It may be summertime, but anyone paying attention to the news likely finds it anything but restful. So if you find yourself feeling guilty relaxing on the beach, here are four books that will broaden your outlook on current events. Read away.
TELL ME HOW IT ENDS
An Essay in Forty Questions
By Valeria Luiselli
Coffee House Press (2017)
Before Valeria Luiselli worked as a volunteer interpreter at a federal immigration court, she moved as a child from Mexico to South Africa to the United States. While she’s familiar with migration, her book Tell Me How It Ends tells the humanizing stories of Central American migrant children with whom she worked as a translator—and whose journeys were not so easy. Luiselli structures the book around the 40 questions unaccompanied child migrants must answer when they arrive in the United States, and while we wish there was a happy ending to the story, Luiselli leaves us with an accurate and moving portrait of child migrants and plenty of hard questions to ask ourselves.
THE SUN DOES SHINE
How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row
By Anthony Ray Hinton
St. Martin’s Press (2018)
Anthony Ray Hinton, a black man from Alabama, spent 30 years on death row for crimes he didn’t commit. One of many victims of the flawed and racist criminal justice system, Hinton—with the help of civil rights attorney and founder of the Equal Rights Initiative Bryan Stevenson—tenaciously fought his conviction until he was eventually proven innocent and released in 2015. In The Sun Does Shine, Hinton chronicles his three decades on death row. Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls it “An amazing and heartwarming story that restores our faith in the inherent goodness of humanity.”
By Richard Powers
W. W. Norton and Co. (2018)
“There’s always as much belowground as above,” Richard Powers writes in the prologue to his novel The Overstory. And Powers makes sure we don’t forget it. Humans are not the only living things on this earth. The book is an interlocking set of stories about nine different characters and the trees that influence their lives. There’s the Brooklyn immigrant who moves out west with a chestnut in his pocket, the Vietnam vet who falls out of a burning plane and is saved by a banyan tree, the couple who marks their anniversary every year by planting another tree in their backyard. This book is not something to rush through, but something to read slowly and savor. Each standalone chapter is a reminder that we do not move through the world by ourselves.
THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS
By Laurie Frankel
Flatiron Books (2017)
Inspired by author Laurie Frankel’s own life, This Is How It Always Is tells the story of a Seattle family raising five sons. That is until the youngest son, Claude, comes out as transgender and begins the journey to become her true self. Now going by the name Poppy, she and her family attempt to navigate the scary and sometimes dangerous terrain that can come with being transgender and having a trans daughter. A reality that, though they are open and loving toward their daughter and accepting of her new identity, is not always handled in the best way.
Image: Flickr cc via Josué Goge