International Book Club

Exploring other cultures through literature

WELCOME

The International House Book Club reads novels by international authors with international settings and/or international themes. The Club meets the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at International House for about two hours (there are no meetings in July, August and December). Through facilitated discussion, we share a love of reading and learn about diverse cultures. Our only requirement is that you read the book beforehand. You do not need to register for the club or RSVP for a meeting. Parking is free. Come casually dressed. Please do not bring food or drink unless announced in advance.
Questions? Contact us at info@ihclt.org.

International House Book Club members receive a 20% discount at Park Road Books.

Note: The November Book Club will meet earlier at 630p for a meet & greet. Bring a small appetizer if you can (not required).

2020 International Book Club Selections

JANUARY 20 - My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Nigeria
Long-listed for 2019 Booker Prize. A short, funny, hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends. Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, this deliciously deadly debut is as fun as it is frightening.

This is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We still host the monthly book club.
FEBRUARY 17 - Flights by Olga Tokarczuk
Poland
2018 Booker Man Prize winner for translated version - The unnamed narrator notes the difference between her and her unadventurous parents: “Clearly, I did not inherit whatever gene it is that makes it so that when you linger in a place you start to put down roots. . .” The real pleasures of “Flights” are in the digressions and stories she intersperses throughout the narrator's travels. Tokarczuk shifts effortlessly from an art museum to a commentary on the social invisibility of middle-aged women to a banal conversation with fellow travelers to the story of a man named Kunicki whose wife and child have disappeared. Other stories include a 17th-century anatomist dissecting his own severed limb; a woman summoned by mysterious emails to Poland to visit her first love; and a woman who walks out on her family to live as an itinerant beggar.
MARCH 16 - Beneath the Tamarind Tree by Isha Sesay
Nigeria
In the early morning of April 14, 2014, the militant Islamic group Boko Haram violently burst into the small town of Chibok, Nigeria, and abducted 276 girls from their school dorm rooms. From poor families, these girls were determined to make better lives for themselves, but pursuing an education made them targets, resulting in one of the most high-profile abductions in modern history. While the Chibok kidnapping made international headlines, and prompted the #BringBackOurGirls movement, many unanswered questions surrounding that fateful night remain about the girls’ experiences in captivity, and where many of them are today. In Beneath the Tamarind Tree, Isha Sesay tells this story as no one else can. Sesay delves into the Nigerian government’s inadequate response to the kidnapping, exposes the hierarchy of how the news gets covered, and synthesizes crucial lessons about global national security. She also reminds us of the personal sacrifice required of journalists to bring us the truth at a time of growing mistrust of the media. Beneath the Tamarind Tree is a gripping read and a story of resilience with a soaring message of hope at its core, reminding us of the ever-present truth that progress for all of us hinges on unleashing the potential of women.
APRIL 20 - Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas - VIA ZOOM
Colombia
7yr old Chula lives in a gated community in Bogota, but the threat of violence and the drug lord Pablo Escobar are outside the walls. The new maid, Petrona, is a young woman crumbling under the burden of providing for her family. As both girls' families scramble to maintain stability amid the rapidly escalating conflicts, Petrona and Chula find themselves entangled in a web of secrecy. Inspired by the author's own life, the novel is a testament to the impossible choices women are forced to make and unexpected connections that can blossom out of desperation.

To register for the online discussion, click here.
MAY 18 - I'm Writing You from Tehran by Delphine Minoui - VIA ZOOM
Iran
In the wake of losing her beloved grandfather, Delphine Minoui decided to visit Iran for the first time since the Revolution. It was 1998. Raised in France by a French mother and Iranian father, this twenty-two year old journalist planned a brief stay but remained for ten years. With an inextinguishable curiosity and an independent spirit that neither love for the people nor fear of the regime can compromise, she paints an extraordinary gallery of portraits, presenting us with a society that is diverse, surprising and dynamic. Minoui attends secret dance parties raided by the morality police, dines at the home of fearsome militia, interviews fanatic imams, befriends both imprisoned student poets and journalists battling censorship. She joins street protests, finds love and marries. But after numerous Interrogations by the secret police, she fears her stay in Iran finally must end. This book is a remarkable blend of contemporary global history, family memoir, and the making of a reporter, told by someone both insider and outsider, a child of the diaspora.

