Fiction featuring characters working vehemently to bring about positive change has more deep seated impact than just inducing momentary reading pleasure. The takeaways it leaves for its readers have the potential of being the harbingers of social justice and truly delivering the world out of its misery. When our planet is going through so many social, cultural, political, and climatic upheavals, these fictional characters and their stories not only provide solace but also solidarity with our respective realities. The characters we read about are just as ordinary as us, but they rise to the occasion as and when needed and don’t back down from making their presence felt. The seeds of inspiration they plant within us are everlasting, and time and again, we can return to our fictional counterparts to guide us out of every unfavorable situation.
So, I have curated a list of books that have inspired me to make noise and get myself heard. They will leave you sometimes with glee and sometimes with despair. But above everything, they will help you understand what you hope for and how to live inside that hope. Even Barbara Kingsolver said something along these lines. If you’re looking for encouraging narratives, I have got you covered!
Disoriental By Négar Djavadi, Translated by Tina A. Kover
Kimia Sadr had to flee her home country, Iran, at the age of 10. Her parents were intellectual activists who opposed the oppressive regime tearing their country apart. They fought vehemently not to let the orthodox State win, but what are mere citizens in the face of totalitarianism? Eventually, Kimia’s father was murdered, and her entire family became political refugees residing in Paris. Iran’s history gets intertwined with Kimia’s identity crisis, and as a result, she belongs neither to her present nor her past.
Shine By Lauren Myracle
When her best guy friend was subjected to a vicious crime, Cat decided to hunt down the culprit behind it. This novel sheds light on the secrets of a southern community and the immense emotional capital required to go against everyone for the sake of justice. Poverty, drugs, and intolerance are some of the overarching themes of this book. Intelligently crafted and riveting from the start, it is a must-read!
Amal Unbound By Aisha Saeed
Amal was living a quiet life and was really focused on her dream of becoming a teacher someday, but then the unthinkable happened: she had to work as a maid at her corrupt landlord’s house to pay off her family’s debt. Now her oppressive employer won’t let her breathe, let alone live a dignified life. Will little Amal manage to rise above this and achieve something big? How will she change her world and, in turn, change that of others?
All Over Creation By Ruth Ozeki
Twenty-five years after running away, Yumi returns to her hometown, the heart of the potato farming industry, only to get embroiled in major chaos. Agribusiness forces have invaded the post-millennial farming community. Ozeki has depicted a lovely celebration of seeds, roots, and growth and the propensity for revival that lies within all of us. A witty novel on environmental activism, this book talks about globalization, political resistance, and youth culture in great detail.
Ghost Boys By Jewell Parker Rhodes
Twelve-year-old Jerome was killed by a white cop who shot him, thinking his toy gun was real. In his afterlife, he met Emmett Till, and together they tried to make sense of their highly unjust world. Jerome also met Sarah, the daughter of the cop who killed him. The three of them initiate a conversation on how to bring in a better tomorrow. Rhodes deftly showcases how much power and intellectual understanding our kids have in building a more inclusive society.
The Hate U Give By Angie Thomas
Starr had to navigate two worlds: her fancy school and her poor neighborhood. Fitting in was hard, but she was still somehow getting by. But then she witnessed her friend, Khalil, getting shot by a white cop and her entire world turned upside down. This is a story of a young girl who transformed into a strong voice denouncing white supremacy and making a major stance against police brutality.
The Lowland By Jhumpa Lahiri
This book is a heartfelt portrayal of lives coming together and falling apart simultaneously. Subhash and Udayan were inseparable in their childhood, but they embraced different ways of living in adulthood. While Subhash wanted the ordinary, Udayan was boiling with a zest to change the world. He became part of the Naxalite movement and tried in his own way to release the marginalized class from the oppression of the upper class. The tragedy that unfolded in its wake would upend their lives forever.
The Night Swim Megan Goldin
Rachel Krall became a household name after her true-crime podcast helped set an innocent man free. She was the only hope for a lot of people seeking justice. But then she found a note left in her car requesting help. While Rachel got more and more involved in her work, someone started stalking her and vowed not to stop unless Rachel helped figure out what happened to her sister. Officially it was concluded that she had drowned, but was that the complete truth? Would Rachel be able to uncover what actually went down?
If you’re looking for more inspiring bookish listicles, please check out 16 Uplifting Books To Read In These Dark Times. No matter how tough the going gets, may you always have books to turn to and help you swiftly sail out of it. Happy Reading!