A World of Books 2002: International Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is a global phenomenon. It is the product of the 20th century acceleration of movement between peoples and cultures. Although multiculturalism is often discussed in the context of the particular American experience as the recognition of people of different cultural backgrounds and identities, international multiculturalism reflects a more widespread search for recognition of peoples' particular experiences within a larger shared, and often adopted, community. It offers insight into the ways in which cultures transform our identities. Influenced by factors such as nationality, gender, sexual identity, class, religion, and race, cultural experiences reinforce our lives like the roots of a tree. Trees can be replanted in new soil, but the new earth does not always offer the same sustenance as the old, and the roots may struggle to secure the trees as strongly as before. Immigrants too bring their own cultural experiences with them to their adopted country, yet retaining and perpetuating those experiences often involves new challenges, and the sense of displacement and loss that often accompanies the journey is not always easily overcome.

Just as there is no singular cultural experience, the term multiculturalism itself has multiple meanings. A World of Books: International Multiculturalism, 2002 celebrates the diversity and complexity of human experience. It is our hope that the entries selected here will encourage discussion of the possible meanings of multiculturalism and of the challenges nations face when trying to recognize the diverse cultures within their borders. To be sure, not all aspects of cultural diversity are worthy of respect. Some cultures, for example, may support racism and sexism. Rather than assigning a positive or negative evaluation to a certain culture, A World of Books underscores both our differences and our shared attributes.

This is the fifth brochure in the World of Books series, which was introduced in 1998. The series began when the Library of Congress asked its foreign area specialists to identify to the American public important and interesting books published abroad. Although our annotated entries are short and a select few, they are meant to provoke interest in the vast and exceptional international collections of the Library of Congress. It is also hoped that they will stimulate discussion of the meanings of multiculturalism and the challenges faced by diasporic communities.

No list can include all cultures or all books worthy of recognition. The entries chosen share international perspectives of authors who are not American, many of whom do not live in the United States. Many of the works were therefore not originally written in English but have since been translated into English. We also include works that have not yet been translated so as to encourage further reading and research. The many languages of published works present a challenge for the Library as it tries to capture the full range of multicultural experiences. We have tried to designate the complexity of multiculturalism by including the major countries reflected in the books--whether through the personal background of the author and/or the subject of the books--in the country titles to each entry. These are listed in alphabetical order. Selection of a particular entry does not imply that it is endorsed by the staff as individuals or the Library as a whole. Rather, inclusion only indicates that the title provides a perspective that may broaden American understanding of the issue.

For further study, we recommend that you consult our librarians in the Area Studies divisions. A list of the countries represented--here and in earlier brochures--is appended. Previous brochures are available in limited quantities and may be obtained by writing to the Office of Scholarly Programs, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20540-4860 or by phoning (202) 707-3302. The Library of Congress International Collections website, http://www.loc.gov/rr/international/, also includes these brochures.


Gerchunoff, Alberto. The Jewish Gauchos of the Pampas [Los gauchos judíos]. Translated by Prudencio de Pereda. Foreword by Ilan Stavans. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998. 149 p. Illus. (Series Jewish Latin America). ISBN: 0826317677. LC Call No.: PQ7797.G4 G313 1998

The English translation of Los gauchos judíos first appeared in 1955. Described by Jorge Luis Borges as "an indisputable writer," Alberto Gerchunoff (1884-1950) immigrated to Argentina from czarist Russia. From the 1880s through 1914, Argentina was second only to the United States as a magnet for European immigrants. Gerchunoff lived on an agricultural colony in the province of Santa Fe in northeastern Argentina that had been founded by philanthropist Baron Maurice de Hirsch as a haven for Jews fleeing persecution. The Argentine classic Jewish Gauchos appeared in 1910 during the centennial of the country's independence. Gerchunoff assimilated into Argentine/Spanish culture by absorbing Spanish classics, especially Cervantes. The Encyclopaedia Judaica describes this book as "the first work of literary value to be written in Spanish by a Jew in modern times." Jewish Gauchos consists of a series of vignettes describing the life of Jewish immigrants and their attempts to adjust and acculturate into a mestizo/Spanish society. With humor and optimism that reflect rare insight, these stories preserve for posterity a remarkable community, many of whose members and descendants went on to play an integral part in the political, economic, and intellectual life of Argentina--a country of immigrants not unlike the United States. [Georgette M. Dorn]


Totovents, Vahan. Scenes from an Armenian Childhood. Translated from the Armenian with a foreword by Mischa Kudian. NY: Oxford University Press, 1962. 182 p. (Lacks ISBN). LC Call No.: DS171.T6

Vahan Totovents (1894-1938) was born in Ottoman-held Armenia where Armenians, Assyrians, Turks, Kurds, and members of many other ethnic and religious groups coexisted for centuries. Well-educated in Armenia, Istanbul, and in the United States at the University of Wisconsin, Totovents worked as an author and editor dispatching reports on the fighting in the Caucasus following World War I. His short tales about his Armenian childhood were first published in 1930 under the title Life on the Old Roman Road after Totovents took up residence in Eastern Armenia, which was then known as the Armenian S.S.R. The stories reflect the society, culture, and mores not only of the Armenians of his childhood but also of their neighbors in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. Demonstrating his own multicultural upbringing, Totovents writes, "It was an Assyrian teacher, Mr. Ashour, who first taught me the Armenian alphabet." [Levon Avdoyan]


Wang, Lucy. Blood Price. Port Melbourne, VIC: William Heinemann Australia, 1996. 227 p. ISBN: 0855616822. LC Call No.: DU117.2.W36 A3 1996

