The image is of a person reclined on a beach chair under the sun. Next to him or her sits a small table only big enough for a beverage and a dog-eared paperback. The latter might be opened to a particular page as it rests on the table or, perhaps, the sleeping person’s belly. Hopefully it is slowly being read as part of a summer trip focused on disconnecting from school, work, and anything else that provokes stress. The beach in question might really be your own home or any other place where you can relax. The book, however, is guaranteed to take you far from Salem State. That is, after all, the point of summer break: to mentally distance yourself from your studies and then to refocus as you prepare for the coming semester. Even if money gets in the way of truly feeling the sand between your toes, thanks to the library a good novel is within easy reach and can often be the most complete escape. With this in mind, some of our faculty have suggested books in Italian, French, and Spanish. There is nothing like getting away and it is better still if you can do it in another language.
Anna Rocca recommends two books in Italian. The first is Fabio Geda’s Nel mare ci sono i coccodrilli [In the Sea there are Crocodiles]. Dr. Rocca writes that it relates the true story of Anaiatollah Akbari, a ten-year old boy from Afghanistan who ends up being adopted in Turin, Italy. Forced to abandon Anaiatollah in order to escape the Taliban, his mother recommends him to never steal, use drugs, or weapons. The child describes his trip from Afghanistan through Pakistan, Turkey, Greece and finally Italy. His first-person narration makes the reader reflect upon the similarities of people’s hopes, despite cultural and geographical differences. The second book that Dr. Rocca suggests is Valentina D’Urbano’s Il Rumore dei tuoi passi [The Noise of your Steps]. This is the fictional story of Beatrice and Alfredo’s friendship that turns into a bitter-sweet love. The reader witnesses the challenges of relationships as well as the couple’s new fears when they approach their twenties. Moving, passionate and unforgettable.
Elizabeth Blood recommends two works about Haiti, reflecting on the 2010 earthquake and its aftermath: Tout bouge autour de moi by Dany Laferrière and Mémé attaque Haïti by Marie Larocque. Laferrière’s book is a memoir and chronicle of the devastating earthquake and its emotional impact on the author. Larocque’s novel, just recently published, tells the tale of Mémé who returns to Haiti after the earthquake to help some elderly friends to discover that the culture she loves has not changed despite the changes provoked by the earthquake. Remember that sometimes it is easier (and cheaper) to buy books in French at www.renauld-bray.com (equivalent of “Barnes and Noble” in Quebec). You can pay with a US credit card and the purchase can be downloaded or shipped to the US.
In Spanish, Nicole Sherf recommends returning to a classic in Gabriel García Márquez’s Cien años de soledad. Without a doubt, one of the twentieth-century’s most famous novels, it is the text that made the term magical realism part of the worldwide literary conversation. Michele Dávila also suggests García Márquez, but instead of a complete novel she is thinking about the reader with less time and recommends the Colombian’s short stories in the form of the collection Doce cuentos peregrinos. She writes that these twelve stories are examples of the author’s storytelling skills in a condensed form. In addition, Dr. Dávila points to Julia Alvarez’s El tiempo de las mariposas which is a fictionalization of the story of the heroic Mirabal sister’s confrontation with the Dominican Republic’s dictator Rafael Trujillo. Lastly, Fátima Serra recommends two books by the recent winner of the Premio Planeta: Clara Sánchez. The first is Lo que esconde tu nombre (Premio Nadal 2010). It tells the story of a young woman who seeks refuge in a village on the Mediterranean coast while she is pregnant and reflects on her whole life. She becomes friends with an old couple that end up being Nazi expatriates. It narrates a personal story and at the same time it covers the history of the Nazis that lived in Spain under Franco’s protection. The second is Entra en mi vida (2012) which narrates the story of a younger woman that it is trying to figure out her life. Once again mixing fiction with historical fact, the author intertwines the tale of this teenager with the recently-uncovered news of babies stolen by nuns at hospitals and given illegally to adoptive families. Dr. Serra states that she likes it because it depicts very well life in Spain for kids who are of a similar age as the majority of the students at Salem State.
Lastly, Jon Aske wrote the following which reviews the book Hombres buenos by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Time to get reading.