Reading Out of Culture

My past couple of Monday posts have mentioned the All of a Kinds Family. It’s a series about a Jewish family of five sisters living in New York City at the turn off the twentieth century. Jewish celebrations and traditions are woven into the girls’ adventures. I read the series in fifth grade and vividly recalled the succoth shelter they built in their backyard.

At the same time, I finished Camy Tang’s Single Sashimi. The main character is of Chinese and Japanese descent. The youth group scenes at her Asian church were the best. Venus fits the type-A career woman archetype and at the same time blows it apart. I got to peek into the world of game development through the eyes of a 3D avatar and not a cardboard difficult executive type. Venus Chau was so much more than that and I loved her for it.

The other week, I read Jody Hedlund’s A Noble Groom. It was a similar experience into a culture I both know and don’t know, German immigrants. You can guess by my first name, they are part of my heritage, but I am so far removed from my ancestors, that I don’t know what part of Germany they lived in or why they left. By my calculations, my great-grandmother who died when I was 8 at the age of 99 was about the same age as the heroine’s daughter, Gretchen. Like the little girl with a really cool name, my great-grandmother was born in the United States. While I love German food from rot kraut to spaetzle and I’ve been to a German festival or two or more, I really don’t have an account of what it would have been like for my ancestors.

So what cultures have you learned about from reading fiction?

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