The best books to travel back in time to see historical events unfolding

Who am I?

As a child, I loved escaping into my character’s world—solving mysteries with Nancy Drew, getting into trouble like Anne from Anne of Green Gables, and diving into adventures with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. But I never saw anyone like myself in those books. A girl with black hair and coffee-colored skin, who licked the last samosa crumb off her fingers. That's one of the reasons I write and read historical fiction. It allows you to take a ride with a person from that place and time, and the first rule of time travel is that you cannot change the past. But when you finish reading you may discover that the past has changed you. 

I wrote...

Orange for the Sunsets

By Tina Athaide,

Book cover of Orange for the Sunsets

What is my book about?

Asha and her best friend, Yesofu, never cared about the differences between them: Indian. African. Girl. Boy. But when Idi Amin announces that Indians have ninety days to leave the country, suddenly those differences are the only things that people in Entebbe can see. Determined for her life to stay the same, Asha clings to her world tighter than ever before. But Yesofu is torn, pulled between his friends, his family, and a promise of a better future. Now as neighbors leave and soldiers line the streets, the two friends find that nothing seems sure—not even their friendship.

Tensions between Indians and Africans intensify and the deadline to leave is fast approaching. Could the bravest thing of all be to let each other go?

The books I picked & why

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Other Words for Home

By Jasmine Warga,

Book cover of Other Words for Home

Why this book?

I am excited to recommend this book that begins in Syria where you will meet a young girl, Jude. As the situation in her country becomes dangerous, she has to leave her home and move to Cincinnati, USA with her mother, leaving behind her father and brother.  I know firsthand what it is like to move to a completely different country and leave behind your friends and family. I think that is what drew me to this book. I understood what Jude was feeling. I especially loved that this story is told in verse. It was like Jude was speaking right to me. 

The Night Diary

By Veera Hiranandani,

Book cover of The Night Diary

Why this book?

Go back in time to 1947. India, newly independent from British rule, has been separated into two countries-Pakistan and India. I admit that I didn’t know a lot about the partition other than the divide it caused between Hindus and Muslims and the hundreds of thousands of people that were killed, but there was so much more I learned about the struggles people faced during the partition. I have a signed copy of the book in my classroom library and a few of my students had read the book and told me I should add it to my “reading pile”. They said I would love it and they were right. The main character, Nisha tugged at my heart and I cheered her bravery.

Threads of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Changed the World

By Uma Krishnaswami,

Book cover of Threads of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Changed the World

Why this book?

I greatly admire Mohandas Gandhi and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., so I was intrigued when I heard about this book that looked at the common threads between two amazing historical figures who shared a goal of social reform. Being South Asian, I am very familiar with Mohandas Gandhi, and after moving to the United States, I learned a lot about the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and this book revealed what led these two men down the path of peace. Even today, it saddens me that both Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. met their end to life by assassinations. I have only recently added this book to my classroom library, but anticipate it will be a popular choice among my students.

When Stars Are Scattered

By Omar Mohamed, Victoria Jamieson,

Book cover of When Stars Are Scattered

Why this book?

Growing up, I loved comic books and I am amazed at how the world of graphic novels has exploded in recent years. At the start of every school year, I always add at least one graphic novel to my classroom library and this year I added When Stars are Scattered and it has become a popular pick among my students. In traveling with Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, I learned what it was like to live in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. This is a true story and based on Omar’s real-life experiences. 

Inside Out & Back Again

By Thanhhà Lai,

Book cover of Inside Out & Back Again

Why this book?

Growing up, I heard stories about the Vietnam war. Many refugees immigrated to the USA and Canada. I remember a brother and sister enrolling at my school in Alberta. They were from Saigon and had fled Vietnam. They only stayed at my school for a month, but we shared a lunch table during those four weeks and exchanged smiles and a few words as we tried to bridge the language gap. This story is about Hà and her family. Similar to my book, this story is inspired by the author’s childhood experiences, which is what first drew me to the book. It is a favorite among my students.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in refugees, Mahatma Gandhi, and Somalia?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about refugees, Mahatma Gandhi, and Somalia.

Refugees Explore 90 books about refugees
Mahatma Gandhi Explore 8 books about Mahatma Gandhi
Somalia Explore 8 books about Somalia

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story), Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Matilda if you like this list.