Monday, October 21, 2013

Outstanding Books for the College Bound: History and Cultures

Today we're continuing our look at the Outstanding Books for the College Bound list. It only comes out every five years and the new edition comes out in January and the committee (which includes me) is seeking nominations of new books to put on the list!

Yesterday, we looked at the Arts and Humanities section. Today we're taking a close look at History and Cultures.


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. In this hilarious and heart-breaking story, Junior decides to leave his school on the rez and go to the school in town. He doesn't fit in at his all-white school, and leaving the rez during the day means he doesn't fit in there anymore, either.

The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II by Iris Chang. This is a hard book to read, but an important one to read. This book documents the atrocities of the Japanese army in China, especially in its WWII capital of Nanjing, where a horrific massacre took place-- one that many Japanese politicians still deny ever happen. (As someone who has studied in Nanjing and who knows survivors, it happened, and this book explains a lot about current Chinese/Japanese relations.)

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delise, translated from the French by Helge Dascher. In 2001, Delise spent two months living in Pyongyang. This graphic novel is his memoir of that time.


The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman. This heartbreaking tale tells of a young Hmong girl in Merced, California, who has severe epilepsy. Due to the language and cultural barriers between her family and the medical community, the system fails her utterly. Fadiman's account explains how each side tried its hardest to help Lia Lee and how each side completely failed her.

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam: An Illustrated Memoir by Ann Marie Fleming. This is two stories-- the story of how Ann Marie tried to find out about the great-grandfather she just discovered was a world-famous magician and vaudeville performer, and the story of his life. Long Tack Sam’s origins are a bit hazy (there are a few versions) but he rose to become an international superstar. He was Chinese, his wife was Austrian. They traveled the world and lived all over, fleeing wars and performing. A graphic novel, the visual storytelling also relies heavily on photographs and documents to help tell the story.

Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz. Sammy lives in Hollywood, a poor barrio in Las Cruces. It's 1969, protest and violence are all around him, and Juliana is gone. Sammy wants to go to Hollywood, but knows that he may never get out.


The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. This graphic novel autobiography follows Satrapi's childhood in Tehran after the overthrow to the Shah, her schooling in Europe, her return to Iran, and her eventual emigration.

Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman. This is a ground-breaking, now-classic work about the Holocaust. Told in graphic novel format, with different nationalities and races shown by different anthropomorphic animals, and tells the story of Spiegelman's father.

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung. Ung's family lived in Phnom Penh until the Khmer Rouge took power and sent them to labor camps and trained Ung to be a child soldier. This harrowing memoir is gripping and makes the history and politics easy to understand for teens unfamiliar with the time period.

What titles would you add to this list? Please suggest a title by filling out this form. Nominations close at the end of the month, so put 'em in now!

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support YA Reading List by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be polite. Please do not spam. Please share other titles on this topic. I reserve the right to delete any comments that are mean, harassing, or spammy.