Share 10 Cross-Cultural Novels that Illuminate the World We Live In

10 Cross-Cultural Novels that Illuminate the World We Live In

Tolani Osan joined Simon & Schuster’s Associate’s Program in 2015 where she spent her first rotation in S&S publicity. She recently earned a Master’s in Publishing & Writing from Emerson College. A daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Tolani enjoys literary fiction about the tensions between cultures and classes. Her favorite book is Khaled Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” which she’s made a pact with herself to revisit every three years. She also founded and runs women’s interest blog, MyDresscapades.com, and writes on topics such as fashion, food, perpetual “singledom,” and feminism. You can enjoy her musings about pop culture, fashion, and literature on twitter @dresscapades.  

Literature has long allowed us to travel to distant corners of the world without leaving our own beds. Some books, however, bring you to two worlds at once. Their pages illuminate how disparate cultures can reveal the mystery and beauty in each other and make us aware of the hardships, dreams, and hidden scars of those we share space with.


Americanah
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
When Ifemelu departs military-ruled Nigeria to pursue her studies in America, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. This powerful and tender novel illuminates race relations in contemporary America through Ifemelu’s refreshing wit and brazen honesty.
Americanah
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This powerful story of race and gender is centered on Ifemelu, a brilliant and self-assured young woman who departs military-ruled Nigeria for an American university where, for the first time, she is forced to grapple with her identity as a black woman. Ifemelu faces difficult choices and challenges, suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, and eventually achieves success as the writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. Fearless and gripping, Americanah is a richly told story set in today’s globalized world.

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On Beauty
by Zadie Smith
This beautifully crafted work from literary luminary Zadie Smith explores the story of an interracial family whose misadventures in the culture wars on both sides of the Atlantic skewer everything from family life to political correctness to the combustive collision between the personal and the political.
On Beauty
Zadie Smith

Full of dead-on wit and relentlessly funny, this tour de force confirms Zadie Smith’s reputation as a major literary talent. Smith notes that she “has taken Howards End, that marvelous tale of class difference, and upped the ante by adding race, politics, and gender.”

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We Are Called to Rise
by Laura McBride
Far from the casinos and lights, the Las Vegas suburbs sprawl out into the desert. In this desolate boomtown, three desperate souls—a middle-aged white woman, a Hispanic veteran just returned from Iraq, and a brave Albanian boy—must decide whether to give in to despair, or to find the courage and resilience to rise.
We Are Called to Rise
Laura McBride

Far from the casinos and lights, the Las Vegas suburbs sprawl out into the desert. In this desolate boomtown, three desperate souls—a middle aged woman attempting to revive her marriage, a veteran just returned from Iraq, and a brave eight-year-old Albanian boy—must decide whether to give in to despair, or to find the courage and resilience to rise.

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The Hundred-Foot Journey
by Richard C. Morais
This endearing and vibrant adventure through French and Indian cuisine is a testament to the cross-cultural power of food. The quaint French Alps setting is lovely, but it is the intoxicating fumes that waft through its pages that make this book unforgettable.
The Hundred-Foot Journey
Richard C. Morais

This culinary fairy tale about an Indian boy from Mumbai who becomes a three-star chef in Paris was the basis for a feature film starring Helen Mirren. Lively and brimming with the colors, flavors, and scents of the kitchen, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a succulent treat about family, nationality, and the mysteries of good taste.

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The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
Khaled Hosseini’s unforgettable and heartbreaking debut novel will enlighten you, sadden you, and challenge your idea of what it means to be good. Set against the backdrop of tumultuous, war-torn Afghanistan, this sweeping story of friendship, family, and redemption has become a beloved classic.
The Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini

Set against the backdrop of tumultuous, war-torn Afghanistan, THE KITE RUNNER is an unforgettable and heartbreaking story of friendship, family, and redemption.

 

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Fury
by Salman Rushdie

When Malik Solanka finds himself filled with inexplicable rage, he abandons his family in London and flees to New York. This astonishing work of explosive energy is an alarming, heartbreaking, and deviously funny depiction of the human condition in the twenty-first century.

Fury
Salman Rushdie

When Malik Solanka finds himself filled with inexplicable rage, he abandons his family in London and flees to New York. This astonishing work of explosive energy is an alarming, heartbreaking, and deviously funny depiction of the human condition in the twenty-first century.

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The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver
When Nathan Price, a fierce Southern Baptist, takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959, they are calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three tumultuous decades.
The Poisonwood Bible
Barbara Kingsolver

This family epic set in the Belgian Congo in 1959 is narrated by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, an evangelical Baptist missionary. Told over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa, it is the story of one family and one nation’s tragic undoing.

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House of Sand and Fog
by Andre Dubus III
A dispute between a former colonel in the Iranian Air Force and an American woman over a foreclosed house illustrates how thinly veiled prejudices can escalate to unimaginable tragedy. Told through three distinct voices, this National Book Award finalist is a shockingly true portrait of the country we live in today.
House of Sand and Fog
Andre Dubus III

In this masterpiece of American realism and Shakespearean consequence, Andre Dubus III's unforgettable characters—people with ordinary flaws, looking for a small piece of ground to stand on—careen toward inevitable conflict, their tragedy painting a shockingly true picture of the country we live in today.

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The Opposite House
by Helen Oyeyemi

Lyrical, intensely moving and steeped in magical realism, this spellbinding novel explores the thin wall between myth and reality through the alternating tales of two young women. Maja is a London-born Afro-Cuban singer who struggles to negotiate her heritage and her physical home, and Yemaya is living in the claustrophobic space between two worlds, London and Lagos.

The Opposite House
Helen Oyeyemi

Lyrical, intensely moving and steeped in magical realism, this spellbinding novel explores the thin wall between myth and reality through the alternating tales of two young women. Maja is a London-born Afro-Cuban singer who struggles to negotiate her heritage and her physical home, and Yemaya is living in the claustrophobic space between two worlds, London and Lagos.

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The Tortilla Curtain
by T. C. Boyle

Homeless and starving in the Topanga Canyon, Mexican illegal immigrants Candido and America Rincon’s pursuit of the American dream is quickly unraveling. When they unexpectedly cross paths with Los Angeles couple Delaney and Kyra, their lives intersect in what becomes a tragicomedy of error and misunderstanding.

The Tortilla Curtain
T. C. Boyle

Homeless and starving in the Topanga Canyon, Mexican illegal immigrants Candido and America Rincon’s pursuit of the American dream is quickly unraveling. When they unexpectedly cross paths with Los Angeles couple Delaney and Kyra, their lives intersect in what becomes a tragicomedy of error and misunderstanding.

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