WOW Review: Reading Across Cultures Volume 3, Issue 4

Contemporary international literature provides rich demonstrations for readers about the variety of ways in which young people take action for social change. This issue of WOW includes reviews of 10 books that cross ages, eras, and contexts in showing readers the spirit and strength that undergird the many ways of taking action. Challenging situations that involve characters’ personal, social, and cultural lives often compel young people to take courageous steps as agents for social change. For younger readers, taking action often happens in a family situation as in Big Red Lollipop where one character takes action to create a “fair” situation for her sibling. The young children in The Black Dot discover a peaceful way to rid themselves of a potential problem in this metaphorical story.

At times, young people are the ones to bring to light discrimination and prejudice. Dark Water is a love story between the niece of a wealthy land owner and a young migrant worker—a situation where the “forbidden friendship” begs answers to questions about discrimination, family loyalty and love. The Cruisers tells the story of a group of teens who because of their negative actions are placed into a situation where they are asked to be peacemakers between the North and South in a social studies lesson—a situation that provides the opportunity to understand the complexity of the issues and “dehumanization” of people on both sides of a conflict. First Come the Zebras offers insight into how young people, coming from two conflicting African tribes, find common ground for peaceful existence.

Young people around the globe are often stirred to anger and action, such as the protagonist in Our Secret, Siri Aang who secretly watches over a mother and baby rhinoceros and takes action when the mother is killed by poachers. Going Going tells the story of a young girl in San Antonio, Texas, who takes it upon herself to save small businesses by educating the public. Taking action is often demonstrated as a result of the atrocities of war. Broken Memory, A Novel of Rwanda, is the story of a courageous young girl who must overcome the tragedy of the death of her family in the Rwanda genocide and who takes action as a young adult by reaching out to others. The Bite of the Mango is a personal account of a girl who loses her hands during the brutal civil war in Sierre Leone, and how she uses her voice in the refugee camp and beyond to speak out against the horrors of war. Traitor takes readers on a historical journey to World War II where another young female protagonist harbors a Russian POW and begins to question the Nazi regime and her own brother’s involvement.

The titles reviewed in this issue provide diverse and powerful stories of young people taking action for social change. For readers of WOW Review, they most certainly bring to mind other stories on this theme that have the potential to speak to readers of all ages. We welcome your insights and additions to these stories that remind readers of the strength of youth to make the world a better place.

Janelle Mathis

12 thoughts on “WOW Review: Reading Across Cultures Volume 3, Issue 4

  1. Pingback: Big Red Lollipop
  2. Pingback: The Black Dot
  3. Pingback: Dark Water
  4. Pingback: Cruisers
  5. Pingback: Going Going
  6. Pingback: Traitor
  7. Pingback: Broken Memory
  8. This is a very unique book written about Maasai culture primarily from the perspective of a pre-adolescent female growing up in that world. A very engaging book in terms of background, cultural perspectives, and the surprising universalities of growing up, regardless of where in the world you are. The female protagonist, Namelok, will undoubtedly give new insight into what it means to be young in Africa to Western readers. This book is particularly enjoyable in terms of how it gives snapshots of what we have already seen about the Maasai culture, Kenya, wild African animals, etc. Yet at the same time, the viewpoint and perspectives of the people inside that culture take it a step further in terms of their modern struggles, survival, traditions, and what that means for the modern day Maasai. What I found particularly interesting are the explanations of how an African tribe views animals and their natural world, along with the ways in which they connect with it. Will that world be lost forever this century? It is a theme that shines through as a common thread running across the pages of this very original book written by a Westerner, Cristina Kessler, under the guidance of Kakuta Ole Maimai Hamisi, a Maasai who helped in the editing of the manuscript. This book stands out as another fine example of African literature, which is a literature that we know little of in North America, and that we undoubtedly need to get much closer to.

  9. For your in formation “wunschkind child without a country” by Liesel Appel as paired in your review of “Traitor” was written by Mrs. Appel where she adapted her memoir “The Neighbor’s Son”for young adult readers. The site is wwwtheneighborsson.com.

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