This list of five books- comprised of novels, nonfiction, and children's stories- explores the immigrant experience from multiple perspectives and points all over the world. Pick up one of these enlightening reads and enjoy an entertaining while educating adventure!
Let’s not forget that book banning is, fundamentally, conversation banning. A book gets banned when someone with power deems it dangerous, and it is only deemed dangerous when the thoughts dripping through the pages threaten a comfortable yet questionable, well-enough-rooted institution. So, one of the most sensible ways of honoring forbidden literature is to continue the tradition of feeding uncomfortable yet necessary conversations, and partaking in them.
So, in celebration of Banned Books Week, I hereby give you a drop’s worth of some of the current thought leaders around the world—authors, activists, visionaries, and public officials— whose discourse is worth researching for anyone with even the mildest commitment to human evolution. Not all of them have written books, but plenty of them have, and all of them are serving the thoughts that banned books are made of.
- Nawal El Saadawi
An Egyptian writer, physician, and psychiatrist, Nawal El Saadawi has dedicated half a century to peeling back the layers of patriarchal thought, and advocating for women’s rights. She has honed in on the topic of female circumcision, but nowhere near stopped at that; her ceiling-shattering feminist rhetoric and refusal to conform to oppressive class and gender norms have gotten her exiled, censored, imprisoned, and pilloried throughout her life. Thoroughly self-educated and an extraordinary modern thinker, El Saadawi has written in almost every genre and has been published in at least thirteen languages. Her autobiography, A Daughter of Isis (not to be confused with ISIS), is a detailed account of her early life and involvement in social freedom struggles.
2. Hoda Katebi
A twenty-three-year-old advocate for education and an ethical revolution in the fashion industry, Hoda Katebi is one of the notable young activists that makes me proud to be a millennial. Officially labeled a “writer, community organizer, and creative educator” on her website, this Chicago-based Iranian-American is not only a major mouthpiece for garment workers’ rights, but also a fearless liberal voice in regards to modern Muslim identity, and against military regimes. She is astonishingly fashionable (a detail that is only relevant due to the fact that she works in fashion), so if you look through her Insta feed, you’re likely to gather outfit inspiration. Or, you could check out her book Tehran Street Style, a photographic compilation of some of the best dressed men and women in the political and fashion capital of Iran.
3. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
One of the modern queens of feminist and anti-racist literature, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a prodigious master of activism through storytelling, and it would seem she has become so intentionally. In her Ted talk “The Danger of a Single Story,” she discusses the power of stories in creating biases, ideas, and conceptions about people—racial and gender biases being no exception. Her feminist rhetoric is inclusive and intersectional, and her representations of the world so real, you can pick them up and pin them on your bulletin board next to your polaroids. So far, she has written six books, including her wildly famous We Should All Be Feminists and Americanah.
4. Sarain Fox
An indigenous Canadian dancer and artist as well as an activist, Sarain Fox’s involvement in social and environmental issues boils down to a concept she has coined as reconciliACTION. Her mission is fundamentally rooted in seeking truth as a bridge towards sustainability and reconciliation of the peoples who inhabit her native Canada, aboriginal or otherwise. She uses her artistic platform to facilitate necessary dialogue between original populations and the descendants of European colonists.
5. Paola Mendoza
Author of the recently published Sanctuary (in addition to her 2013 novel The Ones Who Don’t Stay), Paola Mendoza is a major mouthpiece for human rights, particularly in the context of immigration. Mendoza has so far co-founded the Women’s March, written two social commentary novels, risen in her personal life from gang member to civically engaged activist, directed bilingual films, and advocated for fair trade clothing production. Mendoza is nothing short of a superhero.
I’m going to go ahead and reiterate that these are a handful—a starting point, if you will, to an educational journey into forward-thinking literature and discourse. Start right here, but once you get to that rabbit hole—yes, that one—take it. For God’s sake, go down that rabbit hole.
Featured Image via The Joplin Globe
Each week, Bookstr scans bestseller lists across the internet to learn what people are reading, buying, gifting, and talking about most — just so we can ensure consistent, high-quality recommendations. This week’s nonfiction picks center around the theme of current best-sellers, showcasing what nonfiction books are the biggest hits with audiences! Pick these up to see what everyone is talking about!
5. The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman
Image Via Amazon
The Good Immigrant is an anthology of stories reflecting on the current state of immigrants and their relationship to America. The United States is consumed by hostile rhetoric over who is welcome across its borders and it seems that everyone’s rights are under attack. In this anthology, numerous writers offer stories about their cultural heritage and their complicated stories in the midst of this crisis. From analyzing cultural appropriation, to a detailing one author’s journey from Nigeria to America, and another author reconnecting with their Korean roots, these stories are emotional, tear jerking, but mandatory for anyone to read in this age.
