Priya is pursuing her undergrad in Law and Business Administration. She loves translated books, world cinema and French chic.
Commitment to read POC Authors. I’ve read too many books by white authors about white people and I have loved every one of them. But it was time to diversify my reading list. I went through with it. And I bring to you a selection of seven books by POC authors from across different countries. The books in this list are all “literary” though I promise to present you with more diverse genres in the next list. Happy reading.
History has failed us, but no matter.
— Pachinko, Min Jin Lee
7 Books by POC Authors Worth Reading
Min Jin Lee
The Inheritance of Loss
1. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Pachinko, at its heart, is an immigration tale, a stunning depiction of the hardships of moving to another country, out of necessity or desire, to create a better life for their family and themselves. Set in Busan, Korea, the daughter of a crippled fisherman is forced to move to Japan after she discovers that she is pregnant by a lover who is already married. The story follows a chronological order from the early 1900s to post World War. The story revolves around the four generations of a Korean family as they build a life in Japan. The attention to detail is fantastic, the setting so deliciously researched it could qualify for a history textbook. I felt the book was written to sensitize readers about the plight of Koreans during those decades. As a reader, I always preferred interesting characters, I never read with the intention that I should connect to a character, and for that reason I about it so appealing. It has an overall, lucid, non-intrusive third person narrative which creates a moving picture.
2. Paradise by Toni Morrison
Paradise is a gritty book set in an isolated all-black town in Oklahoma. It’s difficult to condense the book into a summary which is divided into nine sections, each focusing on different characters that reside in the town. So, I’ll tell you what worked for me. It’s painfully well-written, a distinct voice and everything, and what I enjoyed was the ability to delve into the minds of the characters. There’s a convent also, that provides a haven for women, a non-conventional aspect of the town, and one that is much-hated. I’d never read African-American experiences and I found certain things quite chilling. One that stuck to me; when the original founders of the town were on the move, and one of the women got pregnant, they sought help from a white town. Instead of a doctor, they sent a vet. The book also begins with one of the best first lines in the history of the literary world: They shoot the white girl first.
3. Cheffe by Marie N’Diaye
Cheffe is a French book by award-winning author Marie N’Diaye. I read the translated version of it. It’s about one woman portrayed through the eyes of an unrequited lover. Just about one woman who is neither a superstar nor a celebrity. She’s an ordinary woman, a chef and a cheffe to our narrator, and the author has used that ordinariness to create such an amazing woman. There were mixed reviews about the book, especially the writing, with several adjectives strung together, disconcerting as some called it. I quite enjoyed it, enjoyed the story and loved the beautiful descriptions of French cuisine.
4. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Norwegian Wood is a fairly old book, released in 1987 but I only read it recently during my sustained, ongoing endevour to read books from authors across the world. It’s a coming-of-age novel, written in first person by the cool, aloof Watanbe about his college years in 1960s Tokyo. There are underlying political tensions but our narrator doesn’t interact with those elements. Drugs, sex, alcohol and four suicides are what ties this book together. I initially disliked the protagonist, and only hung on to the book because of the beautiful work by the translator in recreating the Japanese milieu, but slowly, I too became fascinated with him just like the other girls in the book. There’s nothing sweet about this book or about our narrator, it’s just an account of his college days, like flipping through his diary.
5. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Kiran Desai won the Booker Prize for The Inheritance of Loss, a truly wonderful account of a bunch of eccentric characters and the story of their lives. It’s partly set in the verdant, mountainous Kalimpong around the first central character, the orphaned Sai who lives with her grandfather. The other part of the story takes the reader to the USA around the second central character, Biju. It’s set in the backdrop of the political tensions around Gorkhaland, and mostly, it’s about a loss of identity in post-colonial India.
6. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
I’ve recommended this book in other lists as well, and I can’t stop gushing about it. Zadie’s off-beat, funny and smug narrator voice sets the scene for Archie and Samad, an Englishman and a Bengali immigrant, who nurture a relationship during the Second World War and who remain friends for the several decades after that, living close to one another in a somewhat downgrade English suburb. Their wives become friends, and their children become friends and get entangled with each other, and the ending to the story is so clever that it leaves something for the reader to ponder upon.
7. French Lover by Tsalima Nasreen
I remember this book as one of my first “adult” books; bought it at a book fair and quietly slipped it among the other books lest my mother found out I was reading “lover” books. No, I was really young and the book is about a Bengali woman on a journey to France and all of French Decadence. Much like the title, the protagonist finds a lover in a handsome Frenchman who sweeps her off her feet and introduces her to a beautiful passionate life she never thought existed. At this point, I can’t tell if I liked it or not, never reread it, but it was part of my childhood years of exploring different authors.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Priya Barua