Reading Beyond the U.S.

Earlier this year I saw a thought-provoking video from a BookTuber named Saajid considering the question, “Is the book community American-centric?” I’ve been pondering things Saajid mentioned in the video for several months. On our blog we’re definitely trying to read and recommend books that are from a wide variety of creators, but when I examine my personal reading history, the books are indeed mostly American-centric. Over the past few years, I’ve read a few titles in the list below, but I’m starting to make more of an effort to read books from other areas of the world.

One resource I found helpful in my search for titles is the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative. It led me to Here the Whole Time which is a book I really enjoyed. The author, Vitor Martins, lives in Brazil and the book was translated from Portuguese by Larissa Helena. I would love to see more translations getting attention. One of the organizations trying to make that happen is Project World Kid Lit. They have many helpful resources for finding, discussing, and encouraging the use of translated children’s and YA literature.

Here are titles of books set in countries beyond the U.S. and the Global North with a few links to resources to find more. Some of the authors no longer live in the places where these books are set, but grew up there. If you have other titles to recommend or know of other resources for finding International titles, please let us know in the comments.

South Korea –  b, Book and Me by Kim Sagwa translated by Sunhee Jeong & Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook, Ryan Estrada & Hyung-Ju Ko
North Korea – Every Falling Star: The Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea* by Sungju Lee and Susan Elizabeth McClelland
India – I was excited to find an article by Prasanna Sawant at The (Curious) Reader which traces the development of Indian YA literature and includes many titles. The site focuses on Indian lit, but also includes other world literature for all ages.
Sri Lanka – Swimming in the Monsoon Sea* by Shyam Selvadurai
Malaysia – Kampung Boy by Lat & The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature (Lists from 2017-2018)
Ghana – Aluta* by Adwoa Badoe
Zimbabwe – Hope is Our Only Wing* by Rutendo Tavengerwei
Ivory Coast – Aya: Life in Yop City Marguerite Abouet
Bahamas – Learning to Breathe* by Janice Lynn Mather
Central America – The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border* by Juan Pablo Villalobos
Trinidad and Tobago – Dreams Beyond the Shore* by Tamika Gibson
Argentina – Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez
Dominican Republic – Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez
Brazil – Where We Go From Here* by Lucas Rocha & Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins both translated by Larissa Helena
Multi-national – Girlhood: Teens Around the World by Masuma Ahuja

*They’re on my TBR, but I don’t have enough knowledge about the titles to recommend them or not.

4 Replies to “Reading Beyond the U.S.

  1. This is a great list! I’m always looking for titles set in countries outside the US. Elizabeth-Irene Beatie’s Crossing the Stream (Ghana) and Nnedi Okorafor’s Ikenga (Nigeria), Kwame Mbalia’s Last Gate of the Emperor, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree (Nigeria), Kadarusman’s Girl of the Southern Sea (Indonesia), Krone’s Small Mercies (South Africa) and Julie Lee Brother’s Keeper (Korea), Behar’s Letters From Cuba, Ada’s Island Treasures: Growing Up in Cuba, Mutinda and Walters’ Hockey Night in Kenya, Odhiambo’s Auma’s Long Run, Kuzki’s Soul Lanterns (Japan), Guerrero’s How to Make Friends with the Sea (Philippines) and All You Knead is Love (Spain), Villanueva’s Sugar and Spite (Philippines)– just a start!

    1. Thanks for the titles. We tend to stick to YA, but I read a lot of middle grade and just read Brother’s Keeper this weekend.

  2. I’ve got a ton! Haha. Tamika Gibson’s book is published by Blue Banyan Books, based in Jamaica, which has a whole range of children’s, MG, and YA literature by authors living in the Caribbean. I started to read them in earnest last year after getting tired of seeing the same 5 or so YA Caribbean books by diaspora writers in the US. There is also CaribbeanReads Publishing

    I have Gibson’s two books but I haven’t read them yet lol. But what I have read and recommend without hestiation:

    The Dark of the Sea by Imam Baksh
    The Beast of Kukuyo by Kevin Jared Hosein
    My Fishy Stepmom by Shakirah Bourne (which is being released as Josephine Against The Sea by Scholastic in the USA in July)

    From CaribbeanReads Publishing:

    Musical Youth by Joanne C Hillhouse

    1. Oooh! Thanks so much for the titles and the tip to check out Blue Banyan Books and Caribbean Reads Publishing.

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