The Center @ MDC > Resources for Educators and Students

CURRENT VOICES IN LITERATURE

The goal of this initiative is to support MDC professors across the disciplines. The Center recommends books that may further themes explored in the classroom, often bringing the authors to engage in dialogue with the students. If you are interested in using any of our fall selections in classes, please contact Paola Fernandez Rana at paola.fernandezrana@mdc.edu or Nicole Swift at nicole.swift@mdc.edu.


emma_trellesThe Namesake
by Jhumpa Lahiri


In The Namesake, Lahiri enriches the themes that made her collection an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations. Here again Lahiri displays her deft touch for the perfect detail -- the fleeting moment, the turn of phrase -- that opens whole worlds of emotion.

The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name. Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves. The New York Times has praised Lahiri as "a writer of uncommon elegance and poise." The Namesake is a fine-tuned, intimate, and deeply felt novel of identity.

About the author:
Jhumpa Lahiri was born in London and raised in Rhode Island. Her debut, internationally-bestselling collection, Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the PEN/Hemingway Award, The New Yorker Debut of the Year award, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Addison Metcalf Award, and a nomination for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It was translated into twenty-nine languages. Her first novel, The Namesake, was a New York Times Notable Book, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, and selected as one of the best books of the year by USA Today and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. Her second collection, Unaccustomed Earth, was a #1 New York Times bestseller and named a best book of the year by The New York Times Book Review.

We think The Namesake covers a number of General Education Outcomes including: Communication; Global, Cultural, and Historical Perspectives.

For review copies of the book, please e-mail Paola at paola.fernandezrana@mdc.edu

For more information about the book and the author, please click here.

 


emma_trellesWe Need New Names
by NoViolet Bulawayo


Darling is only 10 years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas, try to get the baby out of young Chipo's belly, and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen, before the school closed, before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad.

But Darling has a chance to escape: she has an aunt in America. She travels to this new land in search of America's famous abundance only to find that her options as an immigrant are perilously few. NoViolet Bulawayo's debut calls to mind the great storytellers of displacement and arrival who have come before her--from Zadie Smith to Monica Ali to J.M. Coetzee--while she tells a vivid, raw story all her own.

About the author:
NoViolet's story "Hitting Budapest," the opening chapter of the novel, won the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing. NoViolet's other work has been shortlisted for the 2009 SA PEN Studzinsi Award, and has appeared in Callaloo, The Boston Review, Newsweek, and The Warwick Review, as well as in anthologies in Zimbabwe, South Africa and the UK. NoViolet recently earned her MFA at Cornell University, where her work has been recognized with a Truman Capote Fellowship. She will be attending Stanford in the fall as a Wallace Stegner Fellow for 2012-2014. NoViolet was born and raised in Zimbabwe.

We think We Need New Names covers a number of General Education Outcomes including: Communication; Global, Cultural, and Historical Perspectives; Ethical Thinking.

For review copies of the book, please e-mail Paola at paola.fernandezrana@mdc.edu


For more information about the book and the author, please click here.

 


Magpies (Carnegie Mellon Short Fiction Series)

 

In Magpies, Lynne Barrett's characters move through the past decade's glitter and darkness. From the Internet's fragmented pages to a gossip columnist's sweet poison to an ABCs of a hurricane season, these stories explore story forms and storytelling as a means of connection, betrayal, and survival for characters who learn, sometimes too late, the value of what's grasped and what's lost.

Lynne Barrett belongs in the top tier of short-story writers in America today. Her unforgettable characters, poker-face wit, and sly plots make for an intensely enjoyable experience. The title story should be snapped up by anthologies. Barrett's male characters are every bit as believable as her female characters, and the breadth of detail is both natural and mind-expanding. You want to read her work: it's hilarious-funny and sophisticated-funny and moving-funny, and withal shines a clarity that comes from the subtle beauty of her sentences.

