The Leavers byLisa Ko read by Emily Woo Zeller
I chose The Leavers because it was a National Book Award finalist this year, and I always try to read at least couple of literary award winners or nominees every year. If you are looking to up your game a little by checking out some new literary authors, try The Leavers. This powerful debut is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice. Lisa Ko said in an interview that she was inspired to write the novel after reading real-life stories of undocumented immigrant women whose U.S.-born children were taken away from them and adopted by white American families, while the women were deported or jailed. Some of the women who were deported wanted to take their children with them back to their countries of origin, but U.S. courts said no, the kids were better off staying in America, in their adoptive families. Ko, the daughter of immigrants herself, was particularly interested in the questions the stories raised about class and cultural assimilation, and about family, identity, and survival. In The Leavers, 11-year-old Deming Guo is abandoned by his immigrant mother, then adopted by a white family, and given a new name. The story is told by both Deming (Daniel) and later by his mother, Polly.