Beyond the Borders
It’s time to step outside your comfort zone, outside your borders, or outside of your own country or culture. Tell us about the books that transported you to a different world, taught you about a different culture, and/or helped you step into the shoes of someone different from you. What impacted you the most about this book? What books would you recommend to others who are ready or not ready to step over the line? In essence, let’s start the conversation about diversity and keep it going!
Diversity, yaay! Diversity is an amazing thing! I just wrote a ranty post about how the British Education secretary Michael Gove was apparently considering kicking To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men and The Crucible off the British GCSE syllabus (check out the post for any of this to make sense). Basically I ranted about how literature should be taught exactly because it supports diversity in such an amazing way. A book doesn't judge you, a book allows you to experience something you'd never otherwise encounter and do so at your own pace. Go literature! There is nothing like a book to lift you from your own position and allow you to see through someone else's eyes. I chose my blog name, A Universe in Words, because I wanted to read books from everywhere in the Universe, yes that includes potential future non-terrestrial literature.
A book that really transported me to a different world was Wild Swans by Jung Chang.
The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history—a bestselling classic in thirty languages with more than ten million copies sold around the world, now with a new introduction from the author.
An engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love, Jung Chang describes the extraordinary lives and experiences of her family members: her grandmother, a warlord’s concubine; her mother’s struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents’ experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a “barefoot doctor,” a steelworker, and an electrician. As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping, moving—and ultimately uplifting—detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family and millions of others caught in the whirlwind of history.This book manages to be historical, beautiful, insightful and educative. I know that's a lot to expect of one book, but this one manages to make it all come true. I really felt like I had learned something about China and its history after reading Wild Swans and it was also just a really interesting read. There were also some really tragic moments and I still haven't forgotten this novel after years of reading it! Not only did it give me real insight into Chinese culture but it was also a great novel about women.
I also just got accepted for review (on Netgalley) for The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg. I can't wait to read it.
In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated to “dressed up like a boy” in Dari) is a third kind of child – a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke the story of this phenomenon for the New York Times, constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom.
The Underground Girls of Kabul is anchored by vivid characters who bring this remarkable story to life: Azita, a female parliamentarian who sees no other choice but to turn her fourth daughter Mehran into a boy; Zahra, the tomboy teenager who struggles with puberty and refuses her parents’ attempts to turn her back into a girl; Shukria, now a married mother of three after living for twenty years as a man; and Nader, who prays with Shahed, the undercover female police officer, as they both remain in male disguise as adults.
At the heart of this emotional narrative is a new perspective on the extreme sacrifices of Afghan women and girls against the violent backdrop of America’s longest war. Divided into four parts, the book follows those born as the unwanted sex in Afghanistan, but who present as the socially favored gender through childhood and puberty, only to later be forced into marriage and childbirth. The Underground Girls of Kabul charts their dramatic life cycles, while examining our own history and the parallels to subversive actions of people who live under oppression everywhere.Honorary mentions goes to The Lynburn Legacy series by Sarah Rees Brennan for featuring a half-Asian main character. Kami Glass is a delightful main character, she's absolutely hilarious.
So, what books transported you?