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  Achebe, Chinua, Things Fall Apart

  Ali, Monica, Brick Lane,  (This is a first nov el by a Pakistani-English woman that nicely covers immigrant issues from a female perspective.)

  Anderson, Jessica, Tirra Lirra by the River

  Angier, Natalie, Woman: An Intimate Geography  (non-fiction, I thought I knew more than I did about my body; an entire chapter on the clitoris!)

  Banks, Russell, The Sweet Hereafter

  Bock, Andrew, Ash Garden  (This novel pits a woman who was disfigured by the bombing of Hiroshima against one of the bomb’s makers and explores the ways in which their lives are intertwined.  For extra interest, I read it in Japan.)

  Conroy, Frank, Body and Soul 

  Conroy, Pat, The Prince of Tides

  Cooper, J. California, Family

  Cunningham, Michael The Hours

  Doctorow, E.L., Ragtime

  Doerr, Harriet, Stones for Ibarra

  Escandon, Maria, Esperanza’s Box of Saints

  Farrington, Tim, The Monk Downstairs (This is a sweet little novel about a blooming love.)

  Fergus, Jim, 1,000 White Women  (This novel fictionalizes a proposal that was actually made to send white women to the Sioux Nation so that the children would become peacemakers between the US government and Native tribes)

  Fitch, Janet, White Oleander

  Fleming, Anne Taylor, Marriage: A Duet  (An absolutely sublime novella I loved.)

  Garcia, Christina, Dreaming in Cuban

  Gordimer, Nadine, The Pickup

  Hood, Ann, Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine

  Hulme, Keri, The Bone People

  Jen, Gish, Who’s Irish? and Typical American

  Kidd, Sue Monk, The Secret Life of Bees  (More than you ever wanted to know about bees is woven into this novel about a young girl in the South during the Civil Rights era.)

  Kingsolver, Barbara, The Poisonwood Bible

  Lamott, Annie, Traveling Mercies

  Lee, Chang-rae, Native Speaker (a lovely novel recounting the life of a Korean immigrant and a first-generation son) and A Gesture Life (an absolutely sublime novel of a Japanese immigrant’s comfortable, middle class, American life with flashbacks to his service in the Japanese Army and Korean “comfort women.”)

  Letts, Billie, Where the Heart Is

  Leavitt, David, Family Dancing and > The Lost Language of Cranes

  Lyden, Jacki, Daughter of the Queen of Sheba

  Marquez, Gabriel Garcia, Love in the Time of Cholera (the best love story I’ve ever read)

  Martel, Yann, Life of Pi  (An Indian boy and a tiger on a raft in the ocean.  Didn’t think I’d like it but I did.)

   McDermott, Alice, Charming Billy

  McEwan, Ian, Amsterdam and Saturday

  McNeal, Tom, Goodnight Nebraska

  Moon, Elizabeth, The Speed of Dark (This mystery novel is written from the perspective of an autistic man.  Fascinating)

  Morrison, Toni, Tarbaby (my favorite Morrison novel)

  Mendez, Charlotte, Condor and Hummingbird

  Nichols, John, The Milagro Beanfield Wars (my favorite of his New Mexico trilogy)

  Saramago, Jose, Blindness (This Nobelist’s novel is a fascinating study of “human nature” and how quickly one’s humanness can be lost)

  Salzman, Mark, The Soloist

  Savan, Glenn, White Palace

  Schlink, Bernhard, The Reader

  Sepulveda, Luis, The Old Man Who Read Love Stories

  Siebold, Alice, The Lovely Bones  (I resisted this read.  Dead children – please!  But, as it turned out, like everyone else, I loved it.  Try it if you haven’t already read it)

  Smith, Zadie, White Teeth

  Spark, Muriel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

  Tan, Amy, 100 Secret Senses

  Thornton, Lawrence, Imagining Argentina, Naming the Spirits  and Under the Gypsy Moon

  Trevor, William, Death in Summer

  Tyler, Anne, Breathing Lessons

  Van Loon, Karel, A Father's Affair (This novel explores the imbalance that is created in a family by infidelity.  Extremely well-written)

  Villasenor, Victor, Rain of Gold

  Walbert, Kate, Gardens of Kyoto  (Of course I bought this thinking it was a travel book but it turned out to be a lovely, haunting novel that had little to do with Kyoto!)

