Some of my favorite books are set in fictitious places. I’m not talking about fantasy where the worlds are created by the author. I’m talking about fiction set in our world, but with no major city nearby to identify it—it’s just a small, nameless town that could be anywhere and sounds a lot like where I live. Then, there are books that are set in real, specific places. THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. by Kate Messner and ALL OUR PRETTYSONGS by Sara McCarry both come to mind because they are both set in Seattle and, more specifically, they both mention Pike’s Place Market throughout.
Both types of books have their advantages. On the one hand, I love the ambiguous settings where I can imagine the characters right where I live and perhaps I’ll bump into them at the grocery store. I also love the specific settings, especially when it’s a place I’ve lived or visited. It’s exciting to recognize the places the characters romp through and it’s like having a secret or being privy to information other readers may not have.
Then, there is this issue that at first comes across as disconnected (oh dear, don’t all my thoughts at first appear this way…), but I do hope that I can pull this all together in a coherent way. There are no longer many things that are unique to a place aside from the place itself. To better explain this, let me give this example because it also leads to my overall point.
I live in Singapore and I like to take things back to my family and friends who live in the States. It’s become increasingly more difficult to find things that are unique to Singapore to take home. So, I’ve resorted to taking local food items back to the U.S. as gifts. Then, a couple years ago a series of books written by a local author really took off here in Singapore. I immediately bough a copy for every family member and friend’s children under the age of ten. Since then, other series have developed and I love scouring the shelves at the local bookstore whenever I’m preparing a trip overseas.
My family is planning a U.S. trip soon and I’ve already started to look for some new titles. I was delighted to find a book written by an acquaintance of mine, Sheri Tan. Her book is actually a 3 part series. The first title is: GIRL OVERBOARD! A ROSE AMONG THORNS. I love that the main character is mixed race and has just arrived to Singapore to live even though she’s visited it over the years to visit her family here. I think this is the perfect book to share with friends at home because it gives you a very brief look at the differences between life in the U.S. and life here in Singapore.
In the days of chain stores and mass production items, I’d encourage you to find a local choice to share with your friends locally and beyond.