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Muskiiki: The Four Sacred Ojibwe Medicines (12/21)
In Firekeeper's Daughter, Daunis is interested in how her fellow Ojibwe tribe members use medicinal herbs. She chooses to study pre-med courses and plant biology at college so that she may go on to study ethnobotany through an indigenous lens, and also learns directly from her tribe's Elders.

Traditional medicine is an important part ...
Jaipur, Rajasthan (India's "Pink City") (12/21)
Alka Joshi's novel The Secret Keeper of Jaipur takes place in the city of Jaipur, the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan and home to over three million people.

Founded in 1727 by Maharaja Jai Singh II, Jaipur is said to be the first completely planned city in India. The Maharaja became aware that his current capital, Amber (now ...
Megiddo (11/21)
In To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss, a character in the story 'End Days' is an archaeologist working at Tel Megiddo, the site of the ancient Palestinian city of Megiddo, which is situated near present-day Haifa, Israel. 'Tel' refers to the 'mound' on the site in which excavations have uncovered 26 layers of remains of ancient ...
Mount Osorezan (11/21)
Mount Osorezan, or Mount Osore, is located on the northern end of Honshu, the largest of the four main islands of Japan. An active volcano, its name translates to 'Fear Mountain.' It's a popular pilgrimage site because of its Buddhist temple and because of the occasional presence of the itako — female mediums believed to be able...
Who Are the Cossacks? (11/21)
In The Amur River: Between Russia and China, Colin Thubron engages with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds. One of these individuals is Alexei, an Amur Cossack who proudly meets the author decked out in his ceremonial uniform, yelling exuberantly 'the Cossacks are coming back!' But who are the Cossacks?

