick Lahens presents testimonies, opens intimacies, sometimes offers hope, but always returns to the despair afflicting Haiti, because lying within it is the key to her country. The first collection of Lahens's unforgettable short stories available in English, this volume will bring one of the most important voices in contemporary literature to the wider audience it deserves.
Lahens is the most important living female Haitian author in French. Her short stories in particular demonstrate an art, a style, and a political commitment of the highest caliber. Through the intimate window of Lahens’s mode of realism, this collection invites the gaze of the Anglophone world onto her. —Christiane Makward, Pennsylvania State
About the Author and Translator
In addition to her short fiction, Yanick Lahens has published two novels, Dans la maison du père and La couleur de l’aube, as well as numerous essays on literature and politics. Betty Wilson teaches in the Department of Literatures in English at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.
The Blue Sky
By Galsan Tschinag, trans Katarina Rout, 2007
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Milkweed Editions; First Trade Paper Edition edition (December 1, 2007)
In the Altai Mountains of northern Mongolia, the nomadic Tuvan people’s ancient way of life is colliding with the relentless influence of the modern world. For a young shepherd boy, the confrontation comes in stages. First, his older siblings leave to attend a distant boarding school. Then, his beloved grandmother dies, taking with her a profound link to the tribe’s traditions and their connection to the land. But the cruelest blow is struck when his dog—“all that was left to me”—dies after eating poison the boy’s father set out to protect the herd from wolves. In despair, he begs the Heavenly Blue Sky for answers, but is met with only the mute wind. Tschinag, the first and only member of the Tuvan to use a written language to tell stories, weaves a lyrical account of his people and their traditions.
This book gets three stars because: 1. It talks about a way of life that's under threat but avoids the emotional manipulation that I dread in expat authors writing about home. 2. The boy narrator is just a boy and not a precocious mouthpiece for an adult. 3. It taught me about a part of the world that I know very little about.
Not a “rocked-my-world” read. But definitely a “made-my-world-bigger” read.
In Der Blaue Himmel , written in German, Tuvan shaman, poet and novelist Galsan Tschinag tells the story of a young Tuvan boy, Dshurukuwaa, in the early 1950's living in the bosom of his extended family in the ancient manner of his nomadic people, moving across the monstrously wide steppes of Mongolia and southern Siberia and the mountain valleys of the Altai as their herds of sheep, goats, yaks, and horses graze, living almost exclusively on their milk, blood, flesh, bones and hides (there is little else to be found on the steppe except for grass, marmots, foxes, wolves and the occasional bird or bear), and carrying their dismantled homes (yurts) with them.
… In this book we learn about this old way of life from the inside. Two other things we learn from this book: (1) human beings are remarkably adaptable and (2) despite cultural differences, human beings are much the same everywhere, for the better and for the worse. Even if one thinks one already knows these things, there is still gain in seeing these play themselves out in the absolutely concrete setting of a culture distant to our own.
In relatively straightforward but evocative language, Tschinag summons the simple but hard life of the Tuvan nomads, the harsh beauty of the steppes and mountains, and the extremely tight family bonds of his people.
The Communist Party controlled Mongolia and had already begun to "improve" the lives of the inhabitants, so the nomads were beginning to change their ways. Dshurukuwaa's older brother and sister were obliged to leave the camp to go to school in the local village, and some of his extended family chose to move there, as well. Dshurukuwaa, too young for school, took over his siblings' chores. His nomadic life continued, but, in quick succession, his beloved grandmother died, a bitter winter killed most of his flock, and his inseparable dog was accidentally poisoned. The book ends with him screaming imprecations at the most powerful being in the Tuvans' religion, the Blue Sky.
Der Blaue Himmel is the first volume of a trilogy, and the story of Dshurukuwaa's youth continues in Die graue Erde and Der weiße Berg, with Dshurukuwaa personally experiencing how the communist authority was trying to stamp out his culture.
Tschinag's books appear to be the only sources of insight in a Western language into Tuvan culture and history as presented from a native member of that society. “Galsan Tschinag” is a Mongolian pseudonym the boy was required to adopt in order to attend Mongolian schools, because the Mongolian government forbade the Tuvan speech.
Tschinag studied German at the Karl Marx University in Leipzig (1962-1968) and chose to write his books in German when looking for a Western audience. He also writes books in Mongolian in order to reach out to the Kazakh and Mongolian majority in his own country in defense of the minority Tuva people, known in the West for their remarkable "throat singing":
By Jorge Luis Borges, trans Andrew Hurley, 1999
Paperback: 576 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books (September 1, 1999)
Jorge Luis Borges has been called the greatest Spanish-language writer of our century. Now for the first time in English, all of Borges' dazzling fictions are gathered into a single volume, brilliantly translated by Andrew Hurley. From his 1935 debut with The Universal History of Iniquity, through his immensely influential collections Ficciones and The Aleph, these enigmatic, elaborate, imaginative inventions display Borges' talent for turning fiction on its head by playing with form and genre and toying with language. Together these incomparable works comprise the perfect one-volume compendium for all those who have long loved Borges, and a superb introduction to the master's work for those who have yet to discover this singular genius.
Do yourself a massive favor and read Borges. He can deliver more plot and twists in 2-5 pages than many authors do in 300. Every page will blow your mind as you loose yourself in the brilliant labyrinth of his words. Read it. Now.
Reading Jorge Luis Borges's Collected Fictions is like being thrown into the ring with a merciless prize fighter, getting the shit kicked out of you, and loving every minute of it.
These pieces felt more like punches than short stories. Borges jabs to your head, jarring your brain with damning conversations with his future self, invented libraries of the Universe and stories that make you feel like a lost kid on your way to Algebra class but accidentally ending up in Trigonometry. Then he switches his stance and digs at your body with primal blows. Petty gangsters, simplistic machismo, knife fights, all with such savage bravado that you can taste the cheap liquor and cheaper blood.
I said at the top, "loving every minute of it" and perhaps that needs to be tempered. There were times, in certain stories, where my head spun and I wanted to drop to the canvas and not get up. It seemed to be all too much. But I knew if I stayed on my feet and in the ring for the whole 12 rounds I would be rewarded richly. I was. Get in the ring and you will be too.
My Name Is Red
By Orhan Pamuk, trans Erdag Göknar, 2002
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (August 27, 2002)
At once a fiendishly devious mystery, a beguiling love story, and a brilliant symposium on the power of art, My Name Is Red is a transporting tale set amid the splendor and religious intrigue of sixteenth-century Istanbul, from one of the most prominent contemporary Turkish writers. The Sultan has commissioned a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land to create a great book celebrating the glories of his realm. Their task: to illuminate the work in the European style. But because figurative art can be deemed an affront to Islam, this commission is a dangerous proposition indeed. The ruling elite therefore mustn’t know the full scope or nature of the project, and panic erupts when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears. The only clue to the mystery–or crime? –lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves. Part fantasy and part philosophical puzzle, My Name is Red is a kaleidoscopic journey to the intersection of art, religion, love, sex and power.
"It is neither passion nor homicide that makes Pamuk's latest, My Name is Red, the rich and essential book that it is. . . . It is Pamuk's rendering of the intense life of artists negotiating the devilishly sharp edge of Islam 1,000 years after its brith that elevates My Name is Red to the rank of modern classic. . . . To read Pamuk is to be steeped in a paradox that precedes our modern-day feuds beteween secularism and fundamentalism."
--Jonathan Levi, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Straddling the Dardanelles sits the city of Istanbul . . . and in that city sits Orhan Pamuk, chronicler of its consciousness . . . His novel's subject is the difference in perceptions between East and West . . . [and] a mysterious killer... driven by mad theology. . .Pamuk is getting at a subject that has compelled modern thinkers from Heidegger to Derrida . . . My Name is Red is a meditation on authenticity and originality . . . An ambitious work on so many levels at once."
--Melvin Jules Bukiet, Chicago Tribune
"Intensely exhilarating . . . Arresting and provocative . . . To say that Orhan Pamuk's new novel, My Name is Red, is a murder mystery is like saying that Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov is a murder mystery: it is true, but the work so richly transcends the conventional limitations of genre as to make the definition seem almost irrelevant. . . . The techniques of classical Islamic literature are used to anchor the book within a tradition of local narrative, but they can also be used with a wonderfully witty and distancing lightness of touch . . . All the exuberance and richly descriptive detail of a nineteenth-century European novel . . . The technique of Pamuk's novel proclaims that he himself is a magnificently accomplished hybrid artist, able to take from Eastern and Western traditions with equal ease and flair . . . Formally brilliant, witty, and about serious matters . . . It conveys in a wholly convincing manner the emotional, cerebral, and physical texture of daily life, and it does so with great compassion, generosity, and humanity . . . An extraordinary achievement."
--Dick Davis, Times Literary Supplement, UK
"A murder mystery set in sixteenth-century Istanbul [that] uses the art of miniature illumination, much as Mann's 'Doctor Faustus' did music, to explore a nation's soul. . . . Erdag Goknar deserves praise for the cool, smooth English in which he has rendered Pamuk's finespun sentences, passionate art appreciations, sly pedantic debates, [and] eerie urban scenes."
"Pamuk is a novelist and a great one...My Name is Red is by far the grandest and most astonishing contest in his internal East-West war...It is chock-full of sublimity and sin...The story is told by each of a dozen characters, and now and then by a dog, a tree, a gold coin, several querulous corpses and the color crimson ('My Name is Red')...[Readers will] be lofted by the paradoxical lightness and gaiety of the writing, by the wonderfully winding talk perpetually about to turn a corner, and by the stubborn humanity in the characters' maneuvers to survive. It is a humanity whose lies and silences emerge as endearing and oddly bracing individual truths."
--Richard Eder, New York Times Book Review
"The interweaving of human and philosophical intrigue is very much as I remember it in The Name of the Rose, as is the slow, dense beginning and the relentless gathering of pace . . . But, in my view, his book is by far the better of the two. I would go so far as to say that Pamuk achieves the very thing his book implies is impossible . . . More than any other book I can think of, it captures not just Istanbul's past and present contradictions, but also its terrible, timeless beauty. It's almost perfect, in other words. All it needs is the Nobel Prize."
--Maureen Freely, New Statesman, UK
A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story, Linda Sue Park, 2011
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (October 4, 2011)
A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the "lost boys" of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.
Colors of Nepal: Kathmandu, Boudha, Bakthapur, Patan, Pharpin
Peter Takeuchi, 2013
Paperback: 120 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 27, 2013)
From the introduction:
In the late 1960s, Nepal was a popular destination for some of my affluent Hippie friends. It was an exotic place, ruled by a King, with friendly people, spectacular scenery, cheap beer, and good “ganja.” They returned with wild stories of dancing and drinking parties and trekking through remote mountain villages, but I never went. After working in the movie business for 25 years, and raising two kids, I retired in 2004 and travelled throughout Asia. Then in 2007, I met a wonderful woman in Tibet, and convinced her to marry me. Helena designs jewelry, buys precious stones in India and crafts her pieces in Nepal and Thailand. So, I made it to Nepal, but it was a very different place, embroiled in a civil war between Maoists in the countryside and the Monarchy in Kathmandu. Students demonstrated against the government and police fired tear gas at them. Starving children were begging in the streets. We stayed in the Thamel district of the city where hotels, bars, restaurants and handicraft shops lined every narrow street. Taxis, motorcycles and tourists competed for space. Nepal was nothing like the stories I heard. Nepal is a poor country, in fact, I consider it a failed state. Officials cannot agree on any issue and refuse to write a new constitution. Corruption runs rampant and if foreign aid and NGOs stop pouring cash into the economy, the country would probably collapse. Here is a land with an abundance of fresh water flowing from the Annapurna and Himalaya mountain ranges, yet they suffer from power outages most of the day and their drinking water is polluted. Dirt streets turn into muddy streams during monsoon season. Healthcare and education are only available to those who can afford it. So, we moved from Kathmandu to the suburb of Boudha and explored the ancient towns of Patan and Bhaktapur, all UNESCO World heritage sites. We enjoy walking and my wife loves to shop, so we see and meet many of the local people. I carry a black Micro 4/3 camera, with a 40mm prime lens and take many photos. A person or group catches my eye, then the background and I search for natural light and the best angle. This happens quickly, so I simply set the aperture and let the camera do the rest. I've learned that the camera does it better and much faster than me. Smiling, looking people in the eye and asking politely before taking their photo almost always works, particularly in Nepal. Most, despite their poverty, their clothes, or hair, pause and look into the lens; not with a “Kodak smile,” but an honest look that shows in their eyes. Afterwards, I show the digital image to them and offer to email it, but most don't have email, a computer, smartphone or internet access. Beauty is subjective and comes in many colors; some bright, some dark. What interests me are real people in real life situations. Beautiful people and places do not inspire me, but I see beautiful beggars, workers and street dogs. Capturing this reality in a fleeting moment, with my camera and limited technical skills is my intent. I want you to see the subject or situation and feel the emotion that charged that moment in time. That emotion can be joyous or sad and I hope it is felt in your heart. Colors of Nepal is my first book. The photos were shot over two five-month periods in 2012-13, mostly in Kathmandu, Boudha, Bakthapur, Patan, and Pharpin. Friends looked at my photos and read the stories and encouraged me to do a book, then some of them actually did it for me. I’m very grateful.
