Books have always been a way to delve into another world, but they are especially effective when they focus on different cultures. Learning how to appreciate intercultural books can expand one’s worldview.
Sophomore Savita Asvathi-Yopp shares her favorite intercultural books, ranging from topics like grief and loss to magical worlds. Her first recommendation is Chasing Shadows by Swati Asvathi.
“I have to publicize my mom a bit because she wrote a book called Chasing Shadows,” Asvathi-Yopp said. “She is an Indian woman and one of the characters in it is also Indian. We get to see that she’s a first-generation [immigrant], and something of the cultural differences between her and her friend. Although it’s not a huge highlight, I appreciate the subtlety of it.”
Chasing Shadows is about a group of three friends who are struck by tragedy after a gunman attacks their car, leaving one dead and another in a coma. The survivor must struggle through her grief and support her friend as she wakes up from her coma. The book incorporates Hindu mythology and is packed with action.
Another book that Asvathi-Yopp recommends is Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor.
“Akata Witch focuses on a girl in Nigeria and on the relationships between Americans and Nigerians, again in a slightly subtle way, but in a way that makes it seem realistic,” Asvathi-Yopp says. “It features very interesting, very complex, very realistic magic systems. So I think there’s also the draw of the fantasy.”
Aside from its unique worldbuilding, Akata Witch also appeals to readers with its humanity.
“Most people have felt alienated before, and the main character feels that. So we get to see ourselves pretty clearly in that. In addition, she makes realistic, human mistakes. We get the draw of a protagonist who we can relate to,” Asvathi-Yopp said.
9th grader Anja Trierweiler enjoys reading books such as Night by Elie Wiesel and Bound by Donna Jo Napoli. Night is about a Jewish teenager living in Germany during World War Two, and Bound is a Cinderella adaptation that focuses on a Chinese girl with bound feet.
Trierweiler found herself captivated by the descriptive words in Night and the plotline of Bound.
“Others would be interested in it, because I was, and I don’t get interested in things,” Trierweiler said.
Many may have the misconception that intercultural books must focus on themes of race. However, that is not the case.
“Race doesn’t have to be the defining characteristic of a relationship,” Asvathi-Yopp said. “Just because two people come from two cultures and they’re in a friendship, that does not mean the friendship is defined by those two cultures. It’s defined by the individuals.”
These book recommendations capture just a few published works that delve into cultural relations. Reading them provides insights into different world perspectives, which is critical for understanding new ideas and connecting across differences.