Born in China in 1966, Lucy (Xiaojing) Wang immigrated to Australia in 1990. She is perhaps best known as the fiancée of John Newman, a Labor member of the New South Wales Parliament. On the evening of September 5, 1994, Wang watched in horror as Newman was gunned down in front of their home. She begins her memoir with an unflinching account of that day, and goes on to tell of her earlier decision to immigrate to Australia, the struggle to adapt to life in her adopted country, and her budding relationship with the charismatic Newman. She also describes how she was thrust reluctantly into the public spotlight in the aftermath of Newman's death. The result is a vivid depiction of life in both China and Australia, a moving personal memoir, and a harrowing first-person narrative of one of the most tragic and controversial events in recent Australian history. In the wake of the assassination, Wang was dogged by financial, legal, and emotional problems; she attempted suicide and eventually returned to China. [Art Emerson]


Covarrubias, Miguel. Island of Bali. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1937. 412 p. (Lacks ISBN). LC Call No.: DS647.B2 C6

In 1930, the famous Mexican caricaturist Miguel Covarrubias and his new American-born bride, Rosemonde Cowan, formerly the professional dancer known as Rosa Rolando, embarked on a honeymoon cruise to Asia that ended with a trip to Bali. During and after the voyage, Miguel studied Malay and he later learned Balinese. Both Miguel and his bride were so fascinated with Balinese culture that they spent a year there from 1933 to 1934, under a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation "for creative work in painting in the Dutch Indies." They immersed themselves in Balinese culture, following religious processions, studying every movement of each intricate dance, and learning the techniques and ingredients of the cuisine. After their return to Mexico and New York, Miguel Covarrubias spent the next two years painting and refining the text that would be published as Island of Bali, while Rose sifted through the mountains of photographs she had taken while there. The result was an immediate bestseller, combining the talents and serious research of both Covarrubiases. One reviewer familiar with Bali noted that the reader could learn Balinese dances just by studying the book, while the Balinese people proclaimed that Miguel's "book is the most important on the Balinese culture because he understood the significance of the spirit of our culture, as well as its deepest mysteries." [Barbara A. Tenenbaum]


Lamming, George. The Emigrants. NY: McGraw Hill, 1954. 282 p. (Lacks ISBN). LC Call No.: PZ4.L232 Em2

George Lamming was born in Barbados in 1927 and later spent several years teaching in Trinidad. In 1950, Lamming joined the large wave of immigrants from British colonies and former colonies seeking work in England. The critically acclaimed The Emigrants, begins with a ship voyage to England of Caribbean passengers. The voyage allows the passengers to bond through their discussions of their hopes for the future. It also enables the passengers to glean information about the practicalities of employment and housing. A few have experience in the Royal Air Force or have contacts in England, while others are nearly penniless, merely arriving with the fervent hope of a better life through education or work. What makes this work a masterpiece is the lengthy poetic section that begins once the ship docks. Through the assault of new sights, sounds, and sensations that the passengers experience as they move from the ship to trains and on to London, Lamming vividly portrays their bewilderment. Lamming is now considered a classic West Indian writer who explores the search for identity and the sense of loss which accompanies the diaspora of a culture. [Abby Yochelson]


Mindlin, Betty, and Suruí Narrators. Unwritten Stories of the Suruí Indians of Rondônia [Estórias sem escrita]. Translated by Sonia Nussenzweig Hotimsky. Austin: University of Texas, Institute of Latin American Studies, 1995. 147 p. ISBN: 0292751915. LC Call No.: F2520.1.S86 M5513 1995

Betty Mindlin, a leading Brazilian anthropologist who has lived with the Suruí for many years, introduces us to oral tales from their indigenous villages in Rondônia. Residing in a country that prides itself on multiethnic and multicultural traditions, Mindlin is herself of Russian descent, was educated in the United States and in her native São Paulo, and has devoted her work to making the Suruí better known in Brazil and throughout the world. Having great respect for the Suruí, Mindlin groups the tales into three sections rather than analyzing their content. The first, "Stories," presents tales known throughout the tribe that describe social and psychological rules to protect the Indians from themselves and from the outside world. Indeed, some of these refer to forbidden behavior like incest. The second section, "Famous Warriors," relates the trials of legendary heroes, the interactions between the Suruí and other tribes, and their contact with "outsiders" or White people. Here, the White man is depicted as a distant but destructive being while the Indian is virtually invisible in scenes of violence. The third section, "The Shamans," deals with the healers and their initiations. Mindlin's commitment to familiarize Brazilians and others with the Suruí is well served by this volume as it interweaves the relationships between this Indigenous tribe and other tribes and the greater Brazilian society. By letting the Suruí tell their stories in their own words, Mindlin minimizes her own perspectives and fosters integration of the Suruí into the mostly European and African derived face of Brazil. [Iêda Siqueira Wiarda]


Ghosh, Amitav. The Glass Palace. NY: Random House, 2001. 474 p. ISBN: 0375501487. LC Call No.: PR9499.3.G536 G58 2001

The Glass Palace is a historical novel about Burma, but it also concerns India and Malaya, and touches on China, Japan, Britain, and the United States. The book covers a period of about one hundred and eleven years and involves the interwoven lives of members of three families who are from multiple ethnic backgrounds. The "Glass Palace" in the story was the magnificently ornate inner sanctum of the royal enclave in Mandalay from which the last Burmese royal family was evicted by the British in 1885. The king and queen leave the Glass Palace with a devoted orphaned servant girl named Dolly. Dolly, who may be an ethnic Shan, accompanies the royal family into exile in India and in 1906 she marries Rajkumar, an expatriate Bengali entrepreneur with whom she had two brief encounters in 1885. One of their benefactors is Saya John, a Hindustani-speaking Malayan-Chinese businessman, whose Euro-American-Hakka granddaughter falls in love with Rajkumar and Dolly's younger son years later in war-torn Malaya. Another benefactor is Uma, the liberated Calcutta-born wife of the British Indian district collector charged with the custody of the royal family in exile. The older son of Rajkumar and Dolly eventually marries a niece of Uma, who herself has become an advocate of Indian independence. In this book, Burmese royal family traditions and daily life in Indian exile, teak harvesting in Burma, rubber planting in Malaya, war in Southeast Asia, independence for India, and the democracy movement in Burma are interlaced with episodes in Britain and the United States to make this novel a fascinating and multidimensional tale. [Robert L. Worden]


MacLeod, Alistair. No Great Mischief. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, Inc., 1999. 283 p. ISBN: 077105576. LC Call No.: PR9199.3 .M3342 N6 1999.

