Global Education Student Reading List
First Crossing: Stories About Teen Immigrants, Donald R. Gallo – Grades 6-8
The stories in this collection examine what it is like to be “different” as teenagers who have left their homes in other countries confront new customs and cultures. Whether the teens are fleeing with their parents from a repressive regime or trying to adapt to a new culture with different rules, the stories come alive for readers. Immigration, culture, and customs are presented in terms accessible to adolescents.
Dreams, Miracles and Jazz: New Adventures in African Writing – Grades 6-8
An exciting original anthology of new writing in English from writers born in Africa or of African parentage. The anthology is diverse thematically, covering almost all major contemporary African issues such as AIDS, migration (both within and outside of the continent), land issues, and identity.
Tree Girl by Ben Mikaelsen – Grades 6-8
After watching soldiers murder her teacher and finding her Mayan village ransacked and her family dead, 14-year-old Gabriela Flores flees north to Mexican refugee camps. She enters a village not yet touched by unrest and seeks sanctuary in the largest tree where, during th enext several days, she must watch soldiers kill the village inhabitants. Based on a true story, this work of historical fiction provides insight about an ugly chapter in Guatemala’s history. It could facilitate discussions of human rights and the abuse of political power.
Half a Day and Other Stories: An Anthology of Short Stories From North Eastern and Eastern Africa – Grades 6-8
A short story collection with writers from Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia, and Uganda. Each story is accompanied by revision questions, topics for discussion and a brief author bio useful if using the text for study purposes.
Fiela’s Child by Dalene Matthee – Grades 6-8
Set in nineteenth-century rural Africa, Fiela’s Child tells the gripping story of Fiela Komoetie and a white, three-year old child, Benjamin, whom she finds crying on her doorstep. For nine years Fiela raises Benjamin as one of her own children. But when census takers discover Benjamin, they send him to an illiterate white family of woodcutters who claim him as their son. What follows is Benjamin’s search for his identity and the fundamental changes affecting the white and black families who claim him.
Marie: In the Shadow of the Lion by Jerry Piasecki – Social Studies 7
This story centres on Marie Ngonga, a thirteen year old girl living with her family in an unnamed village in Africa. All is normal in her life and the lives of her family and friends until rebels threaten their village and force everyone to flee. Marie becomes separated, is captured and witnesses firsthand the horrors of war. The story is told in deceptively simple language but the realities faced by children in a war zone are horrifically real.
Kiss the Dust by Elizabeth Laird – Grade 7
This novel is about a 14-year old Kurdish girl, Tara, living in Iraq. Her father is involved with the resistance movement and she and the family must flee into the mountains of Kurdistan and, eventually, into Iran. The novel outlines the conditions within the refugee camp and the persecutions Tara faces.
“Master Harold”… and the Boys: a Drama – Grade 7
First produced at the Yale Repertory Theater in 1982, Athol Fugard’s “Master Harold…and the Boys” is based on the playwright’s early life in South Africa. But the play itself is not a simple retelling of an incident from his past. Rather, Fugard has presented a personal experience that extends to universal humanity. If the play were simply a polemic against the policy of apartheid, it would already be outdated now that sweeping change has transformed South Africa. Instead, Fugard wrote a play about human relationships that are put to the test by societal and personal forces.
Figs and Fate: Stories about Growing Up in the Arab World Today by Elsa Marston – Grade 7
The Five stories in this collection are each set in a different part of the Middle East (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and a Palestinian refugee camp) and feature contemporary characters dealing with a “complicated, baffling world.”
Close Encounters of a Third World Kind by Jennifer J. Stewart – Grade 7
This is a fiction book about an American girl travelling through Nepal. Annie Ferris’s father announces that the family will be spending the next two months in Nepal on a medical mission and that it will be an adventure. And an adventure it is when Annie meets Nirmala, a girl close to her own age, who introduces her to the real Nepal.
The Heinemann Book of Contemporary African Short Stories, Chinua Achebe, C.L. Innes – Editors – Grade 7/8
An anthology which displays the variety, talent and scope of contemporary African writing. The collection includes stories in English and translations from French.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – Grade 7/8
A breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years – from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to the post-Taliban rebuilding – that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives – the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness – are inextricable from the history playing out around them.
Propelled by the same storytelling instinct that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once a remarkable chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving account of family and friendship. It is a striking, heart-wrenching novel of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love – a stunning accomplishment.
Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga – Grades 7/8
Nervous Conditions, written by Tsitsi Dangarembga in 1989, is a semi-autobiographical coming of age story about a young woman in modern Africa. The story takes place in Rhodesia in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The story centres around Tambu and Nyasha, female cousins who, until their early teens, lead very different lives.
The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis – Grade 7/8
This novel, by Canadian author Deborah Ellis, is the first of three books detailing the struggles of the people of Afghanistan under Taliban control. It tells the story of Parvana, a young girl growing up in Taliban controlled Afghanistan. Her highly educated parents have lost their jobs – her father was a high school teacher and her mother was an author. Her father is forced to work in the market because his school has been bombed. Her mother is unable to work because the Taliban prevent women from working outside the home. To assist the family and to make more money, Parvana accompanies her father to the market every day to assist people in reading and writing. When her father is captured by the Taliban, Parvana is forced to disguise herself as a boy in order to earn money to support her family.
