After losing her husband and daughter, Haregewoin Teferra, an Ethiopian woman of modest means, opened her home to some of the thousands of children in Addis Ababa who have been left as orphans. There Is No Me Without You is the story of how Haregewoin transformed her home into an orphanage and day-care center and began facilitating adoptions to homes all over the world, written by a star of literary nonfiction who is herself an adoptive parent. — Amazon book description
Why I like it: International orphan care! Need I say more? As someone passionate about adoption — but also about equipping countries to care for their orphans — I loved learning about the work of this amazing woman. The books includes a lot of information about Ethiopia and the AIDS crisis that I had not previously known, as well. It was the perfect mix of heartbreaking story and rich information.
Who would like it: Those interested in orphan care, the AIDS crisis, and Ethiopia. Those who enjoy books centered around one, real-life character.
All you should know going in to Little Bee is that what happens on the beach is brutal, and that it braids the fates of a 16-year-old Nigerian orphan (who calls herself Little Bee) and a well-off British couple–journalists trying to repair their strained marriage with a free holiday–who should have stayed behind their resort’s walls. The tide of that event carries Little Bee back to their world, which she claims she couldn’t explain to the girls from her village because they’d have no context for its abundance and calm. — Amazon review by Mari Malcolm
Why I like it: Little Bee — and next, Room — are the only two books in recent memory that I absolutely could not start reading. This book is written in a way that weaves the story back and forth and all over through various events. I have not stopped thinking about the “beach event,” but I have also not stopped thinking about Little Bee.
Who would like it: Those who enjoy realistic fiction or stories of unlikely relationships. Those with an interest in immigrant and refugee issues.
Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within. — Amazon book description
Why I like it: I liked to think I knew a lot about autism. But this little book is throwing off a lot of the misinformation I was holding onto. The book is a series of questions a teacher asks her Japanese student. He communicates his answers, which she recorded. These fascinating answers was translated to English for the book.
Who would like it: Those with friends, family or acquaintances with autism. Those with any sort of interest in autism or similar disorders.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it’s the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack’s curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer. — Amazon book description
Why I like it: I did not like it in a this-makes-me-feel-really-good way. It’s horrifying. And it was just fiction, until the even more horrifying news of women held captive in Cleveland came out shortly after I finished the book. If you can stand a really hard story, the book is excellently written from the young boy’s perspective of life in a small room. Because of his limited experience with the outside world, he sees things in new, different ways.
Who would like it: Those who enjoy realistic fiction. Those who follow the news closely. Those who enjoy books written from a child’s perspective.
What Is the What is the epic novel based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng who, along with thousands of other children —the so-called Lost Boys—was forced to leave his village in Sudan at the age of seven and trek hundreds of miles by foot, pursued by militias, government bombers, and wild animals, crossing the deserts of three countries to find freedom. When he finally is resettled in the United States, he finds a life full of promise, but also heartache and myriad new challenges. — Amazon book description
Why I like it: Similarly to Room, What is the What lets you into the thoughts and experiences of someone whose life has likely been so different from yours. If you don’t already have an interest in knowing and supporting refugees in your city, this will certainly spur it in you. Valentino’s insights into life in the United States are frequently funny, and his attempts to “make it” are heartbreaking.
Who would like it: Those interested in immigrant and refugee issues. Those interested in Africa. Those who enjoy true stories (written with small liberties).
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?
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