About the author:
Lynne Barrett is the award-winning author of the story collections Magpies, The Secret Names of Women, and The Land of Go. She and Kristin Kovacic co-edited the anthology Birth: A Literary Companion. She has received the Edgar Award for Best Mystery Story, and this year Magpies was awarded the Gold Medal in General Fiction in the Florida Book Awards. Her stories appear in many books including Delta Blues, One Year to a Writing Life, Miami Noir, A Hell of a Woman, and Simply the Best Mysteries. Born in New Jersey, she lives in South Florida, where she is a professor in the MFA program at Florida International University. She also teaches at many writers' conferences around the country.

 

We think Magpies covers a number of General Education Outcomes including: Communication; Global, Cultural, and Historical Perspectives; Ethical Thinking.


For review copies of the book, please e-mail Paola at paola.fernandezrana@mdc.edu

For more information about the book and the author, please click here.

 


Flower Confidential:
The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

by Amy Stewart

 

From Publishers Weekly:
Stewart, an avid gardener and winner of the 2005 California Horticultural Society's Writer's Award for her book The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, now tackles the global flower industry. Her investigations take her from an eccentric lily breeder to an Australian business with the alchemical mission of creating a blue rose. She visits a romantically anachronistic violet grower, the largest remaining California grower of cut flowers and a Dutch breeder employing high-tech methods to develop flowers in equatorial countries where wages are low. Stewart follows a rose from the remote Ecuadoran greenhouse where it's grown to the American retailer where it's finally sold, and visits a huge, stock –exchange–like Dutch flower auction. These present-day adventures are interspersed with fascinating histories of the various aspects of flower culture, propagation and commerce. Stewart's floral romanticism—she admits early on that she's "always had a generalized, smutty sort of lust for flowers"—survives the potentially disillusioning revelations of the flower biz, though her passion only falters a few times, as when she witnesses roses being dipped in fungicide in preparation for export. By the end, this book is as lush as the flowers it describes.

 

We think Flower Confidential covers a number of General Education Outcomes including: Communication; Global, Cultural, and Historical Perspectives; Ethical Thinking.

For review copies of the book, please e-mail Paola at paola.fernandezrana@mdc.edu

For more information about the book and the author, please click here.

 


AIMLESS LOVE: New and Selected Poems
by Billy Collins

 

From the two-time Poet Laureate of the United States Billy Collins comes his first compilation of new and selected poems in a decade. Aimless Love combines fifty new poems with selections from four previous books—Nine Horses, The Trouble with Poetry, Ballistics, and Horoscopes for the Dead. Collins's unmistakable voice, which combines plain speech with imaginative surprise, is clearly heard on every page, reminding us how he has managed to enrich the tapestry of contemporary poetry and greatly expand its audience. His work is featured in top literary magazines such as The New Yorker, Poetry, and The Atlantic, and he is a strong draw at reading venues across the country. Appearing regularly in The Best American Poetry series, his poems appeal to readers and live audiences far and wide and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. By turns playful, ironic, and serious, Collins's poetry captures the nuances of everyday life while leading the reader into zones of inspired wonder. In the poet's own words, he hopes that his poems "begin in Kansas and end in Oz." Touching on the themes of love, loss, joy, and poetry itself, these poems showcase the best work of this "poet of plenitude, irony, and Augustan grace" (The New Yorker).

About the author:
Billy Collins is the author of ten collections of poetry, including Horoscopes for the Dead, Ballistics, The Trouble with Poetry, Nine Horses, Sailing Alone Around the Room, Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, and Picnic, Lightning. He is also the editor of Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, and Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds. A distinguished professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York, and a distinguished Fellow at the Winter Park Institute of Rollins College, he was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003 and Poet Laureate of New York State from 2004 to 2006.

 

We think AIMLESS LOVE covers a number of General Education Outcomes including: Communication; Global, Cultural, and Historical Perspectives; Ethical Thinking.

For review copies of the book, please e-mail Paola at paola.fernandezrana@mdc.edu

For more information about the book and the author, please click here.