The best books by writers breaking cross-cultural boundaries

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Canadian-American writer of Indian heritage, an award-winning novelist and short fiction writer, playwright, and poet. I grew up in Delhi, hearing stories from my maternal grandparents who were refugees during the 1947 Partition of India. So, as my work reflects, I’m drawn to stories of resilience in the face of cultural conflict, religious upheaval, migration, immigration, and displacement. My MBA is from Marquette University, and my MFA from the University of British Columbia. I am working on another novel.

I wrote...

The Tiger Claw

By Shauna Singh Baldwin,

Book cover of The Tiger Claw

What is my book about?

The Tiger Claw is a novel about Noor Inayat Khan, the Muslim woman who in 1943 was landed into war-time France by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) to work as a spy and radio operator for the Résistance. Noor goes in search of her Jewish beloved...and the rest is history.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Ten Incarnations of Adam Avatar

Shauna Singh Baldwin Why did I love this book?

This Trinidadian writer crosses religious, ethnic, and gender lines to show us the history of slavery in Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, and Guyana. Adam Avatar reincarnates in different centuries and continents as an Amerindian, a Spanish conquistador, a Portuguese slaver, a Yoruba slave, a female pirate, and a female stick fighter in nineteenth-century Trinidad. To tell his engrossing story, Baldeosingh writes in several historical Englishes, crossing language boundaries, demonstrating how language has changed over time. Along the way, I learned about the different phases of slavery, from the view of the slavers and enslaved. The story invites comparison to indenture, apartheid, and Jim Crow. It was a difficult read, horrific at times. But so was slavery.  

By Kevin Baldeosingh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ten Incarnations of Adam Avatar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This postmodern historical novel addresses power, sex, and the role of the imagination in constructing social realities. Adam Avatar has been, among other incarnations, a Spanish priest, a slave trader, a white indentured servant, and a female pirate. In each incarnation, however, he is killed at age 50 by his nemesis the Shadowman, a fate he hopes to elude in his life as a Caribbean everyman, with the aid of a psychiatrist. The historical periods of his life are vividly portrayed with Joycean grasp of historical voice, examining the wrongs of each period and discovering the malleability of individuals in…

Book cover of The Pearl Diver

Shauna Singh Baldwin Why did I love this book?

Sujata Massey is Indian and German. She has written a whole series of books set in Japan or featuring Japanese characters. This is her seventh featuring investigator Rei Shimura, and is set in Washington DC's restaurant world. Shimura's task: find a Japanese war bride who disappeared 30 years earlier. I love Rei Shimura’s wry humor and intelligence. My husband founded, and we owned, The Safe House, an espionage-theme restaurant in Milwaukee, so this book resonated with my experience.

By Sujata Massey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Pearl Diver as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The seventh book in Sujata Massey's Agatha and Macavity Award–winning mystery series is a witty, suspenseful story that takes its young sleuth into the Washington DC restaurant world.

A dazzling engagement ring and the promise of a fresh start bring antiques dealer and sometime sleuth Rei Shimura to Washington, DC. But just as she's starting to settle down –catching up with a long–lost cousin and undertaking a lucrative commission furnishing a trendy Japanese restaurant nearby – things begin to go haywire. First, her cousin vanishes from the restaurant's opening–night party, and then Rei is drafted to help find a Japanese…

Book cover of A Stranger Among Us: Stories of Cross Cultural Collision and Connection

Shauna Singh Baldwin Why did I love this book?

The cross-cultural stories in this anthology are painful, funny, and heartbreaking. You’ll find famous and little-known writers exploring migration, immigration, othering, and otherness. We know these problems, but sometimes stories help us imagine alternate ways of solving them, making connections we can build from our common humanity.

By Josip Novakovich, Ana Menendez, Viet Thanh Nguyen , Laila Lalami , Rashad Majid , Carolyn Alessio , Diane Lefer

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Stranger Among Us as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thirty acclaimed writers of international fiction explore the stranger in tales of cultural clashes and bonds. These stories of disparate experience travel beyond politics and multicultural manners to become an essential discussion of otherness. Contributors include Nathan Englander, Laila Lalami, Ana Menendez, Josip Novakovich, Wanda Coleman, Tony d'Souza, Samrat Upadhyay, Mary Yukari Waters, Luis Alfaro, and Amanda Eyre Ward, as well as other accomplished writers from Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe, some published for the first time in the United States.

Book cover of Karma

Shauna Singh Baldwin Why did I love this book?

In 1984, a 15-year old Indo-Canadian Maya travels with her father to India to consign her mother's ashes to the Ganges. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated the very day they arrive and Delhi descends into state-sponsored carnage as Sikh men and women are held collectively responsible. Separated from her father, Maya has to find her way home. This novel in verse is by Canadian writing across ethnic and religious lines. As a Sikh, I am familiar with details of the pogrom. Instead of applying the usual Western label of “senseless violence” Ostlere sensitively explores the impact on two ordinary young people.

By Cathy Ostlere,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Karma as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

It is 1984, and fifteen-year-old Maya is on her way to India with her father. She carries with her the ashes of her mother, who recently committed suicide, and arrives in Delhi on the eve of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination.

Maya is separated from her father and must rely upon the mysterious, kindhearted Sandeep to safely reunite them. As her love for Sandeep begins to blossom, Maya must face the truth about her painful adolescence...if she's ever to imagine her future.

Book cover of Everybody's Son

Shauna Singh Baldwin Why did I love this book?

Bombay-born Indo-American Thrity Umrigar tells the story of Anton, a neglected biracial boy adopted into a white family. Umrigar stretches past boundaries of race, class, and gender to bring us a tale of moral choices made from power, helplessness, or the neighborhood we live in – and the uncomfortable truths that ensue. I am always impressed by Umrigar’s transparent prose that allows her story and characters to shine through, but even more so in this novel where her characters are not brown but black or white. 

By Thrity Umrigar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Everybody's Son as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Everybody's Son probes directly into the tender spots of race and privilege in America. . . . With assured prose and deep insight into the human heart, Umrigar explores the moral gray zone of what parents, no matter their race, will do for love." - Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You

The bestselling, critically acclaimed author of The Space Between Us deftly explores issues of race, class, privilege, and power and asks us to consider uncomfortable moral questions in this probing, ambitious, emotionally wrenching novel of two families-one Black, one white.

During a terrible heat wave in…

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Book cover of Dulcinea

Ana Veciana-Suarez Author Of Dulcinea

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I became fascinated with 16th-century and 17th-century Europe after reading Don Quixote many years ago. Since then, every novel or nonfiction book about that era has felt both ancient and contemporary. I’m always struck by how much our environment has changed—transportation, communication, housing, government—but also how little we as people have changed when it comes to ambition, love, grief, and greed. I doubled down my reading on that time period when I researched my novel, Dulcinea. Many people read in the eras of the Renaissance, World War II, or ancient Greece, so I’m hoping to introduce them to the Baroque Age. 

Ana's book list on bringing to life the forgotten Baroque Age

What is my book about?

Dolça Llull Prat, a wealthy Barcelona woman, is only 15 when she falls in love with an impoverished poet-solder. Theirs is a forbidden relationship, one that overcomes many obstacles until the fledgling writer renders her as the lowly Dulcinea in his bestseller.

By doing so, he unwittingly exposes his muse to gossip. But when Dolça receives his deathbed note asking to see her, she races across Spain with the intention of unburdening herself of an old secret.

On the journey, she encounters bandits, the Inquisition, illness, and the choices she's made. At its heart, Dulcinea is about how we betray the people we love, what happens when we succumb to convention, and why we squander the few chances we get to change our lives.

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