Sophia: princess, suffragette, revolutionary by Anita Anand

This was a fantastic biography with great writing. It was super interesting–I absolutely loved it! If you want to read about an interesting life, this is a great choice. Sophia was born into Indian royalty and raised in an English palace. She surprised everyone when she returned to India as a revolutionary battling injustice.  Highly recommended. (Submitted by JF).

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The Queen of Water by Laura Resau

This is the story of Maria Virginia, who was born to a very poor farming family in a tiny Ecuadorian village. While she was still a child (she doesn’t know her real age, but estimates she was around 7), she was “sold” to a family of a dentist and a university professor to care for their baby while they were at work. The family doesn’t pay her, allow her to watch TV or to eat from their plates and all the mother tells her is how stupid, useless and unwanted Virginia is. The father is very kind to her, calling her his daughter, and eventually grows way too fond of her, so Virginia, now in her teen years, sees no other option than to escape and return to her family’s dirty house (we’re talking fleas here and such). However, during her many years with the doctor’s family, Virginia secretly learned to read and studied hard to catch up. So even though she never went to school, she was able to graduate shortly after she was given the chance and entered one of the most prestigious universities, disguising the fact that she is a longa (a native Indian). The truth come out when she enters a contest and becomes The Queen of the Water. (Submitted by Monika).

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Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz

Reading books set in Montreal always fill me with nostalgia, doubly so for the deep sensory memories evoked by the fact the sisters of this novel grow up over their father’s bagel shop in Mile End. Beena and Sadhana are closely linked together by tragedy as well as family bonds. In the wake of her sister’s untimely death, Beena must grapple with their past. Thoroughly engaging, and not just because of the thought of bagels. A Canada Reads 2016 pick. (Submitted by Meghan W).

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Reeva: A Mother’s Story by June Steenkamp

In 2012, during the London Olympics, the Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius inspired the world by becoming the first para-athlete to compete in both Paralympic and Olympic Games as a sprinter. Several months later he made the news headlines again, this time for fatally shooting his model girlfriend of three months, Reeva Steemkamp, in the middle of the night in his posh Pretoria villa.

Reeva’s mother, June Steenkamp, wrote this fascinating memoir describing the long months after she received the phone call that her beautiful, youngest daughter had been killed. In this painfully honest and unflinching account of Reeva’s life, she talks about Reeva’s wonderful childhood and what really went on in her mind as she sat in the packed Pretoria court room day after day and how she is coping in the aftermath of the verdict. Reeva is an amazing and very well written true insider’s account of this tragic story. (Submitted by Monika).

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The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

The God of Small Things is a remarkable debut novel from Arundhati Roy, an Indian author who won the Man Booker Prize for this very work. This book is a story of a family caught in the middle of social and political change. More specifically, the story follows two estranged twins who are recalling a childhood incident that tore their family apart and changed their lives forever. The narrative jumps back and forth between present (1993) and past (1969), which helps build a sense of suspense, tragedy and dread. The language is beautiful – sometimes I had to stop just to enjoy the poetry of a paragraph. The characters are complicated and well-drawn, which for me is a must for any family drama. There are also many historical details that give an interesting perspective on India’s complicated recent past. Highly recommended.  (Submitted by Naomi.)

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The Fish Eyes Trilogy by Anita Majumdar

Anita Majumdar set her interlocking trilogy of plays in the town of Port Moody, BC. Her three female high school aged protagonists grapple with issues of race, appropriation, and sexual politics through Indian dance. Through Maria Ngyuen’s illustrations the play’s characters come vividly to life in the mind of the reader, while the play staging directions tantalizingly indicate a robust physicality that would be present in the performance.  (Submitted by Meghan W.)

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One Green Apple by Eve Bunting

On her second day in her new school in a new country, Farah takes a field trip to an apple orchard. She doesn’t speak English and isn’t sure she likes her new home. None of the other girls wear a dupatta on their heads and she isn’t used to boys and girls being in the same class. But as the day continues, she notices some things that look, sound, and smell the same in any country. When each child picks an apple to add to the apple press for cider, Farah chooses a little green apple that’s different, like her. As she helps the other children turn the crank and sees the apples blending together, she starts to realize that she can blend in here, too, while still being herself.  The story is told through Farah’s internal dialogue as she observes life on the farm and her classmates. I felt it was very realistic. For example, Farah wants to tell the teacher that she isn’t stupid, she just doesn’t understand the language, but of course she can’t. I liked that the children were friendly and welcoming, but it does mention that a few of them look at her coldly. The lovely watercolour illustrations in this picture book are filled with sunshine and express Farah’s emotions vividly, especially when she laughs with her classmates.  This is a lovely story about coming to a new place and starting to feel a sense of belonging. (Submitted by Gayle).

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