No Great Mischief, the third novel by Canadian author Alistair MacLeod, won the 2001 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The plot explores the lives and passions of members of the MacDonald clan, following them from Scotland to Canada in 1779 and covering their subsequent five generations through to the present. The book's dominant theme is the struggle within the family to maintain their Scottish heritage in an increasingly multicultural society. Through complex family relationships, the author portrays the diversity of the Scottish-Canadian community. The original MacDonald homestead is a rustic and charming farm on Cape Breton Island, and it is here that the family gathers to celebrate holidays and bury their dead. During these gatherings, Gaelic is frequently spoken. The bilingual conversations are faithfully reproduced in the book and add much to the reader's understanding of the Scottish subculture which remains prevalent in Nova Scotia today. A significant subplot of the book concerns the clashes that occur between the MacDonalds and a group of French-Canadians. MacLeod is skillful in his depiction of the ethnic conundrum existing in a culturally diverse society and the search for identity and purpose challenging many Canadians. [Rod Katz]


Bissoondath, Neil. Digging up the Mountains. NY: Viking, 1986. 247 p. ISBN: 067081119X. LC Call No.: PR9199.3.B457 D5 1986

Born in Trinidad, Neil Bissoondath immigrated to Canada in 1973 to attend university. Digging up the Mountains is his first volume of short stories, although many of these prize-winning stories were published previously in journals. Some of these stories reflect Bissoondath's own Indo-Caribbean background as they are set in Trinidad, other unnamed islands, as well as in Canada. He writes equally richly about the black Caribbean immigrant experience, about a young Canadian traveling in Europe, and in the story "The Cage," about a young Japanese woman trapped by tradition in Japan, yet overwhelmed by the newness of Canada. Buffeted by politics, economics, family, and culture, Bissoondath's characters exhibit feelings of isolation, dislocation, and strangeness common to immigrants, refugees, and travelers. In "There Are a Lot of Ways to Die," Joseph has returned to an unnamed island after a lengthy stay in Canada. While in Canada, he longed for the warmth and beauty of his home. Once there, he is reminded constantly of the excitement and vitality of Toronto, picturing the skyline and the rumble of the subway. Through Joseph and the others found in these stories, Bissoondath evokes our sympathy for those who cannot find the comfort of home. [Abby Yochelson]


Hébert, Anne. A Suit of Light: A Novel [Habit de lumière]. Translated by Sheila Fischman. Toronto: Anansi, 2000. 103 p. ISBN: 0887841732. LC Call No.: PQ3919.H37 H3313 2000

In her final novel, Anne Hébert, a French-Canadian who lived in Paris for forty years, uses her familiar themes of rebellion and the tension between living in the past and present to depict an immigrant working-class Spanish family living in Paris. A three-member family is torn apart by the competing passions aroused by the new life offered by the city, a life that is very different from that in their native, rural Spain. Pedro Almevida, an often unemployed construction worker, insists that he and his family maintain the honor of Spain through their dress and deportment and by taking traditional Sunday walks. Pedro's wife, Rose-Alba Almevida, imbued with what she describes as the blood-and-death passion of the bullring, seeks to overcome her gnawing hatred of her life as a concierge through her nightly visits to flamboyant dance halls. Their son, Miguel, more quietly slips into the same netherworld of all-night entertainment, intrigued by the spectacle and passion of it all, but without the flamboyance of his mother. The family's individual and collective stories delineate social and cultural differences that distinguish them from those who surround them. [Carol Armbruster]


Allende, Isabel. Daughter of Fortune: A Novel [Hija de la fortuna]. Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden. NY: HarperCollins, 1999. 399 p. ISBN: 006019491X. LC Call No.: PQ8098.1.L54 H5513 1999

This novel mirrors the life journey of Chilean novelist Isabel Allende, who was born in Chile and currently lives in California. The multigenerational and multiethnic characters in Allende's novel tell vibrant stories of romance and soul-searching. A work of magical realism, Allende's novel follows the life of Eliza, an orphan left at a British shipping company in Chile. From her earliest days in the house of her adoptive parents, Eliza faces her unknown origin. This theme continues throughout the novel. The question of her family background remains an ongoing dispute between the Sommers, her adoptive parents who are convinced she is of British descent, and the family servant, an indigenous woman called Mama Fresia, who claims that Eliza shares a background similar to her own: "You, English? Don't get any ideas, child. You have Indian hair, like mine." As with Allende's own life, Eliza leaves Chile hoping to find herself and to fulfill her life's dreams. She follows her British lover who travels to California seeking his fortune in the 1849 gold rush. Along the way, she encounters Tao Ch'ien, a Chinese doctor who both enlightens her with his Eastern philosophical traditions and fundamentally changes her ideas and expectations about life. [Tracy North]


Gao, Xingjian. Soul Mountain [Ling shan]. Translated from the Chinese by Mabel Lee. NY: HarperCollins, 2000. 510 p. ISBN: 0066210828. LC Call No.: PL2869 .O128 L5613 2000.

