The New Yorker’s selection of the best writers under the age of 40 has plenty to offer Packabook readers searching for stories set in foreign lands. Due to be released on Monday, the “20 under 40” list of fiction writers highlights those authors it believes are well worth watching in the years ahead. And the list is blessed with writers who come with heritages stemming as far afield as Ethiopia, Russia, Peru and the Balkans.
Nigerian-born Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun is on my list of all-time reading highlights, doing exactly what we love at Packabook – revealing a story about a country and its history that we previously knew nothing about. This haunting novel is the story of two wealthy sisters during the time of the Nigerian-Biafran War of the late 1960’s.
Daniel Alarcon writes of a fictional South American country in his Lost City Radio combining elements of history from Peru, Argentina and Chile. And in his short story collection War By Candlelight the tales are mainly set in Peru – especially in the poorest areas of Lima.
Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated is set in Ukraine and Yiyun Li’s A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is a collection of ten stories exploring the effects of China’s Cultural Revolution. While some of the stories are in America, most take place in small-town and rural China, a setting also explored in her novel The Vagrants.
Belgrade-born Tea Obreht’s debut novel The Tiger’s Wife is not due out until next year, but it will be set in a fictionalised Balkans.
The immigrant experience is also a popular topic for the writers on the list – from Salvatore Scibona’s novel The End which tells of Italian immigrants in Cleveland, Ohio, to Dinaw Mengetu’s The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, the story of an Ethiopian grocery store owner who fled his country after seeing his father murdered by soldiers during a 1974 military coup.
So now you have a head start on the writers expected to influence our literary culture over the next ten years, there’s not much else to do except grab one or two of their books and start reading. We’ll be joining you…
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