And here we have it friends; the final booklist of Peace Corps Tom. Happy readings!
The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif – This book lapses into sentimentality at times, but not so often as to blemish its overall quality. Soueif captures the beginning and end of the twentieth century in two skillfully interwoven stories unfolding amid the social upheaval of both early 1900s and contemporary Egypt, drawing upon the parallels of history to construct symmetry between two narratives nearly one hundred years distant from each other. What’s more, she renders the historical piece in a literary style authentically Victorian in its rhythm and diction, as if she had channeled the Bronte sisters in its drafting. Good for lovers of history and politics and improbable love stories all the same.
Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy by Manjushree Thapa – Nepal still suffers the intense labor pains of birthing a new democracy, a process that Thapa chronicles with astute awareness of the transformational moment she currently lives in. This is no dispassionate, academic history; Thapa’s frustration, despair, fears, and boundless hope explode from every page. I don’t think I’ve ever read through 300 pages as quickly as I raced through this book.
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah – Keeping with the (quite coincidental) theme of this list, Beah’s memoir recalls the years he spent crawling through jungle, dodging bullets, and taking human life as a child soldier in Sierra Leone’s civil war of the mid-90’s. One day in 1994, young Ishmael, all of twelve, set off from home with a few schoolmates to attend a talent show at a school thirteen miles away. He would never see his parents or siblings again. This stirring personal history documents his amazing rehabilitation, as well as how much work we still must do to extend human rights and ensure basic human dignity to all people on the planet.
Three Sisters by Bi Feiyu – A novel about – can you guess? – three sisters coming of age in Mao Zedong’s China, it follows the fortunes (and more often than not misfortunes) of Yumi, Yuxiu, and Yuyang Wang as they navigate their roles as women in a developing China. The ubiquitous Chinese proverbs and casual narrative style lend it an air of a yarn being spun by a stovetop fire in a rural Chinese village by a wizened elder rather than a novel.
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James – Don’t you judge me.
Raamrosanga etc etc