A NY Times story by Sarah Maslin Nir, “Among Readers in Polyglot New York, 50 Shades of Best Sellers,” points out the obvious fact that “literary tastes among immigrant cultures turn out to be as different as their cuisines.” But the fun is in the details:
In the Queens Borough Public Library system, the number of foreign-language books has doubled over the last decade and now includes Bengali, Croatian and multiple languages spoken in Afghanistan. The Brooklyn Public Library caters to cardholders in about 30 languages, according to its Web site, and has a special multilingual center at the main Grand Army Plaza branch.
As the compositions of the city’s immigrant populations have changed, so, too, have the books that are carried. Mr. Baumann increasingly buys books in French as the city’s population of Francophone Africans has increased. Harlequin Romances are their top request. A Lower East Side branch, once in the heart of Little Germany, has a longstanding endowment to buy books in German, now little used.
Of course, I particularly enjoyed this bit:
At Saint Petersburg Trade House in Brighton Beach, where each supermarket along Brighton Beach Avenue carries caviars from Russia’s Bering Sea priced by grade like gasoline, classical Russian literature, like Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, in Russian are requested daily, said Violet Lazareva, 48, the store’s literary consultant. “All the parents teach their children that they should read Russian classics in Russian,” she said. “They’re better in Russian, really.”
Really, they are! (Thanks go to Eric for the link.)