Exploring Culture through Fiction

August 25, 2014 | By Book Department

Even though we are all back to school and work, September is still an opportune time to mull on dreams of travel and keeping our minds open to exploring cultures and society through fiction.


Aya, Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie (Drawn and Quarterly, 2007)
Day-to-day topics in Yop City, from the desire for joy and freedom to the simple pleasures and pain, come to life in this graphic novel. Based on the Abouet’s memories of growing up in post-colonial Côte d'Ivoire, this is the breezy and wryly funny story of the studious and clear-sighted 19-year old heroine Aya, her easy-going friends Adjoua and Bintou, and their meddling relatives and neighbors. 

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon Books, 2004)
In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen—years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood entwined with the history of her country.

Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne (Oxford’s World Classics, 2008)
A bestseller for over a century, Verne’s tale of the rich English gentleman Phileas Fogg, who makes a bet with his friends at the Reform Club to circumnavigate the world in 80 days represents a colorful depiction of Victorian exploration and society. With his irrepressible French servant Passepartout and then later the beautiful Indian widow Aouda, Fogg slices through jungles and crosses over snowbound passes in this timeless classic. 

Indigo, Catherine Cusset (Gallimard, 2013)
Gathering for an 8-day-long festival in India, two French women and 2 French men, who do not know each other meet and end up on a wild journey. A surprise awaits each one of them, which will force them to unpack their past.


Too hot, too cold, too angry, too quiet, too busy, too lonely? We have the solutions here! Fun, fear and passion await. Each week, we will post thematic lists of great titles so you can let your bookworming desires run wild. Follow us on Twitter @FrenchBooksUSA

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