The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma
Thant Myint-U, 2008
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (January 8, 2008)
What do we really know about Burma and its history? And what can Burma's past tell us about its present and even its future? For nearly two decades, Western governments and a growing activist community have been frustrated in their attempts to bring about a freer and more democratic Burma―through sanctions and tourist boycotts―only to see an apparent slide toward even harsher dictatorship.
Now Thant Myint-U tells the story of modern Burma, and the story of his own family, in an interwoven narrative that is by turns lyrical, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Through his prominent family's stories and those of others, he portrays Burma's rise and decline in the modern world, from the time of Portuguese pirates and renegade Mughal princes through a sixty-year civil war that continues today―the longest-running war anywhere in the world.
The River of Lost Footsteps is a work at once personal and global, a "brisk, vivid history" (Philip Delves Broughton, The Wall Street Journal) that makes Burma accessible and enthralling.
From Publishers Weekly Starred Review
Analysis of Burma has been "singularly ahistorical," Thant Myint-U (The Making of Modern Burma), a senior officer at the U.N., observes. With an eye to what the past might say about Burma's present status as a country in crisis, Thant Myint-U examines the legacy of imperialism, war and invasion. Recounting in a well-crafted narrative the colorful histories of Burmese dynastic empires from ancient times to the 18th century, Thant Myint-U then focuses on how, during the 19th century, the Burmese kingdom of Ava fought and lost a series of border wars with the British East India Company, culminating in a treaty that marked the beginning of Burma's loss of independence. Considering the country's longstanding global isolation in the context of its geographic and cultural singularity, Thant Myint-U interweaves his own family's history, writing extensively about his maternal grandfather, U Thant, who rose from humble origins to become secretary-general of the U.N. in the 1960s. Profiling 20th-century Burmese leaders such as Aung San, U Nu and Nobel Peace Prize–winning activist Aung San Suu Kyi, Thant Myint-U beautifully captures the complex identity of a little-understood country, concluding with a trenchant analysis of Burma's current predicament under an oppressive regime. (Dec.)
An international pariah for the past four decades, Burma has seen its profile, though not its military government's reputation, rise higher in recent years because of the saga of Aung San Suu Kyi, 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Thant contributes welcome context to her plight under house arrest, as well as to Burma's, writ large with this history. It reaches into ancient mists, establishing the origins of Burmese national traditions (in terms of revered places, admired kings, and Buddhism), and commences concretely with three wars that culminated in Britain's colonization of the country in 1885. Administratively part of British India, Burma regained some autonomy in the 1930s, but its nationalists, according to Thant, were inclined toward ideological extremism, with baleful effects: the founder of the military regime, Ne Win, sided with the Japanese invaders in World War II and in 1962 imposed a form of nationalistic socialism that suffocated the economy and isolated the country from the world community. This readable, reflective history will support revived interest in Burma
Black Square: Adventures in Post-Soviet Ukraine
Sophie Pinkham, 2016
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (November 1, 2016)
A distinctive writer’s fascinating journey into the heart of a troubled region.
Ukraine has rebuilt itself over and over again in the last century, plagued by the same conflicts: corruption, poverty, substance abuse, ethnic clashes, and Russian aggression. Sophie Pinkham saw all this and more in the course of ten years working, traveling, and reporting in Ukraine and Russia, over a period that included the Maidan revolution of 2013–14, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the ensuing war in eastern Ukraine.
With a keen eye for the dark absurdities of post-Soviet society, Pinkham presents a dynamic account of contemporary Ukrainian life. She meets―among others―a charismatic doctor helping to smooth the transition to democracy even as he struggles with his own drug addiction, a Bolano-esque art gallerist prone to public nudity, and a Russian Jewish clarinetist agitating for Ukrainian liberation. These fascinating personalities, rendered in a bold, original style, deliver an indelible impression of a country on the brink.
Black Square is necessary reading for anyone who wishes to learn not only the political roots of the current conflict in Ukraine but also the personal stories of the people who live it every day.
Includes two maps.
“Essential reading. What makes Black Square superb, to my mind, is Pinkham’s keen eye for the dark comedy and tragedy that mark so many of her subjects. Her portraits of individual Ukrainians and Russians are as rich and nuanced as her synthesis of their national histories and politics. The result is a book whose literary achievement will outlast its timeliness.” (Anthony Marra)
“Black Square is as elegant, suggestive, ominous, beautiful, and deceptively simple as, well, a black square. Perhaps the only thing more impressive than the sheer number and diversity of people Sophie Pinkham has spoken to is how deftly she has woven their stories into a single compulsively readable narrative.” (Elif Batuman)
“Black Square is a sharp-eyed portrait of Ukraine in post-Soviet times―funny and moving, sad and slyly ironic by turns. It’s especially valuable in helping us to understand the deeper origins of the Maidan movement, and to see how the painful divisions running through Ukraine today have played out in everyday life. With a combination of sympathy and skeptical wit, Pinkham shows us an extraordinary, often baffling country in all its human complexity.” (Tony Wood, author of Chechnya: The Case for Independence)
“This intimate portrait of contemporary Ukraine gracefully combines history, political analysis, and memoir…. [Pinkham’s] eye for the idiosyncrasies of post-Soviet life and language is special.” (The New Yorker)
“Essential reading for anyone who cares about Ukraine, anyone who’s wondering if they should care about Ukraine, and anyone who happens to like nonfiction narratives told in a human voice.” (Natalia Antonova - openDemocracy)
“[Pinkham’s] first book, a graceful mix of personal memoir and political research, illuminates the complexities of Ukraine culture….first-rate reporting, research, and writing in a debut that will make readers care as much as the author does.” (Kirkus (starred review))
“[Pinkham] has a keen eye and a winsome ability to weave colorful visions from the smallest fragments―origami tulips, the beauty of fur-coated Siberian women, stones on the beach… This engaging, clear-eyed portrait of an intensely troubled region could not be more timely.” (Eloise Kinney - Booklist)
Over the Lip of the World: Among the Storytellers of Madagascar
Colleen J. McElroy, 2001
Paperback: 250 pages
Publisher: University of Washington Press (March 2001)
Gifted travel writer, poet, professor of English, and insightful observer of human nature, Colleen McElroy journeyed to Madagascar to undertake a Fulbright research project exploring Malagasy oral traditions and myths. In Over the Lip of the World she depicts with equal verve the various storytelling traditions of the island and her own adventures in trying to find and record them.
McElroy's tale of an African American woman's travels among the people of Madagascar is told with wit, insight, and humor. Throughout it she interweaves English translations of Malagasy stories of heroism and morality, royalty and commoners, love and revenge, and the magic of tricksters and shape-changers.
Rattawut Lapcharoensap, 2005
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (December 12, 2005)
Goodreads & Amazon:
One of the most widely reviewed debuts of the year, Sightseeing is a masterful story collection by an award-winning young author. Set in contemporary Thailand, these are generous, radiant tales of family bonds, youthful romance, generational conflicts and cultural shiftings beneath the glossy surface of a warm, Edenic setting. Written with exceptional acuity, grace and sophistication, the stories present a nation far removed from its exoticized stereotypes. In the prize-winning opening story "Farangs," the son of a beachside motel owner commits the cardinal sin of falling for a pretty American tourist. In the novella, "Cockfighter," a young girl witnesses her proud father's valiant but foolhardy battle against a local delinquent whose family has a vicious stranglehold on the villagers. Through his vivid assemblage of parents and children, natives and transients, ardent lovers and sworn enemies, Lapcharoensap dares us to look with new eyes at the circumstances that shape our views and the prejudices that form our blind spots. Gorgeous and lush, painful and candid, Sightseeing is an extraordinary reading experience, one that powerfully reveals that when it comes to how we respond to pain, anger, hurt, and love, no place is too far from home.
From Publishers Weekly Starred Review.
The Thailand of Westerners' dreams shares space with a Thailand plagued by social and economic inequality in this auspicious debut collection of seven plaintive and luminous stories. In the title tale—an exquisite meditation on human dependency—a son and his ailing mother must accept the dismal reality of her encroaching blindness and what it means for his plans to attend college away from home. In "Don't Let Me Die in This Place," the most exuberant of the stories, an ornery and uproarious widowed grandfather, recently crippled by a stroke, moves from Maryland to Bangkok to live with his son, Thai daughter-in-law and their two "mongrel children." "Farangs" and "At the Café Lovely" convincingly examine adolescent friendship and love, as does "Priscilla the Cambodian"—though when a refugee camp is torched by native Thai xenophobes, it veers toward the politically dark and ominous. Politics and fear also play a role in "Draft Day," a painfully grim story about two young male friends, one of whom avoids military conscription because of his privileged background, and "Cockfighter," the final and longest of the pieces, in which a berserk local thug rules a town through violence and corruption. Young or old, male or female, all of Lapcharoensap's spirited narrators are engaging and credible. Anger, humor and longing are neatly balanced in these richly nuanced, sharply revelatory tales.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School–Seven short stories set in Thailand explore the intricacies of modern-day relationships. The overriding themes are not specific to that country, though: each tale focuses on family dynamics and dysfunction. The protagonists in five of the selections are male teens living in or around Bangkok. "Draft Day" addresses the question of loyalty as the narrator allows his parents to bribe an official to keep him from being conscripted. "Sightseeing" tells of a son whose mother is going blind and the ambivalence he feels about living his own life versus caring for her. The last two stories are also first-person narrations, but the voices are different. In "Don't Let Me Die in This Place," an elderly American tries to come to terms–albeit none too gracefully–with his relocation to Thailand to live with his son and Thai daughter-in-law and their "mongrel" children, and "Cockfighting" is told from the perspective of a teen who watches her father become so obsessed with raising roosters that he is blinded to the disintegration of his marriage. In each of the stories, Lapcharoensap offers readers a glimpse of Thailand that they will not find in guidebooks–not only the beauty of this country but also the grit, the overcrowding, and the poverty. More than that, however, he shows with rare wit and insight that coming of age in the world today is a bittersweet and complicated experience regardless of nationality.
Gavin Weston, 2013
Paperback: 576 pages
Publisher: Myrmidon Books (November 1, 2013)
Goodreads & Amazon:
Harmattan (from an Arabic word meaning destructive wind) tells the story of Haoua, a young girl growing up in a remote village in the Republic of Niger. Spirited independent and intelligent, Haoua has benefitted from a stable home life and a loving and attentive mother. She enjoys working and playing with her siblings and friends. Haoua worships her elder brother, Abdelkrim, a serving soldier who sends money home to support the family. But, on his last home visit, Abdelkrim quarrels with their father, accusing him of gambling away the money he sends and being the cause of their mother’s worsening health. It also emerges that their father plans to take a second wife. Despite this Haoua finds contentment in her schoolwork, her dreams of becoming a teacher and in writing assiduously to the family in Ireland who act as her aid sponsors. But for Haoua, there are new storm clouds on the horizon. As civil strife mounts in Niger, Haoua begins to fear for Abdelkrim’s safety. Haoua’s mother s illness is much more serious and further advanced than anyone had recognized and her father s plans are turning out to be far more threatening than she could have ever imagined. Approaching her twelfth birthday, Haoua is alone and vulnerable for the very first time in her life.
