By Maya Shook- Program and Curriculum Fellow
During this strange and difficult time, I’ve found reading to be a comfort. It has been a way to both stimulate my mind and momentarily escape the confines of my home. So I’ve decided to share ten book recommendations for quarantine. I’ve chosen books that have broadened my mind and introduced me to new ideas and cultures. Hopefully, they will provide you with some entertainment and exposure to new perspectives and experiences. You can borrow any of them, in e-book or audiobook format, from your local library on the app Libby.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Written in verse, this story centers around Xiomara, a teenage girl growing up in Harlem. Initially, she feels very lost but after discovering slam poetry she begins to come to terms with her identity and navigate her complicated relationship with her mom. Since it’s written in verse, it goes much quicker than the usual novel.
Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali
Saints and Misfits is a coming-of-age story about a Muslim teenager named Janna, who grapples with growing up and coming to terms with her religious identity. We follow her as she experiences microagressions and the trauma of sexual assault, forms unlikely friendships, and navigates her love life.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Beauty Queens is a wonderfully bizarre and satirical novel about teenage beauty pageant contestants who crash land on a deserted island. The girls learn to survive free from societal expectations and The Corporation, a business that sponsors the Miss Teen Dream Pageant along with all other mainstream television programs and products. Approaching feminism from an intersectional perspective, Libba Bray covers a broad range of topics from race to gender identity to sexuality to disability to capitalism.
Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
Girl Made of Stars is a young adult coming-of-age story and a critique of rape culture. It’s a about teenage girl named Mara whose twin brother is accused of sexual assault. While her family grapples with these allegations, she must come to terms with her brother’s actions and revisit her own traumatic childhood experiences. It’s a quick read, but it explores important topics like abuse, mental health, and sexuality in a nuanced way.
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
Written by comedian and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, Born a Crime features essays about growing up in post-apartheid South Africa with a white dad and black mom. Equal parts hilarious, heartwarming, and thought-provoking, this book teaches you a lot about the history of South Africa and discusses important topics like colonialism, religion, abuse, and gender roles. I highly recommend that audiobook, which Noah narrated himself.
Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed The World by Sarah Prager
Queer, There, and Everywhere tells the story of 23 queer people throughout history from Ancient Roman leaders to Abraham Lincoln. Sarah Prager sheds light on history you won’t find in a textbook. It’s written in a very engaging and accessible way so even if you’re not a fan of non-fiction, you will still enjoy reading it.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Roja Contreras
Fruit of the Drunken Tree is a beautiful coming-of-age story about two girls—Chula who lives in a gated community and Petrona who is hired as a maid by Chula’s family—growing in Colombia’s turbulent 90s. It’s a quiet book, but leaves you gripping onto every word and slowly builds up to a dramatic climax.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This book was extremely popular when it came out a couple years ago and for a good reason. It’s about a girl named Starr who is torn between two worlds: the low-income neighborhood she lives in and the upscale high school she attends. After she witnesses the police shoot her childhood friend Khalil, her life dramatically changes and she begins to find her voice as an activist, speaking out against institutionalized racism.
How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana
In this memoir, Sandra Uwiringiyimana tells the powerful story of her refugee experience. After surviving a massacre in The Democratic Republic of the Congo, she immigrates to the United States. The book recounts her process of assimilating and using activism as a way to overcome her trauma.
Educated by Tara Westover
In this bestselling memoir, Tara Westover tells her story of growing up in a Mormon, survivalist family with no formal education and later going on to study at some of the world’s most prestigious universities. As an adult, she tries to reconcile her love for her family with the abuse she suffered as a child and reflects on how her education has changed her life. Educated has received a ton of praise and popularity, and I assure you that it’s 100% worth the hype.