Books That Will Take You to Different Continents
A guest post from Luiza Beirão Campos of Read, Watch, Binge
Welcome to another guest edition of Crooked Reads! This week, welcome Luiza Beirão Campos and some books from around the world. Luiza writes Read, Watch, Binge, a delightful newsletter with essays and recommendations on the best reading and watching material.
As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says in her many speeches, it is dangerous to only read about the lives and experiences of one part of the world. Once she left Nigeria to study in the U.S., she said she felt like everyone around her could only see her through the one vision they had of Africa: that of catastrophe.
Her brand-new roommate on campus could not believe she listened to Mariah Carey, could use a stove, or even spoke English. She’d never come into contact with Nigerian stories, didn’t know what life was like, the people’s aspirations and dreams. Compare that to the U.K., which is filled with hundreds of years of famous literature.
We all have read countless books about the developed world, which allows us to know, for instance, that people from Texas and New York have utterly different experiences and ideas. And even inside a single city, we know people differ in their personal circumstances. Meanwhile, we easily assume that people in different countries—even continents—are homogenous.
I’d like to share with you some books that will take you around the world and expose you to other cultures.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah was the first book I read from Chimamanda and is probably my favorite. I could relate to the main character’s feelings of alienation from living in a different country. Americanah tells the story of a young Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who immigrates to the United States to attend university. The novel traces Ifemelu’s life in both countries and explores race, family, and long-distance love.
The Anthill by Julianne Pachico
The Anthill also explores the sense of belonging and living in two different parts of the world. It follows Lina, born in Medellín, Colombia, who immigrated to the U.K. at the age of eight. She returns to Colombia to reconnect with a childhood friend in hopes of reestablishing her own roots.
The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
Amy Tan is most famous for her book The Joy Luck Club, and in The Valley of Amazement, she takes us back to China—both the metropolitan city of Shanghai and the fog-shrouded mountains of a remote Chinese village. Tan is a child of Chinese immigrants, and her view of China through this book is beautiful and hard, with the characters encountering many strenuous turns in their lives.
Tell us all about your favorite novel from another part of the world in the comments!
In case you missed ’em, or want to peep the archives:
I also wrote a guest post for Read, Watch, Binge, about my time recovering from COVID, thinking about the season ahead, and what content kept me company.
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I've had The Anthill on my TBR for ages, and it's one I didn't really know much about, but this certainly makes me want to get to it right away!
Here are two: I recently finished How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House which is set in Barbados. The author, Cherie Jones, tells the story of a murder that is really a story with all the complexities, mixed connections, class, race, gender, and economic divides of movies like Crash or Babel with the same unfolding chain of decisions and consequences. I also loved Half of a Yellow Sun, the earlier novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche.