Resonate (v): to relate harmoniously; strike a chord
There’s something about a good book that sticks with you, inspires you, and shapes you for years beyond when you put it down. Here’s the shortlist of books/short stories that do that for me:
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
This book was absolutely life-changing for me. As a Bangladeshi-American growing up without any literature that highlighted my culture, this was the first time I felt seen and understood in a novel. A main character with a weird name who felt out of place because of it, immigrant parents who move to a cold city in the United States, a father working on his career to better the lives of his children– the entire plot was ridiculously relatable to mine and my families life story. Even though Lahiri is talking about West Bengal in India, not Bangladesh, there enough elements of culture in the novel for me to feel something personally special– but also not overbearing to the point where the story is overwhelmed with details. Lahiri presented a story of realistic people who happened to be Bengali and naturally interwove culture into their lives as context and a way to understand the characters rather than exoticize them. While I know that other readers don’t have the same visceral connection to the story such as myself, it’s still a second-generation immigrant story with themes like family and identity at it’s heart.
“My grandfather says that’s what books are for,” Ashoke said, using the opportunity to open the volume in his hands. “To travel without moving an inch.”
“This tradition doesn’t exist for Bengalis, naming a son after father or grandfather, a daughter after mother or grandmother. This sign of respect in America ad Europe, this symbol of heritage and lineage, would be ridiculed in India. Within Bengali families, individual names are sacred, inviolable. They are not meant to be inherited or shared.”
Eleven by Sandra Cisneros
I read this short story when I was super young, probably 10-11, and I still think about it from time to time! It’s such a simple story about such a complex thing like growing up– it’s a story that has always inspired me after I read it with how pure and sweet it is.
Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That’s how being eleven years old is.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Who’s shocked? Is anyone shocked?
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Not only did this style of vignettes personally inspire me to write my own book of vignettes (not available for purchase anywhere because it was trash) but the writing was so simple yet so piercing. There were some deep topics discussed among these pages, but the delivery of details was swift and fast-paced that I was engaged and enwrapped till the end– and till today.
One day I will pack my bags of books and paper. One day I will say goodbye to Mango. I am too strong for her to keep me here forever.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I read this book when I just started getting in politics and sociology and when I say this book fucked me up, I mean it fucked me up. This was one of the few assigned books in high school that I feel grateful to have read because it awakened so many questions and ideas inside of me about feminism, politics, power structures, the patriarchy– I’m talking fucked! up!, y’all! This book, with about a billion other factors at the time, definitely led me down a path of becoming more interested and aware of social justice issues– which is basically my entire identity at this point. Haven’t watched the Hulu show though… kinda disappointed in myself about that….
“Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some.”
“There is more than one kind of freedom,” said Aunt Lydia. “Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.”
Lily B. On the Brink of Cool by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
On a completely different note, this book was one of my young pre-teen faves. A story about a young girl who wanted to be a writer and was keeping a journal over the summer documenting her big dreams and desires to be cool and noticed, young Shiggy could relate! There was just something so light-hearted and fun about this book, I read it until it fell to pieces and I had to throw it away. This book made me want to journal, write, explore just like Lily, and made me feel as though my quirks and interests had a place in the world. Bless ambition/passion driven pre-teen novels.
No quote as it was taken from me too early. *wipes tear*
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Everything that can be said about this book has probably been said already, this book is a must-read piece of literature. I’m not a fan of all the comparisons people make between society today and the dystopia in this novel, however, because it’s a really *excuse my lack of better word* headass analysis. People definitely understand the value of knowledge and wisdom today, (you know I said this and then I started thinking about Trump supporters so eh, this is a half-truth) and I think sometimes you gotta just read symbolically and not literally. Anyway, great dystopian novel, clear read, compelling and quick, and a true favorite of mine.
“If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.”
“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
First graphic novel I ever picked up. Like with The Namesake, I felt like I could relate to it because I saw a part of my identity that was similar to the narrator and because of that, the story just seemed more vibrant and worth reading. Beyond that though, there’s such a compelling narrative about living in a tumultuous time in Tehran but also just growing up, learning about one’s life, self, and loves.
“In life you’ll meet a lot of jerks. If they hurt you, tell yourself that it’s because they’re stupid. That will help keep you from reacting to their cruelty. Because there is nothing worse than bitterness and vengeance. Always keep your dignity and be true to yourself.”
“When we’re afraid, we lose all sense of analysis and reflection. Our fear paralyzes us. Besides, fear has always been the driving force behind all dictators’ repression.”
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
So I’m an incredibly big fan of social media, and thus very familiar with call-out culture and internet shaming and, honestly, participate in it myself from time to time. That’s why this book ended up being so compelling for me in two ways. First, the well-researched account of various social media shunned individuals was very well-written and interesting and made me think a lot about how society operates in a very predictable fashion. In many tribes, shame and being shunned are threatened as way of keeping people in line even when there are no rules– and similarly the internet it like that. You do have freedom out here, but you better be ready to check yourself, and it was interesting to see such a contemporary concept in a book. On that note, second, it was kind of inspiring to me as a reader stylistically because the book is a long-form investigative non-fiction piece (the first of which I actually really enjoyed) and it made me want to pick up that style and experiment with it more often. Good book for on dual fronts.
“But we know that people are complicated and have a mixture of flaws and talents and sins. So why do we pretend that we don’t?”
Global Unions, Local Power by Jamie McCallum
As you will learn with time from me, I am very much into learning about labor rights. Because of this, I was super down and ready to take POSC138S: Labor and Globalization on my campus when it was offered and very please to read this book that that actually delved into details about transnational labor organizing and what people and communities could do to help facilitate the progress of global union issues in the world. Honestly, I still have so much to learn about this topic– but after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, I’m passionate and motivated that we will see change in this lifetime, and this book brought hope on that front.
Struggles such as these remind us that victory is not as simple as winning; it’s about building the power to fight in the first place.
Thank you for stopping by, and let me know about the books that have impacted you or if you feel the same about any of these!