Tag: haruki murakami

Barack Obama Unveils Summer Reading List

Though it’s almost the end of Summer (thanks, Obama), it’s never too late to settle into a hammock with a good book!

This week, the former president posted a list of books he’s been reading this summer. Obama often releases lists of the books, music, and movies he’s enjoyed and wants to share with his large following. Personally, I think he has great taste, but at the very least it’s always interesting to have a little peak into the mind of a political figure.

If you’d like to see the post you can click here, but below is the caption and all the books listed!

It’s August, so I wanted to let you know about a few books I’ve been reading this summer, in case you’re looking for some suggestions. To start, you can’t go wrong by reading or re-reading the collected works of Toni Morrison. Beloved, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, Sula, everything else – they’re transcendent, all of them. You’ll be glad you read them. And while I’m at it, here are a few more titles you might want to explore.

Here are a few links and Amazon descriptions to make perusing these books a little easier! And if you’d like to read more about Obama’s love for the late Toni Morrison, you can do so here.

 

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Image via Amazon

As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is ‘as good as anyone.’ Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides ‘physical, intellectual and moral training’ so the delinquent boys in their charge can become ‘honorable and honest men.’

In reality, the Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear ‘out back.’ Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold onto Dr. King’s ringing assertion ‘Throw us in jail and we will still love you.’ His friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.

The tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys’ fates will be determined by what they endured at the Nickel Academy.

Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers.

 

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Image via Amazon

In these nine stunningly original, provocative, and poignant stories, Ted Chiang tackles some of humanity’s oldest questions along with new quandaries only he could imagine.

In The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate, a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances. In Exhalation, an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications that are literally universal. In Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom, the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will.

Including stories being published for the first time as well as some of his rare and classic uncollected work, Exhalation is Ted Chiang at his best: profound, sympathetic—revelatory.

 

Wolf Hall by HilLary Mantel

Image via Amazon

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile; one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

 

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Image via Amazon

Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are lovesick doctors, students, ex-boyfriends, actors, bartenders, and even Kafka’s Gregor Samsa, brought together to tell stories that speak to us all. In Men Without Women Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic, marked by the same wry humor and pathos that have defined his entire body of work.

 

 

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

Image via Amazon

It’s 1986, the heart of the Cold War, and Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She’s brilliant, but she’s also a young black woman working in an old boys’ club. Her career has stalled out, she’s overlooked for every high-profile squad, and her days are filled with monotonous paperwork. So when she’s given the opportunity to join a shadowy task force aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the charismatic revolutionary president of Burkina Faso whose Communist ideology has made him a target for American intervention, she says yes. Yes, even though she secretly admires the work Sankara is doing for his country. Yes, even though she is still grieving the mysterious death of her sister, whose example led Marie to this career path in the first place. Yes, even though a furious part of her suspects she’s being offered the job because of her appearance and not her talent.

In the year that follows, Marie will observe Sankara, seduce him, and ultimately have a hand in the coup that will bring him down. But doing so will change everything she believes about what it means to be a spy, a lover, a sister, and a good American.

Inspired by true events—Thomas Sankara is known as ‘Africa’s Che Guevara’—American Spy knits together a gripping spy thriller, a heartbreaking family drama, and a passionate romance. This is a face of the Cold War you’ve never seen before, and it introduces a powerful new literary voice.

 

The Shallows by Nicholas Carr

Image via Amazon

‘Is Google making us stupid?’ When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?

Now, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet’s intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by ‘tools of the mind’―from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer―Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways.

Building on the insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a convincing case that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic―a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is that of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption―and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.

Part intellectual history, part popular science, and part cultural criticism, The Shallows sparkles with memorable vignettes―Friedrich Nietzsche wrestling with a typewriter, Sigmund Freud dissecting the brains of sea creatures, Nathaniel Hawthorne contemplating the thunderous approach of a steam locomotive―even as it plumbs profound questions about the state of our modern psyche. This is a book that will forever alter the way we think about media and our minds.

