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Riverhead Books Celebrates Cultural Diversity!

The United Nations has recognized May 21 as the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, so we find it only fitting to list a few reading recommendations that explore cultures both near, and far:

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On The Noodle Road by Jen Lin-Liu

“Malika generously offered to teach me her favorite Uighur dishes. We began with polo, rice pilaf. In most of China, rice was considered filler, not suitable for guests; indeed, guests who only went to banquets could easily get the impression that Chinese didn’t eat rice at all. But rice pilaf was the dish that traditionally welcomed guests into Uighur homes. It was also served at weddings and when dignitaries passed through town. It was an honor to be shown such hospitality.”

Looking For Palestine by Najla Said

“The memories I have of traveling to and from Lebanon in my first eight years are, for the most part, a big, jumbled collection of delightful images. I adored “Beirut,” as the whole country was known to me, and I adored the days we spent there. Remarkably, though the war and I basically came into the world at the same time, and though its presence did make itself known in ways I most certainly did register, it was never part of my primary experience of the country. Perhaps I was too young to understand, and thus too young to be scared. To me, Beirut was love and grandparents.”

Mambo In Chinatown & Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok

"At the end of every month, I always saw Pa put a twenty-dollar bill into an envelope to send back to family in China. No matter how poor we were, he did this. Lisa and I had been telling him he needed a new coat for the winter but there was no purchase. “What’s in the red envelope?” I asked. Lisa opened it and took out a yellow piece of paper with red writing on it. It had been folded, like origami, into the shape of an octagon. “Those are fu,” Pa said. “Words of power. When written by a master, they can contain demons.” I hoped he was right." - Mambo In Chinatown

The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

“That’s the great thing about Colombia, nobody’s ever alone with their fate.”| “Every Bogotá resident of a certain age has a street photo, most of them taken on Seventh Avenue, formerly Calle Real del Comercio, or Royal Commerce Street, queen of all Bogotá streets; my generation grew up looking at those photos in family albums, those men in three-piece suits, those women with gloves and umbrellas, people from another time when Bogotá was colder and rainier and tamer, but no easier.”

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri

“The Caspian air gives us strength. All that freshness—green Shomal, they say, misty, rainy Shomal. And yes, sometimes we know to move slowly; sometimes, like the sea, we are weighed down by unseen loads. We carry baskets of herbs on our heads, swaying under coriander, mint, fenugreek, and chive, and we do not rush. We wait for the harvest to saturate the air, to fi ll our scattered homes with the hot, humid perfume of rice in summer, orange blossom in spring. The best things take time, like cooking a good stew, like pickling garlic or smoking fi sh. We are patient people, and we try to be kind and fair.”

Words Will Break Cement and The Man Without a Face by Masha Gessen

“Half the population is behind bars and the other half is guarding them,” Russians have said of their country since the times of Stalin. In Norilsk, this was literally true.” - Words Will Break Cement

Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee

“I wonder if my father, given the chance, would have wished to go back to the time before he made all that money, when he just had one store and we rented a tiny apartment in Queens. He worked hard and had worries but he had a joy then that he never seemed to regain once the money started coming in. He might turn on the radio and dance cheek to cheek with my mother. He worked on his car himself, a used green Impala with carburetor trouble. They had lots of Korean friends that they met in church and then even in the street, and when they talked in public there was a shared sense of how lucky they were, to be in America but still have countrymen near.”

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

“Getting an education is a running leap towards becoming filthy rich in rising Asia. This is no secret. But like many desirable things, simply being well known does not make it easily achieved. There are forks in the road to wealth that have nothing to do with choice or desire or effort, forks that have to do with chance, and in your case, the order of your birth is one of these. Third means you are not heading back to the village. Third means you are not working as a painter’s assistant. Third also means you are not, like the fourth of you three surviving siblings, a tiny skeleton in a small grave at the base of a tree.”

The World is a Carpet by Anna Badkhen

“We talked about the conceit that Afghanistan exists outside time. It was true that the rhythm of life here may have remained unchanged for millennia, the seasons doled out in forever-repeating segments of lambing and fasting, of lavish weddings and meager harvests and raids by foreign invaders. All were expected here in equal measure, like the passing of time itself. But the subtlest alterations, barely perceptible and seemingly superficial to an outsider—those were truly significant because they bespoke real, existential changes to the substance of the land.”