Under African Skies: Modern African Stories, Charles R. Larson – Grade 7/8
A selection of short stories by African writers providing a rich overview of the continent’s literary talents. Includes brief biographies of each author.
Face to Face: Poems and Short Stories about a Virus, Goethe Institute Accra – Grade 7/8
A collection of short stories and poems by twelve young, or previously unpublished writers from Ghana. Typical subjects of the pieces are AIDS in the context of love, friendship, guilt, sex and beliefs.
Marie – In the Shadow of the Lion (fiction based on fact) by Jerry Piasecki – Grades 7-10
Tells the story of thirteen-year-old Marie and fourteen-year-old Joseph whose lives and hopes for the future are destroyed by conflict in their country.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – Grade 8
This critically acclaimed novel, told primarily through flash back, spans three decades in Afghanistan’s history. Events begin before the Soviet invasion and continue through the Taliban. It is the story of Amir, the son of a wealthy Pashtun and Hassan the son of a Hazara servant. The two boys are almost inseparable and experience many adventures including the traditional Afghanistan sport of kite flying or rather, the job of “kite running,” the gathering of kites felled by opponents during a kite fight.
Mud City by Deborah Ellis – Grade 8
Deborah Ellis’ trilogy of life in Afghanistan ends with this novel. In this book, a fourteen year old girl named Shauzia struggles with life in a refugee camp. Her dreams of life in France seem unattainable. She, too, must dress as a boy to avoid persecution by the Taliban. She is forced to beg and pick through garbage to earn a meagre living before she lands in jail. Her dreams of a life outside the camp seem closer when an American family comes to her aid. Perhaps this is her ticket to freedom.
Figs and Fate: Growing up in the Arab World Today by Elsa Marston – Grade 8
This book consists of five short stories. They deal with the lives of teenagers growing up in various parts of the Arab world. They face the same type of challenges teenagers the world over face: coping with divorce, moving to a new home, feelings of isolation, low self-esteem. The stories are touching, often ironic, but never dull. Students will discover similarities and differences between themselves and students in the Middle East.
The Mzungu Boy, Meja Mwangi – Grade 8
Meja Mwangi’s novel captures a child’s eye view of village life in Kenja in the late 1950s – a time of innocence, wild beauty and the growing violence that would change the entire structure of colonial Africa. A story about friendship and adventure set in Kenya before independence, at a time when people were rising up against British rule.
What is the What by Dave Eggers – Grade 8
What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng is a real life story of a Sudanese refugee and member of the Lost Boys of Sudan program. Separated from his family, Valentino becomes a refugee in war-ravaged southern Sudan. Along with thousands of other children, he was forced to leave his village in Sudan at the age of seven and trek hundreds of miles, crossing the deserts of three countries to find freedom. His travels bring him in contact with enemy soldiers, with liberation rebels, with hyenas and lions, with disease and starvation and the deadly murahaleen (militias on horseback) – the same sort who currently terrorize Darfur. When he is finally resettled in the United States, he finds a life full of promise, but also heartache and myriad of new challenges. This is an astonishing novel that illuminates the lives of millions through one extraordinary man.
Shizuko’s Daughter by Kyoko Mori – Grades 8
In this quietly moving novel Mori poetically conveys the sentiments of an Asian girl who has lost her mother to suicide. Only a year after Shizuko’s death, Yuki’s father marries the woman with whom he has been having a long-term affair. Deeply resentful of both her father and his bride, Yuki feels uncomfortable at home, which has been redecorated to suit her new stepmother’s tastes. Running long distances and painting pictures that preserve memories of happier times are the only ways the girl is able to find consolation. Throughout this story, set in Kobe, Japan, and spanning seven years, the author shows how Yuki’s visions, attitudes, and achievements are influenced by her mother’s tragedy.
The Diary of Ma Yan: The Struggles and Hopes of a Chinese Schoolgirl by Ma Yan – Grades 9-12
Ma Yan chronicles her desire to receive an education and escape a brutal life of poverty. Through her diary, Ma Yan describes her family’s hardships, including hunger and separation, in the quest to build a brighter future. Ma Yan’s strong voice shines through this work with a heartfelt sense of responsibility, clarity of purpose, and love of family.
Weep Not, Child by Ngugi wa Thiong’o – Grades 9-12
Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o's first novel, published in 1964, was the first English novel to be published by an East African. Thiong’o's works deal with the relationship between Africans and the British colonists in Africa, and are heavily critical of British colonial rule. Specifically, Weep Not, Child deals with the Mau Mau Uprising, and the bewildering dispossession of an entire people from their ancestral land.
Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Romeo Dallaire – ELA B30
This disturbing account of the United Nations mission in Rwanda by Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire has won several awards: the 2004 Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction, the Canadian Booksellers Association’s Libris award for Non-fiction book of the Year (2004), as well as the Canadian Booksellers Association’s Author of the Year Award (2004).
The book details the break-down of the mission, Lt.-Gen. Dallaire’s (now Senator Dallaire’s) attempts to prevent that breakdown, and his own personal struggles as the genocide overwhelms the area.