Gao Xingjian, the 2000 Nobel Laureate for Literature, was born in China in 1940 during the turbulent period of the Japanese invasion. In his adolescent years, Gao then witnessed the civil war between supporters of the Chinese Communist Party and those of the Nationalist Party. At the beginning of his career as an author in the 1970s, Gao wrote dramas that went against the guidelines established by the ideologues of the Chinese Communist Party. When the newly established liberal government policies took root after the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Gao was able to travel to France in 1979 and to devote himself to creative expression. Gao was influenced by the West, an attribute that is apparent in his many literary works. Written in western languages, his books enable Westerners to better understand Chinese society under the Communists' rule. Soul Mountain, the book for which Gao received the 2000 Nobel Prize for Literature, represents Gao's inclusion of his Chinese cultural background as well as his French-influenced literary style in his storytelling. The book includes Gao's personal past as well as the impact of the Cultural Revolution on both the human and physical ecology of China. [Judy S. Lu]


Wade, Peter. Blackness and Race Mixture: The Dynamics of Racial Identity in Colombia. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. 415 p. ISBN: 0801844584. LC Call No. F2299.B55 W3 1993

Based upon research conducted in the Pacific Coast region of Colombia, Peter Wade studies the meaning of "blackness" among the region's predominant race and how this concept is reproduced and transformed in different social contexts. He notes both inclusion in and exclusion from the larger national society for Colombians of African origin. Wade also reflects upon the persistence of racism in Colombia. The work was written at a time when Colombian blacks were beginning to organize politically, due in part to a new Constitution that afforded them increased recognition. The epilogue provides insight into the rapid changes overtaking the region. This book is useful for anyone interested in the broader issues of race and cultural identity in Latin America. The author, a professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, has written three books and numerous articles on race, ethnicity, and identity in Latin America. He has conducted field research in Colombia, focusing on the black social movement there and on black culture and identity. [Lawrence Boudon]


Hašek, Jaroslav. The Good Soldier Svejk and His Fortunes in the World War [Osudy dobrého vojáka Švejka za svtové války]. Translated from the Czech by Cecil Parrott. Illus. by Josef Lada. NY: Viking Penguin, 1985. 752 p. ISBN: 0140035680. LC Call No.: PG 5038.H28 O713 1985

Jaroslav Hašek's satire of military authority from the 1920s, The Good Soldier Svejk, is set in Austria during World War I. At that time, Svejk's (and Hašek's) native Bohemia was part of the multiethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire. Although the Empire encompassed over a dozen nationalities, the Germans in Austria and the Hungarians in Hungary dominated the other groups both politically and culturally. Hašek gets his chance to demonstrate his special scorn for military authority during Svejk's forced enlistment in the Austrian army. Here too, Germans both dominate and show disdain for Czechs. Svejk tells us about a "typical regular officer" who was a Czech, but who had learned to hide this information so as not to jeopardize his position in the military. Confidentially, this officer would tell the volunteers whom he taught (all of them Czechs), "Let's be Czechs, but no one need know about it. I'm a Czech too." Hašek adds, "[The officer] equated being a Czech with membership of some sort of secret organization, to which it was wiser to give a wide berth. Otherwise, he was a decent man." The multicultural Empire encompassing many nationalities no longer looks quite so multicultural after all. [Helen Fedor]


Michael, Ib. Prince [Prins]. Translated by Barbara Haveland. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999. 308 p. ISBN: 0374237239. LC Call No.: PT8176.23.I5 P7513 1999

After nearly a lifetime of separation, the body of a dead sea captain floats back from Greenland to his lover in a small Danish seaside village. A Latin American confidence man turns out to be a brilliant musician who ultimately marries the simple Danish village maiden he initially seduced and then rejected. A Roman Catholic mass must be celebrated in a Protestant church if the parish is to inherit a fortune. A mute child learns to speak. Wonders unfold to twelve-year-old Malte, who is spending a summer by the sea, away from poverty in the city. People and objects from distant lands converge with the earthly and unearthly. The living, dead, and spirits all mingle in the magical realm of Malte's childhood. In this novel, these events demonstrate various multicultural experiences in Denmark. The author, Ib Michael, studied Central American and AmerIndian languages and culture, and has traveled extensively. Highly regarded in Europe, Michael has numerous awards to his credit and is considered one of Denmark's foremost contemporary authors. [Taru Spiegel]


Beyala, Calixthe. Loukoum: The "Little Prince" of Belleville [Petit prince de Belleville]. Translated from the French by Marjolijn de Jager. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1995. 177 p. ISBN: 0435909681. LC Call No.: PQ3989.2.B48 P4713 1995

Born in Cameroon in 1961, Calixthe Beyala resides in Paris and writes about the conditions and the rights of African children and women. Her highly entertaining novel is narrated by Loukoum, a precocious ten-year-old boy in a polygamous Muslim family from Mali, who gives a humorous account of his life in the Parisian suburb of Belleville. Loukoum's father, Abdou Traore, counterbalances this mood with brooding, journalistic descriptions of his family's exile from Mali, an African past and traditions that no longer exist, and his loss of control over his household. From Loukoum, who tells the reader, "where I come from, children don't have the right to talk," the reader learns of the immigrants' efforts to integrate into French culture and to interact with conflicting customs and with authority figures such as teachers, the police, and social workers, as well as with other African immigrants. Central to the novel are the relationships between Loukoum, his three mothers, and his father. These reach a turning point when an activist alerts the police to the seemingly sexist treatment of the immigrant women in Loukoum's household. [Laverne Page]


Rustaveli, Shota. The Knight in the Tiger's Skin [Vepxistqaosani]. Translated by Marjory Scott Wardrop. Moscow: Co-operative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers in the USSR, 1938. 299 p. (Lacks ISBN). LC Call No.:PK9169.R8 E5 1938

Shota Rustaveli is renowned as the author of the sublime Georgian national epic, The Knight in the Tiger's Skin, which has been translated into numerous languages, and several times into English. Marjory Scott Wardrop's translation has long been considered the standard of this quintessentially Georgian work of chivalry and romance. Rustaveli's book reflects influences from the centuries of literary and historic traditions of myriad cultures, lands, and peoples which surrounded and interacted with Georgia. Through a careful reading of the text, the reader learns that Rustaveli was educated both in the religious and secular literature of the day. Although the extended narrative does not refer to Christ (unusual for an epic of this solidly Christian nation), it does, however, refer to Greek neo-Platonists, to the great Iranian epic Shahnmah by Firdaws, and to several works of Arab poets. Rustaveli probably knew of the Arab poets from their Georgian translations, even though there are indications that he was able to read Arabic. Rustaveli was quite familiar with both Iranian and Arabic literary traditions. Although the book is set in the Arab world, it is a thoroughly Georgian product that reflects the oral traditions, stories, and values associated with that ancient country. [Levon Avdoyan]


