Reading Literature from the Global South for the Reading Writers of Color Challenge

This post is part of the Reading Writers of Color challenge hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media’s staff writer and editor, Dan Michael Fielding.

The Global South is a term for those countries and regions that have been actively underdeveloped by the forces of colonialism from the Global North. The term generally includes Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania, with some exceptions.

The term “Global South” arose as a more accurate descriptor than terms like “developing nations” or “third world,” which ignored these countries’ vital and exploited role in global economies.

As a concept, “Global South” allows us to notice the ways that certain countries have shared histories despite their very different geographical locations, in part because of how colonialism shaped the emergence of these countries. It allows us to see how a person living in Mexico may have a lot in common with a person living in Fiji or in South Africa. Although cultures and histories differ, their position on the world stage is shaped by contexts of colonialism and racism. As Anne Garland Mahler explains, “in recent years…the Global South is employed in a post-national sense to address spaces and peoples negatively impacted by contemporary capitalist globalization.”

For the reading challenge for April I encourage you to read a book by an author of color from the Global South. This is a huge region with a lot of land, countries, languages, and literature to cover, so there is sure to be something for everyone! The prompt for this month also allows for reading migrant authors, so don’t feel limited only to authors currently living in the Global South.

To help you choose a book for the challenge, here are six books from Global South authors. You should feel open to reading authors outside of this list, of course! Let us know what you’re reading in the comments below.

The cover of Where the Air is Clear shows two masked figures beneath a stylized sun.

Where the Air is Clear by Carlos Fuentes

The first novel published by Carlos Fuentes in 1958, Where the Air is Clear was an instant classic that allowed Fuentes to become a full time author. It explores the lives of the upper class in Mexico City through the story of Federico Robles and a series of Mexico City vignettes. Robles was once a revolutionary who abandoned the path to become a financier. Fuentes published dozens of books and short stories, including the first novel by a Mexican author to become a U.S. bestseller The Old Gringo, before his death in 2012.

The cover of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau shows a woman in a green dress standing in a doorway. The doorway is surrounded by vining plants.

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

For a more contemporary spin on Mexican literature, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is a fantastic pick. Silvia Moreno-Garcia describes herself as “Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination” and has written several critically acclaimed books. Her newest book is part horror, part science fiction, part historical fiction, and part thriller, and follows the life of the fictional daughter of Dr. Moreau, Carlota Moreau, and her experience as her stagnant life is upset by the arrival of the charming Eduardo Lizalde.

The cover of Leila shows a high wall covered in multi-colored handprints.

Leila by Prayaag Akbar

Akbar’s Leila has received positive reviews since it’s publication and was even shortlisted for the Hindu Literary Prize. The story follows Shalini, once a wealthy woman who has now been pushed to the margins of society in a dystopic future city. Shalini’s only goal is to find the daughter she lost sixteen years ago: Leila. The story explores faith, loss, and longing amidst the political turmoil of privilege and inequality.

The cover of Azadi shows a black background with water droplets falling. Most of the droplets are blue, but one is red.

Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction. by Arundhati Roy

Although it was her debut novel The God of Small Things that propelled Roy’s writing onto the world stage, she is also an accomplished non-fiction author. There are too many books to list them all here, so let’s start with her most recent book Azadi, a memoir collecting Roy’s essays on the meaning of freedom. Roy explores language, public and private divides, and the role of fiction and imagination in our struggles for freedom.

The cover of So Long a Letter shows a woman in a yellow dress kneeling on the sandy ground. Behind her a man and a woman wearing white clothes embrace.

So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ

For those looking for a shorter, yet no less impactful, read, look no further than So Long a Letter. Originally published in French by Senegalese writer Mariama Bâ, this novel takes the form of a letter written by Ramatoulaye Fall to her friend Aissatou Bâ. Fall has recently become a widow and in the letter she recounts the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death and the major events of their lives. Mariama Bâ’s So Long a Letter and her other novel Scarlet Song highlight women’s important contributions of African women to building their worlds.

The cover of Diaspora and the Difficult Act of Dying shows a stain of white on black asphalt. The shape of the stain is reminiscent of a galaxy or star cluster, and my look like a photo of a distant galaxy at first glance.

Diaspora and the Difficult Art of Dying by Sudesh Mishra

Fijian author Sudesh Mishra has been called a “philosophical poet.” In Diaspora and the Difficult Art of Dying he collects poems which concern the difficulty of not staying put and range in topic from colonialism, photography, food, Palestine, and poetry itself.

There are a variety of authors and locations you could choose to read from for this month’s challenge. Which authors are you most interested in hearing from? What book will you choose for the challenge?

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9 thoughts on “Reading Literature from the Global South for the Reading Writers of Color Challenge

  1. This month, I am going to try to read Melissa Cardoza’s “13 Colors of the Honduran Resistance” and “1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: a Memoir” by Ai Wei Wei.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read Bibliolepsy by Gina Apostol – she’s originally from the Philippines and the novel takes place there. I very much liked the beginning and the end of the book, and it was interesting to read a novel with scenes from the EDSA Revolution. Also the use of language in this book is great – so fun/playful/smart.

    Liked by 1 person

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