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Saint Jordi’s Day, Catalunya’s version of Valentine’s Day, is the most romantic day in Barcelona. Also called “El Día de Los Amantes,” or Lovers’ Day, and “El Día de la Rosa,” the Rose Day, St. Jordi’s Day is celebrated on April 23rd of every year with the gifting of books and red roses. While carts of used books line the streets, roses are sold to couples enjoying lunch outside at cafes and in the parks. On this day, tradition has it that men in Catalunya give their sweethearts a red rose, and ladies give their lovers a book in return.
The history of Catalunya’s Valentine’s Day applies to everyone, as books and roses also represent culture and love, respectively. Because culture and love exists in friendships and intimate relationships alike, Krrb selected a few novels that represent love as it’s experienced in all of human culture, and not how it’s romanticized for lovers. Instead of recommending a classic tragedy, here are five love stories that will remind you that the spark between you and your Valentine, best friend or family member is alive and well. And go ahead – mark your favorite page with a single red rose.
Tar Baby is Toni Morrison’s reinvention of the classic story. Jadine Childs, a fashion model, and Son, a fugitive, embody one another’s flaws and desires as their affair takes them from the Caribbean to Manhattan and the deep South. While Jadine and Son exhibit the classic struggles of any human relationship, such as obligation and betrayal, the couple also overcomes slights that are beyond all of us, such as race and gender politics, together and lovingly. If you and yours can’t relate to the themes for one reason or another, know that the story is beautifully written and a wonderful introduction to the works of Toni Morrison.
If you haven’t a Valentine this year, don’t mourn the loss. This is one of those rare novels that remind you how much you love your family, particularly your siblings. Writing about two families whose lives are intertwined despite their very different values, Zadie Smith overcomes everyday tensions, infidelity, ethnic differences and even individual inadequacies to highlight the beauty of any struggle in a relationship. The novel shows love on the most realistic level, capturing the daily lives of ordinary people and how their decisions can drastically influence those around them, for better or for worse.
This collection of short stories contains intimate tales of love and loss set in China and among Chinese Americans in the United States. While the conflicts of each story are always immediate and urgent, the characters are introspective and philosophical, asking questions like “Does marriage have such a revolutionary power that a long-established habit can be overthrown in such a short time?” Though this collection is not romantic, all of the stories are endearing and will bring a smile to your face as you sympathize with the hardships and misunderstandings that the characters on each page encounter.
This is the perfect novel for all of the single ladies out there. A Bildungsroman, or a Coming-of-Age novel, this American classic follows protagonist Janie on her quest for self-discovery and wholeness. Along the way, she experience two suppressing marriages and a man of her dreams, only to lose him in exchange for gaining herself. What more could we want?
Another Bildungsroman, Americanah is more than just a smart depiction of American society. By following realistic relationships that physical distance, cultural differences and race continuously strain, Adichie manages to take us from America to Nigeria without feeling stranded, misunderstood or home sick. Her characters are relatable and dynamic, and her plot is an important storyline for Americans to know. Often using politics as the backdrop for the love story between Ifemelu and Obinze, Adichie will remind you of why we so often prioritize love over riches and opportunity.
What are your favorite love stories of all time? Tell us what we should read next in the comments section!