RavePloughsharesIn a climate of rising anti-Asian hate crimes, this book is an urgent call for change ... What immediately stands out in the urgent call is Myint’s clear voice, as she explores personal and historical issues through lyrical evocations of cities and town such as Yangon, Madrid, South Bend, Sittwe, and Hinthada. At first, the locations overlay in a dizzying recollection, each chapter taking place in a different setting, conveying the author’s sense of inherited and acquired displacement. But the varied geography is an invitation to remember lived experience despite uprootedness and, perhaps most importantly for Myint, provides a canvas on which to appose orally-transmitted heritage to re-center among constant movement ... Myint embraces a world of haunting recollections, omens, and traditions—including Buddhist teachings on the transience and non-binary nature of our existence and what to call home. Her family story is reclaimed and is revived through her ... a poetic love letter to the people who make us who we are, and a reminder of the difficulty some face to find one’s way home.
Mariana Oliver, tr. Julia Sanches
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksMigratory Birds transports the reader on the wings of a precise and lyrical prose ... sensitive and illuminating ... It is a decidedly feminist work, highlighting the vulnerabilities of women—overworked, underappreciated—but also their empowering journeys and choices. Without denying the violence of history,Migratory Birds firmly establishes the emancipating power of dreams and the imagination. Julia Sanches, who also translates works from Portuguese and Catalan, elevates Oliver’s style while keeping her distinct voice and musicality.
Janet M Hartley
RaveAsian Review of BooksJanet M Hartley pens a vivid, human-centered story of the great river standing at a crossroad of peoples and cultures. She explores and contextualizes its significance to the history of Russia ... The book engages with the historical developments on and around the river Volga, and the fascination the river exerts on culture (including a prolific literary, film, and musical trail). To understand the importance of the river on the collective mind in Russia and beyond, Hartley, a Professor of International History, starts with the first states which had emerged or settled on its banks ... Hartley insightfully discusses the Russian administration of non-Russian and non-Christian people under its empire, including the adoption of different tactics and policies to exert influence, promote peace, and control ... Hartley’s voyage along the serpentine river is magical and full of charm convoking history, anthropology, geography and the arts.
Yasmina Khadra, tr. John Cullen
RaveAsian Review of BooksAlgerian writer Yasmina Khadra’s latest novel explores European home-ground terrorism in a gripping psychological first-person novel. We follow Khalil’s dumbfounded journey back to his native Belgium, grappling with the circumstances surrounding his vest’s malfunctioning ... Khadra sketches the outline of a perfect candidate to radical Islam ... Khadra’s strength lies in weaving real and fictional events with Khalil’s inner conflicts to keep us guessing where truth ends and fiction takes off. The terrorist attacks which killed over 130 people in Paris and the French national stadium in November 2015 happened— Khadra himself now lives in Paris. The Brussels metro attack happened. The reader is taken on a hyperrealist deep-dive in the complex, intrinsically contradictory and disturbed jihadi mind. Khalil resonates well with the author’s chosen themes of exploring tensions between Occident and Orient in a post-colonial world, identity and tipping points, following the pulse of current political events ... another fast-paced, thought-provoking and immersive story within a ravishing novel.
Tian Veasna, Trans. by Helge Dasche
RaveAsian Review of BooksGraphic in format, graphic in content, it is a story of resilience and hope, a profound testimony to one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century ... The graphic novel format was a judicious choice. It explores the rendering of difficult landscapes, narrative and scenes in a compelling way, reminding me of Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle in its mastery to tackle dystopian worlds, through visual artistry. It provides accessibility to a topic which may otherwise be perceived as intimidating. The aesthetic feels accurate to the atmosphere, the muted colour palette immediately evoked the washed-out walls of colonial mansions which can still be found in Phnom Penh. The researched details convey drama, fear, hopelessness, and love ... His book is gripping but never gruesome, it is a page-turner ... a timely and crucial contribution, to keep the past alive, to understand what it can teach us today, for tomorrow.
Tian Veasna, Trans. by Helge Dasche
RaveSouth China Morning PostGraphic in format, graphic in content, it is a story of resilience and hope, and a profound testimony to one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century ... The graphic novel format is a judicious choice, as it makes accessible a topic that might otherwise be seen as intimidating ... The book’s muted colour palette evokes the faded walls of colonial mansions still to be found in Phnom Penh. The detailed drawings convey drama, fear, hopelessness, and love ... How could mere words, situations, and characters express the unthinkable, without falling in the trap of caricature? Tian Veasna pulls it off brilliantly ... gripping but never gruesome.
Amir Ahmadi Arian
PositiveThe Asian Review of BooksSustained by a fast-paced, first-person narrative, Then The Fish Swallowed Him is a deserving English-language debut ... sheds light on individual abuse and struggle, while offering a glimpse of the Iranian judiciary system. The continuous pressure between conservative and reform-leaning camps, and everything in between, yields conflicted dialogue and provides nuance in how characters situate themselves and how their opinions and interests evolve through the narrative ... To great relief, the story steps away from a good-vs-evil caricature. The interrogator is humanized, while the books’ most significant relationship is the one Yunus nurtures with himself ... The main character’s descent into depression and madness is gripping. While a work of fiction, they reflect the reality of the hardships experienced by arbitrary detainees, and abductees across the world: an important read, in a time of self-isolation in many countries.
PositiveThe Asian Review of BooksSok retraces the contours of a difficult and important conversation on identity. She succeeds in using her Americanness to question her sense of belonging in the Cambodian narrative, while inviting the reader in two countries’ complex political history ... Her poems creatively play with form to convey rhythm, time and place in an evolving manner, page after page ... The poems dedicated to her visits to Cambodia, and her attempts to recollect and reconnect, are the most moving.
PositiveThe Asian Review of BooksIt bears remarking that Lightman s a white male here writing about Cambodian women. Pulling off a convincing story set in rural Cambodia is no mean feat, and in what seems a humble honoring of Khmer culture and traditions, the book pays notable attention to detail. He recalls that he had waited over ten years to write the novel and acknowledges several Cambodian peers for their help in ensuring cultural accuracy in the novel, perhaps overly so for the Khmer language inserts can feel somewhat heavy-handed in the first half of the book ... The characters are flawed and complex: multidimensional and sensitive personalities. His nuanced writing of the female protagonists is particularly welcome as a departure from traditional literary clichés of voiceless Asian women relegated to secondary or invisible spaces.