First, the term '...
Svalbard, Norway (11/21)
Svalbard, formerly known as Spitsbergen, is a mountainous, snowfield-covered Norwegian archipelago located above the Arctic Circle that provides the primary setting for Sven's adventures in The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven by Nathaniel Ian Miller. As described in the novel, there are three primary seasons in Svalbard: sunny winter, a period ...
The Legacy of Slavery at Monticello (10/21)
In the novella that makes up the second half of My Monticello, survivors of a white nationalist uprising seek shelter at Thomas Jefferson's estate. Jefferson's former residence and plantation located just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and currently operates as a museum dedicated to the third U.S. ...
The Muisca (10/21)
In Patricia Engel's novel Infinite Country, several of the main characters draw inspiration from their Muisca ancestors and legends. The Muisca, also known as the Chibcha, are an indigenous civilization that thrived in present-day Colombia before Europeans colonized the area. Bogotá, Colombia's capital city, is situated on an ancient...
Eshu: The Yoruba God of Mischief (10/21)
Eshu (also spelled Esu, and also known as Elegba) is a powerful deity in the Ifa religion of the Yoruba people of Western Africa. He is an orisha, a figure that can be a representation of human or divine characteristics or concepts, as well as aspects of nature, such as rivers. A primordial orisha, Eshu represents mischief. However, he is...
Skinship in Korean Culture (10/21)
'Skinship' is a term commonly used to describe physical affection in Korean culture. It can be read as a portmanteau of the words 'skin' and 'kinship.' In the eponymous story from her book Skinship, Yoon Choi puts a different spin on the word's agreed meaning and uses it in an unexpected way. In the last scenes, instead of any kind of ...
Harlem and the End of the Civil Rights Era (09/21)
Harlem, a neighborhood in Upper Manhattan, was a crucial setting during the Civil Rights Era, which spanned approximately 1950 to 1964, arguably culminating with the passage of the controversial Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Great Migration in the early 20th century brought a considerable number of Black residents to the neighborhood, ...
Nomadic Housing: Somalia and Beyond (09/21)
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that in 2020 there were more than 82 million people displaced from their homes due to human rights issues such as violence and persecution worldwide. And, for as long as humans have existed, people have lived as nomads in various parts of the world, including Somalia, as detailed in Shugri Said ...
LGBTQ+ History and Community in Richmond, Virginia (09/21)
In S.A. Cosby's Razorblade Tears, Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins attempt to solve the murder of their sons, Isiah and Derek, by sorting through the married couple's former lives in Richmond, Virginia. As they speak to Isiah and Derek's friends and acquaintances, they put together a better picture of who their sons were, and of the ...
The Seven Sisters: How to Build an Old Girls' Network (08/21)
In Karin Tanabe's novel A Woman of Intelligence, some characters attend all-women's colleges. The narrator Katharina graduated from Vassar and another lead, Ava, graduated from Mount Holyoke. Katharina's occasional babysitter, Sarah Beach, studies at Barnard. These colleges and four other historically women's colleges — Bryn Mawr, ...
Subterranean London (08/21)
Louise Candlish's narrator in The Other Passenger, Jamie Buckby, suffers from tunnel phobia. It is this affliction that causes him to quit his professional occupation and work at a coffee shop. Jamie experiences London's subway system, known as the Tube, as a 'place with no escape routes' where 'bodies were crammed into every last column ...
Hakka Cuisine (08/21)
The Hakka are an ethnic minority of Han Chinese people who migrated out of the northern regions of China in waves taking place in the fourth and ninth centuries. Today, the largest populations of Hakka live in China's Guangdong Province (located in the southeast of China, near Hong Kong), and they have their own distinct language and ...
Cambodians in Stockton, California (08/21)
Several stories in Anthony Veasna So's short story collection Afterparties take place in Stockton, California, the author's hometown. Stockton is home to the fifth largest population of ethnically Cambodian people in the United States as of 2019, according to the Pew Research Center. A 2018 study by U.S. News and World Report found ...
Ting Hua: Obedience and Filial Piety in Chinese American Parental Relationships (08/21)
Of all the demands made of Susie Yang's character Ivy in her debut novel White Ivy, few are more pernicious than the constant demand that she be ting hua, or a 'good' girl. For Ivy, to be ting hua means, more than anything else, obscuring her individuality and right to self-determination so that her family can see the version of her they ...
The Bolla in Albanian Folklore (08/21)
Pajtim Statovci's novel Bolla takes its name from a creature in Albanian folklore. The narrative is interspersed with a reimagined version of this feared monster's origins, with thematic parallels to his characters' lives that enhance the emotional impact of their story while commenting on the importance of storytelling as a means of ...
Artifacts at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (08/21)
The three-tiered National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. embraces the rich history of slaves and their descendants. The museum opened in 2016, displaying thousands of artifacts illustrating the experience of the unfree, and the emancipated, including Ashley's Sack (which will be on display ...
A History of the Appalachian Region (08/21)
The Appalachian region of the United States (not to be confused with the entirety of the Appalachian Mountains, which extend into Canada) stretches over 1,000 miles from southern New York to northeastern Mississippi. A mountainous crossroads, the area is defined by disparities and variety in its history, economics and culture. Today, ...
West Windsor and Plainsboro, New Jersey (08/21)
As Fabian Nicieza comments in an author's note for Suburban Dicks, 'fiction means it is not real.' But that said, the two towns he uses as the setting for the novel—West Windsor and Plainsboro—are definitely real places. Let's take a trip to explore these suburban paradises, shall we?

The area where West Windsor and ...
The Musée Rodin (07/21)
Several important scenes in Louise Penny's mystery, All the Devils Are Here, take place in the gardens of the Musée Rodin. Located in Paris, just south of the River Seine and about a mile east of the Eiffel Tower, the museum and its grounds boast thousands of Auguste Rodin's sculptures, casts and drawings, as well as thousands of...
Purim (06/21)
In The Book of V., Lily is a wife and mother living in modern-day Brooklyn and struggling to find her purpose in life. As she works to manage her relational roles, she is also working to understand her Jewish heritage and particularly the story of Esther, a young Jewish woman in ancient Persia who became queen and used her influence ...
The Significance of Black Hair in the United States (06/21)
In her debut thriller, The Other Black Girl, Zakiya Dalila Harris includes but does not explain certain concepts linked to Black life. This may be an intentional choice to move past the expectation that racialized and other marginalized authors should clarify concepts and issues that aren't commonplace in mainstream white society for ...
Vietnamese Amerasians (06/21)
When U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam in 1975, the 1.3 million lives lost would prove to be only the beginning of the war's lasting impact on both countries, especially for many of the children born in Vietnam amid the bloodshed.

