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Little Bee Read-Alikes

On The Same Page May/June 2010

Little Bee Here are a few novels that explore the triumphs and struggles of creating a life in a new land:

 

Brooklyn
Colm Toibin
Hauntingly beautiful, Tóibín’s sixth novel is set in Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s, when one young woman crosses the ocean to make a new life for herself. Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland. Though skilled at bookkeeping, she cannot find a job in the miserable economy. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America, she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind. Library Journal says, "Toibin conveys Eilis’s transformative struggles with an aching lyricism reminiscent of the mature Henry James and ultimately confers upon his readers a sort of grace that illuminates the opportunities for tenderness in our lives."
The Camel Bookmobile
Masha Hamilton
"New York City librarian Fiona Sweeney has taken an unusual assignment in Kenya - running a bookmobile service powered by camel and serving isolated, seminomadic villages like Mididima, where teenaged library customer Kanika lives with her grandmother, Neema… This third novel from international journalist Hamilton presents a rare and balanced perspective on issues surrounding cultural intrusion and the very meaning and necessity of literacy, using rich and evocative prose that skillfully exposes the stark realities of poverty and charity in today’s Africa." - Library Journal
Kiffe Kiffe
Faiza Guene
Doria is a 15-year-old Muslim French girl living in the infamous Paradise projects of suburban Paris and suffering all the usual problems: an overworked mother, an absent father, an inability to understand boys. She endures a parade of social workers with names like Madame Thingamajig and Monsieur Whosawhatsit. Because she’s surrounded by drugs, crime, and racism, you’d expect hers to be a tale of endless tragedy. But Doria isn’t the complaining type. She’ll make the best of her mektoub, or "destiny," reminding us that no matter our troubles, we all have parts to play in our fate. Take the Arab phrase kif-kif - "same-old, same-old" - and turn it into a French phrase, kiffe kiffe: "Things are getting better all the time."
The Lost Daughter of Happiness
Geiling Yan
This powerful novel of forbidden love in turn-of-the-century San Francisco tells the story of an affair between an enigmatic Chinese prostitute and the Caucasian boy who worships her. It is set in the aftermath of the Gold Rush era. Narrated in a haunting voice that explores the past’s painful truths through the prism of the present, and filled with electrifying scenes that make its colorful history come alive, this story traces the lives of two individuals separated by prejudice and mistrust, but bound forever by love.
Unaccustomed Earth
Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri’s most recent story collection is gorgeously crafted and emotionally complex. Publishers Weekly says, "The gulf that separates expatriate Bengali parents from their American-raised children - and that separates the children from India - remains Pulitzer Prize–winning author Lahiri’s subject for this follow-up to Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake. The results are again stunning… Lahiri’s stories of exile, identity, disappointment and maturation evince a spare and subtle mastery that has few contemporary equals."
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