“Diversity is an aspect of human existence that cannot be eradicated by terrorism or war or self-consuming hatred. It can only be conquered by recognizing and claiming the wealth of values it represents for all.”
― Aberjhani, “Splendid Literarium: A Treasury of Stories, Aphorisms, Poems and Essays”
With the ease of transportation and the emergence of the internet, the world has become a global village. Distance is no longer a hindrance to meeting people from different backgrounds. In the 21st century, our work and studies require us to network with people all over the world. Easy immigration has made it so that any given country has inhabitants belonging to varied cultures and ethnicities. To succeed in such a diverse world, it is important to embrace different cultures and take away the best from all.
Literature plays a key role in opening up the world to us. Through books, we are able to delve into stories revolving around people belonging to different cultures. In multicultural literature, culture plays a key role and becomes an integral part of the story. It breaks stereotypes and avoids generalizations about particular ethnicities, beliefs, and orientations.
There are a plethora of books that brings to us cultures from all over the world. Gone are the days of stereotyping and white supremacy.
Let us have a look at some amazing literary pieces that promote multiculturalism.
Book: The Merchant of Venice
Author: William Shakespeare
It might astonish you that a play from the 16th century has made it to this list of multicultural literature. However, it might not baffle you as much if you read The Merchant of Venice through a slightly different lens. William Shakespeare is considered to be the greatest literary artist of all time for a reason. Many of the themes of his writings are as relevant today as they were a few centuries ago. In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare brings to us an Italy that is a melting pot of cultures. At the behest of his best friend, Bassanio, Antonio, borrows money from Shylock, a Jew moneylender. Though Shylock is portrayed as the epitome of evil, we are able to relate to his plight as a foreigner upon closer reflection. Through Shylock, Shakespeare presents to us the standing of the Jews during those times. The lines, “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die?” ring a bell even today. Shakespeare brings to us myriad cultures through the introduction of Portia’s various suitors. Men come from Germany, France, England, Scotland, Palatinate, Naples, and Morocco to woo the fair lady from Belmont. Though Portia and her lady’s maid, Nerissa, make fun of the foreigners, we still get a glimpse into their diverse ethnicities. The Merchant of Venice might not be considered at par with the multicultural books of today. However, William Shakespeare’s play has an appeal of its own. It not only gives us a glimpse into different cultures but also a completely different era.
Book: North Border
Author: Benjamin Percy
North Border is a novella penned by Benjamin Percy and illustrated by Francesco Francavilla. It revolves around Daniel Bridgewater, a half-white and half-Chippewa resident of Witch River Falls. Daniel always felt out of place everywhere, be it with the white or the Native Americans. His identity crisis is further elevated when he is compelled to take a job in the Border Patrol for the sake of his pregnant wife. Though he takes the job, it does not sit well with him as everything that the Border Patrol represents is in direct opposition to his Native American values. To make things more complicated, a murderous entity is roaming free in the woods bordering Canada. In addition to the adrenaline rush and the thrill of the gripping story and catch illustrations, we learn a lot about Native American culture and their present scenario from Benjamin Percy’s North Border.
Book: Where the Lilacs Bloom Once Again
Author: Roni Rosenthal
Roni Rosenthal’s Where the Lilacs Bloom Once Again charts the story of generations of the Postelnic-Isopovici-Stoleru-Rosanthal family. Originating in Romania, the Jewish family had been trying its best to survive in the face of persecution for years. Despite their many contributions to their nation, it seemed that they had little respite due to their Jewish beliefs. David Postelnic even served the country in WWI. Yet his nation rewarded him with nothing but scorn. Mainly told from the perspective of Rosa and Friddie, the book shifts between WWI and WWII. Where Rosa is family-oriented and sacrificial, Friddie is headstrong and independent. However, both women have one thing in common. They love their family. Through the stories of these valiant women, Rosenthal brings to us the sad truth of anti-Semitism. She also touches on Romanian politics, immigration, and the establishment of Israel. In addition to all the heavy stuff, Where the Lilacs Bloom Once Again paints a heart-warming picture of a Romanian Jewish family. The aroma of authentic food, the joy of the festivals, the beauty of the countryside, and the lavishness of Bucharest are vividly enmeshed in the story of Rosenthal’s brave ancestors. I love how Roni Rosenthal masterfully interspersed the Romanian language making the book all the more authentic. Indeed, Where the Lilacs Bloom Once Again, penned by Roni Rosenthal, is a brilliant piece of multicultural literature.
Book: Holland My Heart
Author: Jennifer J. Coldwater
Holland My Heart is a heart-touching second-chance romance novel penned by Jennifer J. Coldwater. The book follows Holland Gallagher, a super-talented professional, who recently lost her beloved husband, Aide, and his brother, Ethan. Devastated, she left her job and followed her mother-in-law, Naomi, to Los Angeles. There, she meets Kai Ipu, an older and wealthy Black Samoan CEO. Unexpectedly, they feel an instant attraction. Both Holland and Kai have a lot of baggage. It is up to them to let go of the past and give life and love a second chance. Holland My Heart is a beautiful book that effortlessly focuses on a number of cultures and ethnicities. Kai, the protagonist himself, is Black Samoan. Holland’s sister-in-law is Hispanic. Jennifer J. Coldwater includes elements of these cultures in her book seamlessly. It not only gives us insight into the cultures but also makes us relate to them. This makes Holland My Heart a great multicultural novel.
In today’s world, where almost every country is a melting pot of cultures, it is very important to promote multicultural literature. It not only enables people to understand their own culture but also relate to different cultures. This, in turn, enables us to forge meaningful connections with people belonging to different backgrounds. Multicultural literature helps us to understand the world better and develop empathy. It builds a global awareness that is a must to succeed in the modern world. So, here I am with a must-read collection of multicultural books.
Do vote for your favorite multicultural book and let me know which of the listed books tickle your fancy in the comments.
One thought on “A Melting Pot of Cultures: 4 Best Multicultural Books”
There’s nothing more enriching, in my opinion, than learning from different worldviews and challenging our own. Literature is a great way to learn about different cultures! Both Rosenthal’s and Coldwater’s books are in my TBR.