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Required Reading in SE Asia

Required reading: The books that students read in 28 countries around the world

Laskar Pelangi
(The Rainbow Troops)

Andrea Hirata

What it’s about: Known in English as Rainbow Troops, this novel is based on a true story about ten students from a remote village in Indonesia who, with the help of a pair of inspiring teachers. learn to stand up for themselves and their community.

Why it’s taught: It teaches “sacrifice, dedication, hard work, passion, brotherhood, friendship, optimism and perseverance in the face of challenges,” says Mahrukh Bashir.

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Noli Me Tangere
(Touch Me Not)

Jose Rizal

What it’s about: Rizal went on to be a hero of the Philippine revolution, and his novel — the English-language title is Touch Me Not — shows life in the Philippines society under cruel, repressive, arbitrary Spanish Catholic rule.
Why it’s taught: By combining a dramatic story with an activist message, this novel has been compared to Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It is taught to help students “appreciate the efforts of our forefathers in shaping our independence,” says John Eric Uy.
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Viet Nam
The Tale of Kiêu: A bilingual edition of Nguyen Du`s Truyên Kiêu

Nguyễn Du

What it’s about: It’s an epic narrative poem about a young woman named Thuý Kiều who is driven to sacrifice herself to save her family.
Why it’s taught: Known in English as The Tale of Kiu, the poem shows “the humanity and the beauty of my country,” says Joy Truong, who adds that she likes its positive qualities, a stark contrast to most other stories and poems which “focus on the difficulties of the Vietnamese.”