How do authors read, absorb, and write about their times? And how do we understand times long gone? In this introduction to reading fiction, we will look at pairs of writers whose concerns overlap and whose works can help us understand their histories and our own. Such pairings include authors: testing their national and ethnic boundaries (Junot Diaz’s Drown and James Joyce’s Dubliners); feeling at the mercy of unsettling historical change (Toni Morrison’s A Mercy and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway); and journeying across great empires of the past (Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies and E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India). Discussion and assignments will focus on how novels and short stories negotiate crucial events as they shape ordinary human experience.