To register for the online discussion, click HERE. 
JUNE 15 - Circe by Madeline Miller - VIA ZOOM
Greece
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus. But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

To register for the online discussion, click HERE. 
SEPTEMBER 21 - The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea - VIA ZOOM
Northern Mexico In wonderful and unexpected ways, Urrea’s “The Hummingbird’s Daughter” gives us insight into the U.S./Mexican border during the late 19th century, when the border between our two countries virtually did not exist. He chronicles the life of his legendary great-aunt and her family in Northern Mexico in an intimate yet epic tale which depicts the origins of modern Mexico. The book provides a devastating look into the conditions of racism, greed and corruption under the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz that helped spark the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Operating on a number of levels simultaneously, Urrea’s tale is both romantic, heartbreaking and humorous, exploring social classes and mistreatment of Indians, while delving into lore and magic, religion and passion. The book is a delight, paced masterfully, occasionally introducing touches of magical realism. Beautifully composed with vivid imagery, Urrea’s novel is a tribute and love song to the colorful and vibrant heart of all things Mexican.

To register for the online discussion, click HERE.
OCTOBER 19 - Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of WWII by Svetlana Alexievich
Russia
From the Nobel Prize-winning writer, an oral history of children’s experiences in World War II across Russia. Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive style, Last Witnesses is Alexievich’s collection of the memories of those who were children during World War II. They had sometimes been soldiers as well as witnesses, and their generation grew up with the trauma of the war deeply embedded—a trauma that would change the course of the Russian nation. Collectively, this symphony of children’s stories, filled with the everyday details of life in combat, reveals an altogether unprecedented view of the war. Alexievich gives voice to those whose memories have been lost in the official narratives, uncovering a powerful, hidden history from the personal and private experiences of individuals.
NOVEMBER 16 - Island of the Sea Women by Lisa See
Korean Island of Jeju
Despite their love for each other, Mi-ja and Young-sook’s differences are impossible to ignore. The Island of Sea Women is an epoch set over many decades, beginning during a period of Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, followed by World War II, the Korean War and its aftermath, through the era of cell phones and wet suits for the women divers. Throughout this time, the residents of Jeju find themselves caught between warring empires. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, and she will forever be marked by this association. Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers in their village. Little do the two friends know that after surviving hundreds of dives and developing the closest of bonds, forces outside their control will push their friendship to the breaking point. This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a world turned upside down, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce and unforgettable female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.
We meet at 630pm for a meet & greet.