At 11, narrator Haoua Boureima is a promising student in a remote village in Niger, her education supported by Vision Corps International. But her dreams of being a teacher die, and her life begins a downward spiral, when her mother, diagnosed with AIDS, is taken to a hospital in the capital city of Niamey. As the oldest of three children at home, Haoua is given even more chores by her father, who forbids her returning to school despite the entreaty of her teacher. Haoua’s only support is from her older brother, Abdelkrim, a soldier stationed in Niamey, who does what he can before the unrest that follows the assassination of President Mainassara. At 12, Haoua becomes the third wife of her father’s brutal cousin, with dreadful consequences. Weston’s first novel captures a time and a place, from the beauty of Niger’s vistas to the inhumanity of its patriarchal culture. The latter will arouse outrage, as will the restrictions posed by an NGO that is there to help. This is fiction that conveys truth more vividly than fact could. —Michele Leber
Dog Thieves, Street Fights, & School Wreckers: Tales of an Expat Do-Gooder in the Dominican Republic
Caitlin McHale Floreal, 2014
Paperback: 92 pages
Publisher: lulu.com (April 20, 2014)/Caitlin McHale Floreal
A collection of stories from the no longer existent La Vida Idealist blog on Idealist.org. Author Caitlin McHale Floreal lives in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, where she runs a non-profit organization called Project Esperanza. Topics covered include inconsistent electricity, cultural differences in waiting in line and customer service, gender inequality, and more.
Men of Maiz—The Modernist Epic of the Guatemalan Indians
Miguel Ángel Asturias, transl. Gerald Martin, 1995 (1949)
Paperback: 466 pages
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; Critical edition (March 1995)
Social protest and poetry; reality and myth; nostalgia for an uncorrupted, golden past; sensual human enjoyment of the present; 'magic' rather than lineal time, and, above all, a tender, compassionate love for the living, fertile, wondrous land and the struggling, hopeful people of Guatemala.
Men of Maize is the critically acclaimed novel written by Miguel Angel Asturias. Born into poverty in Guatemala City in 1899, Asturias tells the history of the post-colonized society of Guatemala that continually oppresses its native Mayan dwellers. Asturias tells this story from a wide variety of perspectives: his own personal accounts, through the history and culture of his native land, through the actions of the government, and through the eyes of the people of Guatemala. His story is moving and it brings to life, as does the testimony of Rigoberta Menchu, many of the trials and challenges that face native peoples that are forced to defend their land and fight in order to survive, but ironically Men of Maize is a work of fiction. Though Asturias uses some of his personal experiences, this novel is not told as a testimony.
From Library Journal
This critical edition (Pittsburgh Editions of Latin American Literature) of Asturias's 1967 Nobel prize-winning work includes the full text of the novel and several essays on the book by noted scholars plus a bibliography.
The God of Small Things
Arundhati Roy, 2008
Paperback: 333 pages
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (December 16, 2008)
"They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much."
The year is 1969. In the state of Kerala, on the southernmost tip of India, fraternal twins Esthappen and Rahel fashion a childhood for themselves in the shade of the wreck that is their family. Their lonely, lovely mother, Ammu (who loves by night the man her children love by day), fled an abusive marriage to live with their blind grandmother, Mammachi (who plays Handel on her violin), their beloved uncle Chacko (Rhodes scholar, pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher), and their enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grandaunt). When Chacko's English ex-wife brings their daughter for a Christmas visit, the twins learn that things can change in a day, that lives can twist into new, ugly shapes, even cease forever, beside their river...
In her first novel, award-winning Indian screenwriter Arundhati Roy conjures a whoosh of wordplay that rises from the pages like a brilliant jazz improvisation. The God of Small Things is nominally the story of young twins Rahel and Estha and the rest of their family, but the book feels like a million stories spinning out indefinitely; it is the product of a genius child-mind that takes everything in and transforms it in an alchemy of poetry. The God of Small Things is at once exotic and familiar to the Western reader, written in an English that's completely new and invigorated by the Asian Indian influences of culture and language.
From Publishers Weekly
With sensuous prose, a dreamlike style infused with breathtakingly beautiful images and keen insight into human nature, Roy's debut novel charts fresh territory in the genre of magical, prismatic literature. Set in Kerala, India, during the late 1960s when Communism rattled the age-old caste system, the story begins with the funeral of young Sophie Mol, the cousin of the novel's protagonists, Rahel and her fraternal twin brother, Estha. In a circuitous and suspenseful narrative, Roy reveals the family tensions that led to the twins' behavior on the fateful night that Sophie drowned. Beneath the drama of a family tragedy lies a background of local politics, social taboos and the tide of history—all of which come together in a slip of fate, after which a family is irreparably shattered. Roy captures the children's candid observations but clouded understanding of adults' complex emotional lives. Rahel notices that "at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. The Big Things lurk unsaid inside." Plangent with a sad wisdom, the children's view is never oversimplified, and the adult characters reveal their frailties—and in one case, a repulsively evil power—in subtle and complex ways. While Roy's powers of description are formidable, she sometimes succumbs to overwriting, forcing every minute detail to symbolize something bigger, and the pace of the story slows. But these lapses are few, and her powers coalesce magnificently in the book's second half. Roy's clarity of vision is remarkable, her voice original, her story beautifully constructed and masterfully told. First serial to Granta; foreign rights sold in France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Holland, India, Greece, Canada and the U.K.
She Plays with the Darkness
Zakes Mda, 2004 (1995)
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Picador; 1st edition (March 1, 2004)
In a remote mountain village in Lesotho, the beautiful Dikosha lives for dancing and for song, setting herself apart from her fellow villagers. Her twin brother, Radisene, works in the lowland capital of Maseru, struggling amid political upheaval to find a life for himself away from the hills. As the years pass, Radisene's fortunes rise and fall in the city, while Dikosha remains in the village, never leaving and never aging. And through it all, the community watches, comments, and passes judgment.
Like all Mda's novels, including Heart of Redness (2002), this contemporary story of southern Africa places contemporary politics in the context of family and community, past and present. The setting here is a mountain village in Lesotho, on the South African border. Radisene is close to his beloved sister, Dikosha, until he leaves for the capital city, Maseru, where be becomes a smart ambulance-chaser, so successful in his machinations that he even sends money back to the village to build his mother a mansion. Dikosha refuses to have anything to do with him. In fact, she lives in her own world of magic and music, closely in touch with the dancers in the local cave paintings that were created by the Bushmen long before the Sotho came there and took the land. Mda's blend of magical realism and the cruel farce of national politics reveals the wildness everywhere. At the heart of the story is the mountain community, never idyllic, bursting with jealousy and spite, yet home through drought, snow, and mist.
“Mda's fascinating narrative skill reveals the past as a powerful presence in the present: of his characters, and of all of us, as we live.”
Land of the Turquoise Mountains: Journeys Across Iran
Cyrus Massoudi, 2014
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: I.B.Tauris (November 26, 2014)
For Cyrus Massoudi, a young British-born Iranian, the country his parents were forced to flee thirty years ago was a place wholly unknown to him. Wanting to make sense of his roots and piece together the divided, divisive and deeply contradictory puzzle that is contemporary Iran, he embarked on a series of journeys that spanned hundreds of miles and thousands of years. Rich portrayals of Sufis and ageing aristocrats, smugglers and underground rock bands are all woven together with history, religion and mythology to form a unique portrait of contemporary Iranian society. And, running through the heart of the narrative, lies Massoudi's poignant personal quest; his struggle echoing that of Iran itself, as it fights to forge a cohesive modern identity. Land of the Turquoise Mountains reveals a world beyond the propaganda-driven, media-fueled image of fractious, flag-burning fundamentalism and provides a compelling glimpse both into the heart of a deeply misunderstood nation and into what it is to seek out and discover one's heritage.
'A fascinating insider-outsider view of a complex country we badly need to know more about. Writers like Cyrus Massoudi who illuminate our ignorance are vitally important as the West squares up for yet ill-considered intervention in the Muslim world.'
'shed[s] salutary light on contemporary Iran...the more quickly we are able to see through the veneer, the better; and...Cyrus Massoudi...will help us to do that.'
'The value of this book is not in the description of the places or the history, but in the conversations he has with people he meets on the way ... these are the sixpences in the Christmas pudding.'
'a compelling glimpse of a deeply misunderstood nation'
'Adventurous...penetrating the ancient kingdoms, reaching every tribal redoubt, from the Kurds to the Turkomen, Massoudi reconstructs his own identity (that of a Brit of Iranian extraction) and challenges the stereotypes and conceits of what Iran means in the world today.'
'This debut travelogue, written with a maturity that belies Massoudi's relatively tender years, sheds much-needed light upon a land of contrasts and outright contradictions...This insightful account...is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand one of the world's most enigmatic nations'
'takes the reader on an illuminating journey through Iran and its rich, turbulent history'
Something Lost Behind the Ranges: Memoirs of a Traveler in Peru
Phyllis Mazzocchi, 2012
Publisher: Travel Gavel
Format: Paperback, 134 pages
ISBN-10: 0985521805 / ISBN-13: 978-0985521806
Summary: Peru was in a "state of siege," Halley’s Comet was making its cyclical reappearance for the first time in 72 years, and the throngs of tourists that would soon elevate Machu Picchu to a major world tourist destination had not yet descended upon the Sacred Valley.
Before the luxury hotels, high-speed trains, and express helicopters, an independent traveler armed with a poem encounters the obstacles and rewards of a puzzled trail in the quest to reach Machu Picchu, the legendary "Lost City of the Incas." With travels through the highlands of Peru; including Cusco, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu and Puno; and a circuitous route through La Paz, Copacabana and Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. Past and present converge in a story that is true for all times.
A 2012 Finalist for ForeWord Reviews Magazine Book of the Year, Travel Essays
Shelf Unbound Notable Indie Book
Dodging Machetes: How I Survived Forbidden Love, Bad Behavior, and the Peace Corps in Fiji
Will Lutwick, 2012
Publisher: Peace Corps Writers (January 4, 2014)
File Size: 1301 KB / Print Length: 266 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Summary: Will Lutwick, a quirky misfit, gets an MBA at 22, but soon realizes he and the American corporate world are a horrid mismatch. He joins the Peace Corps and is sent to the Fiji Islands, the quintessential tropical paradise. Will finds himself attracted to prohibited pulchritude when Rani Gupta, a beautiful, rebellious 20-year-old from a traditional Hindu family, begins working in his office. Dating is taboo in Fiji's large Indian community, and an interracial couple would be unprecedented. But Rani and Will soon discover their mutual attraction impossible to resist. Their liaison is clandestine, but word gets out, and a cultural firestorm engulfs Rani's community. The two lovers are under constant threat of attack, and violence ensues. Will must confront his personal demons about courage and commitment, while Rani is treated like a pariah by her people. Will the besieged lovers stay together, or will a hostile world tear them apart?
"In his beautifully written memoir...he relays these memories with neither bitterness nor self-serving pity--just a good dose of humor and intelligence...He shares thoughtful insight into Fiji's exotic history and society...Off-the-charts hysterical. An unabashed, candid memoir that continually entertains and educates."
"An eye-opening story about love, loss, and discrimination...Not only is this an exciting memoir, but it's a great modern day Romeo and Juliet tale. You can tell that this book was a passionate labor of love. Each page is as addicting as the last, with great emotional elements driving the story. This is a great book for those looking for a well-rounded love story with a few laughs and a lot of heart." Five Stars.
--SAN FRANCISCO BOOK REVIEW
Winner of the 2012 USA Best Book Award for Multicultural Non-fiction
Finalist, 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards and the International Book Awards
Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu
J. Maarten Troost, 2006
Publisher: Broadway Books (June 13, 2006)
Format: Paperback: 239 pages
Summary: Getting Stoned with Savages tells the hilarious story of Troost’s time on Vanuatu—a rugged cluster of islands where the natives gorge themselves on kava and are still known to “eat the man.” Falling into one amusing misadventure after another, Troost struggles against typhoons, earthquakes, and giant centipedes and soon finds himself swept up in the laid-back, clothing-optional lifestyle of the islanders. When Sylvia gets pregnant, they decamp for slightly-more-civilized Fiji, a fallen paradise where the local chiefs can be found watching rugby in the house next door. And as they contend with new parenthood in a country rife with prostitutes and government coups, their son begins to take quite naturally to island living—in complete contrast to his dad.
