Read Books! Fiction

A Secret for Julia. Mercedes, imprisoned as a dissident during Argentina's "dirty war," was raped and fled, pregnant, to London. Twenty years later, her torturer reappears. This mystery, a psychological coming-of-age tale for her daughter, won the prestigious Premio La Niacin prize. The novel provides a profound, beautiful examination of the effects of a period in Argentina's history known for the 30,000 who "disappeared," whose mothers and grandmothers (the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo) refuse to forget. (A Secret for Julia, Patricia Sagastizabal, Norton, 2001)

The Color Purple. Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic describes an abused, uneducated black woman's struggle. Celie’s letters tell the story of 20 years of her life. At age 14, she is abused and raped by her father; during her marriage to Mister, a brutal man who terrorizes her, she attempts to protect her sister from the same fate. Celie eventually learns that her husband has been keeping her sister's letters from her; the rage she feels -- combined with an example of love and independence provided by her friend Shug -- pushes her toward the awakening of her creative, loving self. (The Color Purple, Alice Walker, Harvest Editions, 2003)

Annie John is a haunting, provocative story of a young girl growing up on the island of Antigua. Kincaid’s novel focuses on a universal, tragic, and sometimes comic theme: the loss of childhood. Readers will not soon forget Annie’s voice— urgent, demanding to be heard. (Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1997)

Caramelois the multi-generational story of a Mexican-American family whose voices create a dazzling mix of humor, passion and poignancy. The novel opens with the family’s annual car trip from Chicago to Mexico City. Studs Terkel calls it “A crazy, funny folk saga.” He’s right. (Caramelois, Sandra Cisneros, Alfred A. Knopf, 2002)

The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The first book in Alexander McCall Smith’s engaging series about Mma Ramotswe, founder and owner of Botswana’s only detective agency for the “concerns of both ladies and others.” (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith, Anchor, 2003)

The Palace of Tears. Alev Lytle Croutier writes of a man who dreams of a woman while she dreams of him. He leaves his native France to find her in Istanbul. This is a small book, but an epic adventure of the heart, a grown up fairy tale with breathtaking descriptions and spellbinding storytelling. (Palace of Tears, Alev Lytle Croutier, Delacourte Press, 2000)

Interpreter of Maladies. Some of these 9 short stories are set in India, others in the United States. All are about people of Indian heritage but the situations that Jhumpa Lahiri's characters face, from unhappy marriages to civil war, transcend ethnicity. They will resonant for everyone who has grown up, left home, fallen in or out of love, and, above all, experienced what it means to be a foreigner, even within one's own family. (Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri, Houghton Mifflin, 2000)

Green Cane and Juicy Flotsam: Short Stories by Caribbean Women. Women from Trinidad, Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Surinam, Puerto Rico, Antigua, Guadeloupe and Dominica tell 27 stories that are poetically written (and translated) yet sword-sharp with anger at being born victims thanks to their sex, race and class. Some of these talented writers are unknown outside their countries. (Green Cane and Juicy Flotsam: Short Stores by Caribbean Women, Rutgers, 1991)

Caetana’s Sweet Song. Set in 1970 in a small provincial town in Brazilian, Polidoro, a wealthy cattle baron, grants his aging former mistress her heart's desire, just as he promised when they were young lovers. Caetana wants to be Maria Callas for one night; Polidoro, still smitten, sets out to provide her with a theater and an audience while his wife does everything possible to sabotage her rival's performance. (Caetana’s Sweet Song, Nelida Pinon, Knopf, 1992)

The God of Small Things. To quote the USA Today review: “Offers such magic, mystery and sadness that, literally, this reader turned the last page and decided to reread it. Immediately. It’s that hauntingly wonderful.” (The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy, Random House, 1997)

Namako/Sea Cucumber. Linda Watanabe McFerrin writes, “I came at last to namako, a word that in the Japanese combination of characters means both ‘sea cucumber’ and “raw child,’ a symbol for the simplicity and vulnerability that I feel is at the root of the Japanese and perhaps all psyches.” (Namako/Sea Cucumber, Linda Watanabe McFerrin, Coffee House Press, 1998)