RaveBooklistAdjei-Brenyah’s dozen stories are disturbingly spectacular, made even more so for what he does with magnifying and exposing the truth. At first read, the collection might register as speculative fiction, but current headlines unmasking racism, injustice, consumerism, and senseless violence prove to be clear inspirations ... Ominous and threatening, Adjei-Brenyah’s debut is a resonating wake-up call to redefine and reclaim what remains of our humanity.
PositiveBooklist\"In alternating sections marked by Mara’s different ages, Park’s tale hauntingly examines the codependent mother-daughter bond amid complicated layers created by the pursuit of truth. Beyond the affecting pages, Park’s own April 2017 death of stomach cancer at 41 is a somber factor. The inclusion of his New York Times essay, \'I Had a 9 Percent Chance. Plus Hope,\' at the book’s end makes this an especially melancholic experience.\
RaveBooklistIn Perfume Bay, a luxurious oasis just outside Los Angeles, pregnant Chinese women are pampered through the U.S. birth of precious progeny who will provide their parents with \'a foothold in America.\' Among the guests is factory-manager Scarlett Chen, sent to the U.S. to bear the son of her older, married lover, who’s also her employer ... an astute debut novel that confronts identity, privilege, freedom, and a twenty-first-century rendering of the American dream with poignancy, insight, humor, and plenty of savvy charm.
PositiveBooklist Online...Orphaned but adoringly raised by a royal attendant’s sister, coddled since childhood by the queen, taught French by a missionary-priest, Jin leaves Korea and settles in Paris. Her new life provides unimagined social, literary, even commercial opportunities, but the relentless exotification of her very person emphasizes her growing alienation. Her return home is bittersweet, as she’s treated like a foreigner, but events turn horrific when she’s caught in the violent Japanese takeover of the Joseon court ... The Court Dancer’s latest journey west should command substantial, eager audiences.
Crystal Hana Kim
RaveBooklistHunger, both physical and emotional, haunts the lives of the extended Lee-Yun family during the tumultuous, violent decades that define modern South Korea in the latter twentieth century ... Kim renders her multivoiced, multilayered ancestral and cultural history into stupendous testimony and indelible storytelling.
R O Kwon
MixedBooklistKwon’s debut has all the elements of what should be a stupendous success—exquisite prose, vivid characterizations, and astute observations—yet somewhere between spark and explosion, the narrative strays unnecessarily from the essential, then becomes overly elliptical to provide a persuasive finale.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorTan deftly explores evolving immigrant identity, layers of ex-pat privilege, tenacious gender disparity, family expectations and obligations ... Against a contemporary global backdrop, made empathic with a multigenerational family saga, embellished with timeless servant/master (and mistress) class conflict, Tan’s debut will be entertaining – and enlightening – savvy cosmopolitan readers throughout the summer and beyond.
Sayaka Murata, Trans. by Ginny Tapley Takemori
PositiveBooklistThe prestigious Akutagawa Prize–winning Murata, herself a part-time \'convenience store woman,\' makes a dazzling English-language debut in a crisp translation by Takemori, rich in scathingly entertaining observations on identity, perspective, and the suffocating hypocrisy of \'normal\' society.
PositiveBooklist...distinctly showcases her literary pedigree in this raucous, bittersweet non-love story across cultures, generations, morals, and other seemingly impossible divides.
PositiveBooklistGalvanized by Nobel Prize–winner Kenzaburo Oe’s resounding endorsement—“undoubtedly the most powerful voice in Asia today”—and master translator Sora Kim-Russell’s exquisite rendition, Hwang’s latest import is surely poised for Western success.
Dunya Mikhail, Trans. by Max Weiss
PanBooklistThe survivors’ stories are relentlessly horrific; words seem inadequate in describing the systematic slaughter, capture, sale, rape, and torture of human beings by other human beings ... Despite the inarguable significance of these survivors’ stories, as literature, The Beekeeper ultimately disappoints. Mikhail’s diary-like presentation, complete with phone interruptions, personal dreams recalled, and ruminations on the universe, feels inappropriately trivial amid the gruesome accounts of hideous inhumanity.
RaveBooklistEschewing labels and defying expectations, Simo slyly confronts race, sexuality, multigenerational duty, immigrant dislocation, and even dirty politics while spinning a bizarrely spectacular, outlandishly disorienting (not-)love-story of lost, searching souls.
