Read a book revealing economic struggles or characters in poverty.
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourtA beautifully written memoir full of Irish wit and pathos, making it stand out among the garden variety of youthful reminisces. Let's face it, a bad childhood is more interesting and McCourt had it in spades. He was born in Brooklyn, but his family went back to Ireland where he grew up on the dole exacerbated by alcoholism (his father's), near starvation, beatings by the schoolmasters, and a brief respite in clinic where he discovered Shakespeare. All of this would be merely stereotype in less capable hands, but McCourt's mastery of language manages to make us understand the gentleness, forgiveness, and humor that accompanies misery and enables its protagonists to survive with dignity.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine BooIn this brilliant, breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees "a fortune beyond counting" in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Meanwhile Asha, a woman of formidable ambition, has identified a shadier route to the middle class. With a little luck, her beautiful daughter, Annawadi's "most-everything girl," might become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest children, like the young thief Kalu, feel themselves inching closer to their dreams. But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting, carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century's hidden worlds--and into the hearts of families impossible to forget.
Factory Girls by Leslie T. ChangChina has more than 114 million migrant workers, which represents the largest migration in human history. But while these workers, who leave their rural towns to find jobs in China's cities, are the driving force behind China's growing economy, little is known about their day-to-day lives or the sociological significance of this massive movement. In Factory Girls, Leslie T. Chang tells the story of these workers primarily through the lives of two young women whom she follows over the course of three years. Chang vividly portrays a world where you can lose your boyfriend and your friends with the loss of a cell phone; where lying about your age, your education, and your work experience is often a requisite for getting ahead; where a few computer or English lessons can catapult you into a completely different social class. Throughout this affecting portrait of migrant life, Chang also interweaves the story of her own family's migrations, within China and to the West, providing a historical frame of reference for her investigation. At a time when the Olympics will have shifted the world's focus to China, Factory Girls offers a previously untold story about the immense population of unknown women who work countless hours, often in hazardous conditions, to provide us with the material goods we take for granted. A book of global significance, it demonstrates how the movement from rural villages to cities is remaking individual lives and the fates of families, transforming our world much as immigration to America's shores remade our own society a century ago.
The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline NovogratzThe Blue Sweater is the inspiring story of a woman who left a career in international banking to spend her life on a quest to understand global poverty and find powerful new ways of tackling it. It all started back home in Virginia, with the blue sweater, a gift that quickly became her prized possession—until the day she outgrew it and gave it away to Goodwill. Eleven years later in Africa, she spotted a young boy wearing that very sweater, with her name still on the tag inside. That the sweater had madeits trek all the way to Rwanda was ample evidence, she thought, of how we are all connected, how our actions—and inaction—touch people every day across the globe, people we may never know or meet. From her first stumbling efforts as a young idealist venturing forth in Africa to the creation of the trailblazing organization she runs today, Novogratz tells gripping stories with unforgettable characters—women dancing in a Nairobi slum, unwed mothers starting a bakery, courageous survivors of the Rwandan genocide, entrepreneurs building services for the poor against impossible odds. She shows, in ways both hilarious and heartbreaking, how traditional charity often fails, but how a new form of philanthropic investing called "patient capital" can help make people self-sufficient and can change millions of lives. More than just an autobiography or a how-to guide to addressing poverty,The Blue Sweater is a call to action that challenges us to grant dignity to the poor and to rethink our engagement with the world.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette WallsThe Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette's brilliant and charismatic father captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn't want the responsibility of raising a family. The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered. The Glass Castle is truly astonishing: a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family.