One of my goals in recent years has been to seek out books with diverse authors and characters, ones whose race, ethnicity, or experiences are different than my own. I want to make sure I’m reading books that offer a window into others’ lives and experiences, not books that just mirror my own. Through books we can travel to different countries and communities and experience life through someone else’s eyes.
If this is a goal of yours too, perhaps for 2018, here are some adult books I read last year in this category–some serious and thought-provoking, others light and fun.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is one of the most compelling books I’ve read in recent years. This epic novel follows the descendants of half-sisters Effia and Esi through 300 years–both in Ghana and the United States. At the start of the novel, these characters live in two different villages in Ghana, but both wind up at Cape Coast Castle, under very different circumstances. Effia leaves her village to be married to an Englishman and live at the castle, while Esi is imprisoned in the castle’s dungeons and is eventually sold into slavery in the United States. A thought-provoking look at how where we have come from shapes our lives and certainly a novel that will stay with you.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan is the first book in a completely binge-worthy series that I fell in love with this year. As the series opens, Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer with her boyfriend, Nick Young, at his family’s home in Singapore. What she doesn’t realize is that Nick is heir to one of the biggest fortunes in Asia and she is entering a world of wealth like she could never imagine, one where she is not going to be accepted easily. These books are funny, impossible to put down, and would be perfect to take on vacation. A movie version is also due out this summer.
The Windfall by Diksha Basu, set in modern day Delhi, has the wit and humorous observations of a Jane Austen novel. Mr. and Mrs. Jha have lived in the same tight-nit, middle class housing complex for thirty years. Now that Mr. Jha has come into millions selling his website, they will be moving to a wealthy suburban neighborhood where he becomes obsessed with “keeping up with the Joneses”. My favorite storyline follows Mrs. Ray, a neighbor from the old housing complex and a young widow in her 40s, who befriends the eligible brother of the Jhas’ new neighbors.
The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee is told through the point of views of three women who are expats in Hong Kong. If you’ve ever lived abroad or wondered what that experience might be like, this would be a great book for you. Mercy, a Korean American from Queens, has recently moved to Hong Kong after graduating from Columbia and is floundering. Margaret and Hilary, “trailing spouses” who moved there for their husband’s jobs, live in a privileged, Western bubble where the isolation and strong yet fleeting bonds are described much like being at college for a few years. The lives of these three women become intertwined, with some disastrous and heartbreaking consequences. This is a sharp, carefully observed novel that will keep you turning the pages.
The Hate U Give is a timely Young Adult novel with an important perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement–it’s also a completely absorbing story that left me up late at night trying to finish. Starr Carter is getting a ride home from her friend Khalil when they are stopped and he is killed by a police officer (he is unarmed). Khalil becomes a national headline and in the face of intimidation and threats to her life, Starr must decide whether to speak up and tell the world what really happened that night. Some of my favorite books are the ones that shift the lens through which I see the world after I walk in the shoes of a particular character. Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is one of those characters. Highly recommended.