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Fiction meets non-fiction: A mash-up

Which is better — fiction or non-fiction? We’ve paired some favorite fiction reads with some non-fiction suggestions that explore similar themes in our monthly fiction meets non-fiction mash-up!

In the Shadow of the Banyan cover

When Broken Glass Floats cover

In the Shadow of the Banyan – Vaddey Ratner
When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge – Chanrithy Him

Critics and readers alike have been raving about Vaddey Ratner’s debut novel. Told through the eyes of a young girl, it tells the story of the Khmer Rouge’s takeover of Cambodia, and the devastation and horror that followed. Ratner’s book is semi-autobiographical; after all, she was a child under the Khmer Rouge. If you’re looking for a more personal story, perhaps with more information about the conflict, Chanrithy Him’s memoir has many common themes with Ratner’s novel. It tells of the Killing Fields, of an age when progress was shunned and people killed on a whim. But through it all, Him’s family stayed true to one another, and it was their love that sustained them through the horror of it all.

The Maid cover

The Maid and the Queen cover

The Maid – Kimberly Cutter
The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc – Nancy Goldstone

The story of Joan of Arc is one that fascinates us, even centuries later. Kimberly Cutter tells the story of the peasant woman with no education who rose to power to lead France’s armies against the English. She held the fate of a nation in her hands, as Kimberly Cutter describes in her historical novel. But how did Joan come to power? What were the historical circumstances like, such that they allowed a woman of her station so much influence? That’s what Nancy Goldstone tackles in her part-history, part-biography, covering Joan of Arc, but also Yolande of Aragon, Queen of Sicily, who was the foremost supporter of the Dauphin in France.

Sandcastle Girls cover

Knock at the Door cover

The Sandcastle Girls – Chris Bohjalian
The Knock at the Door: A Mother’s Story of Surviving the Armenian Genocide – Margaret Ahnert

1915. It’s a year that lives in infamy for all Armenians, for that is the year that the Turks targeted the Armenian Christian minority, forcing them to convert to Islam, creating a terror campaign persecuting them, and murdering them at will. Most Americans are unaware of this horrific set of acts, but Chris Bohjalian brings this time period to life in his latest novel through an American nurse, arriving in Aleppo to assist victims of the Armenian genocide. If you’d like to learn more about the subject, Margaret Ahnert tells her mother’s story about the Armenian genocide in The Knock at the Door.

Admission cover

Runaway Girl cover

Admission – Jean Hanff Korelitz
Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time – Carissa Phelps & Larkin Warren

College admissions, and the world of academia in general, intrigue many people. Jean Hanff Korelitz’ novel Admission follows Portia, an admissions officer at Princeton University. Korelitz’ novel gives the reader an inside look at how this process works, how all the admissions officers run after the shining stars that they’d love to brag about in their pamphlets, especially the homeless-to-Harvard stories. Carissa Phelps is just one of these students. At the age of just twelve years old, she had run away from home and was captured by a pimp who made her work the streets. But Carissa somehow found helping hands along the way, and by the age of thirty, she’d graduated from UCLA with a business and law degree.

Silver Girl cover

The End of Normal cover

Silver Girl – Elin Hilderbrand
The End of Normal: A Wife’s Anguish, A Widow’s New Life – Stephanie Madoff Mack

Elin Hilderbrand’s novel Silver Girl followed the story of Meredith Delinn, the innocent wife of a Ponzi schemer as she tries to rebuild her life. Most readers recognize the story of Freddy Delinn, how he duped numerous people and ran off with their money, as that of Bernie Madoff. Stephanie Madoff Mack was Bernie Madoff’s daughter-in-law. When the allegations about Madoff surfaced, Stephanie and Madoff’s son, Mark, were shocked. Though they were completely separated from the Madoff family financially, Mark felt lost and betrayed. He hanged himself two years after his father was arrested. Left alone, Stephanie had to cope with being alone, being branded with the Madoff name, and raising her children on her own.

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