“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.”
First off: Happy Thanksgiving! I have many things to be grateful for myself—one of which is living in a country where we have such a rich mix of cultures. Growing up, I really didn’t think in terms of what I wanted to be; I only wanted to travel…to see the world. As three of my grandparents had come over from Ireland, I was most curious about life over there. My mother’s favorite book growing up—which she later shared with us—was Shaun O’Day of Ireland, by Madeline Brandeis (1929), a woman who traveled widely and wrote a number of books about children from different lands. As wonderful as books are, I wish I had thought to ask my grandparents more about their lives before they came to America.
I grew up in and have lived most of my life in fairly homogenous, white communities. Of course, I later worked with many people of diverse backgrounds. Once I began to travel, I soon learned that while people may look different, speak differently, dress or eat differently, we all share the same concerns about family, friends, art, music and our life’s work, and that while we have those same concerns, our views may differ. This continues to fascinate me.
Since my personal goal has been to extend the span of my reading, and to share the works of authors who are new to me, I want to introduce five authors whose work I have recently come to appreciate. With so much emphasis focused on the issue of diversity today, I think these five provide insight into the communities about which they write. Listening to interviews with the first three authors, I was inspired to find their books. I was especially interested in Naomi Hirahara’s book as I had worked with a woman who had lived in what those confined, referred to as “concentration” camps—where American citizens of Japanese ancestry were confined during WWII. Reading the great reviews for Steph Cha, I wanted to read her book; I only chanced to listen to the audiobook of Gregory David Roberts and I loved his beautiful descriptions of India. Here’s my list:
S. A. Cosby, Razorblade Tears (2021) Two African-American fathers are brought together by the murder of their gay sons who were married. A page-turner tale of grief and revenge.
David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Winter Counts (2020) When the federal justice system didn’t address crimes to the extent to which those on the reservation believed was appropriate, the community had their own “fixer”--one who was then forced to confront his own beliefs about being Native American, once his task became personal.
Naomi Hirahara, Clark and Division (2021) After leaving her California internment camp, a woman is re-located to Chicago, where she discovers and then sets out to disprove the report that her sister has supposedly committed suicide.
Steph Cha , Your House Will Pay (2020) The histories of two families—one Korean-American and one African-American—collide in the wake of an LA police shooting of a black teenager.
Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram (2004) Captivating descriptions of life in Bombay (name change to Mumbai in 1995), where an escaped convict from Australia chances the making of his new life.
While my recommendations are all mysteries of a sort, I’ve only lately learned about a new specific genre—that of the LGBTQ community. If you are interested in learning more, check out: https://www.oprahdaily.com/entertainment/books/g33510335/best-lgbtq-books-2021