As a teenager, I used to read lots of books. Our basement had bookcases that lined the walls, end to end. Alongside the bookcases were a couple of boxes filled with books. The basement was our private family library. I'd descend to its nether world, peruse the bookshelves, then bring books—sometimes a batch at a time—up to my room, to read. Sometimes, I’d pick a book from a bookshelf and sit as I read or skimmed its pages, at leisure.
So the following is a list of YA books that I’ve read and been comforted by. Each book is beautiful and a classic.
1. The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston.--I read The Woman Warrior years ago, and was moved and inspired by it. It is the story of Maxine Hong Kingston, the author, as she grows up in California. The book describes the stories of her childhood. One monumental character is Brave Orchid, Maxine’s mother. The subtitle defines the book as a memoir; but some readers might consider this a novel rather than a memoir, as some of the stories are fantastical, larger than life. It is, after all, a “girlhood among ghosts.” Nevertheless, The Woman Warrior contains beautiful imagery, and poignant vivid scenes.
2. Home to India by Santha Rama Rau—At age 16,--after living in England for ten years—author Santha Rama Rau and her family returned to India. Her father was a diplomat during the time of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent coup d’état. The modern/Westernized Rau had to get re-acquainted with her relatives, who espoused classic Indian customs and traditions. Eventually, she attended Wellesley College and wrote Home to India while there. The result is a poignant, well-written story imbued with the time and magic of India—amid political intrigue.
3. Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong.--Fifth Chinese Daughter is the delicately told memoir of Jade Snow Wong during the 1950’s. Born into a poor family in California, she was inspired to go to college—despite being a girl. The book chronicles Jade Snow’s hardships and struggles—with neither help nor encouragement from her family. Ultimately, Jade Snow triumphs by graduating from Mills College; she went on to become an internationally-known ceramist. Fifth Chinese Daughter reminds us that education—now considered a right—was once thought of as a luxury. In some parts of the world, even today, girls are shunned or worse for wanting to be educated.
--Yolanda A. Reid