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Check It Out

Courier Article by Pam Locker
Sunday, June 20, 2004

New International Titles Expose World of Literature

There's a whole world of literature waiting to be perused. Here are a few new international titles.

Brick Lane by Monica Ali (Scribner, 2003).

Ali, who was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and grew up in England, now lives in London with husband and two young children. "Granta Magazine" has dubbed her among the top twenty best young British novelists.

Brick Lane, short listed for the prestigious 2003 Man Booker Prize, chronicles the life of Bengali-born arranged bride Nazneen in a London East End apartment block populated by fellow Bangladeshis, mostly Muslim.

Everyone I know who has read this book LOVES it. The less than perfect humans who fill its pages are intricately drawn, with humor and compassion. The issues it addresses -- including September 11, 2001 -- are timely. Give it a try.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Penguin, 2004).

Zafon grew up in Barcelona and currently lives in Los Angeles. "Shadow," written in Spanish and translated by Lucia Graves (daughter of poet Robert Graves), spent a year at the top of the best-seller charts in Spain and has been published in twenty countries.

This mystery-gothic-literary event is a bit hard to describe. The dust jacket says it's about a "boy's magical journey through the secrets and shadows of postwar Barcelona in search of a mysterious author whose book has proved as dangerous to own as it is impossible to forget."

No less an authority than Stephen King called this "the real deal…a novel where even the subplots have subplots…this is one gorgeous read." As I write this review, I yearn to return to my reading, since I've only made it halfway through this tantalizing book's exotic maze.

The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004).

Danticat was born in Haiti and moved to the United States when she was twelve. An earlier novel, Breath, Eyes, and Memory, was an Oprah selection. Dew Breaker was recently picked as the "Today Show" Book Club selection for May.

This is a series of related stories set in the Haitian immigrant community of New York City. As we read, we see how a Haitian barber who served as a torturer ("dew breaker" since they came at dawn) in Duvalier's regime impacted and continues to haunt all the character's lives.

Haiti, a country of former slaves embroiled in coups and massacres since its declaration of freedom in 1804, recently suffered disastrous floods as well as the controversial removal of Jean-Bertrand A

ristide from power. "The Dew Breaker" gives us an inside look.

Links by Nuruddin Farah (Riverhead Books, 2003).

Farah was born in Baidoa, Somalia, and now lives in Cape Town, South Africa. He is the author of eight novels that have been translated into seventeen languages. His writing, which builds methodically and somewhat stoically, reminds me of Scott Turow's.

Links immerses us in war torn Mogadishu in the years following the ill-fated 1993 United States Special Forces raid (and subsequent troop withdrawal) chronicled in the book and video, Black Hawk Down.

Jeeblah, an educated and well-traveled Somalian, returns to his country for the first time in twenty years to visit his recently deceased mother's grave and to help an old friend whose daughter has been kidnapped. He finds a chaotic state ruled by warring clans with "Mad Max" style battlewagons, but containing small pockets of hope.

Pam Locker is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.