Julio Cortázar, tr Gregory Rabassa, 1987
Publisher: Pantheon; 1st Pantheon pbk. edition (1987)
Series: Pantheon Modern Writers Series
Format: Paperback, 576 pages
Summary: Horacio Oliveira is an Argentinian writer who lives in Paris with his mistress, La Maga, surrounded by a loose-knit circle of bohemian friends who call themselves "the Club." A child's death and La Maga's disappearance put an end to his life of empty pleasures and intellectual acrobatics, and prompt Oliveira to return to Buenos Aires, where he works by turns as a salesman, a keeper of a circus cat that can count, and an attendant in an insane asylum. Hopscotch is the dazzling, freewheeling account of Oliveira's astonishing adventures.
"The most magnificent novel I have ever read, and one to which I shall return again and again." —C.D.B. Bryan, The New York Times Book Review
"Cortazar's masterpiece . . . The first great novel of Spanish America." —The Times Literary Supplement
"The most powerful encyclopedia of emotions and visions to emerge from the postwar generation of international writers." —The New Republic
"A work of the most exhilarating talent and interest." —Elizabeth Hardwick
Gregory Crouch, 2002
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (2002)
Format: Paperback, 256 pages
Summary: Patagonia is a strange and terrifying place, a vast tract of land shared by Argentina and Chile where the violent weather spawned over the southern Pacific charges through the Andes with gale-force winds, roaring clouds, and stinging snow. Squarely athwart the latitudes known to sailors as the roaring forties and furious fifties, Magellan discovered the strait that bears his name during the first circumnavigation. Charles Darwin traveled Patagonia's windy steppes and explored the fjords of Tierra del Fuego during the voyage of the Beagle. Even today, the Patagonian Andes remain mysterious and remote, a place where horrible storms and ruthless landscapes discourage all but the most devoted pilgrims from paying tribute to the daunting and dangerous peaks.
Gregory Crouch is one such pilgrim. In seven expeditions to this windswept edge of the Southern Hemisphere, he has braved weather, gravity, fear, and doubt to try himself in the alpine crucible of Patagonia. Crouch has had several notable successes, including the first winter ascent of the legendary Cerro Torre's West Face, to go along with his many spectacular failures.
Crouch reveals the flip side of cutting-edge alpinism: the stunning variety of menial labor one must often perform to afford the next expedition. From building sewer systems during a bitter Colorado winter to washing the plastic balls in McDonalds' playgrounds, Crouch's dedication to the alpine craft has seen him through as many low moments as high summits. He recounts the riotous celebrations of successful climbs, the numbing boredom of forced encampments, and the quiet pride that comes from knowing that one has performed well and bravely, even in failure. Includes color photographs that capture the many moods of this land, from the sublime beauty of the mountains at sunrise to the unrelenting fury of its storms.
Publishers Weekly: Crouch, a West Point grad and army ranger, is the latest climber/journalist to try to capture the unseen heroics of those who reach the summits of the world's highest peaks. Instead of summiting familiar peaks, the author describes three separate expeditions to the remote Patagonian mountain range in South America, a series of peaks straddling the border between Chile and Argentina. There he completes a successful climb up the Compressor Route of Cerro Torre, one of the world's most sought-after summits; a first ascent of the north face of Aguja Poincenot; and a treacherous winter ascent of the west face of Cerro Torre, another first. These three climbs are bracketed by long vignettes about the unpredictable Patagonian weather and Crouch's disappointment with routine life back home in America, where he works construction and other odd jobs to pay for climbing trips. On the mountain, Crouch vividly describes the technical and psychological aspects of climbing, as well as the distinctions of the Patagonian peaks. Unfortunately, he is also prone to distracting bouts of macho philosophizing. Off the mountain, Crouch is so absorbed with thoughts of climbing that he contrasts everything in his life with his moments in the mountains. At one point, he goes so far as to describe his marriage as "the ultimate base camp." For Crouch, clearly, climbing is akin to a religion, and chasing a summit is his only way of seeking salvation. Adventure enthusiasts and those already converted to the sport will welcome this addition to climbing literature, but general readers may find the author's single-mindedness and lack of local color less enticing.
The Last King of Scotland
Giles Foden, 1999
Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (1999)
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Summary: Shortly after his arrival in Uganda, Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan is called to the scene of a bizarre accident: Idi Amin, careening down a dirt road in his red Maserati, has run over a cow. When Garrigan tends to Amin, the dictator, in his obsession for all things Scottish, appoints him as his personal physician. And so begins a fateful dalliance with the central African leader, whose Emperor Jones-style autocracy would become a reign of terror.
In The Last King of Scotland Foden's Amin is as ridiculous as he is abhorrent: a grown man who must be burped like an infant, a self-proclaimed cannibalist who, at the end of his 8 years in power, would be responsible for 300,000 deaths. And as Garrigan awakens to his patient's baroque barbarism—and his own complicity in it—we enter a venturesome meditation on conscience, charisma, and the slow corruption of the human heart. Brilliantly written, comic and profound, The Last King of Scotland announces a major new talent.
Publishers Weekly: A vivid journey to the turbulent heart of 1970s Uganda, British journalist Foden's bracing first novel chronicles the strange career of a fictional Scottish physician, Nicholas Garrigan, who serves as the personal doctor and occasional confidante of dictator Idi Amin. Having sequestered himself on a remote island in Scotland, Garrigan reflects, through a fog of self-deception and regret, on his stint as Amin's sidekick, from their first unlikely encounter after a back-road accident (Amin's red Masarati sideswipes a cow) to his installation in the capital as the ruler's house physician. Enjoying the perks of this position, Garrigan ponders an affair with the British ambassador's wife, tends to Amin's sometimes comical afflictions (in a memorable scene, he coaxes a burp from the dictator as if he were a giant infant) and even admits to a "sneaking affection" for him. Garrigan grows so detached from the gradually mounting atrocities of the regime that it takes a visit to the dictator's torture chambers and a harrowing trek across the war-torn countryside for him to glimpse the extent of his own complicity. Expertly weaving together Amin's life story (intertwined with Scottish history for reasons that remain rather vague, though the novel's title is a moniker Amin gave to himself), Foden writes with steely clarity and a sharp satirical edge, allowing serious questions to surface about the ethical boundaries of medicine and the crumbling Western influence in Africa. Garrison is the perfect foil for Amin, whose overwhelming physical presence, peacock-ish rhetoric and cold-blooded savagery are so well captured as to make this novel more than a mesmerizing read: it is also a forceful account of a surrealistic and especially ugly chapter of modern history. Agent, A.P. Watt.
This book has also been made into a film.
The Sun Will Soon Shine
Sally Sadie Singhateh, 2004
Publisher: Publisher: Athena Press
Format: Paperback, 108 pages
Summary: For an intelligent, ambitious girl growing up in a Gambian village, life holds few tempting prospects. Marriage and motherhood, often forced, are the paths assigned to most. Nyima, too, is subject to this fate, as well as having to endure the health-endangering ongoing practice of genital mutilation. But Nyima is a heroine of immense courage, able to see beyond her situation, despite the bleakness of life. She makes it through her darkest hours, and emerges stronger on the other side—though permanently scarred by her ordeals. It is in education and work that Nyima finds her salvation, and begins to rebuild her life, and indeed be reborn. The question is, though, can she ever truly love or trust again? This is a moving and emphatic tale of a young woman's struggle to come to terms with her past and culture, and above all, the possibility of having a future to look forward to, no matter what the odds.
Cola Cola Jazz
Kangni Alem, 2003
Summary:Kangni Alem (full name Kangni Alemdjrodo) b. in 1966 is Togolese dramatist. Born in Togo, 1966, Kangni Alem Alemdjrodo holds a PhD in French, Comparative and French African Literature of University of Bordeaux III, France. Novelist, playwright and short story writer, he has published more than ten books. He is professor of theater and literature at University of Lomé, Togo. His works explores the political and historic memory of African peoples through themes like slavery, dictatorship and racial and cultural métissage. He lives between Lomé and Bordeaux in France. Some publications: "Chemins de croix", "Atterissage," "Cola cola jazz," Canailles et charlatans", Un rêve d’Albatros"…
Winner of the Grand prix littéraire d'Afrique noire in 2003
An African in Greenland
Tete-Michel Kpomassie, 2001
Publisher: NYRB Classics
Series: New York Review Books Classics
Format: Paperback, 432 pages
Summary: Tété-Michel Kpomassie was a teenager in Togo when he discovered a book about Greenland—and knew that he must go there. Working his way north over nearly a decade, Kpomassie finally arrived in the country of his dreams. This brilliantly observed and superbly entertaining record of his adventures among the Inuit is a testament both to the wonderful strangeness of the human species and to the surprising sympathies that bind us all.
By woburnmusicfan on September 17, 2003 When author Kpomassie was a teenager in his native Togo in the '50s, he nearly died in a fall, and was pledged by his father to become a priest of the python cult that cured him. While looking for a way around this future, he happened upon a book about Greenland and became obsessed with the idea of moving there and becoming a hunter. Over the course of several years, Kpomassie worked his way across West Africa and Europe before arriving in Greenland in the early '60s. He was possibly the first African to visit Greenland, and was the first black person most of the Greenlanders had ever seen. He became a minor celebrity ("I've heard about you on the radio since you arrived in the south"), as the locals, particularly children and young women, swarmed around the exotic stranger. As he made his way up the coast of west Greenland, he stopped in several towns, where he was invariably taken into someone's home as a guest and treated to fine delicacies like seal blubber and mattak (beluga whale skin). Kpomassie is an excellent observer, and this book is as good an introduction to Greenlandic culture as Gretel Ehrlich's "This Cold Heaven". Kpomassie is a much more straightforward writer than Ehrlich, and this book therefore makes an easier read. The reader gets to learn about two exotic cultures: Kpomassie's tales of his upbringing in the Mina tribe of Togo is as interesting as his travels in Greenland.
Nowhere Slow: Eleven Years in Micronesia
Jonathan Gourlay (Author), The Bygone Bureau (Author), Darryl Campbell (Editor), Kevin Nguyen (Editor), 2013
Publisher: The Bygone Bureau
Format: Kindle | File Size: 233 KB
Print Length: 79 pages
Summary: In 1997, Jonathan Gourlay travels to the island of Pohnpei, in the western Pacific Ocean, to teach English at the College of Micronesia. He is a stranger in a strange land, unfamiliar with the language, the intricacies of Pohnpeian social life, and most of all, the mildly psychotropic drink sakau. But the society that he blunders into eventually becomes his adopted home for the next eleven years. Along the way, Gourlay endures plenty of minor embarrassments and one major heartbreak: his whirlwind marriage to a Pohnpeian woman comes apart and ends in tragedy, leaving him to pick up the pieces of his life and to raise his daughter alone.
The Bygone Bureau (www.bygonebureau.com) is an online arts and culture magazine, winner of Best New Blog at the SXSW Interactive Web Awards in 2009.
"Funny, haunting travel memoir" -- The Millions.
In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams
Tahir Shah, 2009
Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition
Format: Paperback, 402 pages
Summary: In this entertaining jewel of a book, Tahir Shah sets off across Morocco on a bold new adventure worthy of the mythical Arabian Nights. As he wends his way through the labyrinthine medinas of Fez and Marrakech, traverses the Sahara sands, and samples the hospitality of ordinary Moroccans, Tahir collects a dazzling treasury of traditional wisdom stories, gleaned from the heritage of A Thousand and One Nights, which open the doors to layers of culture most visitors hardly realize exist. From master masons who labor only at night to Sufi wise men who write for soap operas, In Arabian Nights takes us on an unforgettable, offbeat, and utterly enchanted journey.
Named one of Time magazine’s Ten Best Books of the Year, Tahir Shah’s earlier The Caliph’s House was hailed by critics and compared to such travel classics as A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun. Now Shah takes us deeper into the real Casablanca to uncover mysteries hidden for centuries from Western eyes.