Ruete, Emilie. Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar: An Autobiography [Memoiren einer arabischen Prinzessin]. Translated from the German. Zanzibar: Gallery Publications, 1998. 210 p. ISBN: 9987887732. LC Call No.: DT449.Z274 R83713 1998

Around 1840, Emilie Ruete was born Sayyida Salme, Princess of Zanzibar and Oman. Her father was an Arabian Sultan named Said the Great and her mother was a Circassian who was taken to Zanzibar as a slave at the tender age of seven or eight. This autobiography provides countless observations of many aspects of the rich cultural and social life that existed on the island of Zanzibar at the time. The political "scramble for Africa" and the lucrative trade in slaves, ivory, and cloves created a cultural melting pot. The author, being of mixed parentage herself, recounts her experiences and her awareness of racial differences within the society as well as her sensitivity to the emergent class structure among the inhabitants of the island. [Paul J. Steere]


Japin, Arthur. The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi [Zwarte met het witte hart]. Translated from the Dutch by Ina Rilke. NY: Alfred Knopf, 2000. 384 p. ISBN: 0375406751. LC Call No.: PT5881.2.A59 Z9313 2000

Arthur Japin's novel is both a work of the imagination and a thoughtful historical study. Japin re-creates the lives of two historical personages--two Ashanti princes--from interviews with their descendants and through research using private and official papers. In 1836 they were taken from their homeland in present-day Ghana and brought to the Netherlands. Upon completion of their studies in Europe, they were to return to Africa and rule their kingdom. The princes' sudden confrontation with Europe, however, was traumatic for them. This was particularly true for Kwame, who was the more inward and artistic of the two princes. Although Kwame returned to Africa in 1848, he soon committed suicide after being refused entry to his homeland because he had forgotten his native tongue. His cousin Kwasi, more pliable and outgoing, became a mining engineer. Kwasi did not, however, return to his homeland. He came to see his African heritage as barbaric and, in turn, disavowed it. He entered the Dutch colonial service and served for more than half a century in the Dutch East Indies, contemporary Indonesia. Despite Kwasi's years of diligent work there, he failed to advance in the service. The novel implies that Kwasi's life was just as tragic as that of his cousin. [Eric Solsten]


Olafsson, Olaf. The Journey Home [Sloo fiorildanna]. NY: Pantheon Books, 2000. 296 p. ISBN: 0375420614. LC Call No.: PT7511.O439 S5613 2000

Originally from Iceland, Olaf Olafsson attended college in the United States and is now a successful information technology executive in this country. He wrote The Journey Home in Icelandic and is also, notably, its English translator. Olafsson's ability to move with ease between cultures and languages is reflected in the life of his protagonist, Disa Jonsdottir. When the reader meets Disa, she has long been away from Iceland and has made a name for herself as a hotelier and chef in England. Nevertheless, the past exerts a strong pull on her present and it is this telling of Disa's past that reflects the multicultural experiences of a woman originally from a very homogeneous community. Now terminally ill, Disa must come to terms with her life as a whole. In particular, she examines her earlier experiences during the horrors of World War II. These include her relationships with the Icelandic Nazi sympathizer who took advantage of her, and with her lover on the Continent who perished in the Holocaust. Though intensely personal, Disa's story also sheds light on the ambiguity felt by some Icelanders as their country became a pawn in the game played by the larger world powers because of its strategic geographic location. Olafsson has infused this quiet and beautifully written novel with almost unbearable suspense. [Taru Spiegel]

Great Britain/Japan

Ishiguro, Kazuo. An Artist of the Floating World. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1986. 206 p. ISBN: 0571136087. LC Call No.: PR6059.S5A89 1986b

Born in Nagasaki and raised in England, Kazuo Ishiguro became famous for his nuanced portrayal of English society in The Remains of the Day. He first received critical acclaim, however, for his novels exploring the turmoil of postwar Japan. An Artist of the Floating World employs the recollections of an artist, Ono, to depict the collision of three worlds in postwar Japan. The first is Japan's fascist past, a period when Ono abandoned serious art to draw propagandistic posters. Ono's sons-in-law embody the second world, that of the newly democratic sphere where young men are determined to prevent Japan from repeating its prewar mistakes. Finally, Ono's grandson represents the world of the American-influenced younger generation that is more interested in the Lone Ranger than in traditional Japanese heroes. Ishiguro depicts the Japanese nation at a time when it is both particularly susceptible to outside influence and also deeply ambivalent about it. The novel ultimately portrays the struggle within the artist's own thoughts and between different generations of his family over who will control Japan's future and who will control the telling of its history.[Mitsuko Anders]


Sharma, Asha. An American in Khadi: The Definitive Biography of Satyanand Stokes. New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 1999. 426 p. ISBN: 0140285091. LC Call No.: DS480.45 .S4675 1999.

This is the biography of Samuel Evans Stokes or Satyanand Stokes, an American who made India his home, fought for its freedom, enriched its economy and religious life, and metamorphosed from an evangelist into a Hindu ascetic. Re-created here is a life of rare integrity and conviction in an American who offered his services to India. At the age of twenty-one in 1904, he embarked on a voyage of no return from Philadelphia to India to serve in a leprosy home. He then devoted himself to relief efforts during the earthquake of 1905 and the plague epidemic of 1907. Stokes's life in India is beautifully encapsulated in the title of one of the chapters in the book, "Came to Teach and Stayed to Learn." His most enduring contribution, and the one for which Stokes is still fondly remembered, is the introduction of the red delicious apple to India, turning Himachal Pradesh into the country's apple state. The biographer, who is also Stokes's granddaughter, has shown objectivity and erudition. This book is indeed a reminder that cultural difference is no barrier to the blossoming of the human spirit. [Shajahan Madampat]


Alatas, Farid Syed. Democracy and Authoritarianism in Indonesia and Malaysia: the Rise of the Post-Colonial State. NY: St. Martin's Press, 1997. 233 p. ISBN: 0312176619. LC Call No.: JQ776 .A43 1997

