Every Parent Needs To Read These Books

by Charlotte Ahlin

Maybe it's because I was forcibly placed in a mother-daughter book club in sixth grade, but I feel strongly that everything I read (barring x-rated materials) must also be forced on my parents. I'm happy to say that this is a fairly reciprocal relationship, as my mother has also tricked me into reading A Game of Thrones and its four lengthy sequels so that she could have someone to complain about the TV show with. So, if you are not already in the habit of haranguing your family members to read what you read, I formally encourage you to start. Here are a few modern books you should convince your parents to read.

And let's face it, while many of us find our parents to be wonderful and/or adequate human beings, sometimes parents can fall a bit behind the times. The required high school reading for our parents' generation was, after all, almost exclusively books by dead white men. So if you find yourself frustrated by parents who aren't quite up to date on the world and the people who live in it, I suggested bugging them until they read more. A well-written book will always go a lot farther than a tense conversation about politics over dinner (which then dissolves into an argument about appropriate haircuts).

So check out some of these books, and then hide them strategically around your parents' home to convince them that were already intending to read them:


'Americanah' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I have forced Americanah on my mother, my temporary roommate, and my temporary roommate's friend, and the results have been pretty solid across the board. Americanah is one of those beautiful, sprawling books that is simultaneously a heart-wrenching love story, a classic coming of age novel, and an insightful stew of observations about race and identity in modern America. It's the perfect blend of real, funny, and thought-provoking, and my mom really liked it.

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'Bad Feminist' by Roxane Gay

You might need to lure your parents in first with a couple of Roxane Gay's New York Times op-eds, but once you've accomplished that, you can hand them Bad Feminist. A lot of parents seem to get overwhelmed when they hear all the exciting new requirements to be a "good" feminist in this day and age. Gay's Bad Feminist draws on pop culture and her own experiences in a series of funny, perceptive essays that go a long way to de-mystify modern feminism.

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'The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' by Junot Díaz

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is another beautiful, funny, brutally real coming-of-age story. It's chock full of dorky references, intense pathos, and unflinching portrayals of sexism. Any parent who was ever a teenager (especially a nerdy, hopelessly lovelorn teenager) will probably be blown away by Díaz's ability to turn one ordinary life into a grand tale of humanity.

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'Cloud Atlas' by David Mitchell

I honestly can't remember if I pushed this book on my mother or if she pushed it on me, but I do know that we saw and complained about the movie together. Cloud Atlas blends the past, present (kind of), and future in a melding of genre and tone. For the parent who's not that interested in realistic novels about modern day young people, this book manages to address modern issues of identity and justice while spanning centuries through six very different, very intertwined stories.

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'Citizen' by Claudia Rankine

Do you know of a parent who prefers poetry to prose? Or perhaps a staunch prose parent who you'd like to introduce to justice-oriented poetry without scaring them off? Try Citizen. Rankine's language is both beautifully lyrical and crystalline clear as she explores the violence of racism and systemic injustice in America.

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'The Book of Unknown Americans' by Cristina Henriquez

You might not want to think about it, but it's highly likely that your parents experienced some form of young (or youngish) love at some point in their lives. The Book of Unknown Americans is a powerful, page-turner of a love story. The Rivera family moves from Mexico to America to seek services for their seriously injured daughter, Maribel, but the transition draws them into a complicated, interconnected web of love and violence.

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'Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More' by Janet Mock

Are your parents all about biographies? How about memoirs? Introduce them to Janet Mock. Redefining Realness is her story: how she went from precocious child to determined teenager struggling to survive, how she managed to transition during the turbulent years of high school, and how she earned a master's degree and launched a successful career, despite a rocky start. She's basically the embodiment of all those speeches that your parents gave you about working hard and being true to yourself.

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'Hyperbole and a Half' by Allie Brosh

Yes, I think you should convince your parents to read this very goofy book illustrated in MS Paint. This is because Hyperbole and a Half is very funny, no matter what your age, and because a lot of the stories will remind your parents of what a terror you were as a child, and because this book contains a perfect description of living with depression. For parents who struggle to understand how depression is different than sometimes being bummed out... maybe the drawings will help?

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'The Lowland' by Jhumpa Lahiri

Look. I know all dads are different. But I just feel deeply that every dad, everywhere, secretly wants to be sitting in a comfortable chair, reading a book about "two brothers bound by tragedy." For parents who will only deign to read intense, sweeping novels about family and revolution, weaving historical and personal narratives throughout history, give them The Lowland. And don't stop pestering them until they, too, fall in love with Lahiri's powerhouse writing.

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'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' by J.K. Rowling

OK, this might just be because I finally convinced my dad to read Harry Potter, but I think it is the solemn duty of our generation to bother all other generations until they read this entire series (for years, my dad claimed that he was "at the part where they go to the zoo"). If our parents are going to understand us, after all, they must understand the literary mythology that we grew up with. So do the right thing, and convince a parent near you to read a book about wizards today.

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