The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (African Writers Series)
Ayai Kwei Arman, 1968
Publisher: Heinemann (October 23, 1989)
Format: Paperback, 191 pages
Summary: The unnamed protagonist, referred to as "the man", works at a railway station and is approached with a bribe; when he refuses, his wife is furious and he can't help feeling guilty despite his innocence. The novel expresses the frustration many citizens of the newly independent states in Africa felt after attaining political independence. Many African states like Ghana followed similar paths in which corruption and the greed of African elites became rampant. Corruption in turn filtered down to the rest of society. The action takes place between 1965's Passion Week and 25 February 1966 – the day after the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president. The "rot" that characterized post-independent Ghana in the last years of Nkrumah is a dominant theme in the book.
Ghana Must Go
Taiye Selasi, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Summary: Kweku Sai is dead. A renowned surgeon and failed husband, he succumbs suddenly at dawn outside his home in suburban Accra. The news of Kweku’s death sends a ripple around the world, bringing together the family he abandoned years before. Ghana Must Go is their story. Electric, exhilarating, beautifully crafted, Ghana Must Go is a testament to the transformative power of unconditional love, from a debut novelist of extraordinary talent.
Moving with great elegance through time and place, Ghana Must Go charts the Sais’ circuitous journey to one another. In the wake of Kweku’s death, his children gather in Ghana at their enigmatic mother’s new home. The eldest son and his wife; the mysterious, beautiful twins; the baby sister, now a young woman: each carries secrets of his own. What is revealed in their coming together is the story of how they came apart: the hearts broken, the lies told, the crimes committed in the name of love. Splintered, alone, each navigates his pain, believing that what has been lost can never be recovered—until, in Ghana, a new way forward, a new family, begins to emerge.
Ghana Must Go is at once a portrait of a modern family, and an exploration of the importance of where we come from to who we are. In a sweeping narrative that takes us from Accra to Lagos to London to New York, Ghana Must Go teaches that the truths we speak can heal the wounds we hide.
Booklist: A father’s death leads to a new beginning for his fractured family in this powerful first novel. Kweku Sai is felled by a sudden heart attack at his home in Ghana. At the moment of his death, Kweku is filled with regret for his abandonment of his first wife, Fola, and their four children in Baltimore, many years ago, after losing his job as a surgeon. His four children are now scattered across the East Coast: Olu, a gifted surgeon who followed in his father’s footsteps; twins Taiwo and Kehinde, who share a terrible secret from childhood; and youngest daughter Sadie, who is struggling with her body image and sexuality. In the wake of their father’s death, the four siblings, along with Olu’s wife, Ling, reunite to journey to their mother’s home in Ghana, where secrets, resentments, and grief bubble to the surface. A finely crafted yarn that seamlessly weaves the past and present, Selasi’s moving debut expertly limns the way the bonds of family endure even when they are tested and strained. --Kristine Huntley
"Selasi’s ambition—to show her readers not "Africa" but one African family, authors of their own achievements and failures—is one that can be applauded no matter what accent you give the word." —Nell Freudenberger, The New York Times Book Review
“Irresistible from the first line—'Kweku dies barefoot on a Sunday before sunrise, his slippers by the doorway to the bedroom like dogs'—this bright, rhapsodic debut stood out in the thriving field of fiction about the African diaspora.” —The Wall Street Journal
"Ghana Must Go comes with a bag load of prepublication praise. For once, the brouhaha is well deserved. Ms. Selasi has an eye for the perfect detail: a baby's toenails 'like dewdrops', a woman sleeps 'like a cocoyam. A thing without senses... unplugged from the world.' As a writer she has a keen sense of the baggage of childhood pain and an unforgettable voice on the page. Miss out on Ghana Must Go and you will miss one of the best new novels of the season." —The Economist
"[Selasi] writes elegantly about the ways people grow apart — husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and kids." —Entertainment Weekly
"In Ghana Must Go, Selasi drives the six characters skillfully through past and present, unearthing old betrayals and unexplained grievances at a delicious pace. By the time the surviving five convene at a funeral in Ghana, we are invested in their reconciliation—which is both realistically shaky and dramatically satisfying… Narrative gold." —Elle magazine
"Selasi’s prose… is a rewarding mix of soulful conjuring and intelligent introspection, and points to a bright future." —The Daily Beast
Hearing Birds Fly: A Nomadic Year in Mongolia
Louisa Waugh, 2003
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Summary: Hearing Birds Fly is Louisa Waugh's account of her time in a remote Mongolian village. Frustrated by the increasingly bland character of the capital city of Ulan Bator, she yearned for the real Mongolia. She got the chance to experience it when she was summoned by the village head to go to Tsengel, near the Kazakh border.
In the village, she must come to terms with the harshness of climate, the treatment of animals, death, solitude and loneliness, plus the constant struggle to censor her reactions as an outsider. Above all, Louisa Waugh involves us with the locals' lives in such a way that we come to know them and care for their fates.
With a skill and art quite extraordinary for a first book ... the reader is drawn into the world she describes through the warmth of her friendships and the sympathy and generosity with which she treats all aspects of her subject. I put the book down finally with a sense of absolute satisfaction, having spent the last few hours beneath the spell of a writer of real integrity and power ―Chris Stewart
An elegy to a remarkable part of the world.―SUNDAY TIMES
Waugh has captured the starkly beautiful landscapes in restrained descriptive passages, but the most fascinating aspect of her narrative is her portrayal of the villagers and the nomads she meets higher up the mountains... Hearing Birds Fly is extraordinary.―OBSERVER
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Jack Weatherford, 2004
Publisher: Broadway Books; New edition
Format: Paperback, 312 pages
Summary: The Mongol army led by Genghis Khan subjugated more lands and people in 25 years than the Romans did in four hundred. In nearly every country the Mongols conquered, they brought an unprecedented rise in cultural communication, expanded trade, and a blossoming of civilization. Vastly more progressive than his European or Asian counterparts, Genghis Khan abolished torture, granted universal religious freedom, and smashed feudal systems of aristocratic privilege. From the story of his rise through the tribal culture to the explosion of civilization that the Mongol Empire unleashed, this brilliant work of revisionist history is nothing less than the epic story of how the modern world was made.
Publishers Weekly: Apart from its inapt title, Genghis Khan dies rather early on in this account and many of the battles are led by his numerous offspring. This book is a successful account of the century of turmoil brought to the world by a then little-known nation of itinerant hunters. In researching this book, Weatherford (Savages and Civilization), a professor of anthropology at Macalester College, traveled thousands of miles, many on horseback, tracing Genghis Khan's steps into places unseen by Westerners since the khan's death and employing what he calls an "archeology of movement." … In just 25 years, in a manner that inspired the blitzkrieg, the Mongols conquered more lands and people than the Romans had in over 400 years. Without pausing for too many digressions, Weatherford's brisk description of the Mongol military campaign and its revolutionary aspects analyzes the rout of imperial China, a siege of Baghdad and the razing of numerous European castles. On a smaller scale, Weatherford also devotes much attention to dismantling our notions of Genghis Khan as a brute. By his telling, the great general was a secular but faithful Christian, a progressive free trader, a regretful failed parent, and a loving if polygamous husband. With appreciative descriptions of the sometimes tender tyrant, this chronicle supplies just enough personal and world history to satisfy any reader.
School Library Journal: Adult/High School–An interesting, thought-provoking account of the conqueror's life and legacy. From his early years as the son of a widow abandoned by her clan, he showed remarkable ability as a charismatic leader and unifier. In 25 years, his army amassed a greater empire than the Romans had been able to achieve in 400. Whether judged on population or land area, it was twice as large as that of any other individual in history. This colorful retelling discusses many of the innovations that marked Khan's rule and contributed to his success. Although his name is now erroneously associated with terror and slaughter, he showed surprising restraint during a time when few others in power did. He allowed freedom of religion, encouraged free trade, developed a paper currency, and observed diplomatic immunity. As he encountered new cultures, he adopted or adapted their best practices, and constantly updated his military strategies. Although Khan's death occurs at the midpoint of this book, the tales of his survivors' exploits and the gradual fall of the Mongol dynasties are engaging and informative. Weatherford's efforts to credit Genghis Khan and his descendants with the ideas and innovations that created the Renaissance are a bit bewildering, but readers will be left with a new appreciation of a maligned culture, and a desire to learn more.–Kathy Tewell, Chantilly Regional Library, VA
The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire
Jack Weatherford, 2011
Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Summary: After Genghis Khan’s death in 1227, conflicts erupted between his daughters and his daughters-in-law; what began as a war between powerful women soon became a war against women in power as brother turned against sister, son against mother. At the end of this epic struggle, the dynasty of the Mongol queens had seemingly been extinguished forever, as even their names were erased from the historical record.
One of the most unusual and important warrior queens of history arose to avenge the wrongs, rescue the tattered shreds of the Mongol Empire, and restore order to a shattered world. Putting on her quiver and picking up her bow, Queen Mandhuhai led her soldiers through victory after victory. In her thirties she married a seventeen-year-old prince, and she bore eight children in the midst of a career spent fighting the Ming Dynasty of China on one side and a series of Muslim warlords on the other. Her unprecedented success on the battlefield provoked the Chinese into the most frantic and expensive phase of wall building in history. Charging into battle even while pregnant, she fought to reassemble the Mongol Nation of Genghis Khan and to preserve it for her own children to rule in peace.
Despite their mystery and the efforts to erase them from our collective memory, the deeds of these Mongol queens inspired great artists from Chaucer and Milton to Goethe and Puccini, and so their stories live on today. With The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, Jack Weatherford restores the queens’ missing chapter to the annals of history.
Booklist: Though the prolific Genghis Khan fathered numerous sons and daughters, historians have dutifully recorded the foibles and follies of his male heirs while virtually ignoring the accomplishments of his female offspring. Weatherford seeks to remedy this glaring omission by providing a fascinating romp through the feminine side of the infamous Khan clan. Surprisingly, old Genghis himself seems to have been impressed enough by the leadership abilities of his womenfolk to want to reward some of them with pieces of his vast empire. At least four of his daughters became queens of their own countries, exercising power over their courts, their armies, and, of course, their families. Important linchpins in the Mongol Empire, these women supplied the balance of power necessary to appease fractious tribes and territories. Unfortunately, soon after Genghis Khan’s death, the female rulers were challenged by their male relatives, and the fragile bonds that held the Mongol Empire together quickly disintegrated. Ironically, it wasn’t until the emergence of a new queen, two centuries later that the once-mighty Mongol nation was reunited. Let’s hear it for the girls. --Margaret Flanagan
Passage to Ararat
Michael J. Arlen, 1975
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2nd edition (2006)
Series: FSG Classics
Format: Paperback, 312 pages
Summary: In Passage to Ararat, which received the National Book Award in 1976, Michael J. Arlen goes beyond the portrait of his father, the famous Anglo-Armenian novelist of the 1920s, that he created in Exiles to try to discover what his father had tried to forget: Armenia and what it meant to be an Armenian, a descendant of a proud people whom conquerors had for centuries tried to exterminate. But perhaps most affectingly, Arlen tells a story as large as a whole people yet as personal as the uneasy bond between a father and a son, offering a masterful account of the affirmation and pain of kinship.
Goodreads: Interesting journey that the author takes to his homeland of Armenia. The interpersonal conflict between the author and other key figures in the story was helpful, as was the internal dialogue regarding Armenian self-identity and making meaning of the first holocaust perpetrated by the Turks over a period of roughly 20 years. A good reminder to treat minorities well wherever you may live.
“More than an excursion into a place...the whole work glows like a jewel with the warmth of humanity and the appreciation, hard won, of both strength and weakness.” ―Eugenia Thornton, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Beautifully written and stunning in its insight and honesty... One comes to see that the object of Arlen's search is not only, or even primarily, Armenia or Armenians, but himself and his father.” ―David Milofsky, Milwaukee Journal
“[A] moving, passionate book....written with a mixture of passion, puzzlement, sorrow, and outrage.” ―Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post
“Beautifully moving.... The reader becomes captivated with exotic tales from the past and joins Arlen's journey with zest in this quite marvelous record.” ―William Hogan, San Francisco Chronicle
National Book Award, 1976
An Armenian Sketchbook
Vasily Grossman, tr. R. & E. Chandler 2013
Publisher: NYRB Classics (February 19, 2013)
Series: New York Review Books Classics
Format: Paperback, 160 pages
Summary: Few writers had to confront as many of the last century’s mass tragedies as Vasily Grossman, who wrote with terrifying clarity about the Shoah, the Battle of Stalingrad, and the Terror Famine in the Ukraine. An Armenian Sketchbook, however, shows us a very different Grossman, notable for his tenderness, warmth, and sense of fun.
