February 10–Recommended Reading

Studies have repeatedly shown that reading makes you smarter. It also makes you kinder. Readers of novels gain empathy for others who are not exactly like them. This I believe. So I asked myself, what could I do to support transgender students? Refugees? Etc.? Well, I work in an indie bookstore. I know I am probably preaching to the choir, but I can recommend books. So here you go:
Excellent books about transgender
Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides is the story of a feisty Greek teenager, a really enjoyable saga about a child who is born neither male nor female, anatomically, and the struggles that “she” goes through. Recommend it to your book group!
She’s Not There, A Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan was a great non-fiction read about a man who became a woman.
Excellent books about refugees
The Leavers, by Lisa Ko
Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Commonwealth among others, is recommending this novel as a must-read right now. Barbara Kingsolver, of The Poisonwood Bible fame, is also a fan. Here’s the plot:
One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.
With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.
Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.
This powerful debut is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction.
From the Land of Green Ghosts by Pascal Khoo Thwe
Although I haven’t finished this memoir yet, it’s going on my other blog soon. It’s the true story of a young Burmese boy who became the first member of the Kayan Padaung tribe to study English at a university. And not just any university–he goes to Cambridge. What he’s left behind is a brutal military dictatorship that murdered his lover and forced him to abandon his academic studies.
Strength in What Remains, by Traci Kidder
You can read my entire review by clicking on the link. But basically, Kidder tells the true story of a young man from Burundi who survived 2 genocides (that of his own country and that in neighboring Rwanda) before coming to the United States. He struggled mightily, with homelessness, trauma, and despair, but with the help of some new American friends including one persistent nun, he was able to get an education. And with that, he headed back home to build clinics and schools. Inspiring.
Excellent books about the dangers of totalitarianism
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
1984 by George Orwell
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Brave New World by Aldus Huxley

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