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Global Literature Online Book Group

A partnership of international study centers on Harvard’s campus, this online reading series for k-12 educators is back for its second year and will again explore literature from five global regions: Africa, Latin America, Russia, the Middle East, and the Islamic World.  Workshop participants will have the opportunity to discuss works of global literature with experts and authors in monthly, online conversations.

bookgroupweb_0Read more about this program in a recent Gazette article!


Please register for this year’s book groups here.

If you missed Purple Hibiscusbe sure to watch the book group discussion here!


Participants are required to complete the reading of each novel before the monthly session.  The sessions are free, but books will not be provided for all sessions.  Texts are available via library systems and many book stores online.

Session Format

These online sessions will be conducted in an Adobe Connect virtual classroom space and can be accessed from any computer equipped with the latest version of Flash.  An external headset and webcam is encouraged but not required for participation.  Drop-in orientations to the virtual classroom space will be provided prior to discussion sessions.  Each hour-long session will include a combination of presentation, discussion, and question and answer.  Guiding questions and learning goals will be provided prior to each session.

Recordings of Past Sessions

These recordings will launch through Flash as an AdobeConnect recording and may take a minutes to load.

Sweetness in the Belly with author Camilla Gibb and Professor William Granara.

In the Time of the Butterflies with author Julia Alvarez and Professor Glenda Carpio.  (Audio recording)

Kamikaze Girls with Professor Tomiko Yoda

The Bamboo Grove: An Introduction to Sijo with Professor David R. McCannh

The Accompanist with Professor Julie Buckler

Purple Hibiscus with Professor Akua Sarr and PhD student Kristen Roupenian

Schedule and Book Descriptions

Session One: 7:00 – 8:00pm EST Wed, October 23, 2013 

The Dream Life of Sukhanov, Olga Grushin (2007) featuring the author herself!

Book description: The story of Anatoly Sukhanov, who many years before abandoned the precarious existence of an underground artist for the perks of a Soviet apparatchik. But, at the age of 56, his perfect life is suddenly disintegrating. Buried dreams return to haunt him. New political alignments threaten to undo him. Vaulting effortlessly from the real to the surreal and from privilege to paranoia, The Dream Life of Sukhanov is a darkly funny novel.

Session Two: December 2013 

Dreaming in Cuban, Cristina Garcia (1993) featuring Rainer Schultz, Fellow, DRCLAS Cuban Studies Program.

Book description: Garcia’s first book, Dreaming in Cuban is about three generations of del Pino women who are seeking spiritual homes for their passionate, often troubled souls. Celia del Pino and her descendants also share clairvoyant and visionary powers that somehow remain undiminished, despite the Cuban revolution and its profound effect upon their lives. This dichotomy suffuses their lives with a potent mixture of superstition, politics, and surrealistic charm that gives the novel an otherworldly atmosphere. Writing experimentally in a variety of forms, she combines narratives, love letters, and monologues to portray the del Pinos as they move back and forth through time. Garcia tells their story with an economy of words and a rich, tropical imagery, setting a brisk but comfortable pace.

Session Three: January 2014

Autumn Quail Naguib Mahfouz (1990), featuring the author herself!

Book description: Legendary Egyptian writer and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, Naguib Mahfouz writes about shifting experiences of authority and identity following the Egyptian revolution of 1952. Part of a three-part novella cycle exploring the historic military coup that resulted in the overthrow of Egypt’s constitutional monarchy, this short work of fiction offers a rich historical lens through which to explore political transitions in contemporary Egypt.

Session Four: February 2014 

Dream of Ding Village, Yan Lianke (2011) featuring Professor Karen Thornber, Comparative Literatures and East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

Book description: Officially censored upon its Chinese publication, and the subject of a bitter lawsuit between author and publisher, Dream of Ding Village is Chinese novelist Yan Lianke’s most important novel to date. Set in a poor village in Henan province, it is a deeply moving and beautifully written account of a blood-selling ring in contemporary China. Based on a real-life blood-selling scandal in eastern China, Dream of Ding Village is the result of three years of undercover work by Yan Lianke, who worked as an assistant to a well-known Beijing anthropologist in an effort to study a small village decimated by HIV/AIDS as a result of unregulated blood selling. Whole villages were wiped out with no responsibility taken or reparations paid. Dream of Ding Village focuses on one family, destroyed when one son rises to the top of the Party pile as he exploits the situation, while another son is infected and dies. The result is a passionate and steely critique of the rate at which China is developing and what happens to those who get in the way.

Bonus Session: 7:00-8:00pm EST, March 26, 2014

Global Literature: Classroom Connections

Now that we are halfway through the 2013-14 Global Literature Online Book-group for Educators, we want to offer the opportunity pause and think more deeply about connections between this material and your classroom.

This session will include a short presentation by educator and long—time GLOBE participant Jen Dean, as well as time for discussion of classroom connections and applications.

Register now to attend this session and let us know what topics you would like to address in our conversation.

See recordings from some of the past sessions at the program’s archive page.

Session Five: 7:00-8:00pm EST, March 31, 2014

Behind the Beautiful Forevers Katherine Boo (2013), featuring the author herself!

Book description: Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in Mumbai, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter–Annawadi’s “most-everything girl”–will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.” But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.

Register now to attend this session. The first 15 K-12 educators who register will receive a free book — see instructions on registration form.

Session Six: 7:00-8:00pm EST, May 7, 2014

Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese (2010).

Please note this change of book selection. Join the Center for African Studies for a discussion about this novel which moves from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in New York through generations. This session will feature a presentation by Professor Wendy Laura Belcher, who will be joining us from Princeton University’s Department of Comparative Literature!

Register today! The first 15 K-12 or community college educators who register will receive a free book — see instructions on registration form.

This program is a partnership of 7 global studies centers at Harvard: Asia Center, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Center for African Studies, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, Harvard Global Health Institute.