Summer Reading Suggestions from FSS Faculty & Staff

Looking for a good book to read this summer?  Check out a few recommendations from FSS faculty and staff.  Amazon links are included, but please consider supporting your local bookstore!  Check out Stay tuned for a longer list collected by Norman Bayard.

Suggested By…TitleSynopsisWhy You Should Read This Book
MiriamHomegoing by Yaa GyasiThis book follows the descendants of two half sisters from The Gold Coast in the 1780s. One sister is sold into slavery by the other sister’s family. Each subsequent chapter tells the story of their descendants, alternating between the African line and the American one.It’s glorious. Every single chapter introduces new, dynamic, loveable, and relatable characters. Through their lives, you get new insights into history and relationships. It’s also just beautifully written! 
ToniSigh, Gone by Phuc TranThis book is an autobiographical account of Vietnamese refugee, Phuc Tran, and his family, and what it was like to grow up in middle Pennsylvania during the 80’s.Phuc’s writing style makes this book a page turner.  It reads more like a novel than a biography.  As I am learning more about Asia and Asian American history and culture, this book has helped me transform my thinking and have a window into a world that is close to home and far away at the same time.
SuzanneFive Star Billionaire (Tash Aw)
A contemporary Gatsby-esque story that takes place in Shanghai. “Four Malaysians are trying to make it in Shanghai, the new capital of the eastern world – but when we meet them, each of their lives is in freefall. There’s Phoebe, the ambitious young Malaysian village girl who passes herself off as Chinese and has arrived in Shanghai on the broken promise of a job and a new life. There’s Gary, a “Taiwanese” pop star who finds his fall from grace in a Shanghai bar endlessly replayed on YouTube and is reduced to singing in shopping malls. There’s Yinghui, a steely and successful businesswoman whose friends tell her that to really succeed in Shanghai, she needs a man. And, finally, there’s Justin, the lonely businessman adopted into a wealthy Malaysian family, who has lost his way while his family have lost their fortune”. ~The Guardian
Multiple voice narrative, long-listed for Man Booker Prize. 
A group of us read this in my Global Voices elective several years ago and found it quite compelling. The multi-voice narrative is engaging and expansive. We made lots of connections to Gatsby: dreaming for a new life, reinvention of the self; surface vs. substance, the allure of money as a path to happiness (and unhappiness) , etc. 
MatthewSeason of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih“After years of study in Europe, the young narrator of Season of Migration to the North returns to his village along the Nile in the Sudan. It is the 1960s, and he is eager to make a contribution to the new postcolonial life of his country. Back home, he discovers a stranger among the familiar faces of childhood—the enigmatic Mustafa Sa’eed. Mustafa takes the young man into his confidence, telling him the story of his own years in London….”
But what is the meaning of Mustafa’s shocking confession? Mustafa disappears without explanation, leaving the young man—whom he has asked to look after his wife—in an unsettled and violent no-man’s-land between Europe and Africa, tradition and innovation, holiness and defilement, from which no one will escape unaltered or unharmed.
Season of Migration to the North is a rich and sensual work of deep honesty and incandescent lyricism. In 2001 it was selected by a panel of Arab writers and critics as the most important Arab novel of the twentieth century.”
“The prose, translated from Arabic, has a grave beauty. It’s the story of a man who returns to his native Sudan after being educated in England, then encounters the first Sudanese to get an English education. The near-formal elegance in the writing contrasts with the sly anti-colonial world view of the book, and this makes it even more interesting.” –Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Purple Hibiscus
Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih, a Sudanese novelist, and one of the most important Arabic-language novelists, is the story of a man who has studied abroad and returned to life in Sudan–about the sort of cultural conflict and internal conflict from colonization…. The subject matter is interesting: the story of this crisis of someone returning from life in the West.” –The Christian Science Monitor
“This story might seem like a village tragedy from the Sudan, the homeland of the writer Tayeb Salih, but its resonances carry far beyond the setting. Season of Migration to the North is a brilliant miniature of the plight of Arabs and Africans who find themselves no longer sustained by their past and not yet incorporated into a viable future. Swift and astonishing in its prose, this novel is more instructive than any number of academic books.” –The New York Times
MargaretMy Sister, the Serial KillerThis is a novel about two sisters and a surprising number of dead boyfriends. Set in contemporary Lagos, the novel explores the bonds of sisterhood, the complications of sibling rivalry, and the age-old question of novels – what do women need to do to ensure their safety and security in society?If you are interested in dating roller coasters, sibling relationships, family dynamics, and the trials and tribulations of women trying to make it under patriarchy – this is a great, fast, and punchy read.If you are interested in a window in to day-today life in middle class Lagos – this is also a great read. I gravitate towards 19th century lit, so I picked this up intentionally trying to read more contemporary work. While it is filled with contemporary realities like social media and Uber, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to the 19th novels of manners and think about ways women have and have not made progress. At its heart, this is a novel that explores women’s roles, relationships, and power both within a household and out in public society.
DeborahWomen on the Edge of Time by Marge PercyA sci-fi novel, this is a lyrically written story about a Mexican-American widow, Consuelo Ramos. Despite living in poverty and dire circumstances in Spanish Harlem in the 1970’s, she envisions a world of empowerment, racial and gender equality, and environmental harmony. This book candidly addresses many issues like mental health, environmental pollution, consumerism, race, class, and gender in society. Mainly, it offers visions of hope with its positive and creative solutions to systemic problems in a power-driven society. While these solutions were entirely sci-fi in 1976 when the book was initially published, I see many of Percy’s ideas becoming a reality now. I read Women on the Edge of Time the year between high school and college, and I still think about it today. 
Spring G.The Price of Salt by Patty HighsmithThe Price of Salt tells the story of Therese Belivet, a stage designer trapped in a department-store day job. When gorgeous—and married—Carol Aird comes into the store, Therese’s routine is shattered. Social disapproval be damned. The two are unable to deny their attraction to the other. The book that inspired the 2015 film Carol.The author of psychological thrillers like Strangers on a Train puts her skills to use detailing a gorgeous, taboo love story between two women from two very different social classes. Read it for the bustling Manhattan streets scenes and chandeliers, the cross country road trip, or for the uncharacteristic happy ending to a 1950s lesbian romance.