August is the best month for working through a reading list. Sunlight continues to linger in the evening, but we’ve mostly left the sweltering weather of July behind us. With that in mind, we’ve made a short list of the books we’ve been burying our noses in lately. We’ve chosen these books because they offer an alternative perspective, or take place somewhere very different from Canada in 2016. Take a look at our picks! We hope you’ll be inspired.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers – Katherine Boo
With dignity, the author shares the stories of the Annawadi slum dwellers in Mumbai. This book is based on interviews with the inhabitants over several years of daily visits. Despite lives filled with hardship, I was moved by their determination and tenacity. The book left me with a profound sense of the injustice the poor face due to the prejudice and misfortune that awaits them at every opportunity. Chosen by Rosie.
Literature from the Axis of Evil – Edited by Words Without Borders
First published in 2006 after American policymakers decided to loosen regulations and economic sanctions, this short story and poetry collection includes works from Syria, Lybia, the Sudan, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. As editor Alane Mason writes in the introduction, “Not knowing what the rest of the world is thinking and writing is both dangerous and boring.” Despite its political-sounding title, the stories within this book don’t engage much with the headlines, and instead tell stories that illustrate how human warmth, empathy and connection can thrive even in the most dire and repressive of circumstances. Chosen by Alex.
When the Moon is Low – Nadia Hashimi
Set in Afghanistan, this story follows the journey of Fereiba, a widow with three children, from Afghanistan to England. After her husband was murdered by the fundamentalist regime, Fereiba makes the courageous and risky decision to cross Europe with the ever-growing group of refugees sadly leaving their beloved country. The story is emotional and compelling – the mother and her teenage son are separated mid-journey and each must continue with the faint hope of being reunited. Against the backdrop of the current refugee crisis, I was moved to consider the depth of story that each new arrival to Canada will bring with them. Chosen by Rosie.
Hard Times – Charles Dickens
When I decided to tackle this novel, I didn’t anticipate that it would relate so closely to my work at Ten Thousand Villages. I had just returned from a trip to Bangladesh a week earlier, and I was struck by the similarities between the plight of the working class in early 19th century England and the challenges factory workers still face today in countries like Bangladesh, particularly in the garment industry. Hard Times served as a reminder to me that the fair trade movement is one in a long line of humanity’s attempts to fight back against exploitation and economic injustice. Chosen by Ryan.
Counting Cockatoos – Stella Blackstone and Stephanie Bauer
I bought Counting Cockatoos on Friday and read it with my almost-two-year-old daughter, Mikayla. And after reading it half a dozen times right away, I’d say it’s a hit! She loved the bright colours, making animal sounds and of course squawking like a bird when we found the two cockatoos! I think this will be a good book for her to grow with as she learns to count the other animals. Chosen by Kristen.