  Waldman, Ayelet, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits  This is a delightful, sometimes achingly sad but beautifully written little novel that’s a must read in these times of blended families.

  Zadoorian, Michael, Second Hand

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This is a collection of books I’ve read over the past ten years or so that I thought gave me particular insight or which let to a cultural discovery.  It is not meant to be a definitive bibliography nor even representative of diverse literature.  It is simply a list of books I’ve enjoyed.

  Allende, Isabel, House of The Spirits (Chilean woman’s perspective in the Central and South American tradition of mystical literature)

  Alvarez, Julia, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent (Cuban immigrants growing up in the U.S.) and In the Time of Butterflies (a family’s story of living [and dying] under the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic)

  Brown, Alan, Audrey Hepburn’s Neck, (beautiful story about a contemporary Japanese man who loves American women.  A stunning first novel)

  Brown, Rita Mae, Rubyfruit Jungle, (Lesbian coming of age story and funny as anything)

  Brownmiller, Susan, Against Our Will; Men, Women and Rape, (excellent rape victim’s perspective)

  Castillo, Ana, Lover Boy, (a collection of short stories from the sassiest Latina around)

  Chang, Jung, Wild Swans (three generations of Chinese women:  grandmother-one of the last concubines; mother-early Mao follower; daughter-Communist youth now living in U.S.)

  Chatwin, Bruce, Song Lines, (Aborigine’s oral history traditions)

  Cooper, J. California, Family, (fictional female slave narrative)

  Craven, Margaret, I Heard the Owl Call my Name, (Native American death myth)

  Dorris, Michael, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, (Native American girl’s coming of age) and Paper Trail, (a series of essays including very thoughtful analysis of the Federal government’s policies on Native Americans)

  Danticat, Edwidge, Krik? Krak!, Eyes, Breath, Memory; and The Farming of the Bones (one of our brightest young writers, from Haiti, writes beautifully on the immigrant experience and being a Haitian woman)

  Fadiman, Anne, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (the true story of a Hmong girl in Merced and the inability of the medical community to understand the cultural significance of her epilepsy; includes a great history of the Hmong)

  Faludi, Susan, Backlash, (an historical look at the last 20 years of the women’s movement, feminism)

  Fong-Torres, Ben, The Rice Room,  (biography of a first generation Chinese-American growing up in Oakland.  It’s subtitle, “From Number Two Son to Rock and Roll,” refers to his stint at KSAN and as an editor for “Rolling Stone”)

  Gaines, Ernest, A Lesson Before Dying, (a boy caught in circumstances beyond his control “becomes a man” before his execution)

  Giovanni, Nikki, Racism 101, (a series of essays from an African-American professor at University of Virginia which are very poignant and sometimes hysterical)

  Hayslip, Le Ly, Child of War, Woman of Peace, (Vietnamese woman’s coming of age story and immigration of U.S.; basis for Oliver Stone’s movie, “Heaven and Earth”)

  Hillerman, Tony, (mysteries with Navajo culture and Navajo police officers as protagonists)

  Hulme, Keri, The Bone People,  (Maori [New Zealand] coming of age story)

  Isherwood, Christopher, A Single Man, (a gay classic from 1964 about a gay man’s life after the death of his lover)

  Jen, Gish, Typical American, (singularly the best novel I’ve ever read on the immigrant experience – funny, sad, insightful, charming)

  Kadohata, Cynthia, Floating World, (Japanese-American woman’s perspective)

  Kennedy, Randall, Race, Crime, and the Law, (this Harvard Law School professor argues that there is a “crisis of legitimacy” in the law and that African-Americans see the legal system as a source of external oppression rather than an inclusive protection)