This book illustrates how a Singaporean-Malaysian scholar perceives the functioning of the political institutions of Western democracy in the multicultural context of postcolonial Indonesia and Malaysia. It focuses on how and why Western democracy failed and was replaced by authoritarianism in Indonesia, while it persisted in Malaysia. The two countries--Indonesia and Malaysia--are used for the purpose of this study because both countries share a common history and indigenous political systems, as well as the Malay language and Islamic religion. When both countries gained their independence from Western colonizers at the end of World War II, the ruling elites, who were mostly trained in Europe, adopted the Western democratic form of government as a political model. They did not, however, remain intact. This study compares three main factors: 1) the absence of armed resistance against the state, 2) a high degree of cohesiveness of the elite, and 3) an internally strong state. In Malaysia, all three conditions are present to some degree. The absence of these same factors in Indonesia has led to the demise of Western democracy that, in turn, contributed to the introduction of authoritarian rule. [Kohar Rony]


Badr, Liyana. A Balcony over the Fakihani [Shurfah'ala al-Fakihani]. Three Novellas. Translated from the Arabic by Peter Clark with Christopher Tingley. Brooklyn: Interlink Books, 1993. 127 p. ISBN: 1566561043. LC Call No.: PJ7816.A335 S5513 1993

Liyana Badr is a Palestinian born in Jerusalem and living in Tunisia. Her three novellas concern the stories of women and men who live in Beirut. The stories thus depict the life-in-exile of Palestinians as it is influenced by the civil war and conflict with Israel. The novellas focus on homes in Israel, Jordan, and Beirut, and deal with displacement, flight, loss, violence, the daily struggles of existence, love, friendships, and also hope. The stories are set during the Lebanese civil war of the 1970s, and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, but they also reflect back on the 1948 conflict and subsequent developments. Fakihani, a Beirut neighborhood, is the eponymous title of the second novella. [Andrea Matles Savada]


Mofolo, Thomas. Chaka, An Historical Romance. With an introduction by Sir Henry Newbolt. Translated from the original Sesuto by F.H. Dutton. London, Pub. for the International Institute of African Languages & Cultures by Oxford University Press, H. Milford, 1931. 198 p. (Lacks ISBN). LC Call No.: DT878.Z9 M6

Chaka, An Historical Romance was originally written in Sesotho, was completed in 1910, yet not published until 1925. This historical novel was written by the very important African writer Thomas Mofolo (1876-1948). A literary epic based on oral tradition, oral history, and legend, Chaka is considered a classic of African literature. Mofolo's creative historical account of the life of Chaka (1788-1828), legendary military strategist and the founder of the Zulu nation, was a distinct departure from the literature usually published by Africans. Missionary publishing houses were reluctant to publish a work written by a "native" that was not educational, moralistic in tone, or devotional. Aspects of Zulu culture, such as belief in and interaction with supernatural beings, highlighted indigenous values that missionaries and other Christians attempted to suppress. At the time, Sotho readers reacted to the novel about the Zulu king with "admiration, rejection and puzzlement." Today Chaka is a rich and interesting presentation of Zulu tradition and culture. Since it was first translated from Sesotho into English in 1931, the book has provided inspiration to other African writers as well as to an international reading public. There have been multiple publications in Sesotho, and translations into English, French, German, Italian, and Afrikaans. [Laverne Page]


Glissant, Edouard. Poetics of Relation [Poétique de la relation]. Translated by Betsy Wing. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, c1997. 226 p. ISBN: 047209629X. LC Call No.: F2081.8 .G5513 1997

Edouard Glissant was born in Martinique in 1928, and currently resides in New York. Through his novels, poems, and plays, Glissant cultivates an Antillean awareness inherently open to the world and its multiple perspectives. In Poetics of Relation, Glissant presents his philosophy of multiculturalism, one influenced by sustained encounters of African, European, and East Indian cultures within the Caribbean. According to Glissant, "If we posit métissage as, generally speaking, the meeting and synthesis of two differences, creolization seems to be a limitless métissage, its elements diffracted and its consequences unforeseeable." Glissant emphasizes that within Creole relationships linguistic diversity fosters multilingual expression. A recurring metaphor illuminates the inclusiveness of Glissant's humanistic thought: "The root is unique, a stock, taking all upon itself and killing all around it ... Rhizomatic thought is the principle behind what I call the Poetics of Relation, in which each and every identity is extended through a relationship with the Other." This concept of relationship reinforces a sense of self and precludes regarding the Other simply as an object of study: "Whereas exile may erode one's sense of identity, the thought of errantry--the thought of that which relates--usually reinforces this sense of identity." [Joan F. Higbee]


Jorge, Lídia. The Murmuring Coast. Translated by Natália Costa and Ronald W. Sousa. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995. 275 p. ISBN: 0816621128. LC Call No.: PQ9272.069 C6713 1995

Originally published in 1988, Jorge's novel is closely associated with the trauma of Portugal's colonial war in Mozambique, which lasted from 1964 through the mid 1980s. Though not clearly stated, the novel is set during the early 1960s. Although the translation is excellent, the novel may not be easily understood by those unfamiliar with Portugal and its long-held vision of its own "civilizing" mission. Nevertheless, even the uninformed reader will appreciate that the protagonists--white Portuguese and black Mozambicans--struggle to find their own identity in a land that challenges both cultures. The novel can be divided into two distinct parts. The first recounts the travails of Eva, a young Portuguese woman living in this colonial frontier, whose soldier husband commits suicide to protest the war. The second is the main body of the novel, focusing on Eva's transformed life and those of similarly displaced wives now living in a dilapidated hotel. This portion of the novel displays Jorge's effort to portray colonialism as a well-intentioned mission bound to failure. Moreover, it is a mission that dehumanizes both colonizers and colonized, robbing from both the chance to appreciate the cultural uniqueness of the other. In the end, the image that endures is not that of the Portuguese or that of the Africans, but, instead, that of the murmuring coast. [Iêda Siqueira Wiarda]