Initially coined by Pearl S. Buck and later legitimized by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service...
The Origins of Islam in Pakistan (06/21)
In Homeland Elegies, author Ayad Akhtar explores Pakistani characters' relationships to Islam. The roots of Islam in the area now known as Pakistan can be traced back almost as far as the birth of the religion itself. As early as the 7th century, Arab armies attempted to spread Islam to the Indian subcontinent, but it took centuries ...
Why Hindu Gods Have Multiple Arms (06/21)
While investigating a series of missing children taken from an unnamed Indian slum, Jai and his friends Pari and Faiz, the central protagonists in Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, come across many pictures and iconography depicting Hindu gods. Here are some brief insights into the mythology surrounding a handful of these deities.

...
Black Americans in Paris (06/21)
In The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, Opal Jewel finds solace in Paris when her music partner, Nev Charles, has become increasingly unreliable due to an opioid addiction.

It begins at Versailles with a charity fashion show designed to raise money for the palace's restoration, where celebrity attendees include Stephen Burrows, one of the ...
Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon (05/21)
Located on the Mediterranean Sea, tiny Lebanon has the highest per capita population of Syrian refugees in the world, hosting an estimated 1.5 million who have fled from its war-torn neighbor. To put this in perspective, Lebanon is about half the size of Massachusetts with a population of just under eight million as of 2019. It has long ...
The Quaker Clearness Committee (05/21)
Throughout What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins, Isaac Balch meditates on how his Quaker religion might help him come to terms with the murder of his son, Daniel. Paramount in Quakerism is the belief that a person's relationship with God is an independent matter. In keeping with this, much of the community's spiritual work is carried out ...
Ariadne in Greek Mythology (05/21)
In her novel Ariadne, Jennifer Saint retells events from the life of the mythological title figure. In Greek mythology, Ariadne is known for helping the hero Theseus slay the Minotaur — a beast who was the offspring of Ariadne's mother and a bull — and find his way out of the Labyrinth, the maze beneath her father's palace. In...
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) (05/21)
In his memoir Buses Are a Comin', Charles Person explains that he got involved with the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-1960s through fellow students at his school, Morehouse College, which is one of the country's oldest Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The HBCU designation was created by the ...
Tigers in Chinese History and Culture (05/21)
In C Pam Zhang's How Much of These Hills Is Gold, signs of and references to tigers consistently appear around its characters, although they are presumed to be in the American West where (at least in the real world) native tigers don't exist. For example, Lucy, the main character, mentions that her mother draws a tiger in the doorway of ...
"Women Who Survived" from Classical Mythology (05/21)
In Starling Days, Mina mulls over an idea for an academic work that she dubs 'The Women Who Survived.' Her starting point is a list of female characters in classical mythology who survive the stories in which they appear. She observes that most women in Greek and Roman myths are ultimately killed or transformed in some way, and that few ...
Rhinebeck, New York (05/21)
Clapham, the idyllic Hudson Valley town in which Emma Straub sets All Adults Here, is fictional, but the author places it in a very real geographical setting. Her characters mention real places, including Rhinebeck, 'one town north' along the Hudson River, which bears some resemblance to Straub's description of Clapham.