 

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Image via Amazon

Geobiologist Hope Jahren has spent her life studying trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Lab Girl is her revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also a celebration of the lifelong curiosity, humility, and passion that drive every scientist. In these pages, Hope takes us back to her Minnesota childhood, where she spent hours in unfettered play in her father’s college laboratory. She tells us how she found a sanctuary in science, learning to perform lab work ‘with both the heart and the hands.’ She introduces us to Bill, her brilliant, eccentric lab manager. And she extends the mantle of scientist to each one of her readers, inviting us to join her in observing and protecting our environment. Warm, luminous, compulsively readable, Lab Girl vividly demonstrates the mountains that we can move when love and work come together.

 

Inland by Téa Obreht

Image via Washington Post

In the lawless, drought-ridden lands of the Arizona Territory in 1893, two extraordinary lives unfold. Nora is an unflinching frontierswoman awaiting the return of the men in her life—her husband, who has gone in search of water for the parched household, and her elder sons, who have vanished after an explosive argument. Nora is biding her time with her youngest son, who is convinced that a mysterious beast is stalking the land around their home.

Meanwhile, Lurie is a former outlaw and a man haunted by ghosts. He sees lost souls who want something from him, and he finds reprieve from their longing in an unexpected relationship that inspires a momentous expedition across the West. The way in which Lurie’s death-defying trek at last intersects with Nora’s plight is the surprise and suspense of this brilliant novel.

Mythical, lyrical, and sweeping in scope, Inland is grounded in true but little-known history. It showcases all of Téa Obreht’s talents as a writer, as she subverts and reimagines the myths of the American West, making them entirely—and unforgettably—her own.

 

How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu

Image via GoodReads

Dinaw Mengestu’s first novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, earned the young writer comparisons to Bellow, Fitzgerald, and Naipaul, and garnered ecstatic critical praise and awards around the world for its haunting depiction of the immigrant experience. Now Mengestu enriches the themes that defined his debut with a heartbreaking literary masterwork about love, family, and the power of imagination, which confirms his reputation as one of the brightest talents of his generation.

One early September afternoon, Yosef and Mariam, young Ethiopian immigrants who have spent all but their first year of marriage apart, set off on a road trip from their new home in Peoria, Illinois, to Nashville, Tennessee, in search of a new identity as an American couple. Soon, their son, Jonas, will be born in Illinois. Thirty years later, Yosef has died, and Jonas needs to make sense of the volatile generational and cultural ties that have forged him. How can he envision his future without knowing what has come before? Leaving behind his marriage and job in New York, Jonas sets out to retrace his mother and father’s trip and weave together a family history that will take him from the war-torn Ethiopia of his parents’ youth to his life in the America of today, a story—real or invented—that holds the possibility of reconciliation and redemption.

 

Maid by Stephanie Land

Image via Amazon

 

At 28, Stephanie Land’s plans of breaking free from the roots of her hometown in the Pacific Northwest to chase her dreams of attending a university and becoming a writer, were cut short when a summer fling turned into an unexpected pregnancy. She turned to housekeeping to make ends meet, and with a tenacious grip on her dream to provide her daughter the very best life possible, Stephanie worked days and took classes online to earn a college degree, and began to write relentlessly.

She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told: the stories of overworked and underpaid Americans. Of living on food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) coupons to eat. Of the government programs that provided her housing, but that doubled as halfway houses. The aloof government employees who called her lucky for receiving assistance while she didn’t feel lucky at all. She wrote to remember the fight, to eventually cut through the deep-rooted stigmas of the working poor.

Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. ‘I’d become a nameless ghost,’ Stephanie writes about her relationship with her clients, many of whom do not know her from any other cleaner, but who she learns plenty about. As she begins to discover more about her clients’ lives-their sadness and love, too-she begins to find hope in her own path.

Her compassionate, unflinching writing as a journalist gives voice to the ‘servant’ worker, and those pursuing the American Dream from below the poverty line. Maid is Stephanie’s story, but it’s not her alone. It is an inspiring testament to the strength, determination, and ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

 
 
 
Featured image via CNBC

Here Are Our Book Lovers Day Staff Picks!