4. The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’meara
Image via Amazon
The Lady From the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara examines the forgotten history of one of Hollywood’s best talents, a woman who was discriminated against and lost to history despite creating one of the most iconic monsters of all time. This is the story of Milicent Patrick, who was one of Disney’s first female animators and created The Creature From the Black Lagoon, a monster that became a staple of Universal’s library of nasties next to Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman. O’Meara sheds light on the history of Milicent Patrick, uncovering her early beginnings to her career in Hollywood, giving the woman the legacy she’s deserved for years.
3. The Sakura obsession by Naoko Abe
Image via Amazon
The Sakura Obsession by Naoko Abe tells the true story of how an English eccentric saved Japan’s cherry blossoms from extinction. Collingwood Ingram visited Japan numerous times in the early 1900s, but by 1926 he was horrified to find the flowers were in sharp decline. Determined not to lose them, Ingram’s story chronicles how he used specimens he had taken to England and ferried them back to Japan, reintroducing them to the land and allowing them to flourish. A history of both cherry blossoms and a crazy English man with one hell of an obsession, this work is for any flower or history lover out there.
2. Surviving the Forest by Adiva Geffen
Image Via Amazon
Surviving the Forest tells the true tale of a Jewish holocaust survivor from WWII, known as Shurka, who lived a quiet, lovely existence in Poland. But then, World War II broke out and the Germans invaded Shurka’s hometown. She was taken to a Jewish ghetto, where the Nazis were taking Jews to concentration camps, never to be seen again. Managing to escape the camp with her family, Shurka ends up in the dark forest wilderness of Poland. This is her story of survival, avoiding not only German patrols but the world around her, from wild animals, to natural hazards, to starvation. This is a remarkable work that isn’t easy to read but showcases one woman’s tenacity for survival in the darkest of circumstances.
1. Furious Hours by Casey Cep
Image via Amazon
Furious Hours by Casey Cep uncovers the mystery surrounding beloved writer Harper Lee and the events that led to her beginning to write a true crime book in the vein of her childhood friend Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. A reverend named Willie Maxwell was acquitted for the murder of a family of five before being shot dead himself. Harper Lee in later years was trying to write another book and chose the reverend as the central character of a nonfiction book about the murders. The case is told in three sections, the first part about Maxwell, the second about his lawyer that helped him avoid justice, and the third about Harper Lee herself trying to write about his case. This book not only offers research into a murder mystery but paints an evocative portrait of Lee herself, chronicling her life, her success, and her slow decline as she struggled with fame. This is a wonderfully researched work, full of brilliant detail that doesn’t leave a stone unturned.
Featured Image Via Amazon
Not sure what to read this week? We have a suggestion: something unlike anything you’ve read before. You may be grappling with finals or watching in agony as students prepare to do what you wish you could (not have to wake up early every damn day), but one thing’s for sure—you need a book as hot as the impending summer.
Our picks for this week are as unique as you are: a look into the unapologetically political and astoundingly insightful The Handmaid’s Tale, an ambition sci-fi read that peers five years into a more recognizable future, and a groundbreaking work of lesbian fantasy. (My fantasy? More lesbian rep on the best-seller list.) Grab a copy of these books and take a look… when you glance up disoriented several hours later, you’ll thank me.
OUR HOT PICK
Explore the world of Gilead with this behind-the-scenes look at the award–winning show The Handmaid’s Tale.
The Handmaid’s Tale—the groundbreaking show produced by MGM Television and based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling novel—has drawn rave reviews and attention worldwide. Now, this comprehensive book details the process of bringing the story to the small screen with forty-five exclusive cast and crew interviews, backstage and set photography, concept art, costume design, and more.
Delve deep into the dystopia of Gilead as interviews with the show’s cast and creators provide insight into the inspiration behind the characters, settings, and themes, as well as its parallels to the real-world political climate. Showcasing striking visuals and insightful commentary, The Art and Making of The Handmaid’s Tale is the definitive exploration of one of television’s most critically acclaimed shows.
The popular TV series The Handmaid’s Tale will return for its third season on June 5, and the timing couldn’t be more poignant. This season includes pivotal scenes shot in Washington, D.C., further emphasizing the inherently political nature of the show and its source material. Currently, The Handmaid’s Tale is trending on Twitter—of course, there’s a historical precedent. The story trended directly after Donald Trump’s inaguration, coinciding with the historic Women’s March. Currently, the story is likely trending in part because of recent decisions in Alabama and Georgia on the subject of reproductive rights. The former state’s law is particularly stringent for reasons we won’t mention here, as they may be deeply upsetting. (Imagine how upsetting they are when they result in unwanted pregnancy.) The Art and Making of the Handmaid’s Tale captures the essence of these troubling times, featuring rich and thoughtful bonus content such as interviews with Margaret Atwood herself. Other exclusive interviews feature Elisabeth Moss (the actress who portrays Offred) and Warren Littlefield (executive producer)!
