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I’m in a Book Club With My Grandma: Here’s What We’ve Been Reading

My grandma may be 90 years old, but she is the most active woman I’ve ever met. Somehow, even in her old age, she manages to take classes at her local community college, volunteer at baseball games, dress up as a clown at the children’s hospital, and make frequent trips to the library. Even in the midst of her busy schedule, she always makes time for me.

At least once a week, Grandma Beverly will call me to talk about books. From F. Scott Fitzgerald to Carson McCullers, it seems like my grandma has read it all. As an English major, I have also read my fair share of books, ranging from the classics to more recent novels on feminism and anti-racism. As we have gotten in the habit of sending each other our favorite reads, it has been interesting to see where our interests overlap and differ. While her taste has been shaped by her 90 years of life, I am more in tune with the modern literary currents. So, in order to demonstrate our wide range of book preferences (as well as give you amazing suggestions), I have compiled the ultimate, fast-tracked reading list for Bev and Lolo’s Book Club:

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (Recommended by: Beverly)

When my grandma first sent me this book, I was not excited to read it. After all, the title makes it sound like a cliché romantic tragedy written by a middle-aged man. However, once I started reading it, I found that my assumption could not be more wrong. As I soon discovered, Carson McCullers was a revolutionary of her time, exploring topics ranging from socialism to sexism to racism. In The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, she homes in on the topic of loneliness, documenting the lives of various “misfits” in a Southern town. By exploring the spiritual isolation of each of these characters, McCullers illustrates both the injustices and incongruencies of the 1940s South. I am more than happy that I read this book, as well as quite shocked by the fact that my grandmother liked it enough to send it to me.

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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Recommended by: Me)

I had been interested in reading something by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ever since I heard an excerpt of her TED Talk in Beyoncé’s “Flawless.” Over quarantine, I decided to finally read her acclaimed book Americanah, which follows the lives of young flames Ifemelu and Obinze. Shortly after she leaves Nigeria to attend university in the United States, Ifemelu ends her relationship with Obinze and finds herself forced to navigate a new world. Meanwhile, Obinze lives an undocumented life in the United Kingdom, only to be forced to return to Nigeria. By following the diverging stories of these two characters, Adichie explores themes of young love, immigration, and social justice. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I believe Beverly did as well.

Anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Recommended by: Beverly)

Grandma Beverly and I have yet to read the same Fitzgerald book, but we have bonded over our mutual love of him. My personal favorite is The Beautiful and Damned, which details the relationship of Adam and Gloria, as well as their downward spiral into tragedy. On the other hand, my grandma enjoys Tender Is the Night and This Side of Paradise. While I still have these books sitting on the side of my bed, I hope to read them soon. Nevertheless, I think Beverly and I can both agree that Fitzgerald is a must-read, especially for those of you who live for the 1920s!

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Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Recommended by: Me)

Exit West is a book anyone can and should read. Short and succinct, this book still manages to delve into relevant and thought-provoking topics, providing food-for-thought in our modern political climate. Following Saeed and Nadia, who live in an unidentified Middle Eastern Country, Hamid provides important commentary on immigration and the perception of the Middle East as permanently war-torn. Including magical doors that can transport refugees from place to place, Hamid incorporates elements of magical realism, making his novel all the more compelling. This is the latest book that I have recommended to Beverly, and I hope she reads it soon! Overall, I believe this book is appropriate for people of all backgrounds and ages, and I would highly recommend it to anyone!

Lauren is a freshman at UC Berkeley majoring in English. She is interested in journalism, politics, and popular culture. In her free time, she likes to read and write on her personal blog (thelaurenpaige.com).
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