Barghuthi, Murid. I Saw Ramallah [Ra'aytu Ramallah]. Translated from the Arabic by Ahdaf Soueif. Foreword by Edward M. Said. NY: American University in Cairo Press, c2000. 184 p. ISBN: 977424592X. LC Call No.: PJ7816.A682 R3313 2000

Winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, I Saw Ramallah is the English translation of a 1997 memoir by the renowned Palestinian poet, Murid Barghuthi. Described by Edward Said as "one of the finest existential accounts of Palestinian displacement that we now have," this work documents the poet's thoughts, memories, and emotions during his short return to the West Bank after a thirty-year exile. In his observations of his homeland, Barguthi describes the Israeli Occupation as "the Occupation which has succeeded in changing us from children of Palestine to children of the idea of Palestine." He encounters a Palestine changed beyond his expectations, where Palestinians have few rights and many restrictions, where settlements have replaced the olive groves he remembers from his youth, where villages and towns remain in a state of arrested development or rubble, where broken families live on memories of the dead, and where people hold to the tenuous promise of future reunions. Barguthi weaves the past into the present and the distant into the near. There is happiness, delight, sorrow, grief, anger, bewilderment, and helplessness, but, remarkably, a lack of reference to the political situation, or to bitterness and recrimination. This stirring account of the Palestinian tragedy is also a definition of displacement. As human beings experience increased displacement across and within their borders, this memoir is highly relevant to our understanding of their tragedy. [Laila Mulgaokar]


Condori Mamani, Gregorio and Asunta Quispe Huamán. Andean Lives. Ricardo Valderrama Fernández and Carmen Escalante Gutiérrez, Original Editors. Translated from the Quechua and with annotations and revised glossary by Paul H. Gelles and Gabriela Martínez Escobar. Introduction by Paul H. Gelles. Photographs by Eulogio Nishiyama. Austin : University of Texas Press, 1996. xii, 199 p. ISBN 0292724918. LC Call No.: F2230.2.K4 C66313 1996

Andean Lives is the first English-language version of the original bilingual Spanish and Quechua edition published in Peru in 1977. This work is an introduction to the lives and struggles of the Quechua-speaking population of the South American Andes. Peruvian anthropologists Ricardo Valderrama Fernández and Carmen Escalante Gutiérrez record the testimonial narratives of Gregorio Condori Mamani and Asunta Quispe Huamán, an indigenous couple from the Andean highlands of Peru. Through this pair of autobiographical narratives, the couple reveal the voices of a largely silenced, marginalized, and oppressed cultural majority that have seldom been heard in Peruvian literature. The strength of the text is that it provides a rare insider's view of Andean society and an alternative to historical, ethnographical, and fictional works about the Peruvian highlands. These stories describe the ever-changing strategies by which the narrators managed to survive. The variations in treatment by employers and partners, linked with the advice of those who sought to help them, shape their actions, contribute to their many misfortunes, and mark their lives as individuals and as a couple. Their descriptions of rural villages, semifeudal haciendas, and the houses of their powerful landowners are testimonies to the exploitation and discrimination endured by Indians living on the margins of Peruvian society. [Carlos J. Olave]


Reyes, Norman. Child of Two Worlds: An Autobiography of a Filipino-American, or Vice Versa. Colorado Springs: Three Continents Press, c1995. 289 p. ISBN: 0894107771. LC Call No.: E184.F4 R497 1995

"Am I a Filipino or American?" was a troubling question for Norman Reyes during the first twenty years of his life in the Philippines. In Child of Two Worlds, Reyes, the son of a Filipino father and an American mother, recounts not only his life in Manila but also the problems faced by his parents in their struggle for acceptance by middle-class society in the 1920s and 1930s. Through his father's government position and later his own work on the Philippine Herald newspaper, the young Reyes was able to observe many events important to Philippine history and the period in which he lived. While a prisoner of the Japanese, Reyes resolved the lingering question of personal cultural and ethnic identity in his own life. He found that the "question was irrelevant now; the 'or'... had been replaced by an 'and.' We had just been through a Filipino and American war against a common enemy. It was Filipino and American blood that had hallowed this peninsula." Child of Two Worlds is an insightful and informative journey through many key social, political, and military events of the second quarter of the twentieth century as seen and experienced by a youthful Filipino-American mestizo. [John Reyes]


Babel, Isaac. 1920 Diary [Dnevnik 1920]. Translated from the Russian by H.T. Willetts. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995. 126 p. ISBN 0300059663. LC Call No.: DK265.7 .B28 1995

This 1995 edition is the first English translation of Isaac Babel's 1920 Diary. Babel (1894-1940) grew up in the cosmopolitan city of Odessa. Settled in a diverse community of Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, and Jews, he left home to travel with a Red Cossack cavalry unit during the era of the Polish-Soviet War. Diary is Babel's frank description of war conditions in what is now Ukraine and Poland. He records day-to-day events with most of his attention focused on the various ethnicities he encounters. Babel's genuine appreciation for the positive attributes of these cultures is apparent in his entries. For example, while he is not accustomed to the coarse lifestyle of the Cossacks, he admires their courage and vigor. Although Babel felt forced to adopt a pseudonym to obscure his Jewish heritage, his diary is rife with comments about the Jews he meets, leaving the reader with a strong sense of his Jewish background. The strength of this work is the manner in which it illustrates both the significant differences among the Cossacks and the Jews, as well as some of the similarities they shared in their reactions to the chaos surrounding them. Babel's Diary, therefore, offers a vision of ethnicity that includes areas of commonality while still valuing the unique qualities of each culture. [Hope Erika Nelsen]


McCord, Margaret. The Calling of Katie Makanya: A Memoir of South Africa. NY: J. Wiley, 1995. 252 p. ISBN: 047117890X. LC Call No.: CT 1929.M34 M38 1995

