Everyone has heard about the talented, super-smart teachers who work for the Teach for America program. But why do many of these new teachers only stay for a year or two and then move on?
In Reading with Patrick, compelling and emotionally resonant memoir, Michelle Kuo, a Harvard-educated Asian American, relates her two years teaching in poverty-torn Helena, Arkansas, a delta town close to the Mississippi state line that has lost nearly all of its industry. Kuo also describes her parents’ great expectations for her career, and their deep disappointment when she takes a low-paying position in education. Read more about Reading with Patrick
With economy of language and a taut emotional underlying, Ayobami Adebayo tells the parallel tales of a young couple’s marriage, alongside Nigeria’s struggle for independence.
Told alternately by Yejide and her husband, Akin, the book opens late in the story to a woman packing her bags. She's done this many, many times before, but something—whether deep feelings or fear—has always stopped her from making the trip to her southwestern Nigerian hometown of Ilesa, once the site of a magical kingdom. Read more about Stay with Me
Several books use the concept of a magical door to provide characters entry into other worlds, or to better places in this one. Exit West, a timely novel about refugees by Man Booker Prize winner Mohsin Hamid, employs this device—but because of the power of his plotting and beauty of his prose, it's highly believable.
The novel begins when a young man, Saeed, meets Nadia in an adult evening class in an unnamed country at some point in the near future. Civil war wracks the country; terrorists and militants roam the streets. Read more about Exit West
A Ghana proverb says, “By going and coming, a bird weaves its nest.” The title of this novel tells the story of many people from Ghana who were forcibly removed from their African home, yet centuries later, two descendants return to find their family.
If you liked Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Yaa Gyasi’s novel will make the perfect follow-up. Hard to believe that she started writing this in her early twenties and finished it by age twenty-six. It covers much more ground than Whitehead’s historical novel: Africa and the U.S., and much more time, from the mid-seventeen hundreds to now.
At one point in the novel, a black history teacher describes history as storytelling. Gyasi presents many eloquent and heart-rending stories here. What ties them together is that all the characters belong to one extended family, who were once royalty in Ghana. They became both slave-sellers and slaves. Many came to America.
Gyasi follows two tracks of this family: one remained in Ghana, the other was forced into slavery in the U.S. It follows their descendants after the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the great migration north.
Gyasi visited Africa as a student to do research on a book about mothers and daughters. But when she toured Ghana’s Cape Coast Castle, something in the rooms, the cellar where slaves were chained and abused in dungeons called out to her. She immediately decided to focus on the African slave trade and its diaspora later in the U.S. Read more about Homegoing
Just announced: the Library of Congress appointed Juan Filipe Herrera as our latest national poet laureate. The child of migrant farm workers, Herrera is the first Latino poet laureate. As a child, he traveled up and down the state of California with his parents, and later attended UCLA with the help of a grant for disadvantaged youth.
At the age of 21, Herrera was inspired by the debut book by Puerto Rican poet, Victor Hernandez Cruz.
This Sunday at 2 p.m. in Room 2B, join our Booksplus discussion about Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light. In honor of Black History month, we will discuss this luminous book set in Haiti just before the cataclysmic earthquake of 2009.
Danticat, who emigrated from Haiti as a child, has won many awards including the MacArthur Award (nicknamed the genius award).
If you like folklore and learning about other cultures, Claire of the Sea Light is the book for you. It tells the tale of a young girl whose mother died just after her daughter’s birth. According to Haitian folklore, this makes Claire a revenan, a child who battled with her mother’s spirit and won.
On each of her birthdays, Nozias, Claire’s father, takes her to visit her mother’s grave. In the cemetery they meet Madam Gaelle, a fabric store owner and wealthy widow in town, who lost her own daughter on the same date as Claire’s birthday. Read more about Claire of the Sea Light