Rhinebeck is a ...
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran (05/21)
Dalia Sofer's novel Man of My Time spans from the mid-20th century to the present day. Set in both Tehran and New York City, it encompasses the decades leading up to the 1979 Iranian Revolution—when Iranians from both Islamist and leftist organizations overthrew the Western-backed Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi—as well as the...
Challah (04/21)
In "Birdsong from the Radio," a story in Elizabeth McCracken's collection The Souvenir Museum, the main character fills the void of her missing children by consuming a loaf of challah daily. Challah is a traditional Jewish bread that is usually braided. It can come in many different forms, but it is often made as a soft...
Gentrification and Historic Racism in Portland (04/21)
In Willy Vlautin's novel, The Night Always Comes, a family in Portland, Oregan find themselves struggling to afford the cost of living in their neighborhood because of gentrification.

Gentrification is the process in which wealthy individuals and businesses converge on a previously working-class or low-income neighborhood. (The word ...
Perth (04/21)
Perth features as the primary location in Rebecca Handler's debut novel Edie Richter Is Not Alone, about an American expatriate who relocates to Perth following the death of her father.

Located on the southwest coast, Perth is Australia's fourth-most populous city, with a population of around two million in the greater metropolitan ...
Mosul Before, During and After ISIS Occupation (04/21)
Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city after Baghdad, lies on the banks of the Tigris River. Mosul's current boundaries encompass the remains of the old Assyrian city of Nineveh, and signs of civilization in the area date back as far as 8,000 years ago. From the 8th century onward, Mosul was considered a key cultural and economic hub, and it ...
The Segregation of St. Louis (04/21)
In Marilynne Robinson's novel Jack, the title character, a white man, meets and falls in love with a Black woman named Della. However, America's racism, segregation and anti-miscegenation laws in the 1950s present a nearly insurmountable obstacle for the couple. One of their specific concerns is how and where they will live together as ...
The Flying African in the Americas (04/21)
The story of the flying African is as old as the history of Africans in the Americas. Thus, it is no surprise that this trope finds its way into Afia Atakora's debut novel, Conjure Women.

The basic notion behind the folktale lies in a secret power, a secret magic known to a select few. This power allows a person to grow wings, or in ...
The Lost (and Found) Community of Weeksville (04/21)
Greenidge's character Dr. Cathy Sampson in Libertie is based on the real-life story of Dr. Susan McKinney Steward, the first Black woman to become a medical doctor in New York State. The novel's setting, meanwhile, is based on the historical settlement of Weeksville, which was located in what is now the Crown Heights neighborhood in the ...
Feminist Movements in South Korea (03/21)
South Korean society has long been profoundly patriarchal, with traditional expectations that designate men as breadwinners and women as homemakers remaining intact even as more women have entered the workforce. According to a 2017 report, Korea has the highest gender pay gap among all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and ...
How Drug Cartels Became a Potent Force in Mexico (03/21)
One of the main areas of focus in Blood Gun Money is the role of drug cartels in criminal activity in Mexico. In particular, two organizations are cited multiple times: Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel. Both are known for the number of enemies they've dispatched and their brutal methods of doing so. As stated in the book, guns, many of ...
The Women of ISIS (03/21)
Known for its brutal track record of executions and torture of hostages and civilians (including women and children), some may find it surprising that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist group attracts a fair number of female recruits. While there are mitigating factors that vary for each woman, for many the appeal seems ...
Circassian Ethnic Identity and History (02/21)
In All-American Muslim Girl, Allie Abraham's family is ethnically Circassian, which accounts in part for her fair, reddish blonde hair. As Allie observes, few Americans have ever heard of Circassians, so in the novel she gives a very cursory background that only begins to describe the history and struggles of this group of people. Author ...
Indian Casinos: Who Profits? (02/21)
When most people hear the word 'casino,' they think of slot machines trilling and the tinny crashing of coins. But there is a deeper significance to gambling, especially as it pertains to casinos located on federal Indian reservations. While a fun pastime for many, casinos are the lifeblood for the Native American tribes across the ...
The Canadian Shield (02/21)
In the acknowledgments at the end of her book, A Town Called Solace, author Mary Lawson writes, 'The town of Solace exists only in my imagination, but the setting is very real: the vast and beautiful area of lakes and rocks and forests known as the Canadian Shield, in Northern Ontario.'

A continental shield is a large expanse of land ...
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