This moving oral history of the life of a South African black woman, Katie Makanya (1873-1954), has won several South African literary awards. Makanya worked for years as translator and assistant to McCord's father, an American medical missionary. She was also a surrogate mother to McCord. Makanya was well into her eighties when she insisted that McCord tape and write up her recollections. Makanya was born in the early 1870s in Cape Province. A fairly educated Christian South African woman, she toured England as a singer with the African Native Choir in the 1890s and met Queen Victoria. She was offered the prospect of a celebrated singing career in Europe. Instead, after more than two years abroad, Makanya chose to return home to a life of hard work and poverty among her own people. She concealed her education, put on the humble clothes and attitude that Whites would expect of her, and became a servant. She eventually married, raised a family in Johannesburg, and played a vital role in making health care available to her poverty-stricken neighbors. The extraordinary life of Katie Makanya provides an intimate and valuable record of the daily life of black South Africans as they adapted to, and sometimes adopted, the ways of white Europeans during the years of colonization and apartheid in South Africa. [Angel Batiste]


Quiroga, Horacio. The Decapitated Chicken, and Other Stories. Selected and Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden. Intro. by George D. Schade, Ill. by Ed Lindolf. Austin: University of Texas Press, c1976. 195 p. Illus. ISBN: 0292775148. LC Call No.: PZ3.Q5 De10

According to literary critic George Schade, the Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga (1878-1937) is the first undisputed master of the Spanish-American short story. Margaret Peden chose twelve of the most representative titles from the more than two hundred that have been written by Quiroga. These superbly translated jungle stories and horror tales are based on the author's own experiences in the Misiones and Chaco territories. They deal with man's extraordinary courage in the face of the unforgiving forces of nature. Depicting the indigenous, mestizo, and European-descended multicultural society, the tales are set along the broad expanse of the Paraná River, or in the dense tropical forest. Many deal with man's struggle with deadly serpents and other animals. In the story "Sunstroke," five fox terriers are the "omniscient narrators" of the fate that befalls an Englishman lost in the Chaco wilderness. "Anaconda," a fantastic tale of a fight of serpents against people, and "Juan Darién," another gothic story, have been likened to stories by Rudyard Kipling. The book fascinates children in their early and late teens and adults. Quiroga was greatly admired by Julio Cortázar and retains universal appeal for the way he etches and dramatizes life, lacing his narrative with magic and mystery. [Georgette M. Dorn]



Salarrué. Cuentos de Barro [Stories Made of Clay]. San Salvador: Editorial "La Montaña," 1933. 180 p. (Lacks ISBN). LC Call No.: PQ7539.S3 C8

Regarded as one of El Salvador's most talented and original artists, Salarrué continues to be revered for giving a voice to the indigenous peoples of his homeland. Born Salvador Efraín Salazar Arrué (1899-1975), the Central American native quickly discovered his passion for the arts, expressing himself through writing, painting, sculpture, and music. It was his book of short stories, Cuentos de Barro, that first brought Salarrué international recognition. Comprised of thirty-four brief tales, this work sympathetically describes the daily struggles of the Izalco Indians of western El Salvador as well as the frequently harsh conditions under which they live. Without romanticizing the lives of the white, mestizo, and indigenous men and women who fill the pages of his stories, Salarrué subtly criticizes government policies during a period of peasant oppression. His stories treat the characters with dignity, providing a quasi-anthropological authenticity to the customs and routines of their lives. Salarrué employs a simple, yet lyrical style that is marked by the frequent use of colloquialisms to depict landless laborers, prostitutes, smugglers, lonely migrants, and destitute children. This style imbues the characters with a humanity that is seldom found in books of this nature. [Kaydee McCann]


Kim, Tong-son, ed. Stories of 57 Professors' Studies and Cultural Experiences in Foreign Countries [Kyosu 57-in ui oeguk yuhak kwa munhwa ch'ehom iyagi]. Seoul: Hwasan Munhwa, 1999. 406 p. ISBN: 8986277271. LC Call No.: (Not yet in LC)

In this collection of essays, fifty-seven Korean professors examine the most important and unexpected issues facing students who study abroad. This collection is an excellent overview of the experience of life as a student abroad. It provides personal accounts of such experiences, touching on the individual struggles encountered and the accomplishments of the students. The essays present an honest look at their struggles, fears, expectations, dreams, prejudices, and the culture shock they experience from living in foreign cultures. These are often humorous. Professor Chae-yong Cho, for example, describes the social blunder he made while on a visit to an American doctor's house. When the doctor's wife came out to greet the professor, she approached him with open arms. Not aware of this way of greeting, the professor withdrew and fell down to the ground. Another story is that of Professor Chong-mae Kim who was surprised by her friend's repeated exclamation, "Oh boy!" when they entered fancy rooms. Later Kim learned that this phrase was her friend's way of showing her excitement. These and other stories in the collection are deeply moving vignettes that offer those who plan to study in a foreign country new perspectives on cultural experiences. [Sonya Lee]


Merino, José Maria. Los Invisibles. Madrid: Editorial Espasa Calpe, c2000. 297 p. ISBN: 8423979709. LC Call No.: PQ6663.E73 I68 2000

In Los Invisibles, the protagonist Adrian tells the narrator about his life as an invisible man. The reader wonders whether or not the narrator actually believes Adrian, or if he thinks people fail to see Adrian because they do not want to see him. The novel centers on Adrian recounting his experiences and attempts to come to grips with this unbelievable malady. Adrian also tries to convince people that there is an invisible community in the midst of our corporeal world. This international and invisible community has none of the obvious problems of the rest of the world; they can, for example, obtain food and wealth whenever they want. The Invisibles are focused on a singular task, finding a way to regain their visibility. Once he is accepted into this invisible community, Adrian discovers that his own effort to seek visibility threatens the very existence of this community. Adrian searches for an established author in the corporeal world to write about the existence of the Invisibles so as to indirectly warn the community of the danger they face. The author Adrian selects turns out to be the narrator of this work. In this enjoyable book, replete with philosophical and social questions, the narrator confronts his own disbelief through his chronicle of the unbelievable events Adrian experiences in his three months as an invisible man. [Everette Larson]

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