OUR COFFEE SHOP READ
Hard to say when the human species fractured exactly. Harder to say when this new talent arrived. But Lion Zorn is the first of his kind–an empathy tracker, an emotional soothsayer, with a felt sense for the future of the we. In simpler terms, he can spot cultural shifts and trends before they happen.
It’s a useful skill for a certain kind of company.
Arctic Pharmaceuticals is that kind of company. But when a routine em-tracking job leads to the discovery of a gruesome murder, Lion finds himself neck-deep in a world of eco-assassins, soul hackers and consciousness terrorists. But what the man really needs is a nap.
A unique blend of cutting-edge technology and traditional cyberpunk, Last Tango in Cyberspace explores hot topics like psychology, neuroscience, technology, as well as ecological and animal rights issues. The world created in Last Tango is based very closely on our world about five years from now, and all technology in the book either exists in labs or is rumored to exist. With its electrifying sentences, subtle humor, and an intriguing main character, readers are sure to find something that resonates with them in this groundbreaking cyberpunk science fiction thriller.
New York Times bestselling author Steven Kotler is as ambitious and impressive as his latest novel: a multiple-time Pultizer Prize nominee whose work has been translated into over forty languages, Kotler offers journalistic insight into a surprising range of timely topics. Since Last Tango in Cyberspace peers only five years into the future, it’s a striking and uncanny exploration of the world we might inhabit, playing on real fears and questions that we have as people living in 2019. The novel discusses ecological and animal rights issues alongside more traditional sci-fi topics, the more familiar neuroscience and technology. Sci-fi fans will appreciate Kotler’s expert balance of references to the genre at large and unique new additions to the genre. Lion Zorn is a charismatic and nuanced protagonist, and readers are sure to appreciate him just as much as the novel’s conceptual striving.
OUR dark horse
In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.
The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.
Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.
Malinda Lo‘s Ash is our Dark Horse this week for no lack of accolades: the groundbreaking LGBT+ YA was a Lambda Award finalist and a Kirkus Best Young Adult Novel. Published in 2009, the ten-year-anniversary edition of this dark, lesbian Cinderella story is actually a re-release, printed due to the novel’s success and cultural significance as an earlier LGBT+ work. The special anniversary release is jam-packed with special features, including a foreward by iconic YA fantasy author Holly Black, a letter from Malinda Lo, exclusive Q&A, and more! If you missed out on this story a decade ago (possibly because you were a small child then), now’s your chance to get in on the (literal!) magic. Even in YA fiction, which has grown increasingly open to LGBT+ characters and stories, lesbians and queer women remain underrepresented. Not in this book! Despite its basis in fairy tale, the novel received an outpouring of praise from sources like Publishers Weekly and The New York Times, praising its originality and deliberate, beautiful language.
All In-Text Images Via Amazon.
Featured Image Made With PhotoCollage.
The winner of Australia’s most esteemed literary prize could not attend the ceremony.
Today, Kurdish Iranian writer Behrouz Boochani won the Victorian Prize for Literature for his book, No Friend But the Mountains. Composed one text message at a time from an offshore detention center in Papua New Guinea, the novel has won a $25,000 and $100,000 prize in a country that denied this author refuge and continues to detain him. One of Behrouz Boochani’s greatest achievements should highlight what many perceive as present-day Australia’s greatest shame.
IMAGE VIA SBS NEWS
The experimental format of Boochani’s book was not an artistic decision—it was a necessity. While seeking refuge in Australia, the author was detained on Manus Island, a notorious offshore detention facility. Since he feared for his safety and the safety of his work, he wrote his novel entirely over WhatsApp messenger—and over the course of five years. He was right to be afraid: during his time at the detention center, he witnessed suicide attempts, riots, and murders. His phone was taken twice. “Imagine if I had written this book on paper,” Boochani said, “I would definitely have lost it.”
IMAGE VIA BLANK GC
Boochani might have won a significant sum, but money was never his aim in writing the book. Instead, he sought to share his experience of immigration and detention:
My main aim has always been for the people in Australia and around the world to understand deeply how this system has tortured innocent people on Manus and Nauru in a systematic way for almost six years. I hope this award will bring more attention to our situation and create change.
Image Via MO MAgazine
Although the detention camps have been legally closed, their continued existence bodes ill for Australia as a nation and for the people still left inside. LGBT+ people particular have suffered in these camps: in Papua New Guinea, homosexuality is still a crime. Gay men in the immigration detention facility can face up to fourteen years in prison. Boochani describes the camps as “barbaric.”
Boochani may have written the book to spread awareness of these cruelties, but, he admits, there was also another reason. Writing helped him to keep his humanity, his identity, he said. Writing was the thing that allowed him to survive.
Featured Image Via The Guardian