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Reading Across the Curriculum: Using the Fiction of the Indian Subcontinent in Social Science Classes

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There is a publishing boom in fiction by authors from the Indian subcontinent. Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, and Bangladeshi authors are being discovered almost daily. The literature from India is several thousand years old. However, following the notoriety of Salman Rushdie, the meteoric success of Arundhati Roy’s novel The God of Small Things, and the Oscar-winning screen adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, it is almost impossible to open the New York Times Book Review without reading of another new highly-praised novelist from the region. Most of these authors write in English. Many are expatriates, living in Canada, England or the United States. These novels, with the variety of experiences described, in settings that are exotic and often unknown to the average high school or college student, are ideal for a Reading Across the Curriculum assignment in the social sciences. In the assignments, each student reads a work of fiction from an approved bibliography and writes a book review that applies the sociological, political, historical, and/or economic concepts that have been
covered in class to the contents of the novel. Often the student is also required to research the cultural, ethnic, or national milieu in which the novel is written.

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