1. "Of Such Small Differences" by Joanne Greenberg
Greenberg is also the author of "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden," a semi-autobiographical classic that she wrote under her pen name, Hannah Green. "Of Such Small Differences" is a love story about a man who is both deaf and blind and a sighted and hearing woman. Greenberg's thesis is that we are all more alike than different, regardless of abilities and disabilities. But what comes through vividly in her story is the author's remarkable ability to grasp the experience of people with disabilities she does not share. For example, in the book, the girl drives her disabled boyfriend to his home town for a visit. But she gets "lost" driving in a city she doesn't know. He is perplexed how she can get lost since she can see. He doesn't grasp the meaning of not being able to see around a hill, or a long distance away, for example. He reasons if you can see, you should be able to look and see where something is…
2. "Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language" by Eva Hoffman
This is a psychologically rich autobiography of a young girl who moved from Poland to Canada and then to the US. The language and culture in Poland and North America were so different that the author felt she "couldn't find English words for her Polish feelings." This gives the reader some understanding of how language and culture shape (and are shaped by) perception of experience.
3. "City of Joy" by Dominique LaPierre
LaPierre's book was first printed in 1986. Call me crazy, but I was so touched by this book, I bought a few copies of of it as insurance that I'd always have it in case the book went out of print. Set in the slums of Calcutta India, the pain of the poverty described in the book is wrenching. But it's more a story of triumph (hence the title) than of sorrow or defeat. The characters in the story find that having a life of meaning is as important as having physical necessities. One review I read referred to the book as "a celebration of the indefatigable human spirit." I quite agree.