  Kincaid, Jamaica, Island Home, (Caribbean woman’s perspective)

  Lawrence, Charles R. III & Mari Matsuta, We Won’t Go Back (a series of essays explaining the continued need for affirmative action  interspersed with narratives about people who benefited from affirmative action; written by two Georgetown University law professors)

  Lawrence-Lightfoot, Sara, Balm in Gilead (biography of Margaret  Lawrence, the first African-American woman to graduate from Columbia Medical School and mother of Charles R. Lawrence III, professor of law at Georgetown)

  Lee, Chang-Rae, Native Speaker (a lovely novel recounting the life of a Korean immigrant and a first-generation son.)

  Llosa, Mario, The Storyteller, (Central American mystical fiction)

  Lord, Bette Bao, Legacies and Spring Moon, (Chinese women’s perspective)

  Martinez, Victor, Parrot in the Oven, (autobiographical first novel from Fresno)

  Mathabane, Mark, Kaffir Boy, (South African boy’s coming of age in Sowetto)

  Mattthiessen, Peter, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, (Native American history)

  McCauley, Stephen, The Easy Way Out (Contemporary, funny Boston-based novel about a gay man, his lover and his family.  A scream to read.)

  McColl, Nathan, Makes Me Wanna Holler, (biography of a young African-American’s path from prison to being a reporter on the Washington Post)

  McMillan, Terry, Mama, Disappearing Acts, Waiting to Exhale (“Exhale,” the movie, premiered December, 1995) and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, (African-American woman’s perspective)

  Mendez, Eva, Condor and Hummingbird,  (Colombian mystical story)

  Miller, Isabel, Patience and Sarah,  (two women grow to love each other as they cross the Oregon Trail)

  Monett, Paul, Borrowed Time, (Hollywood writer’s journal of his lover’s death from AIDS); Becoming a Man, (autobiography—coming of age)

  Morrison, Toni, Beloved, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Jazz, and The Bluest Eye, (my favorite African-American woman writer, finally recognized with a Nobel Prize in 1993)

  Naylor, Gloria, Mama Day, Women of Brewster Place, and Bailey’s Café,  (African-American woman’s perspective)

  Reid, John,  The Best Little Boy in the World,  (gay male coming of age story)

  Reveles, Daniel, Enchiladas, Rice, and Beans, (a series of connected short stories that are witty and charming and that take place in the Baja border town on Tecate)

  Sinclair, April, Coffee Will Make You Black, (Growing up in Chicago in the Mid-60’s)

  Shilts, Randy, And the Band Played On, (history of AIDS crisis)

  Tannen, Deborah, You Just Don’t Understand, (different ways that men and women communicate)

  Thornton, Lawrence, Imagining Argentina, (“the disappeared” in Argentina); Ghost Woman, (the “civilizing” of the Santa Barbara Indians); and Naming the Spirits, (the sequel to Imagining Argentina)

  Ushida, Yoshiko, Picture Bride,  (Japanese woman’s arranged marriage; now on video)

  Vea, Alfredo, Jr., La Maravilla, (This marvelous first novel by a San Francisco criminal defense attorney.  It’s a story of a grandson living on the outskirts of Phoenix in the Forties and his life with his Mexican-American, Catholic grandmother and Yaqui Indian grandfather.  A melange of cultural diversity.)

  Villasenor, Victor, Rain of Gold,  (a Mexican-American Roots)

  Washington, Linn, Black Judges on Justice, (this Philadelphia Tribune reporter interviews 14 African-American judges, including Veronica McBeth from LA, about their route to the bench and their vision of justice)

  West, Cornel, Race Matters, (Essays by African-American, Princeton professor on racial issues)

  Williams, Gregory Howard, Life on the Color Line, (biography of a boy raised in segregated Virginia as white who moves to segregated Muncie, Indiana at age 10 and discovers he is black)

  Wright, Bruce, Black Robes, White Justice, (why our justice system doesn’t work for African-Americans)

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