Today I’m chatting with education navigator Hanan Al-Zubaidy about literacy in the justice system, and how her work with incarcerated students has been affected by this time of social distancing.

Hanan came to me looking for an escapist reading experience, but I was surprised to find she didn’t mean happy endings and rainbows. She escapes her day to day life by submerging herself in someone else’s complex, difficult world (fiction or non!) and learning and growing from that experience. So if you read lists of ‘escapist fiction’ that’s full of peppy romance and thrilling action thinking “ehhh that won’t do it for me,” maybe you’ll find what you’ve been looking for in my picks for Hanan today.

Let’s get to it! 

You can follow Hanan’s reading life on Instagram.

‘Unbox’ the Summer Reading Guide with us

Readers, the ninth annual Modern Mrs Darcy Summer Reading Guide comes out next week!

Before the guide is officially released Brenna and I are doing a live video event with members of our Patreon community. I’ll give you a preview of all of the books and what excites me about them.

This is one of the events our community looks forward to the most. The bookish enthusiasm is off the charts.

If you’ve ever wondered about joining our readerly community over on Patreon this is the time. Go to Patreon to learn more about the unboxing event and even watch the video replay of last year’s unboxing. Then sign up and join us on May 12th. 


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Books mentioned in this episode:

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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
You Are A Badass At Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell
This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi
A Room With A View by E. M. Forster
Howards End by E. M. Forster
A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

Thanks to this week’s sponsors:

If you need something engaging to fill your days, now is the perfect time to sign up for The Great Courses Plus! With The Great Courses Plus App you can watch or listen at any time, from your phone, tablet, or internet connected TV. WSIRN listeners have access to a great offer: a FREE MONTH of unlimited access to the entire library!

What do YOU think Hanan should read next?

6 Comments
  1. Jill 11 months ago

    Hanan might be interested in nonfiction (reads like a novel) Running the Books, The Accidental Adventures of a Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg
    Young man’s story of being the prison librarian – his coming of age alongside inside view of prison personalities. Somewhat sad but thoughtful, funny, insightful.

  2. Lauren Deel 11 months ago

    Oh this was SUCH a wonderful episode! Hanan, I am so sorry for the injustices and trauma that your family has endured. Also, thank you for your service to the incarcerated. Your description of your work was compelling.

    I checked out your IG page, and I see that I’ve enjoyed many of the same books as you. I wonder if you might like “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese. Anne has recommended it (numerous times) on the podcast so I finally picked it up last year. It’s hands down a heart-wrenching five star read. Also, you might enjoy “Stay with Me” by Ayobami Adebayo (audiobook for this is phenomenal!) as well as “A Place for Us” by Fatima Mirza. Lastly, something you said in this episode (can’t quite recall now…) made me think that you might like “Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery” by Henry Marsh. Oh! Last one (I promise this time): “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo. All the themes of unjust incarceration, mercy, reform, justice, grace, and a redeemed life are there. All the best to you and yours (from Tacoma, WA).

    • Lauren Deel 11 months ago

      Ack! One more… I forgot Jhumpa Lahiri. As you said regarding Hosseini, I recommend starting with her earliest work, Pulitzer Prize winner “Interpreter of Maladies,” and moving chronologically from there. “The Lowland” is her most recent novel and the best (in my opinion), though all her work is wonderful.

  3. Jessica 11 months ago

    So excited for Hamnet! Maggie O’Farrell is one of my favorites.

  4. Lisa 11 months ago

    She would probably enjoy Wild Swans:Three Chinese Dsughters, great book

  5. Karis Madison 10 months ago

    I think she would like American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. It is a story that helps you learn about the plight of refugees trying to cross the border into the United States through an intimate look at one family’s struggle. It’s hard to bear witness to their struggle, but I appreciated having my eye opened to it . Also, I agree that A Thousand Splendid Suns is Hosseini’s best! 😉

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