All about Culture: 6 YA Lit Books that Bridge the Generation Gap
by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
This Wednesday, we share our thoughts about our August Book Club pick, Balli Kaur Jaswal's Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. (You can join our discussion on Instagram on August 30th if you'd like to talk about that one! Just DM us or email us!) That book had so many amazing threads woven together, but one of them that really resonated with me was the way that generational and cultural differences can be overcome. One of the main characters, Nikki, is very much a British woman with what she considers to be a modern, feminist, British mindset, and yet over the course of the book, she comes to see and understand the ways that she is not so different from her Indian immigrant parents and the larger Indian community.
Through the course of the story, Nikki comes to appreciate more about Indian culture, and the women who come into her life come to appreciate more about Nikki's perspective. That aspect of the novel led me to think about other novels that explore the generational and cultural aspects of life for immigrants who have children in another country. I had a long list but narrowed it down to six young adult lit books that touch on that theme of bridging the generational and cultural gap. (Jaswal's book is not young adult, but you all know I'm always thinking about and reading YA lit!)
Raquel Vasquez Gilliland's Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything (Amazon | Bookshop.org) - I loved this fascinating story that I listened to thanks to Libro.fm's ALC program. In this one, Sia goes on a wild adventure to try to discover what happened to her mom, who disappeared in the desert after trying to cross the border on her own to return to her family in America after deportation. This book, which is sci-fi and takes some crazy twists and turns, explores the harsh realities of living undocumented in America and the way that stability can be ripped away from families at any moment.
Laekan Zea Kemp's Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet (Amazon | Bookshop.org) - We did this one for a buddy read this summer and had great discussions about Pen and Zander and the unique struggles that they each face. In Pen's story, we see the tension between her own desires and those of her immigrant Mexican parents who want a better, easier life for Pen. In Zander's story, we see how brutal undocumented life for young people in America is and how it can shape every single aspect of a teenager's life. In both stories, we see the importance of connecting to each other and how bridging those cultural and generational gaps can bring about healing.
Hena Khan's Amina's Song (Amazon | Bookshop.org) - Khan's book is actually middle grade but would also be suitable for teenagers. This is the second book in the Amina's Voice series, but in this one even more than in the first book, Amina explores her Pakistani heritage and learns how to celebrate and share about all of the beautiful aspects of her family's home country. I love the way Khan shows the impact of stereotypes and how profoundly those can impact individuals.
Adib Khorram's Darius the Great Is Not Okay (Amazon | Bookshop.org) - This phenomenal book was our book club and buddy read pick for January, and it was such a great way to start off the year. (You can listen to that discussion here!) This book covers so many important social issues in authentic and meaningful ways, but one of the threads I loved was Darius's exploration of his Iranian family and the community there. I absolutely loved Darius as a character, and we see how as he deepens his connection to his family's Iranian heritage, he understands himself more fully. I can't wait to read the second book in this series!
Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite's Dear Haiti, Love Alaine (Amazon | Bookshop.org) - In this story, which was our buddy read pick in May, Alaine connects back to her family's roots in Haiti after discovering her mom has an illness. I loved seeing how Alaine learns to appreciate and love all of the beautiful aspects of Haiti while also discovering the complexities of her parents' lives as young people growing up there.
Laura Taylor Namey's A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow (Amazon | Bookshop.org) - In this beautiful novel, the protagonist Lila does appreciate her Cuban heritage and her deep connection to her Miami home, but she must learn to open up her world a little in order to grow and to heal after grief. I love the way that Lila discovers the power of blending her heritage that she always carries with her into her new life experiences. We did this one as both a buddy read and as our June book club pick (you can listen here!), and we had such rich discussions!
Looking for more recs in this category? I discussed a similar topic back in a Bookish Fave from 2020 when I talked about 9 books that consider culture and coming of age as the children of immigrants (plus three bonus TV recs!), so check it out!
What book would you recommend that touches on this topic? Let us know in the comments or on social media, where you can find us @unabridgedpod!
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