Read These Books and Transform Your Thinking

Kick off your summer with two books designed to launch you out of your comfort zone. Here, extraordinary writers Anchee Min and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explore what it means to risk everything in pursuit of a better life

by Elaina Richardson and Pam Houston
americanah jacket cover image
Photograph: Knopf

The Cooked Seed by Anchee Min (Bloomsbury USA)
The Chinese-born writer, Anchee Min (Red Azalea) is back with a new memoir, plumbing her first years in America when, as a young immigrant on a student visa, she imaginatively and bravely tackled poverty, fear of deportation, and physical assault. During those first months in Chicago, she also taught herself English, largely from watching Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Her spirit is astonishing, but what’s more eye-opening is the realization that this is not a tale from Victorian days: she landed in the States in 1984; Ronald Reagan was President, Deng Xiaoping was in charge of post-Mao China. And yet, in both nations, she suffered hardships on a scale that we like to pretend is long gone. The beautiful, dream-like quality of her prose mitigates the harshness of the world she inhabits, but it doesn’t quench the realization that we’re in the company of an astonishing woman who has lived through—and gloriously vanquished—the worst of recent times. — Elaina Richardson

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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf)
Falling deeply and irrecoverably in love can be an identity-threatening experience for anyone. But if you are a young, upwardly mobile Nigerian woman whose ambition takes you first to a university far from your home town and then away from your beloved to America; when you are handed a set of working papers with someone else’s name on them and perfect your American accent and still can’t get a job; when finally, in desperation, you lower yourself to a form of prostitution in order to pay your rent, it can be a long road back to yourself—to remembering who you were and discovering who you want to be.  Adichie’s greatest talent as a novelist is her ability to see her characters and the world from many angles simultaneously.  She writes fearlessly about race and self-sabotage, power and belonging, about love and the deep longing for home. — Pam Houston

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Next: 10 New, Must-Read Books

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