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaku and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami

 

 

Surrealism

“The themes of finding closure for unresolved personal negativities really resonated with me.” – Nate

 

The Space Between – Brenna Yovanoff

 

 

Fantasy

“This is a book about being deeply flawed, and how even as you’re trying to be better, it’s honest to let those things stay a part of you.” – Kali

 

 

The Last Unicorn – Peter Beagle

 

 

Fantasy/Children’s

“It Reminds me that there’s magic in the world even if you can’t see it.” – Becky

 

The Prisoner of Azkaban – J. K. Rowling

 

Fantasy

“I enjoyed it.” – Richard

 

 

The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway

 

 

Literary Fiction

“This is one of Hemingway’s most compelling books due to the religious themes and the focus on minority groups, at a time when prejudice in America was prevalent.” – Kyle

 

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

Literary Fiction

“A good narrative that gives a view into the minds of the characters.” – Lexi

 

 

Gone – Michael Grant

 

 

Science Fiction

“It’s very entertaining and has a mystery you want to solve.” – Heather

 

Ties of Shooting Stars – Keigo Higashino

 

 

Detective

“The mystery keeps you guessing, and the build-up for the plot twist has a great payoff.” – Derek

 

 

The Thief Lord – Cornelia Funke

 

 

Children’s

“I found it really empowering as a child, with these kids taking care of themselves and fighting for good.” – Amy

 

The Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan

 

 

Fantasy

“I like Greek mythology, and the book’s funny, witty humor.” – Tim

 

 

Images via Amazon 

Featured image via Upslash 

jk rowling as a man from face app

The Face App Results on Your 7 Favorite Authors Are Hilarious

Here at Bookstr, we’re fans of scientific research. Today our constant quest for knowledge has led us to discovering what our favorite authors look like aged, gender-swapped, young, bald, or moustachioed using Face App.

 

Among my favorites are J. K. Rowling’s very Jeremy Corbyn-esque male self, Stephen King’s can-I-speak-to-the-manager female self, and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Zack-and-or-Cody child self.

 

Enjoy!

 

J. K. Rowling

 

jk rowling face app bookstr

 

Stephen King

 

stephen king face app bookstr

 

Haruki Murakami

 

haruki murakami face swap face app bookstr

 

John Green

 

john green face app face swap bookstr

 

Virginia Woolf

 

virginia woolf face app face swap

 

George R. R. Martin

 

george r.r. martin face app face swap bookstr

 

Ursula K. Le Guin

 

ursula k. leguin face app face swap bookstr

 

 

 

 

All Images Via Face App

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Haruki Murakami Discusses Parallel Realities in ‘Killing Commendatore’

Hey Bookstrs, good news here! The internationally distinguished author Haruki Murakami’s 2017 novel Killing Commendatore is going to say hi to all the English readers in this October!  Recently, an article titled “The Wind Cave,” an excerpt from Murakami’s novel, was published by The New Yorker, followed by an interview in which Murakami shared his inspirations, metaphors, reality, imagination, and his belief in parallel universes.

 

Though Murakami’s latest work Killing Commendatore has been declared “indecent” by Hong Kong censors (hey! the political intervention in literary composition is no doubt unwelcome!), Murakami is beloved by global readers, and has therefore been named as one of four finalists for the New Academy’s alternative prize for literature (responding to the cancellation of the Noble Prize in Literature due to the sexual misconduct scandal in the Swedish Academy). The right thing always needs no further explanation and Murakami’s contribution, no matter if his being censored or being almost-awarded, is clear and powerful. In Murakami’s literary world, there is always a negotiation between sun and shadow, and the parallel universes keep affecting the characters living on each side. Killing Commendatore, according to Murakami, is a piece of work in which, after a long time, he returns to the first person narrative, and he feels good about this perspective. 

 

 

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Image via zig.comamazon.in, and Vulture

 

 

In “The Wind Cave” the storyteller “I” speaks about the death of his younger sister twenty years ago and how the trauma lingers on his mind. The storyteller feels guilty and regretful about not taking care his twelve-year-old sister who suffered from a heart disease. There is one description that is very heartbreaking: when the sister’s delicate body is placed in a small-sized coffin, quietly and coldly, and is ready to be sent to the crematorium, the storyteller’s heart breaks:
 

I couldn’t stand to see her be cremated. When the coffin lid was shut and locked, I left the room. I didn’t help when my family ritually placed her bones inside an urn. I went out into the crematorium courtyard and cried soundlessly by myself. During her all too short life, I’d never once helped my little sister, a thought that hurt me deeply. 

