A member of a book club that attracted moms who adopted children from Asian countries discusses how she and the rest of her family have benefited from the group and shares some of their favorite reads.
by Barbara T. Dreyfuss
Eight of us sat around a table at a Thai restaurant, enjoying delicious curries, as Bob Bergin regaled us with thrilling stories about antique hunting all across Asia. But this wasn’t just a social event—it was the monthly gathering of our Asian book club, and we were meeting with the author of our latest book, Stone Gods, Wooden Elephants. It was a particularly memorable meeting of a group that has come to have a multi-faceted impact on all of our lives.
Originally formed to bring together a group of people interested in reading about culture, history, and daily life in Asian countries, as friend invited friend, the membership began to skew toward moms who had adopted children from Asian countries.
We all have a better understanding of our children’s heritages and homelands after making our way through a variety of books about India, Thailand, Japan, China, Bhutan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, and the Philippines. And the book club has also become a valuable source of information and friendship. It has, in fact, become a support group.
Week after week, discussions about the featured book have led to talk about the concerns that we face raising our Asian-American children. It’s been wonderful to get feedback from other parents, in addition to the insights we gain from the authors. We’ve veered off into how we handled the family tree assignment or how we replied to a racist remark. And we often end meetings by passing along information about Asian films or cultural events in the area.
After a few attempts at cooking potluck Asian dinners amidst our busy work and family schedules, we now happily meet at a restaurant featuring the cuisine of the country we just finished reading about. Our book club meetings are truly mothers’ nights out, evenings of good food and intellectual stimulation.
This past year, our entire families have begun to socialize with each other. Many of our children are close in age and have discovered that they enjoy playing together. And we like giving them the chance to be with families that look like their own.
Although we choose the books we read a bit haphazardly, we have enjoyed them all in different ways. And we like to think that we convey to our children some of what we learn. One member noted recently that her children take pride in the fact alone that she belongs to a club devoted to reading about their homelands.Barbara T. Dreyfuss is a freelance writer who lives with her family near Washington, D.C.
Our Complete Reading List
**indicates one of our favorites
- Brick Lane, by Monica Ali (Scribner)**
- Crescent, by Diana Abu-Jaber (W. W. Norton & Company)
- Stone Gods, Wooden Elephants, by Bob Bergin (Impact)
- Sons of Heaven, by Terrence Cheng (Perennial)
- The Foreign Student, by Susan Choi (Perennial)
- The House of Blue Mangoes, by David Davidar (Perennial)
- In the Walled Gardens, by Anahita Firouz (Back Bay Books)
- When the Elephants Dance, by Tess Uriza Holthe (Penguin Books)**
- The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead Trade)**
- An Artist of the Floating World, by Kazuo Ishiguro (Vintage)
- When We Were Orphans, by Kazuo Ishiguro (Vintage)
- The Bridegroom, by Ha Jin (Vintage)
- Dusk, by F. Sionil Jose (Modern Library)
- The Interpreter, by Suki Kim (Picador)
- The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri (Mariner Books)
- A Gesture Life, by Chang Rae Lee (Riverhead Books)**
- The Rice Mother, by Rani Manicka (Penguin)
- Cloud of Sparrows, by Takashi Matsuoka (Dell)
- The Lucky Gourd Shop, by Joanna Catherine Scott (Washington Square Press) **
- Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, by Dai Sijie (Anchor)
- The Bonesetters Daughter, by Amy Tan (Ballantine Books)
- The Makioka Sisters, by Junichiro Tanizaki (Vintage)
- The Guru of Love, by Samrat Upadhyay (Houghton Mifflin)
- The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)**
- Lost Japan, by Alex Kerr (Lonely Planet Publications)**
- Vietnam, Now, by David Lamb (PublicAffairs)
- In the Absence of the Sun, by Helie Lee (Three Rivers Press)
- Still Life with Rice, by Helie Lee (Scribner)**
- Asian Americans – Oral Histories of First to Fourth Generation Americans from China, The Philippines, Japan, India, the Pacific Islands, Vietnam, by Joann Faung Jean Lee (New Press)
- Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi (Random House)
- Leaving Mother Lake, by Yang Erche Namu & Christine Mathieu (Back Bay Books)**
- A Single Square Picture, by Katy Robinson (Berkley Trade)
- House on Dream Street, by Dana Sachs (Seal Press)
- In the Empire of Genghis Khan, by Stanley Stewart (Lyons Press)
- From the Land of Green Ghosts, by Pascal Khoo Thwe (HarperCollins)
- Yellow: Race in American Beyond Black and White, by Frank Wu (Basic Books)**
- Beyond the Sky and the Earth, by Jamie Zeppa (Riverhead Books)**