Oh, well, it doesn’t have to be fiction alone. It could be non-fiction, graphic novel, etc. What I am getting at is: “What would be your top 10 list of books with a diaspora, migration, identity bent?”
Well, my reading habits tend to change day-by-day, but this would be my top 10 list. I should mention that the list might reflect a more Iranian-centric feel to diaspora and identity issues.
10. Daughter of Persia: A Woman’s Journey From Her Father’s Harem Through the Islamic Revolution by Sattareh Farman Farmaian.
9. Too See and See Again: A Life in Iran and America by Tara Bahrampour.
8. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez — this is a hard one, because I also enjoyed reading In the Name of Salome.
7. A World Between: Poems, Short Stories, and Essays by Iranian-Americans by Persis M. Karim & Mohammad Mehdi Khorrami. I also enjoyed and have reviewed Karim’s latest, Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora, but I feel that her first anthology on Iranian diasporic writing was so raw and powerful. The only passage in Let Me Tell You that captured this “raw” appeal, was the short autobiographic story by Paz, entitled, “1979”– this is a must read!
6. The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel by Milan Kundera. I went through a Kundera phase a two years ago and voraciously read anything from him. This work, by far, is my favorite. Don’t cheat and watch the movie first– that will do you an incredible disservice to the many themes mentioned in the book.
5. Strangeland by Tracey Emin. You already know her for well because of her provoking installations and legendary behavior, but this isn’t about “that” Tracey, but rather a reflective look at the “Tracey, from Margate”. I was especially captivated how she viewed her own bi-cultural heritage, being both English and Turkish Cypriot.
4. The Ministry of Pain by Dubravka Ugresic. The title alludes to an S&M club where Tanja’s students occassionally work to make extra money. Yet, the S&M theme is apt, considering the emotional trauma and pain that each in the book undergoes as Yugoslavia falls apart.
3. Snow by Orhan Pamuk. This book is heavy into identity, especially political and religious identity of a nation. The novel is set in Kars, a city at the crossroads between, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, and Iran, where Ka, a poet who has been a political exile in Germany for the past 12 years returns. Posing as a journalist, Ka attempts to uncover the reasons for suicide among young women, but gets embroiled in more serious events that are happening between secularist and Islamist in Kars.
2 and 1 tied– Persepolis 1 & 2 by Marjane Satrapi. I simply love this book. I particularly love how it uses graphics to illustrate her powerful and painful story. If you decide to watch the film before reading the book, I won’t chastise you for it because both are brilliant!