RaveForeword ReviewsPolitics, family frictions, and divided loyalties collide in Ehsaneh Sadr’s engrossing novel, which is set during the aftermath of Iran’s controversial 2009 presidential election and subsequent \'Green Wave\' protests ... This tangled web of coincidences is addressed via compelling storytelling that mixes gentle domestic humor with harrowing political intrigue. Life in Iran, where traditions and hidden secrets threaten to hamper justice at every turn, comes through. A monumental question hovers: How can one be an agent for change when repressive forces are forever in the way? The novel moves toward a bittersweet conclusion in which there are no easy answers, though there is the potential for change and hope. Intense, emotional, and rich, A Door Between Us is a stirring novel about the importance of conscientiousness and truth.
RaveForeword ReviewsPowered by intense imagery and jolts of frank sexuality, Shruti Swamy’s A House Is a Body blurs the line between fantastical and naturalistic storytelling with its tales of love, loss, and life lived across cultures ... The stories easily shift between continents and cultures ... Throughout, Swamy’s sensuous style illuminates her characters’ thoughts and actions, easily accommodating a wide range of moods, from understated tragedy to more surreal flights of fancy. Just like the loyal housedog and cobra who duel in the concluding, fable-like Night Garden, Swamy dances on the boundaries between life and death, and between ennui and irrevocable change, with mesmerizing results.
PositiveForeword Reviews... diverting ... fills in the blanks by imagining Georgie’s life and circumstances, and in the process documents what it means to be a headstrong, free-spirited woman finding her place during tumultuous times ... Miller’s light approach moves the book along at a lively pace and convincingly evokes life in early twentieth-century London. The story gains poignancy from Georgie’s star-crossed romances. She strives for fulfillment during a time in which husbands were allowed to be less than faithful, and when women were expected to sacrifice their ambitions. More Miracle than Bird packs in plenty of meditations on art, love, and the mystical, but it’s most effective as an intimate yarn about obligations and expectations. Above all, it’s a monument to Georgie’s resilience; she arrives at her own version of happiness amid hard-won realizations.
PositiveForeword ReviewLies, misconceptions and self-deception are at the heart of Miriam Cohen’s funny, scathing, and touching collection ...Cohen’s tales are coated with unease as innocence collides with reality. Decay and death are never far. Individual stories tackle bulimia, rare diseases, and rumored serial killers. When the heroines aren’t coping with loser boyfriends and lecherous bosses, they’re dealing with the fallout from their own messed-up families, wherein the adults are just as clueless as the kids ... even as the freewheeling days of youth give way to the melancholic realities of adulthood, Cohen maintains her fleet style, her stories peppered with wry observations and off-center, ribald humor. Sometimes raw and always entertaining, her collection is a pleasure.
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksAs Yu warps and blurs the line between life and scripted entertainment, he makes it painfully clear that for the average Asian dude, the entertainment world is no different from the real world when it comes to humiliating assumptions and glass ceilings ... Yu has a devilish good time poking fun at the racially blinkered ways of Hollywood ... Yu slips and slides between stage directions and straight prose in the latter half of the novel as an honest-to-goodness narrative emerges ... Down the stretch, Yu gets polemic, rushing us through a whirlwind summation of documented injustices against Asian Americans, questioning whether there is any chance of winning a game that\'s been rigged from the start. It\'s a bit of a comedown after the spicy satire that\'s gone before ... if Interior Chinatown boils down to a series of humorous poses in search of a story, it\'s still rollicking fun, and its reclamation of Asian American history, with all its attendant sorrows and hopes, holds out the possibility of a new, true story ahead.
Sok Fong Ho, Trans. by Natascha Bruce
PositiveForeword Reviews... striking ... unveils a lesser-known side of Malaysia, wherein minority women struggle to eke out meaningful existences despite cultural and ethnic constraints ... an air of disquiet hangs over Ho’s work ... Blending the matter-of-fact and the surreal, Ho’s prose culls striking images from everyday life ... Ho also proves adept at picaresque adventures ... is at its most powerful when Ho confronts the difficulties of living in Malaysia’s strict Muslim society ... In these stories, Ho demonstrates how psychic wounds can aggregate over time, as her characters persist through sheer resilience ... Ho Sok Fong’s fable-like constructions are sometimes cryptic, often surprising, and almost always moving.
PositiveForeword Review...zippy, acerbic ... Cheuk, who performed stand-up for several years as research for his book, provides an inside look at the topsy-turvy world of comedy, where rising stars mix it up with floundering has-beens. Above all, the novel is a cautionary tale of how even a brush with fame can derail one’s perspective, and how racial insensitivity and discrimination persist even in the glitzy depths of Hollywood ... More rueful than laugh-out-loud funny, the novel recounts Lee’s life in a conversational, self-deprecating style. Even as the comedian falls from grace and becomes estranged from his family and friends, he remains sympathetic, and although the conclusion of his tale is bittersweet, it leaves hope for forgiveness and redemption. A showbiz crack-up tale with a heart, No Good Very Bad Asian is smartly told and deeply felt.
PositiveForeword ReviewsShowing how Roosevelt’s presidency intersected with societal changes that vaulted sports to the forefront of American life, Swanson details numerous events ... Swanson’s affectionate, free-flowing narrative is at its liveliest when he focuses on memorable anecdotes ... While it works best as a portrait of Roosevelt and his athletic peccadilloes, The Strenuous Life is a lighthearted, enlightening look at how Americans became crazy about the sporting life, as seen through the eyes of their most sporting president.
