One of my colleagues teaches the novel The Namesake, and many of the students give it rave reviews. One of my students read it over the summer, and she stated that it is the best book that she has ever read.
Now, this definitely is not my type of book. There really is not a climax or any real drama; it’s a straight forward story about a guy named Nikolai Gogol who is dealing with the conflicts that are involved with assimilation. His parents are also dealing with assimilation and are trying to cling to their traditional Indian culture. Nikolai pulls away from his family, but we see him make a full circle when he returns to his family. This is a true coming of age story.
There was not much that I could relate to in this story, yet I was able to empathize with the characters. It was great to be able to get a glimpse into what could happen when a person tries to assimilate. After talking to many of my students whose parents have immigrated to the United States, they could definitely identify with Nikolai. However, I saw Nikolai as a very weak character who never followed his own heart.
My experience with this book and the experiences of many of my students with this book are quite different, and I really believe that it is about relate-ability. I had in-depth conversations with a few of my students who loved this book, and they both had immigrations experiences in their backgrounds and totally got this book; they could relate to it.
With this in mind, I am offering my students the opportunity to read books that they can relate to. I want them to fall madly in love with reading by first reading books that they love and can relate too, and eventually, I am hoping that they will evolve into readers who read all types of book, about all types of people and cultures, in order to be well-rounded people who have a whole lot of empathy for all types of people and experiences that make up this vast world in which we live.
A student asked me why did I finish a book that I did not particular like, and I told him that I read it in order to be included in conversations about this book. But, after much thought, I realize that I also finished this book, because I value other people’s stories and experiences.
If you value the experiences of others, read this book!