Location, Location, Location

Michelle Ule

Blogger: Michelle Ule

Location: Home, Santa Rosa, Calif.

Like Etta, I’ve been thinking about international reading recently, mostly because I’ve been in Europe. I’ve just returned from a jaunt to the United Kingdom and Romania (to attend my godson’s wedding), and I also traveled in Italy, Austria and Slovenia.  As is my custom, I visited  bookstores along the way and took  notes.

I’m always intrigued by what appears in translation, to get a gauge for what the world reads about America. Some of our clients here at Books & Such have been translated into other languages, and their subject matters bear some scrutiny. Among them: Linda Shepard’s devotionals are found in the Philippines. Cindy Coloma’s novels have been translated into Dutch. BJ Hoff regularly receives royalties in South African Rand, and you can find Sisterchicks stories in several spots on the globe.

None of those writers’ works, however, appeared at the bookstore I visited in Brasov, Romania, last week. The Transylvanian bookstore featured more “classic” writers along the order of Jane Austen, Anita Shreve and Bernard Cornwell. No surprise Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight sagas and Anne Rice’s vampire stories filled the shelves not far from Dracula’s castle,  but why would anyone want to read something by Henry Miller? Or Sigmund Freud in English?

I was touched, however, to see one of my favorites in Romanian: Captivi in Tadah. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time sounds just as interesting no matter the language! 90 Minutes in Heaven also sat on the shelf, along with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

It’s an interesting mix and made me wonder, what could you conclude about the United States–and portions of Great Britain–if these books were the only ones you read?

Our family’s Brazilian foreign exchange student came to the US last fall with excellent English skills, mostly picked up from deciphering Harry Potter novels. She also adored the Twilight series. While watching the movie one night, I asked her if her concept of American high schools was formed by that first movie. (I also asked if she saw any vampires at Montgomery High School. She sighed and rolled her eyes at this American “mother.”)

What novels would you recommend for someone to get a feel for current American life? Why? And how does our concept of a location depend on how and what writers say about it?

2 Responses

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  1. Jean Hall says:

    Is there such a thing as “typical” American life? Such a huge variety of cultures exist in America that any one novel can represent only one aspect, or one locale, or one sub-culture, don’t you think?

  2. Lynn Dean says:

    Such interesting questions today!

    To get a feel for current American life, I’d recommend reading historicals. That sounds opposite, maybe, but an old Western by L’Amour, for example, gives a feel for the adventurous spirit, rugged independence, and basic goodness of the people who founded our nation. With an understanding of the foundations, you gain perspective on what has been built upon them–what is solid, what doesn’t fit, and how we feel about what we’ve become.

    I find myself wondering if “life in Christ” is a location of sorts, and what my writing might convey about that spiritual “location.”