2019 International Book Club Selections

JANUARY 21 - Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
South Africa
Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and black Xhosa mother when such a union was punishable by 5 years in prison. Trevor was kept mostly indoors and hid from the South African government. After liberation, Trevor and his mom set forth living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by the South African government against apartheid.
FEBRUARY 18 - Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Korea/Japan
A family saga set in Korea and Japan spanning 70 years (early 1900's to 1989). Sunja is a teenage girl living with her mother who runs a boarding house in a fishing village in Korea. She meets a fish broker, a suave older man who seduces and impregnates her and then informs her he's married. He says he'll support her, but she wants nothing more to do with him. Her face is saved when a missionary staying at the boarding house marries her and raises the child as his own. They move to Japan where Koreans are looked down on. The characters are well developed as the book explores racism, sexism, poverty and war.
MARCH 18 - Spain in Our Hearts by Adam Hochschild
Spain
It was Camus who wrote, "Men of my generation have had Spain in our hearts." Hochschild's book on the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 yearns for a time when war had moral clarity, when thousands of Americans, English, and French joined the republican cause in Spain. This gripping account of the war and the personal lives of dozens of young Americans who risked their lives as soldiers, nurses, ambulance drivers, translators and laborers paints a picture of idealists eager for adventures, dedicated to defeating fascism. Effortlessly hopscotching from global history to individual and emotional experience, this history travels with journalists like Hemingway's mistress Martha Gelhorn as she sends urgent letters to Eleanor Roosevelt to lobby her husband to intervene and we accompany George Orwell who witnesses the imprisonment, torture and killings ordered by Stalin's Spanish henchmen against fellow leftists. For many there was no more tragic or romantic an event in the twentieth century than the Spanish Civil War.
APRIL 15 - Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa
Palestine
Forcibly removed from the ancient village of Ein Hod when Israel is formed, the Abulhejas are moved into the Jenin refugee camp. Exiled from his beloved olive groves, the patriarch languishes. His eldest son fathers a family but falls victim to an Israeli bullet. Kidnapped twin brothers, one raised Jewish, the other a resistance fighter. This is the Palestinian story, told as never before, through 4 generations of a single family.
MAY 20 - Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck
Germany
This masterful novel by the acclaimed German writer tells the tale of Richard, a retired classics professor who lives in Berlin. His wife has died, and he lives a routine existence until one day he spies some African refugees staging a hunger strike in Alexanderplatz. Curiosity turns to compassion and an inner transformation as he visits their shelter, interviews them, and becomes embroiled in their harrowing fates. This is a scathing indictment of Western policy toward the European refugee crisis, but also a touching portrait of a man who finds he has more in common with the Africans than he realized.
JUNE 17 - Call Me American by Abdi Nor Iftin
Somalia
Growing up in Mogadishu, Iftin discovered a world beyond Somalia through films. He was captivated by a world where women were equal to men, where the law punished the unjust. His riveting memoir describes enduring famine, war, a precarious life as a refugee and his difficulty coming to America after winning a green-card lottery in 2014. He now works as an interpreter in Maine.
SEPTEMBER 16 - The Bone People: Maori People of New Zealand by Keri Hulme
New Zealand
A 1985 Booker Prize winner, this novel begins in a tower on the New Zealand sea. The woman who lives there is Kerewin Holmes...part Maori, part European she is an artist and exiled from her family. One night she is disrupted by a speechless, mercurial boy named Simon who tries to steal from her. Kerewin succumbs to Simon's feral charm and falls under the spell of his Maori foster father. The author has created what is at once a mystery, love story and an ambitious exploration of the zone where Maori and European New Zealand meet.
OCTOBER 21 - Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
Argentina
Nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature eight times, Borges joins numerous renowned authors who were never granted this honor. He is one of Latin America's most acclaimed writers, a miniaturist known for his short pieces, be they short stories, essays, or poetry. Upon his death in 1986, this Argentine intellectual left a whole library of delicately structured maze-like speculations. Each one is a little time-machine of the imagination, written in a tight, almost mathematical style with a precision of detail. In this collection of his short stories there are writers and dreamers, heretics and traitors, secret encyclopedias and magical libraries. Science fiction coexists with intriguing detective stories, stories abound with surprising outcomes. Borges draws from contemporaries such as Sartre, Camus, Kafka, and Pound, but also from older greats such as Swift, Poe, philosophers, kabbalists, and by-gone Greeks of Alexandria. This is a scholar of no mean depth! Join me for an adventure into multiple universes which will leave you spinning.
NOVEMBER 18 -Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Barbados
A dazzling, original novel of slavery and freedom. When 2 brothers arrive at a Barbados sugar plantation they bring with them a darkness beyond what the slaves have already known. Washington Black's, (11 years old), new master is the eccentric Christopher Wilde, naturalist, explorer, inventor, abolitionist. From the cane fields to icy Canadian Arctic, muddy streets of London to the deserts of Morocco, the novel asks What is Freedom and can life be salvaged from the ashes ever be made whole?