Armchair BEA: Day 4 Beyond the Borders

Thursday, May 29, 2014

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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! 


 I've spent a lot of time working with immigrant communities and in countries in the Muslim world - Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia and Turkey. Every time I mention my interest in Afghanistan, people unfailingly bring up Khaled Hosseni's "The Kite Runner." I read that book ten years ago and enjoyed it but I always want to tell people that there's so much more out there to read!

I've already mentioned Jason Eliot's An Unexpected Light this week during Armchair BEA but I can't recommend it enough. It's an old-fashioned epic travel adventure in Afghanistan during the 1980s Soviet occupation and during the 1990s during the era of the Taliban and features some really beautiful writing.

If you'd like to know more about the women of Afghanistan, Christina Lamb is an amazing journalist who has written The Sewing Circles of Herat. I have a soft spot for The Minaret of Djam - originally published in the 1960s by Freya Stark at the end of her long, epic career of travel in the Middle East. Finally, Asne Seirestad's The Bookseller of Kabul is as emotionally powerful as any novel.

If you are interested in knowing more about Arab-American life - the novel Crescent and memoir The Language of Baklava (both by Diana Abu-Jabar) are great places to start. Abu-Jabar understands the importance of food and cooking and uses it as a gateway to explore bigger issues.

I interviewed American Dervish author Ayad Akhtar a couple years ago and appreciated his Pakistani-American take on the classic coming of age story.

I haven't been to Saudi Arabia but Zoe Ferraris' amazing trilogy of crime novels featuring a female lead character who works at a police station in Jedda made me want to learn more about that country. Start with Finding Nouf, then go on to City of Veils and Kingdom of Strangers. I loved that this book helped me understand a completely foreign state of mind while still keeping me entertained with a good mystery!

I hope I've helped at least one reader start out on a new book journey!



15 comments:

heather said...

Zoe Ferraris' books sound interesting.

My Beyond Borders post

Books on the Table said...

What a great list! I loved American Dervish and Zoe Ferraris' books -- next up, The Bookseller of Kabul!

Leila @ Readers' Oasis said...

Very interesting list; thanks for this post! I was going to post later about some books that deal with Iran and/or Iranian-Americans.

Juli Rahel said...

I always wanted to read more Middle-Eastern literature because I love the culture and the history. 'A Thousand Splendid Sun' was a real eye-opener and I just requested a book on Netgalley, 'The Underground Girls of Kabul' which I'm really excited to start. I'm definitely adding 'An Unexpected Light'!
Great post :)
My Beyond Borders post
Juli @ Universe in Words

Elizabeth Bevins said...

Wow...so many suggestions. I can't wait to find one I like. Thanks for sharing.

Lindsey said...

I mentioned American Dervish in my post too. That was a really great read!

bookertalk.com said...

you've given me some wonderful ideas here to enrich my list for world literature. thanks for all these ideas.
Would you know of anyone from those countries that has a book blog? I'm looking for people to feature in a series on my site called the View from Here

Historical Fiction Notebook said...

Heather & Leila - Thanks for stopping by - I enjoyed (and commented on) both of your Beyond the Borders' posts!

Historical Fiction Notebook said...

Books on the table - I hope you enjoy The Bookseller of Kabul as much as I did!

Historical Fiction Notebook said...

Hi Juli: Thanks for pointing out "The Underground Girls of Kabul." Now I've requested that book on NetGalley, too :)

Historical Fiction Notebook said...

Hi Elizabeth & Lindsey - Thanks for stopping by - always happy to help add to the TBR pile!

Historical Fiction Notebook said...

Hi bookertalk - just stopped by your blog and love it! Just subscribed by email. Unfortunately, I do not know of any book bloggers in those countries. If you do find them, please stop back here and let me know!

I have volunteered with a program that helps Afghan women write stories and poems. You might want to check it out: awwproject.org

Leila @ Readers' Oasis said...

I'm very interested in "The Underground Girls of Kabul"... I'd like to request a copy myself, but I have too much of a backlog on my NetGalley reads! I keep requesting too many galleys---must control myself! :) It's that kid-in-a-candy-store thing for me as a new blogger. So I'll wait for your review, and Juli's. I did enjoy American Dervish as well.

jorielovesastory.com said...

Hallo, Hallo! :)

*waves!* I am a #cheerREADER on Team4 with the #ArmChairBEA! :) Before I read your post, who is hosting the "War & Peace" Challenge!? I was meant to participate in the RAL with #LitChat, but I only have June left to read the novel; I know I am going to enjoy talking about it with other readers as I go along into the heart of the story -- would love to know whose involved! Your sidebar did not offer a link!? :(

I have a local friend who is going to lend me "The Kite Runner" as I somehow have managed not to read the book even though I have known about it for eight years (at least!). I think part of me held off as I knew it was going to be guttingly real, honest, and an emotional read. Sometimes I find that I need to prepare myself for those kinds of reads, and if it came out a full 10 years ago, I would have bypassed it as I was dealing with my own loss at the time.

Thank you for curating a reading list to give all of us a map of where to read next after "The Kite Runner". Like you, I appreciate reading literature about other cultures than my own, which is why I love the writings of Laura Resau as much as I do! Have you read any of her works?! You can read my post in which I highlighted her writings when I wrote a piece for the #AtoZChallenge in April for "Equality in Lit":

Jorie's
post on Equality in Lit / Diversity in Lit


Happy readings!!

Historical Fiction Notebook said...

Hi jorielovesastory -

The War and Peace Challenge is actually left over from an actual challenge that happened two years ago. I didn't complete it but I've kept the little picture there on the side to remind me to read it!

I think Hosseni's follow-up "A Thousand Splendid Suns" was an even tougher read than "The Kite Runner." That one really go to me!

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