Born a Crime

Trevor Noah, 2016

Noah's path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. He was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother.   At the time such a union was punishable by five years inprisonment. As he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist, his mother is determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life. With an incisive wit and unflinching honesty, Noah weaves together a moving yet funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time.

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Alternate Side

Anna Quindlen, 2018

Life in a tight-knit upper West Side neighborhood and a seemingly happy marriage are exposed by an unexpected act of violence.  This very readable novel explores one woman’s experiences across lines of money, class and self-discovery.  Quindlin captures the beauty and fragility of family life.

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Half of a Yellow Sun

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi, 2006

This searing novel explores the cost and ramifications of war as Biafra struggles to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria in the late 1960’s.  Half of a Yellow Sun is an evocative novel of the promise, hope, and disappointment of the Biafran war.  Adichie has written an epic  with unforgettable characters about the brutality of war and its harrowing effects on those who survive.

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Einstein and the Rabbi

Naomi Levy, 2017

“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings as something separate from the rest―a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness...” ―Albert Einstein
When Rabbi Naomi Levy came across this poignant letter by Einstein it shook her to her core. His words perfectly captured what she has come to believe about the human condition: That we are intimately connected, and that we are blind to this truth. Levy wondered what had elicited such spiritual wisdom from a man of science? Thus began a three-year search into the mystery of Einstein’s letter, and into the mystery of the human soul. Levy leads us on a breathtaking journey full of wisdom, empathy and humor, challenging us to wake up and heed the voice calling from within―a voice beckoning us to become who we were born be.

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Pachinko

Min Jin Lee, 2017

This story traces the life of one Korean family over several generations beginning in the early 1900’s.  In 1910, when Japan annexed Korea, every Korean citizen became a subject of Imperial Japan and remained so until Japan’s defeat at the end of World War II. Beginning with a fisherman and his wife, the book follows one family, exploring their lives living in Japan and the discrimination they endured.  It is an account of a persecuted immigrant community.  Pachinko is a story of love, loss, determination, luck, and perseverance.

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Great Alone

Kristin Hannah, 2017

A wilderness survival story of a family, moving from Seattle  to Kareq, Alaska in the early 1970’s. Husband and father, Ernst, a former Vietnam POW, hopes that a life among nature will give him a fresh start and an ability to deal with his PTSD.  However, the isolation, darkness, and cold of the Alaskan winters only exacerbate his irrational paranoia and abusiveness. His fearful but loving wife and their 13 year old daughter deal with wilderness living and the beauty and isolation in Alaska.   It explores abusiveness, jealousy, neighborliness and young love.

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