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).

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.

This is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We still host the monthly book club.
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?

2018 International Book Club Selections

JANUARY 15 - A Map of Betrayal by Ha Jin
China
Lilian Shang, a history professor in Maryland, knew that her father, Gary, had been the most important Chinese spy ever caught in the United States. When she discovers his diary after the death of her parents, its pages reveal the full pain that his double life entailed and point to a hidden second family that he’d left behind in China. As Lilian follows her father’s trail back into the Chinese provinces, she begins to grasp the extent of her father’s dilemma—torn between loyalty to his motherland and the love he came to feel for his adopted country. As she starts to understand that Gary, too, had been betrayed, she finds that it is up to her to prevent his tragedy from endangering yet another generation of the Shangs. A stunning portrait of a multinational family, an unflinching inquiry into the meaning of patriotism.
FEBRUARY 19 - Hum If You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais
South Africa
Set during her nation’s devastating apartheid regime. Expertly narrated through the perspectives of two characters from different worlds, the novel introduces us to nine-year old Robin Conrad living with her parents in 1970’s Johannesburg, then enters the world of Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggling to raise her children alone after her husband’s death. With heart-wrenching emotion, the novel juxtaposes a white child’s naïve experience of racial segregation with the wounded yet resilient perspective of a black mother affected by the atrocities of her time. Both lives have been built upon the division of race. Their meeting should never have occurred… until the Soweto Uprising shatters their worlds. Robin and Beauty forge an unusual and touching bond, and as their characters evolve, so does our understanding of apartheid. Sadness and tension are expertly offset by humor, which is interwoven throughout this complex tapestry, making it all the more readable and unforgettable.
MARCH 19 - The Cellist of Sarajevo by Stephen Galloway
Bosnia
Galloway interweaves four characters to bring the war in Bosnia to us. We get the assassin, Arrow, who only shoots military; Kenan, the father who walks across town each day amidst bullets and bodies to get the water his family needs to survive, the baker who bakes to feed them all, and the cellist who sits outside each day for 22 days playing Albinoni's Adagio in memory of the 22 people who died at that spot. He plays as the war rages around him. Galloway brings the war to us with all its nuances and insanities.
APRIL 16 - The Vegetarian by Han Kang
South Korea
What would happen if you changed just one thing and then go off the deep end? That’s the story of Yeong-hye, a seemingly ordinary South Korean housewife who wakes up from a nightmare, becomes a vegetarian and proceeds to self-destruct and destroy the people around her. A darkly allegorical, Kafkaesque tale of power, obsession, and one woman’s struggle to break free from the violence both outside and within her.
MAY 21 - An African in Greenland by Tete-Michel Kpomassie
Greenland
Tété-Michel Kpomassie was a teenager in Togo when he discovered a book about Greenland—and knew that he must go there. Working his way north over nearly a decade, Kpomassie finally arrived in the country of his dreams. This brilliantly observed and superbly entertaining record of his adventures among the Inuit is a testament both to the wonderful strangeness of the human species and to the surprising sympathies that bind us all.
JUNE 18 - The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg
Afghanistan
An award-winning investigative journalist explores women's lives in Afghanistan where culture is ruled almost entirely by men. Where women have almost no rights and little freedom Nordberg explores the custom of bacha posh, a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world giving safety to her family and often causing struggles for the girl herself as she approaches and goes through puberty. This book is a fascinating exploration of life in Afghanistan today.
SEPTEMBER 17 - The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf
Latin America/ Europe
Wulf reveals the forgotten life of Alexander von Humbold (1769–1859), the visionary German scientist whose ideas changed the way we see the natural world—and in the process created modern environmentalism. He was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. In North America, his name still graces four counties, thirteen towns, a river, parks, bays, lakes, and mountains. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, whether he was climbing the highest volcanoes in the world, racing through anthrax-infected Siberia or translating his research into bestselling publications that changed science and thinking. Wulf examines how Humboldt’s writings inspired other naturalists and poets such as Darwin, Wordsworth, Goethe, Muir and Thoreau. With this brilliantly researched and compellingly written book, Andrea Wulf shows the fundamental ways in which Humboldt created our understanding of the natural world.
OCTOBER 15 - Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Ghana
A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.
NOVEMBER 19 - Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
North Korea
A remarkable view into North Korea, as seen through the lives of six ordinary citizens over fifteen years--a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and a devastating famine that killed one-fifth of the population. Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today--an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, where displays of affection are punished, informants are rewarded, and an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life. Demick takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors, and through meticulous and sensitive reporting, we see her subjects fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we witness their profound, life-altering disillusionment with the government and their realization that, rather than providing them with lives of abundance, their country has betrayed them.