Juan Jose Millas, Trans. by Thomas Bunstead and Daniel Hahn
PositiveForeword ReviewsMillás finds both the hilarity and pathos in Damián’s situation, freely flowing between the quotidian and the existential ... A compelling stew of comedy, philosophy, and even tragedy, From the Shadows maintains a light touch, even as sinister undertones bubble underneath. Damián’s risky existence leads to unexpected twists and a climax that lingers long after Millás’s absurd lark comes to an end.
PositiveForeword ReviewsSeesawing between surreal plot twists and verbal jousts, Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe? is a coming-of-age story wrapped around wry religious critique. Calvin’s Calvinist doctrine clashes against Beatrice’s freewheeling lifestyle at every turn. Seasoning his comic stew with sly turns of phrase and deadpan humor, Clarke guides the audience toward a touching answer to the question posed by the book’s title. Although some may scratch their heads at the concluding flurry of events, Clarke is just as interested in the journey as he is in the destination, and in his deft hands, Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe? is cheeky, absurd, and surprisingly poignant.
MixedThe New York Journal of BooksNieh’s punchy prose places us in Victor’s sympathetic shoes as he struggles with matters out of his depth, and his emotional reckoning with his father’s true identity injects humanity into the proceedings. Nieh’s utilization of the Asian American cultural milieu also adds flavor, such as when an unknown caller uses 8s and 9s in his phone number, signifying the Chinese obsession with those numbers as harbingers of good luck ... loses its grip when the action relocates to Beijing. Aside from a few astutely observed street scenes, Nieh labors to communicate the feel of being in the gargantuan Asian metropolis. Victor is soon mired in swanky night clubs and gangster hideouts as the story’s central mystery gives way to standard thriller tropes: the fat-cat businessman, the kept mistress who becomes a love interest, the crooked cops who blackmail our hero into doing their bidding ... What was at first an understated thriller devolves into goofier, less plausible situations as Victor and Sung pass themselves off as hotshot Western gangsters, the confrontations grow ever more episodic and hyperbolic, and double-crosses accumulate. A final assault on a villain\'s skyscraper lair is straight out of a Hong Kong action movie, and about as realistic ... The novel rediscovers some of its footing when it returns to L.A. for a final twist and a more tempered conclusion, in which Victor’s hard-won knowledge comes with a cost. Leaving the door open for a sequel, Nieh clearly has the outlines of a grand gangster epic in his head, but the high ratio of clichés to cleverness prevents his novel from achieving full liftoff. Expect a few cultural grace notes and agreeable potboiler antics from Beijing Payback—just don\'t expect something truly original.
Amanda Lee Koe
RaveThe New York Journal of Books... encyclopedic in its detail and fit to bursting with invention ... marks an ambitious step forward as [Koe] concocts an expansive, criss-crossing narrative that somersaults back and forth in time ... While the [secondary characters\'] misadventures tend to be less gripping than the exploits of the novel’s central trio, they all represent Koe’s central preoccupations with sexual identity, the crossing of political and personal boundaries, and how fate and blind chance intermix ... Immense in scope, peppered with conversational musings, and touched by melancholy ... Much like the divas she writes about, Koe’s novel struts flamboyantly all over the map, yet what lingers is the heartbreaking grandeur of her protagonists’ existences. Like the stars in Rilke’s poem, they have burned out, but their light persists, and Koe has fashioned a worthy tribute to their enduring impact.
RaveForeword ReviewsRoss Gay is known for his poetry, but The Book of Delights proves that he’s also an adept essayist ... reflections that are sometimes whimsical, sometimes touching, and always thoughtful ... Documenting his travels and encounters over the course of his year with a wry, deft touch, his book stays true to its title and demonstrates his estimable talents as a prose stylist as well as poet.
RaveForeword ReviewsMusic aficionados will find the book to be a valuable, engaging compendium ... While Stubbs claims that Future Sounds is far from comprehensive, one would be hard-pressed to find a more extensive survey of electronic music and its offshoots. ... Stubbs displays a dazzling knowledge of his subject, freely flowing between musical scholarship, cultural criticism, and insightful anecdotes from his experiences as a music journalist ... Stubbs is a lively curator, and while his prose sometimes gets overheated (and perhaps irritating, if you’re a fan of the \'old school\' classic rock he sometimes bashes), there’s no doubting the passion and care he put into his book ... a fascinating voyage of discovery—a juicy work that can be absorbed like a savory meal.
RaveNew York Journal of BooksGirls on the Line moves with a propulsive pace, with each chapter alternating between Luli and Yun’s perspectives. The book may be aimed at teens, but Liu pulls no punches in depicting the realities of life in China’s gritty industrial towns and isolated rural villages. Hard-hitting and suspenseful, the story maintains focus on its likeable, vulnerable leads even as plot complications mount ... Above all, Liu views her characters (including Yong, the ostensible villain of the story) with sympathy ... Girls on the Line finds glimmers of hope among the chaos of their troubles. While the book provides no easy answers to its heroines’ challenges—and to the challenges of others like them—it is a compelling tribute to their resilience and courage.
RaveForeword ReviewsMay-lee Chai’s Useful Phrases for Immigrants is distinguished by writing as elegant and delicate as a snowflake ... its ghost-story narrative proves that Chai is as adept at describing the ineffable as she is at capturing small human moments ... Throughout, Chai writes with an unsparing yet sympathetic eye for her characters, and with a knack for memorable turns of phrase and observations ... this collection confirms Chai’s place among the best Asian American writers of today.