After the Soviet government confiscated—or, as Grossman always put it, “arrested”—Life and Fate, he took on the task of revising a literal Russian translation of a long Armenian novel. The novel was of little interest to him, but he needed money and was evidently glad of an excuse to travel to Armenia. An Armenian Sketchbook is his account of the two months he spent there.
By far the most personal and intimate of Grossman’s works, it is endowed with an air of absolute spontaneity, as though he is simply chatting to the reader about his impressions of Armenia—its mountains, its ancient churches, its people—while also examining his own thoughts and moods. A wonderfully human account of travel to a faraway place, An Armenian Sketchbook also has the vivid appeal of a self-portrait.
“Vasily Grossman is the Tolstoy of the USSR.” —Martin Amis
“Charming. Grossman digresses as nimbly about the master craftsmen of Russian stoves found in the homes of the high-mountain villagers as he does about the touching customs of a rustic wedding he attended. Living among the Armenians, he witnessed a kind of timeless biblical nobility he conveys with artless simplicity in his own work.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Like history, human nature is open-ended; people are capable of doing evil as much as good…[Vasily Grossman] the writer sought to probe the historical fabric and future potential of his society. Perhaps it's because of this stance that his work is finding its way back into print…” —The Nation
“Vasily Grossman’s writing sneaks up on you, its simplicity building to powerful impressions as he records the small things that occur in people's lives as they experience - or endure - larger events.” —The Jewish Chronicle
This Earth of Mankind, Buru Quartet Book 1
Pramoedya Ananta Toer, tr Max Lane, 1980
Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 1, 1996)
Series: Buru Quartet (Book 1)
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
The Buru Quartet is a literary tetralogy written by Indonesian Pramoedya Ananta Toer and composed of the novels This Earth of Mankind, Child of All Nations, Footsteps, and House of Glass, and published between 1980 and 1988.
Pramoedya a writer of staggering depth and power and is also one of his country's most suppressed dissidents. All his work is banned in his native Indonesia; students have been sentenced to eight years in prison on charges stemming from an arrest for selling his books.
This Earth of Mankind, the first book in the quartet was composed orally on Buru Island during the first half of the author's fourteen-year imprisonment without trial. Writing or reading anything but religious texts was strictly forbidden. Pramoedya would tell each installment to the people with whom he shared his imprisonment.
Summary: This Earth of Mankind is set at the end of the Dutch colonial rule and was written while Pramoedya was imprisoned on the political island prison of Buru in eastern Indonesia. The story was first narrated verbally to Pramoedya's fellow prisoners in 1973 because he did not get permission to write. The story spread through all the inmates until 1975 when Pramoedya was finally granted permission to write the detailed story.
An Arid Eden: A Personal Account of Conservation in the Kaokoveld
Garth Owen-Smith, 2011
Publisher: Jonathan Ball Publishing
Format: Paperback: 620 pages
ISBN-10: 1868423638 / ISBN-13: 978-1868423637
Synopsis/Review: Personal account of conservation in the Kaokoveld area of Namibia in Africa. Once a verdant, lush area which abounded in wildlife, this beautiful Eden became a sparse, arid area on the brink of becoming a desert because of poor use of the land by people of the early 20th century ... In a unique experiment by determined people who cared enough to nurture this land back to its natural, thriving green potential and save the wildlife habitation before it was too late, the Kaokoveld gradually became one of the conservation successes of the century. The author visited in 1967 and was inspired to help make it what it used to be. Now animals are carefully guarded against poaching as their herds rebuild from near extinction, especially the black rhinos. It is a success story and a memoir of four decades of loving work by amazing people. A terrific read for anyone interested in saving our planet.
No Going Back to Moldova
Anna Robertson, 1989
Publisher: Mainstream Publishing
Format: Hardcover: 224 pages
ISBN-10: 1851580859 / ISBN-13: 978-1851580859
Review: Anna Robertson is a humorous writer, to whom many hilarious things seem to have happened, and the book was enjoyable from that point. It’s also a slice of European history, of the author’s life through the early 1900s. A fascinating read about shifting borders, and how one town could be in one country, then another, and then another! …a stringing together of a thousand anecdotes rather than a straight autobiography.
Married to a Bedouin
Marguerite van Geldermalsen, 2008
Publisher: Virago UK
Format: Paperback: 288 pages
ISBN-10: 1844082202 / ISBN-13: 978-1844082209
Synopsis: New Zealand born nurse Marguerite van Geldermalsen first visited the lost city Petra with a friend in 1978 on a sightseeing tour of the ancient world. Already looking forward to her beach holiday at the end of the trip, little did Maguerite know she was about to meet the man she would marry, the charismatic Mohammad Abdallah Othman, a Bedouin craftsman of the Manajah tribe. A life with Mohammad meant moving into his ancient cave and learning to love the regular tasks of baking shrak bread on an open fire and collecting water from the spring. As Marguerite feels herself becoming part of the Bedouin community, she is thankful for the twist in fate that has led her to this contented life. Marguerite’s light-hearted observations of the people she comes to love are as heart-warming as they are valuable, charting Bedouin traditions now lost to the modern world.
Turn Right at Machu Pichu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time
Mark Adams, 2012
Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition
Format: Paperback: 333 pages
ISBN-10: 0452297982 / ISBN-13: 978-0452297982
Synopsis: What happens when an unadventurous adventure writer tries to re-create the original expedition to Machu Picchu?
In 1911, Hiram Bingham III climbed into the Andes Mountains of Peru and “discovered” Machu Picchu. While history has recast Bingham as a villain who stole both priceless artifacts and credit for finding the great archeological site, Mark Adams set out to retrace the explorer’s perilous path in search of the truth—except he’d written about adventure far more than he’d actually lived it. In fact, he’d never even slept in a tent.
Turn Right at Machu Picchu is Adams’ fascinating and funny account of his journey through some of the world’s most majestic, historic, and remote landscapes guided only by a hard-as-nails Australian survivalist and one nagging question: Just what was Machu Picchu?
Kamakwie: Finding Peace, Love, and Injustice in Sierra Leone
Kathleen Martin, 2012
Publisher: Red Deer Press
Format: Paperback: 175 pages
ISBN-10: 0889954720 / ISBN-13: 978-0889954724
Synopsis: Kathleen Martin spent several weeks in the tiny village of Kamakwie in the interior of Sierra Leone, where she worked with a Canadian medical team. Staying in the grounds of the community hospital, Kathleen had the opportunity to meet with the people of the village. The experience was a revelation. Her mission was to talk to people about their lives, aspirations and their memories of the civil war. She also had a camera though which she developed a visual chronicle. Above all, she was struck by the children—their resilience, their hopes, their enjoyment of the moments when they could gather and sing and play soccer.
Initially, the writer is an observer, but it is not long before the observer is passionately involved.
In this vivid and moving account of her time in Kamakwie, Kathleen Martin provides a window into a world far from the comfortable lives of most Americans - a world that through this book will become a colorful, sometimes horrifying, sometimes beautiful reality.
Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle
Moritz Thomsen, 1990
Publisher: University of Washington Press
Format: Paperback, 280 pages
ISBN-10: 0295969288 / ISBN-13: 978-0295969282
Synopsis: At the age of 48, Moritz Thomsen sold his pig farm and joined the Peace Corps. As he tells the story, his awareness of the comic elements in the human situation—including his own—and his ability to convey it in fast-moving, earthy prose have made Living Poor a classic.
Travelers' Tales Thailand: True Stories
ed James O'Reilly and Larry Habegger, 2002
Publisher: Travelers' Tales
Series: Travelers' Tales Guides
Format: Paperback: 488 pages
ISBN-10: 1885211759 / ISBN-13: 978-1885211750
About this book: Winner of the Lowell Thomas Award for Best Travel Book, this newly designed collection paints a unique portrait of a complex and captivating land. One contributor lives as a monk for a month, gaining an inside look at monastic life. Another discovers Bangkok’s riverine pleasures, a world away from its car-choked streets. Yet another finds refuge as the houseguest of an isolated tribesman. Through these engaging personal stories, readers witness how Thailand satisfies just about any traveler’s hunger for the exotic, the beautiful, the thrillingly different. Writers include Pico Iyer, Norman Lewis, Diane Summers, Simon Winchester, Ian Buruma, Thalia Zepatos, and Tim Ward.
Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna
Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton with Herman J. Viola, 2003, YA
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books
Format: Paperback, 128 pages
ISBN-10: 0792272978 / ISBN-13: 978-0792272977
Synopsis: Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton gives American readers a firsthand look at growing up in Kenya as a member of a tribe of nomads, whose livelihood centers on the raising and grazing of cattle. Readers share Lekuton's first encounter with a lion, the epitome of bravery in the warrior tradition. They follow his mischievous antics as a young Maasai cattle herder, coming-of-age initiation, boarding school escapades, soccer success, and journey to America for college. Lekuton's riveting text combines exotic details of nomadic life with the universal experience and emotions of a growing boy.
Held at a Distance: My Rediscovery of Ethiopia
Rebecca G. Haile, 2007
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Format: Paperback 195 pages
ISBN-10: 0897335562 / ISBN-13: 978-0897335560
Synopsis: This powerful book gives readers a chance to experience Ethiopia through the personal experience of a writer who is both Ethiopian and American. It takes readers beyond headlines and stereotypes to a deeper understanding of the country. This is an absorbing account of the author’s return trip to Ethiopia as an adult, having left the country in exile with her family at age 11. She profiles relatives and friends who have remained in Ethiopia, and she writes movingly about Ethiopia’s recent past and its ancient history. She offers a clear-eyed analysis of the state of the country today, and her keen observations and personal experience will resonate with readers. This is a unique glimpse into a fascinating African country by a talented writer.
Two Years in Poland and Other Stories: A Sixty-Seven-Year-Old Grandfather Joins the Peace Corps and Looks Back on His Life
Lawrence Brane Siddall, 2008
Publisher: Pelham Springs Press; First edition
Format: Paperback, 255 pages
ISBN-10: 0981529704 / ISBN-13: 978-0981529707
Synopsis: Author Lawrence Brane Siddall takes the reader to Poland where he taught English in a high school as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1997 to 1999, in a late-life adventure following retirement. At 67, he was one of only 450 senior Peace Corps volunteers out of 6,500 worldwide. He vividly describes the challenges he faces in the classroom, his struggle to learn Polish, his initial feelings of isolation in adjusting to a new culture, and the close friends he eventually makes. Siddall also weaves brief flashbacks into his narrative, among others a glimpse of his own high school years and a vignette about the death of his mother in China in 1932.
How It Goes in Mexico: Essays from an Expatriate
Carol Merchasin, 2014
Format: E-book, File Size: 1942 KB
Print Length: 54 pages
Synopsis: Carol Merchasin first visited San Miguel de Allende in 1996, fell in love with its language, people, and culture, and moved there full-time with her husband in 2005. A lawyer by training, Merchasin is curious about how everything around her in Mexico works—the health care system, religious rituals, loaning money, small change at the market, narcotrafficantes, telenovelas, and the subtleties between the verbs ser and estar. An intrepid researcher, she informally consults her neighbors, history books, and experts until she’s satisfied. The essays in How It Goes in Mexico are by turns funny and poignant, and the portrayal of Mexico is neither romantic nor wary but respectful and compassionate.
Tea & Bee's Milk: Our Year in a Turkish Village
Karen Gilden and Ray Gilden, 2008
Publisher: Artha Press
Format: Paperback, 234 pages
ISBN-10: 1886922128 / ISBN-13: 978-1886922129
Synopsis: Tea & Bee's Milk makes understanding another culture as simple as pouring a cup of tea. It does so with gentle humor, curiosity, and a cheerful affection for the Turkish people. If you've ever dreamed of ditching the rat race and taking a year off, this happy memoir will encourage you to pack your bags and go.