RaveBooklist...[a] spectacular 1995 collection of bizarre-to-rueful-to-stunning stories ... Memorable girls and women—damaged, truculent, curious, stalwart—occupy Diski’s pages, claiming space, agency, and well-deserved attention.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorAlthough undoubtedly Guo’s most resonant book to date, Nine Continents is not without literary flaws, from needless repetitions to bombastic declarations of 'never' that don’t stick. Missteps aside, what remains is a viscerally affecting narrative in which Guo shares four decades of all the ways that being a woman – herself as daughter, sister, lover, and others as wife, mother, grandmother – has caused damage, humiliation, and tragedy.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorIn Giant, Ishiguro explores love that lasts – but at what cost? ...narrative is seemingly straightforward: An older couple embarks on a journey to reunite with their estranged son whom they have not seen in many years ... It covers just four days and three nights – and yet lifetimes of myth, allegory, and epic discoveries are contained within ...Ishiguro nimbly plays with both content and form. He imbues his leading man and woman with much more than just simple appellations... The changing viewpoints underscore the mutability of memories, and hint at the unreliability of storytelling ... Ishiguro’s 10-year investment comes to eloquent fruition here. The result is a provocative, multilayered mosaic.
Karen Tei Yamashita
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorYamashita clearly has an agenda: she aligns each letter-topic with a specific muse, to whom she reveals a corresponding part of her family’s story, then moves beyond personal details to illuminate a broader, contemporary context such as, say, today’s civil rights ... Allusive, quirky, questioning, Letters is a challenging text; for all its brevity, the less-than-200 pages are dense with assumptions of cultural literacy, community insight, historical background. And yes, don’t be deterred: for 'gentle, critical, or however' readers ready for intellectual stimulation, Letters awaits your inquisitive participation and rewarding collaboration.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorShamsie, who has matured as global citizen and international writer in the age of social media, goes beyond mere plot adaptation to explore the nature of storytelling itself: who gets to tell the story, how will the story get retold, which story might last to become history ... Although just one in a substantial library of Antigones through centuries, cultures, and countries, Shamsie’s latest is a compelling, stupendous stand-out to be witnessed, honored, and deeply commended.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorAmidst this shared indigence exposed in the opening story, Zhang skillfully introduces the kernels of the stories to come ... That Zhang suffuses her young protagonists with autobiographical details – Shanghai-born, immigrant parents, New York-raised, Stanford-educated – adds authenticity to these narratives of strife, growth, and various degrees of success. Beyond the details, however, is a universal shared experience: a longing for home, and the challenges – economic, social, familial, cultural – to finally get there. The topic couldn’t be more timely as immigration debates continue to flare; with unblinking candor, Zhang illuminates the struggles to belong, to settle, to be welcomed home.
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor...both a commemoration of the ties that bind us and an indictment of the estrangement that isolates, and even kills, us ... With eyes wide open, Nayeri is not afraid to expose her characters as flawed, even unlikable. Caught between desperation and expectation, arrogance looms large: Bahman as the male patriarch whose less-than-thoughtful choices nearly destroy multiple lives, Niloo as the self-absorbed loner too damaged by fearful distrust to accept life-saving support. Presenting father and daughter in multi-faceted splendor, however, comes at a literary price for Nayeri: her intense involvement with Bahman and Niloo tends to eclipse her other, clearly lesser supporting cast ... Nayeri carefully illuminates the plight of the ever-searching, never-belonging global wanderer.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorThat Beautiful is an unforgettable true story, meticulously researched with unblinking honesty, will make Boo’s next awards well deserved ... Throughout such careful documentation, the one element missing – very much to her credit – is Boo herself. Beautiful is by no means a personal memoir; it is not a socioeconomic study on poverty or a political treatise on widespread corruption ...pure, astonishing reportage with as un-biased a lens as possible trained on specific individuals in a clearly delineated section of ever-changing Mumbai ... Boo’s presence as the silent reporter remains so discreet that she virtually disappears as you journey deeper and deeper, unable to turn away.
RaveBooklist...[a] spectacular debut ... Clemmons creates haunting authenticity by imbuing Thandi with autobiographical elements—parentage, life in Philadelphia, attending Columbia, her mother’s death—but through enhanced fiction, she pushes Thandi into global citizenry, shows her skin color to be a barometer of fraught relationships and race politics, explores mother-child bonds with brutal honesty, and even reveals cancer to be 'a disease of privilege' elevated with ribbons and campaigns. Clemmons performs an exceptional sleight of hand that is both affecting and illuminating.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor...[an] endearing, astute debut ... Breezily entertaining enough to enthrall droves of this summer’s beach and poolside readers, Windfall also manages to seamlessly insert urgent, relevant themes of gender inequity, socioeconomic prejudice and aggression, familial expectations and constrictions, isolation, entitlement, and more. Avoiding heavy-handed judgments (most of the time), the Delhi-born, internationally-raised, Cornell and Columbia-educated Basu writes what she knows, clearly familiar with adroitly navigating between East and West. Her global citizenry inspires sharp insights.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor...[an] achingly insightful, gorgeously redemptive debut ... Although Ko began writing Leavers in 2009, headlines regarding immigrants have hardly changed: round-ups, detention, deportation, separated families – especially tragic are recent international adoptees deported as adults because of legal loopholes to a birth country they left as children . Beyond the desensitizing media coverage, Ko gives faces, (multiple) names, and details to create a riveting story of a remarkable family coming, going, leaving…all in hopes of someday returning to one another.
