Wide range of cultural perspectives in Summer Reading List

06/07/2020
Academic & Curriculum, Alumni, Bedales Prep, Dunhurst, Bedales Senior

The death of George Floyd, the man suffocated to death by the police in the US, and the publicity surrounding the recent deaths of a number of other African-American men and women has promoted an outpouring of sadness, solidarity and anger. Among the many horrific aspects of the event, one of the most striking is that it was filmed. That footage, and the consequences that flowed from it, have made aspects of the daily lived experience of particularly many African-Americans manifest and has made certain truths undeniable and certain stances untenable. 

Many educational institutions have been realising that their frames of reference need some adjustment to take in truths about culture and cultures not universally acknowledged. They have been looking more intently at what has been overlooked. Bedales is no exception.  

Having been locked in, this summer is a good moment to look out. That is where this reading list comes in. It is not comprehensive but it has a number of different, largely historical, windows into some areas of lives less often explored. They provide ways of understanding some background, since aspects of this history are often neither dead nor even past. Understanding them is no less important than having a grip on the core canon of (say) French or Russian literature.

The list starts with Derek Walcott’s poems. Then Orientalism, by Edward Said, has at its heart an analysis of how the exotic in “foreign” cultures are represented and perceived in arts and humanities. Things Fall Apart is one of the classics of the colonial novel written in the 1950s by one of the masters of Nigerian literature Chinua Achebe. The Battle for Algiers and Xala in some ways go together – since they are both about elements of Francophone colonial experience - but they could not be more different. More recently, women’s voices have reflected both a changed perception and subject matter. There has also been an increasing focus on the British Caribbean, African and South Asian diaspora. Two very different works, Andrea Levy’s Small Island and Monica Ali’s Brick Lane combine the two perspectives and are great places to start. Finally, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah is about a Nigerian student in the United States and Lagos and the difficulties of the coming to terms with what has become an alien and imagined “home”. 

Here's a link to the full Summer Reading List (in PDF format).

Bedales' initial response to Black Lives Matter | Summer Reading List | Bedales Global Awareness