Six Years in Mozambique: Things I Haven't Told Mom
Amy Gillespie with Cheri Colburn, 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Format: Paperback 346 pp
ISBN-10: 1499784058 / ISBN-13: 978-1499784053
Synopsis: With $150 and the belief that all children should be given the skills to keep themselves and their loved ones alive, Amy Gillespie set out for Mozambique to meet the Goliath who had whispered to her in the night, “Come find me.”
She could not have imagined all she would witness and experience on her journey… beauty, inspiration, humor; as well as corruption, unimaginable suffering, and shadowy threats from unlikely sources.
Six Years in Mozambique explores one woman’s experience of the gritty reality of aid work, sexuality, and spirituality in Sub-Saharan Africa. It takes a raw look at what it’s like to be a single woman, on the edge of forty years of age, setting off to chase down Goliath, fully certain of success; and how that incredible journey led her to universal truths and surrender.
With its sweeping honesty, "Six Years in Mozambique" is the portrayal of an every day life turned extraordinary when a purposeful heart overcomes. This is the story of change -- the change that happens to you and because of you. Feeling a pulse on every page, it is the heartbeat of determination that tells the story of where real life meets the world according to Africa.
Cutting for Stone
By Abraham Verghese, 2010
Paperback: 667 pages
Publisher: 978-0375714368 (January 26, 2010)
Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles - and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.
Your Madness Not Mine: Stories of Cameroon
By Juliana Makuchi, 1999
Paperback: 158 pages
Publisher: Ohio University Press; 1 edition (February 28, 1999)
Powerful portraits of postcolonial Cameroonian women, who probe their day-to-day experiences of survival and empowerment as they deal with gender oppression: from patriarchal expectations to the malaise of mal-development, unemployment, and the attraction of the West for young Cameroonians.
For 91 Days in Sri Lanka
By Michael Powell, Juergen Horn (photographer), 2012
Paperback: 452 pages
Publisher: www.for91days.com (July 8, 2012)
A collection of photos, advice and anecdotes filled with information about the history, adventures, culture and temples of Sri Lanka. Replete with practical advice and over 250 beautiful full-color photos and humorous stories, this e-book covers all of Sri Lanka's best cities and sights, and some unexpected treasures.
Read more at www.goodreads.com
From Microsoft to Malawi: Learning on the Front Lines as a Peace Corps Volunteer
By Michael L. Buckler, 2010
Paperback: 228 pages
Publisher: Hamilton Books (November 4, 2010)
Chronicles the arrival and subsequent adjustment to life in rural Africa for a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Buckler's account of the endless obstacles encountered by his students and colleagues and their hope and persistence to succeed makes for a compelling chronicle of self-discovery and renewal through sacrifice.
Read more at books.google.com
Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses, and Saints
By Angie Brenner and Joy E. Stocke, 2012
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Wild River Books (March 1, 2012)
When Joy Stocke and Angie Brenner meet on the balcony of a guesthouse in a small resort town on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, they discover a shared love of travel, history, culture, cuisine, and literature; and they begin a ten-year odyssey through Turkey. A vivid memoir.
Read more at www.anatoliandaysandnights.com
Read more at www.goodreads.com
The South African Story
By Ron McGregor, Lisa McGregor (illustrator), 2013
Paperback: 437 pages
Publisher: TDS Publishing; 3 edition (December 23, 2014)
Written by a South African tour-guide and writer, a collection of the tales that the author tells as he crosses the country with his travelers. Much of it is about historical facts, folklore, legend, food and drink.
Read more at www.goodreads.com
Monkeys in my Garden: Unbelievable but True Stories of My Life in Mozambique
By Valerie Pixley, 2013
Paperback: 402 pages
Publisher: Matador (July 8, 2013)
A true-life adventure story of Valerie and her husband O'D's life in the Nhamacoa Forest. From an idyllic life in the Algarve that was destroyed by an enormous fire, to a ruin of a house in Mozambique with grass for a roof and no doors or glass in the windows, this is a wild mix of hilarious and hair-raising experiences that involve witchcraft, corruption and even a life-saving miracle.
Read more at www.thebookbag.co.uk
Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu
By J. Maarten Troost, 2006
Paperback: 239 pages
Publisher: Broadway Books (June 13, 2006)
The is a hilarious story of Troost's time on Vanuatu, falling into one amusing misadventure after another. The author struggles against typhoons, earthquakes, and giant centipedes and soon finds himself swept up in the laid-back, clothing-optional lifestyle of the islanders.
Read more at matadornetwork.com
A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope, and a Restaurant in Rwanda
By Josh Ruxin, 2013
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (November 5, 2013)
One couple's inspiring memoir of the healing of a Rwandan village, raising a family near the old killing fields, and building a restaurant named Heaven. Part memoir, part history lesson, the story of Ruxin's life in Rwanda is riveting and inspirational.
Read more at www.goodreads.com
By Gianni Vecchiato, (photographer), 1999
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Pomegranate; First Edition edition (October 1, 1989)
This book presents 150 superb photographs providing a magnificent view of the textiles, people, and daily life of Guatemala. It is truly a feast for the eyes and spirit.
Mongolia: Nomad Empire of the Eternal Blue Sky
By Carl Robinson, 2010
Paperback: 536 pages
Publisher: Odyssey Books & Maps; First Edition edition (March 1, 2010)
Explores Mongolia's history, culture and geography through insightful writing and beautiful imagery. This beautifully illustrated book provides a comprehensive and insightful guide to the diverse natural history and rich culture of 'The Land of the Eternal Blue Sky.'
Read more at books.google.com
India Bites You Somehow - True-Life Tales
By Kai Mayerfeld, Chris Fallon (photographer), 2010
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Kai Mayerfeld (September 1, 2011)
A rollicking collection of true stories that take you deep into the heart of the magical, mysterious Indian experience. Forty people from nineteen countries share their journeys -- both worldly and sacred -- from the 1960s to the present. These narratives are moving, terrifying, hilarious, and awe-inspiring.
Following Whispers: Walking on the Rooftop of the World in Nepal's Himalayas
By Dan Thompson, 2012
Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 19, 2012)
An Iraq War veteran turned magazine editor, accepted an unexpected invitation from a family friend to visit Nepal. With laugh-out-loud misadventures with a parasite, to insightful discussions about Nepal's future, Thompson weaves themes of globalization, religion, development aid, and friendship into what turns into an adventure story. Includes over 20 photos, maps and recipes of traditional foods.
Mali Blues, Traveling to an African beat
by Lieve Joris, 1998
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Lonely Planet (October 1, 1998)
Chronicles of Mauritania, Mali and Senegal in the midst of upheaval and transition observed during the author’s trek from the capital to the remote village of Nema.
Singing Away the Hunger, Autobiography of an African Woman
by Mpho ‘M’atsepo Nthunya, 1996
Paperback: 186 pages
Publisher: University Of KwaZulu-Natal Press (December 1, 1996)
A gripping memoir of youth in Basutoland, schooling in South Africa, coping with racism and 30 years as domestic servant.
First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria, How a Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart & a Third World Adventure Changed My Life
by Eve Brown-Waite, 2009
Publisher: Broadway (2009)
A humorous and moving account of PCV in Ecuador in late 1980s.
A Promise in Haiti
by Mark Curnutte, 2011
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Vanderbilt University Press (July 22, 2011)
A reporter chronicles the devastating poverty and havoc of earthquakes and hurricanes, and his involvement in people’s struggles and triumphs.
From Harvey River, A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island
by Lorna Goodison, 2007
Poet & daughter of a prominent Jamaican family contrasts her idyllic childhood with the “hard life” in Kingston after her marriage.
Bright Lights, No City
by Max Alexander, 2012
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher:Hyperion; 1St Edition edition (July 17, 2012)
A humorous, insightful and inspiring narrative of adventures and misadventures while running an enterprise to provide battery-operated equipment to remote villages.
Our Grandmothers’ Drums
by Mark Hudson, 1991
Paperback: 322 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co; Reprint edition (April 1, 1991)
British journalist/critic describes his involvement in local life and rituals during 14 months spent in the Gambian village of Keneba.
by Rafe Bartholomew, 2010
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (June 7, 2011)
Fulbright scholar/basketball fanatic tells of his time in-country and the history of the Philippines’ unlikely love affair with basketball.
Sacred Horses, The Memoirs of a Turkmen Cowboy
by Jonathan Maslow, 1994
Paperback: 342 pages
Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (March 15, 1994)
Naturalist/filmmaker, Maslow, profiles the dedication of owners/breeders and their struggles to preserve the fabled, once endangered Akhal-Teke horses.
God Sleeps in Rwanda, A Journey of Transformation
by J. Sebarenzi, 2009
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (January 11, 2011)
Memoir of politician/diplomat, describes the horror of 1990’s massacres and how he turned bitterness and hatred to forgiveness and compassion.
by Peter Hessler, 2006
Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (May 8, 2007)
Profile of a nation with an ancient traditional culture in the midst of a breathtaking transformation into a dynamic, modern society.
The River’s Tale
by Edward Gargan, 2002
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 7, 2003)
In a legendary trip down the Mekong, a NYT correspondent profiles Cambodia, once a very troubled and impoverished nation, now grappling with technology and on-rushing modernity.
The Eighth Continent, Life, Death, and Discovery in the Lost World of Madagascar
by Peter Tyson, 2000
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: William Morrow; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (May 30, 2000)
A rare view into one of the most diverse and fascinating places on earth.
by Jamaica Kincaid
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: National Geographic; Reprint edition (July 17, 2007)
In this 2005 travel narrative, subtitled A Walk in the Himalaya, noted novelist and avid gardener Kincaid, a Caribbean native, traverses Nepal providing descriptions of the flora and fauna of the countryside, and giving insights into the culture and history of the Nepalese people.
On a Hoof and a Prayer
by Polly Evans
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Delta (April 29, 2008)
Subtitled Exploring Argentina at a Gallop and published in 2007, On a Hoof and a Prayer is the account of journalist Polly Evans learning to ride a horse in the land of the gauchos, and then going on to explore Argentinean culture, customs and history.
Adventures in Gabon: Peace Corps Stories from the African Rainforest
by RPCV Darcy Munson Meijer, 2011
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: Peace Corps Writers (September 14, 2011)
Anecdotes by more than thirty writers who served between 1962 and 2005. A collection of the best stories contributed to the Gabon Letter.
by Lucian Boia
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Reaktion Books (January 2, 2004)
In this well documented volume, published in 2001, Boia, a prominent Romanian writer and history professor at the University of Bucharest, offers an extensive look at the history and culture of Romania, as well as prospects for the political future of his native land.
by June Vendall Clark
Subtitled A Memoir of Africa and published in 1990, Starlings Laughing is an account of author and naturalist Clark's coming of age during the waning days of the British colonial era in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, current day Botswana.
Back to Pakistan
by Leslie Noyes Mass
Hardcover: 236 pages
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (August 12, 2011)
Mass was a Peace Corps volunteer in Pakistan in the early 1960s. This volume, subtitled A Fifty-year Journey and published in 2011, is a recounting of her return to Pakistan decades later, interwoven with letters and diary entries written during her volunteer service.
Monique and the Mango Rain: two years with a Midwife in Mali
by Kris Holloway and John Bidwell
Paperback: 215 pages
Publisher: Waveland Press; First Edition edition (July 20, 2006)
Published in 2007, this memoir tells the story of Holloway's experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in Mali in the early 1990s, and her friendship with a local midwife Monique Dembele.
Surviving Against the Odds
by S. Ann Dunham
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Duke University Press; First Edition edition (December 2009)
Subtitled Village Industry in Indonesia and published in 2009, Surviving Against the Odds is based on the 14 years of doctoral dissertation research Dunham, President Obama's late mother, gathered among rural metal workers on the island of Java.
I Was Never Here and This Never Happened
by Dorinda Hafner
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Ten Speed Press; Softcover Ed edition (February 6, 1996)
Ghana native Hafner, host of A Taste of Africa, a cooking program on Australian television, mixes recipes, stories from her homeland and personal anecdotes in this eclectic 1996 memoir.