 

This deeply-hurt feeling is the trauma that Murakami is trying to explore in his writing. In the interview with The New Yorker, Murakami shared his thought that:

 

There are three types of emotional wounds: those that heal quickly, those that take a long time to heal, and those that remain with you until you die. I think one of the major roles of fiction is to explore as deeply and in as much detail as possible the wounds that remain. Because those are the scars that, for better or for worse, define and shape a person’s life. And stories—effective stories, that is—can pinpoint where a wound lies, define its boundaries (often, the wounded person isn’t actually aware that it exists), and work to heal it.

 

The most dramatic part of the plot happens in a cave near Mount Fuji and it’s called The Wind Cave. Murakami confessed that he’s obsessed with caves. During his traveling around the world, he’s visited countless caves. In the story of “The Wind Cave,” the storyteller’s sister, before her death, once mentioned her thought that the characters in Alice in Wonderland are real, dwelling in another axis of the world, or simply, another universe. The themes of parallel realities and, in a certain sense, of boundary blurring between reality and “the other reality” are Murakami’s intentions of creating Killing Commendatore:

 

 

I ask myself the same question. When I’m writing novels, reality and unreality just naturally get mixed together. It’s not as if that was my plan and I’m following it as I write, but the more I try to write about reality in a realistic way, the more the unreal world invariably emerges. For me, a novel is like a party. Anybody who wants to join in can join in, and those who wish to leave can do so whenever they want. I think novels get their driving force from that sense of freedom.

 

My basic view of the world is that right next to the world we live in, the one we’re all familiar with, is a world we know nothing about, an unfamiliar world that exists concurrently with our own. The structure of that world, and its meaning, can’t be explained in words. But the fact is that it’s there, and sometimes we catch a glimpse of it, just by chance—like when a flash of lightning illuminates our surroundings for an instant.

 

 

Isn’t it amazing? I totally agree with Murakami’s thought about parallel realities not only because I’m a deep Murakami fan but also because of my belief in the fact that everyone occasionally experience the feeling that this world is unreal while the other is more approachable. No matter if it’s a deja vu, a daydream, or a mere illusion, this sense of entering into a Wonderland is originally the core in human being’s imagination. As Murakami keeps saying, the reason why Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is so “wonderful” because this self-satisfying territory is always welcome and making sense. Explanations are unneeded. 

 

 

I’m sure Killing Commendatore is an exceptional piece of work in terms of its multi-cultural blood. We all know that Murakami’s literary career has been nourished by so many Western classic authors, such as Lewis Caroll and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Yet, according to Murakami, Killing Commendatore is based on a traditional Japanese literary text called Tales of Spring Rain by Edo-period author Akinari Ueda. For a long time, Murakami said, he has been thinking about writing a novel regarding to this text. 

 

 

Now here he is. Killing Commendatore. A story about a middle-age painter who is abandoned by his wife, finds out his fascination with a mysterious artist’s painting, and decides to embark on a journey of searching himself and dealing with the haunted traumatic memories. The release date will be October 9th, 2018. Let’s get trapped in the Murakami magic again!

 

 

Suggested readings:

 

 

 

Featured Image Via hurriyetdailynews.com and The New Yorker (Illustration By Bianca Bagnarelli)

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The New Academy Releases Its Four Finalists in 2018 Alternative Prize in Literature

As long as you’re book-lovers or Bookstr fans, you may have already known that, unfortunately, the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature has been cancelled due to the explosion of sexual assault scandals in the Swedish Academy. But the celebration of humanities never stops. As an alternative and temporary for Prize in Literature, the New Academy just announced the shortlist of four authors for the 2018 New Academy Prize in Literature: Neil Gaiman, Maryse Condé, Haruki Murakami, and Kim Thúy.

 

 

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Books of the final four | Image Via stadsbibblanstockholm

 

 

Feeling shame about the scandal in a used-to-be distinguished and respectful Swedish Academy, Alexandra Pascalidou, a Swedish columnist, gathered the efforts from more than a hundred Swedish art and literature works. This included authors, librarians, correspondents, artists, and professors, which all give birth to Den Nya Akademien (New Academy), a non-profit organization, both politically and financially independent.