Haruki Murakami, Trans. by Philip Gabriel & Ted Goossen
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor...a whimsical delight ... Despite so much seeming to be the same, rather than familiarity breeding contempt, Murakami always manages to entertain, surprise, and satisfy ... If Murakami is in the (repeating) details, then such details are what make his writing so identifiably unique.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorI know it’s only still May, but I’m already willing to predict that The Golden Legend could be the best book you read this year ... indelibly intertwined with the atrocious violence and despicable tyranny are moments of wrenching beauty ... In a further stroke of literary brilliance, Aslam creates a book within his book, a 987-page masterpiece that haunts Aslam’s 'Legend' from beginning to end ... Aslam both severs and reunites connections, destroys and reclaims characters, to offer readers an unparalleled experience that both rightfully condemns and poignantly honors the worst and best of our shared humanity.
Bandi, Trans. by Deborah Smith
RaveBooklistBritish translator Smith expertly delivers Bandi’s subversive prose with nuanced grace. The afterword further explicates the manuscript’s remarkable journey out, with an additional note from the South Korean activist who enabled the precarious north-south crossing. As Bandi’s characters both fear and sling accusations, the title takes on piercing gravitas for readers: knowingly turning a blind eye to such inhumanity is not an option.
PositiveBooklist...a complex narrative that ambitiously includes China’s political and economic transformation, little-known cultural history, the intricate challenges of transracial adoption, and an insightful overview of the global implications of specialized teas. The only possible flaw is that some may consider her magic-wand ending unbelievable. As this is her first book since losing her own mother, bestselling author Carolyn See (to whom it is dedicated), See’s focus on the unbreakable bonds between mothers and daughters, by birth and by circumstance, becomes an extraordinary homage to unconditional love.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorCombining surreal symbolism and linear narrative, wordplay and lists, family history and mythic retellings, Unnikrishnan uses fiction to '[illuminate] how temporary status affects psyches, families, memories, fables, and language(s).' In a brilliant, subversive move, Unnikrishnan connects his three 'books' with a single-word chapter, 'Pravasis' – Malayalam for migrant, or 'temporary people' in Unnikrishnan-speak, which he repeats three times in each book ... [an] unsettling, dazzling, astute collection ... Its publication couldn’t be more timely given the current outcries for and against immigrants, bans, raids, and mass deportations. As an antidote to border politics, Unnikrishnan’s stories serve as both testimony and oracle to be read with grave urgency.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorFor those lucky enough to now be discovering Anam for the first time, a priceless literary gift awaits: to experience three generations of the remarkable Haque family – without interruption ... introspection, emotions, and attachments that illuminate this narrative, complete with rapid heartbeats and breathtaking sighs. Perhaps because Anam draws on personal details Grace proves to be the most intimately affecting of her three titles.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorTo compare In Other Words to her English works – her previous titles – seems inevitable, even as such a comparison feels unjust. Unsurprisingly, her short stories are the collection’s standouts, but the raw intimacy of her essays offers an illuminating gift with which future titles can and will be read through a shifting lens.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorThe sprawling result might not make for a perfect novel – it’s messy, convoluted, repetitive, and drawn out. And yet Queen undisputedly reigns as the grandiose, ostentatious opera it was meant to be: romance, betrayal, erotic fantasies, intrigue, espionage, murder, jealousy, bed-hopping, power, secrets, class, war, and even a balloon escape – all set to an opulent soundtrack that ranges from nonsense verses to sweeping arias.
Janice Y. K. Lee
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorWith meticulous details and nuanced observations, Lee creates an exquisite novel of everyday lives in extraordinary circumstances ... How Lee’s triumvirate reacts, copes, and ventures forth (or not) proves to be a stupendous feat of magnetic, transporting storytelling.
Kenzaburo Oe, Trans. by Deborah Boehm
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorMy advice to you: Buy, borrow, or steal this book – and then set aside some substantial reading time. This could be the densest and most rewarding 432 pages you’ll experience this year.