After finishing Tara Sullivan’s The Bitter Side of Sweet two days ago, I was moved by sibling relationship between Amadou and Seydou, but also blown away by the atrocity that is child labor on cacao farms in African countries. It was pointedly apparent when the boys taste chocolate for the first time and are shocked that what they farm is a treat for children across the world, while they are beaten and starved and forced to work to farm the bean. So with a return to my six sensational lists– here are my favorite multicultural stories that span interest level.
- The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan: A tragic circumstance brings Khadija to the farm where Seydou and Amadou are forced into labor and her willful disobedience and a farming accident press the three to escape their captivity in a fast-paced action story with a powerful message.
- Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin: Karina’s Haitian family is fearful of authority and being deported even after Karina’s stepfather visciously attacks her within inches of her life. As she heals, she is also coming of age and questioning both her sexuality and her purpose.
- Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield: With three generations of women involved in the story, it’s ultimately about the Japanese internment camps and the relationships, abuses, and survival techniques employed to be able to continue living.
- Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan: Need I say more about why this book is on the list? A gorgeously lyrical story of Mexican immigrant farming lands in the United States with Esperanza’s beautiful descriptions of the earth’s heartbeat and her mother.
- Morning Girl by Michael Dorris: Having read this over ten years ago this character-driven story of Morning Girl and her brother Star Boy as they co-exist in their beautiful country through Christopher Columbus has other plans. The political undercurrent is useful in providing a perspective while the morality creates a complexity that is fitting for older readers.
- Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth: Leela has led a privileged life until the death of her husband who she’s never met. At her young age, she’s expected to traditionally mourn all while a revolution is taking place led by Gandhi both against British colonists as well as India’s caste system. It’s depth is moving and educational.