 

 

Different from the traditional way of evaluating prize nominees behind a secret veil like the Swedish Academy did, the New Academy opens the power of selection to the public. After the voting process is conducted by thousands of global book fans, the final four are released and sent to the evaluation committee. The juries include the chairman Ann Pålssonsenior, a senior editor; Lisbeth Larsson, the Professor of Literature at University of Gothenburg; Gunilla Sandin, the Head of Library; and Peter Stenson, Editor and Independent Publisher.

 

 

The final decision will be made on October 12th with the award ceremony on December 9. After the ceremony, both the New Academy and jury committee will dismiss themselves automatically. In what follows, let’s read more about our final four:

 

 

 

Neil Gaiman: a superstar in the fantasy community

 

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Image Via recode.net

 

Born in 1960 in England and living in the U.S. now, Gailman is best known for his fantasy writing, such as Stardust (1999) and American Gods (2001). His young adult novel The Graveyard Book received the U.S. Newbery Medal Award in 2009. After hearing the news of his nomination, Gailman tweeted: “Winning would not make me any happier than being on that list makes me. So I don’t think of it as being up against opponents, just as being in glorious and honoured company.”

 

Selected bibliography:
The Sandman: Book of Dreams, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

 

 

Maryse Condé: a change-maker of the colonial world

 

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Image Via Repeating Islands
 

Born in 1937 in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe and living in Guadeloupe and France now, this outstanding Caribbean author is so talented. Conde explores “how colonialism has changed the world and how those affected take back their heritage,” according the New Academy. Known for her critical probing into (post)colonial worlds, Dr. Condé had taught Francophone literature in Columbia University, New York. 

 

Selected bibliography:
Desirada, Segu, Crossing the Mangrove, Who Slashed Celanire’s Throat?

 

 

Haruki Murakami: a mastery frontrunner of magic realism

 

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Image Via Financial Tribune

 

Born in 1949 in Kyoto, Murakami now lives in Tokyo and is known for his dancing and magical words in both Japanese and global literary platforms. As a translator and author, Murakami is distinguished in “fus[ing] pop culture with a fierce magic realism.” While being translated into many languages, his work explores the existentialism of modern human conditions, such as urban loneliness, joyful but painful sex, lost-and-found identity, and familial complexities. For many Murakami fans, his being nominated must be a piece of great news because Murakami is also mentioned as a marathon Nobel Prize-candidate.

 

Selected bibliography:
Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, IQ84

 

 

Kim Thúy: a painter of Vietnamese exile and identity

 

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Image Via Le Devoir

 

Born in 1968 in Saigon, Vietnam, Kim Thúy left her native country with her family as refugees, spending one year in Malaysian asylum and growing up in Canada. In 2009, her autobiographical first work, Ru, brought her into the global literary world and received Governor General’s Award in 2010. Her stories, according to New Academy, “paint the colors of Vietnam and the scents and flavors too, as well as the perils of exile and search for identity.”
 

Selected bibliography:
Ru, Man, Vi

 

 

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Image Via the New Academy

 

 

Having a better understanding of these amazing authors gives me heartwarming and exciting feelings in my heart. They’re keeping the sparkles of the humanities gleaming in the darkness of unpleasant and abusive sexism. As the New Academy states:

 

 

In a time when human values are increasingly being called into question, literature becomes the counterforce of oppression and a code of silence. It is now more important than ever that the world’s greatest literary prize should be awarded.

 

 

No matter if it is a fantasy that unfolds the hope in another universe, a historical fiction that criticizes the violence of archaic monarchy, a magical realist novel that duplicates the complex of sun and shadow, or a memoir-oriented fiction that archives the tear and blood of exile, these four authors have done it all. They (re)present the world(s) that we lived, are living, and are heading toward. Much appreciation to them for writing of the democracy, openness, and respect we all desire. Congratulations for being the final four!  

 

 

Suggested readings:

 

 

 

Featured Image Via shopforclipart.comAfriculturesHN Art – Hospodářské noviny, and The Georgia Straight