The Twelve Little Cakes
by Dominika Dery
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Trade; Softcover Ed edition (October 4, 2005)
In this memoir, published in 2004, poet and playwright Dominika Dery tells of her life growing up in a village near Prague in the 1970s, as the daughter of dissidents in the wake of the 1968 "Prague Spring".
by Gabriella De Ferrari
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Kodansha Amer Inc (April 1, 1996)
The daughter of Italian immigrant parents, novelist and travel writer De Ferrari describes her life, from growing up in Tacna, a small desert town in the foothills of the Andes mountains, to becoming a museum curator in the United States in this 1995 memoir.
by Peter Hessler
Paperback: 402 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; Later Printing edition (April 25, 2006)
Subtitled Two Years on the Yangtze, this 2001 memoir is an account of Hessler's service in the Peace Corps as an English teacher, and first American resident in more than fifty years, in Fuling, a small city in China's Sichuan province.
Hands of the Rain Forest: The Emberá: People of Panama
by Rachel Crandell
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (December 8, 2009)
A first-hand account of an indigenous group whose way of life (using resources from the rain forest to meet most of their subsistence needs) has largely withstood the forces of economic development.
Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu
by J. Maarten Troost
Paperback: 239 pages
Publisher: Broadway Books (June 13, 2006)
A comical and touching travel memoir with a sentimental heart, Troost's latest work genuinely captures the search for paradise as well as the need for home.
To Timbuktu: A Journey Down the Niger
by Mark Jenkins
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Modern Times; 1st edition (May 27, 2008)
A rich combination of cultural exploration, history, and gripping adventure, this beautifully repackaged edition of To Timbuktu is a journey not to be missed.
Lost Province: Adventures in a Moldovan Family
by Stephen Henighan
Paperback: 184 pages
Publisher: Dundurn; 1 edition (November 15, 2002)
One of the best travelogues about Moldova, it follows a Canadian’s experiences teaching English in this forgotten country and is humorous and touching while bringing up astute, even disturbing points about Soviet cultural colonization and the inter-ethnic tension he finds there.
Stories from Ecuador: A Collection by Tyrel Nelson
by Tyrel Nelson
Paperback: 114 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (May 13, 2009)
A collection of honest, first-hand accounts of the most memorable people, places, and moments from a young man's year-long journey. A colorful mix of tales incorporating levity, beauty and even boredom, in an unexpected and refreshing way.
Lessons I'm Never GHANA Forget
by Tobin Cuss
Paperback: 252 pages
Publisher: BookPal (April 8, 2010)
A collection of stories and observations written by a young primary school teacher, who decided to fulfill his dream of teaching children in Africa.
by Robert Frank
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Steidl; First edition (October 1, 2008)
Documents the country's massive vistas, weathered faces, manual labor and dusty roads stretching to the horizon with a spontaneity of motion that propels the viewer into the midst of the scenery.
Blood River: The Terrifying Journey Through The World's Most Dangerous Country
by Tim Butcher
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 2009)
A journalist undertakes a hazardous African trip in 2004, traveling from Lake Tanganyika to the Atlantic Ocean via the Congo River. Delivers an unblinking firsthand portrait of contemporary Congo.
Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal
by Conor Grennan
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (December 27, 2011)
Little Princes is a true story of families and children, and what one person is capable of when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. At turns tragic, joyful, and hilarious, Little Princes is a testament to the power of faith and the ability of love to carry us beyond our wildest expectations.
The Kingdom of Roses and Thorns
by Debra Liebenow Daly
Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: AuthorHouse (March 25, 2009)
Amazing stories of real Swaziland women facing AIDS/HIV and poverty whose strength and courage should inspire all who read this book.
The Places In Between
by Rory Stewart
Paperback: 297 pages
Publisher: Mariner Books; 1st edition (May 8, 2006)
Stewart began a walk across Afghanistan from Herat to Kabul launching a journey through a devastated, unsettled, and unsafe landscape. The recounting of that journey makes for an engrossing, surprising, and often deeply moving portrait of the land and the peoples who inhabit it.
The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation
by Dr. Andrew Wilson
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press; 4 edition (November 24, 2015)
A sweeping introductory examination of Ukrainian identity and history. . . . An exceptional history, the kind that supplies not pat answers but food for thought within a lush context of documented and mythological past. It is fascinating reading.
Georgia: In the Mountains of Poetry
by Peter Nasmyth
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (October 25, 2006)
The first comprehensive cultural and historical introduction to modern Georgia. It covers the country region by region, taking the form of a literary journey through the transition from Soviet Georgia to the modern independent nation state.
A History of Nigeria
by Toyin Falola
Paperback: 370 pages
Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (June 2, 2008)
This succinct, authoritative, and engagingly written history of Nigeria from its earliest beginnings through 1998 provides an excellent introduction to the country's history written by a leading historian on Nigeria.
Saint Lucia: Portrait of an Island
by Jenny Palmer
Hardcover: 194 pages
Publisher: Macmillan Caribbean; 2nd edition (September 1, 2008)
St. Lucia lives up to its reputation for outstanding natural beauty and for the friendliness of its people. The stunning new images provide a fascinating insight into the unique history and vibrant culture of the island known simply as "Helen of the West Indies."
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
by Ishmael Beah
Paperback: 229 pages
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books; 1st edition (August 5, 2008)
This absorbing account by a young man who, as a boy of 12, gets swept up in Sierra Leone's civil war goes beyond even the best journalistic efforts in revealing the life and mind of a child abducted into the horrors of warfare.
My Invented Country: A Memoir
by Isabel Allende
Paperback: 199 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1st edition (April 27, 2004)
In this memoir-cum-study of her "home ground," the author delves into the history, social mores and idiosyncrasies of Chile, where she was raised, showing, in the process, how that land has served as her muse.
A Portrait Of Thailand
by David Devoss
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: New Line Books (September 1, 2005)
An exploration of this country of unique and rich traditions -- from bustling Bangkok with its splendid temples and palaces to hilltop villages and ancient ruins.
Burning Heart: A Portrait of the Philippines
by Jessica Hagedorn
Paperback: 152 pages
Publisher: 152 pages
These unflinching photographs uncover the importance of religion in the Philippines, as well as the social inequality, dire poverty, overpopulation, and ingrained class system that are all part of daily life.
Tanzania in Pictures
by Bev Pritchett
Library Binding: 80 pages
Publisher: Twenty First Century Books; 2nd New, Revised ed. edition (December 15, 2007)
An overview of Tanzania's geography and history, along with an exploration of the political, economic, and cultural landscape of this east coast African nation.
Crossroads: A Popular History of Malaysia and Singapore
by Jim Baker
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Pte Ltd; Updated edition (September 7, 2014)
Baker's thrilling book profits from his refusal to separate Singapore s history from Malaysia's. What we get is a broad story filled with surprising details drawn from his own experiences and from other scholarly works, and told in an easy and captivating style.
India: In Word and Image
by Eric Meola
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Welcome Books; 2nd ed. edition (October 14, 2008)
Photographer Meola's claims he is drawn to India because the people are blessed with childhood's sense of wonder so his photographs are an affectionate tribute to the subcontinent's diversity and history. Suffused with light and color, his images sidestep clichÈ to achieve an intimacy and spontaneity that readers will relish.
Bogotá and Beyond
by Jaime Johnson
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 8, 2009)
A technical writer by trade, he has been traveling and living throughout the beautiful country of Colombia. A one of a kind guidebook with over 350 photos which also comes with a free e-book with color photos.
Ghana: An African Portrait Revisited
by Peter E. Randall & Abena Busia
Hardcover: 168 pages
Publisher: Peter E. Randall Publisher (May 1, 2007))
On the fiftieth anniversary of Ghana's independence, six New Hampshire photographers journeyed to the West African country to document the changes that occurred over the decades. This full color book covers education, medicine, fishing, crafts, markets, and many portraits of everyday life.
The Idea of Pakistan
by Stephen P. Cohen
Paperback: 382 pages
Publisher: Brookings Institution Press; 2nd edition (August 1, 2006)
To probe beyond the headlines, Stephen Cohen, offers a panoramic portrait of this complex country—from its origins as a homeland for Indian Muslims to a military-dominated state that has experienced uneven economic growth, political chaos, sectarian violence, and several nuclear crises with its much larger neighbor, India.
by Joseph A. Page
Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press (September 6, 1996)
Vast in area, rich in resources and uniquely integrated in racial composition, here is Brazil in all its beauty, contradictions, promises and disappointments. Idealistic and pragmatic, exuberant and passive, its people have survived colonialism, slavery, dictatorships and populism and now struggle toward a viable capitalism in a society characterized by extremes of wealth and poverty.
The Last Men: Journey Among the Tribes of New Guinea
by Jago Corazza
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: White Star Publishers (September 7, 2010)
There are still hundreds of unknown populations in Papua New Guinea remained untouched by civilization, many of which are dying out. A glimpse into the lives of the people of this untamed Eden.
Offer’s a glimpse into the relatively unknown tribes – some which are dying out - of this untamed Eden.
Mongolia: Travels in the Untamed Land
by Jasper Becker
For seventy years, it was a forbidden country, shrouded in darkness. Now witness the birth of one of the world’s youngest democracies as well as the deep and tragic impact of the rules of Mao and Stalin on the Mongolian people.
The author witnesses the birth of one of the world’s youngest democracies and its tragic legacy of communism.
by Lisa St Aubin de Teran
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Virago Press (UK); UK ed. edition (December 2, 2010)
A wanderer in a place where no one leaves home; an unmarried woman in a place where men and women have many spouses, the author experiences a curious symbiosis with everyone benefiting from the other's presence.
A woman finds her purpose in this African country starting a school and an organization devoted to sustainable development.
by Jerry Hopkins
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Periplus Editions (HK) ltd.; 2 edition (September 15, 2005)
Essays exploring the mystery and mayhem of "The Land of Smiles" to hilarious-and sometimes disturbing-effect.
The book explores aspects of day to day life in the kingdom.
A History of Bangladesh
by Willem van Schendel
Paperback: 374 pages
Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (March 2, 2009)
Bangladesh is a new name for an old land whose history is little known to the wider world. This is an eloquent introduction to a fascinating country and its resilient and inventive people.
Motoring with Mohammed: Journeys to Yemen and the Red Sea
by Eric Hansen
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage departures ed edition (February 4, 1992)
An enthralling portrait -- uncannily sympathetic and wildly offbeat -- of this forgotten corner of the Middle East.
Reveals the indelible allure of a land steeped in custom, conflicts old and new, and uncommon beauty.
by Will Randall
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group; New Ed edition (2006)
Both an endearing personal story and a travel book about a little-known but highly successful country.
Dignity and Defiance: Stories from Bolivia's Challenge to Globalization
Edited by Jim Shultz and Melissa Crane Draper
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: University of California Press (January 7, 2009)
A powerful, eyewitness account of Bolivia's decade-long rebellion against globalization imposed from abroad. A rich portrait of people calling for global integration to be different than it has been: more fair and more just.
A powerful, eyewitness account of Bolivia's decade-long rebellion against globalization.
Tales From Tanzania: A Mostly True Story
by Scott Balows
Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: AuthorHouse (March 3, 2004)
While traveling across Africa, the author keeps one eye on the lions and one eye on his travelling companions. Portrays a comical misunderstanding between cultures.
India: In Word and Image
by Mark Brazaitis
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: University Of Iowa Press; 1 edition (September 1, 1998)
Fictional chronicles of a life in an impoverished Guatemalan town. Pervading each tale is ex-Peace Corps volunteer Brazaitis's understanding of the intricate social stratifications of his characters' rural community.
Fictional chronicles of a life in an impoverished Guatemalan town written by an Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.
The Dispossessed: Chronicles of the Desterrados of Colombia
by Alfredo Molano
Publisher: Haymarket Books,2005
A sociologist who realizes that 'the way to understand wasn't to study people but to listen to them collects these gripping stories showing the human face of those who suffer the effects of the US "Plan Colombia" and of a state that serves the interests of wealthy landlords instead of the poor.
Gripping stories by a sociologist who interviews dispossessed Columbians victimized by economic inequality and the negative impacts of U.S. foreign policy.
Mongolia: Travels in the Untamed Land
by Jasper Becker
Paperback: 344 pages
Publisher: Tauris Parke Paperbacks (June 15, 2008)
For seventy years, it was a forbidden country, shrouded in darkness. Now witness the birth of one of the world’s youngest democracies as well as the deep and tragic impact of the rules of Mao and Stalin on the Mongolian people.
The author witnesses the birth of one of the world’s youngest democracies and its tragic legacy of communism.