that " though imagination is the common denominator between th nation and the novel, a nation comprises of individuals believing that they belong to one community while a novel calls on the readers to imagine community"
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After reading your quote, I immediately thought of the very current novel, The Help by Katherine Stockett. The novel is about black/white relationships in the deep South during the 1950's and 1960's, but is it more about the relationships of the maids and their bosses in Jackson, Mississippi, in that time period. Reading that novel made me feel like I was a part of that community at that time -- the time and place absolutely came alive for me, and when the novel was done, I was sad to have to leave it.
One novel that might the bill from both a historical and cultural perspective the The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Throughout the novel, Huck seems to desire to break away from society and gain his river-bound freedom. However, he continually comes back to shore, back to community, and back to the characters that fill his life. Even some of his most explicit attempts to break away from society--his willingness to help Jim escape for example--are shaded in his desire to protect the individuals within his own community.
HOW contemporary? I'd be tempted to look at this through a science-fiction "dystopia" perspective (this is where "contemporary" might get a little lost).
Under this perspective I might use choose four books from this list: 1984, Brave New World, Farenheit 451, The Giver, Ender's Game, or A Clockwork Orange.
A common theme of the above books (and many more) is the idea of "individuals believing that they belong to one community," but the reader understanding the bigger picture. Ironically, I used to hate books like these, but in my adult life I've been fascinated with the real world application of such a theme even today. Also consider the theme of fear uniting the masses.
Another idea that just hit me is looking at this prompt through books that are written through a child's perspective. Off the top of my head, the only book that comes to mind here is The Kite Runner. Part of what is so heartbreaking about this book is the innocent acceptance of a world that we Americans would be (should be) appalled by but that this child cannot imagine any differently. In this approach, you might search for other contemporary novels that are set in war-torn countries and write about the childrens' perspectives as compared to yours.
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