PositiveBooklistDebuting novelist Wu, already recognized with fellowships, residencies, and teaching appointments, crafts impressive, insightful prose ... Though of interest, her novel doesn’t quite reach the same lofty level, ultimately proving more self-indulgent than self-aware.
PositiveBooklistReaders might figure out who’s who and what’s what rather quickly, but the details of how and why will require reaching the final, six-months-later chapter. Meanwhile, Jayatissa has a heyday exposing white-savior syndrome, religious hypocrisy, and mental-health system failures, with plenty of schadenfreude voyeurism.
RaveBooklistBilingual Chinese American writer, poet, and translator Ye showcases her linguistic prowess in a prodigious debut collection featuring women on both sides of the globe, many defined and confined by and reliant on motherhood ... Each of Ye’s dozen stories astounds.
PositiveBooklistEach segment challenges expectations and exposes the limitations of being female. Beyond adaptation, sacrifice, and even erasure, Swamy provides no easy answers to the search for fulfillment.
Choi Eunyoung, Tr. Sung Ryu
Choi writes assuredly, her sentences direct and unadorned, yet the simplicity belies intricate narratives often hinging on unpredictable details--a nipple caterpillar tattoo, an Antarctic burial, a 1997 cassette tape. As they long, endure, transform (and not), Choi\'s exceptional women are well-primed for their close-up\
María Amparo Escandón
PositiveBooklistTelenovela anyone? Why, yes, bestselling Escandón (Gonzalez & Daughter Trucking Co., 2005) also works in film and TV, so, naturally, the Alvarados are getting the Hollywood treatment. If the print version is any indication, the forecast sure looks promising for screen success.
Samira Sedira, Tr. Lara Vergnaud
RaveShelf Awareness... a fascinating amalgam of gruesome headlines...and Sedira\'s personal experience ... The Algerian-born French novelist, playwright and actor Sedira intertwines these disparate events to create a jarring narrative of privilege and power ... Sedira plots a tight, terse novel, made particularly intriguing with Anna as cipher ... her searing fiction further exposes the reality of monstrous inhumanity.
RaveBooklistThe characters in Choi’s stories are caught in-between cultures, families, generations, even life and death. Especially stupendous are her Korean immigrant women-in-flux ... Rare is the impeccable first collection ... Multiple prestige outlets have previously published the Korean-born, Long Island-raised, Johns Hopkins/Stanford-educated Stegner Fellow, presciently aware that Choi’s debut would be a masterpiece.
PositiveBooklistChin’s non-love story moves back and forth in time, interspersing Edwina’s desperate day-by-day search with her (occasionally unreliable) backstory as half a couple. To that dual time line, Chin clumsily appends a distracting frame in which Edwina addresses a (not-quite) therapist as \'you.\' Even an abundance of Very Important Issues—body-shaming, women in tech, profiling, inter- and intra-racial prejudices, immigration inequity, and animal welfare—ultimately can’t save Chin’s narrative from disappointment.
PositiveBooklist... provoking ... Sayrafiezadeh’s assured writing works in contrast with his discontented, stumbling, watching, and waiting characters who are plagued by the titular estrangement and its undermining consequences.
Juan Gabriel Vásquez, tr. Anne McLean
RaveBooklistProdigious author, journalist, and translator Vásquez (Reputations, 2016), one of South America’s most important writers, is once again deftly translated by award-winning Canadian McLean ... Disturbing yet necessary, Vásquez’s fiction becomes enduring testimony.
PositiveShelf Awareness... provocative ... Although [Hirahara] skillfully integrated historical events in many of her previous titles, her 10th novel incorporates three decades of researching and collecting the oral histories of Americans imprisoned for being of Japanese heritage ... While Clark and Division is currently a standalone endeavor, Aki Ito shows plenty of intriguing tenacity to star in a series of her own. Readers are sure to agree.
David Hoon Kim
PositiveShelf AwarenessHis erudite prose is undeniably sublime and polished (his vocabulary remarkably extensive—anechoic, astrakhan, tatterdemalion) but perhaps too much of many good things doesn\'t coalesce successfully here, resulting in distracting missteps and disconnects. Kim\'s debut hasn\'t quite accomplished all that it could and should. The exquisite beauty of his composition--combining words, crafting sentences--however, bodes well for perfecting future narratives.
MixedShelf Awareness... another quiet, more passive-than-not antihero caught between China and the U.S ... Jin\'s narrative here isn\'t his strongest—prolonged over hundreds of pages, Tian\'s meandering, passive acceptance, especially, grows cumbersome. For Jin\'s most devoted readers, however, his signature ability to engage and expand his characters through acute, forthright observations will not disappoint. Once again, Jin provides a meaningful everyman tale beyond borders and cultures.
Eto Mori, tr. Jocelyne Allen
PositiveBooklist... a classic. Issues challenging Japanese teens then—\'Bullying. Dropping out. Suicide.\'—continue to find international resonance as, nimbly translated by Allen, the best-seller’s arrival marks Mori’s stateside debut ... the novel has spawned films, anime, manga, and more. It’s also saved lives—undoubtedly storytelling’s superpower.
RaveShelf Awareness... outstanding ... dense with intricate layers ... Sahota brilliantly plays with access to knowledge, to history ... In revealing their narratives, Sahota grants virtual omniscience to his readers, but complicity comes with appeals to engage more deeply with contextual issues that continue to plague contemporary society, including child marriage, gender inequity, multi-generational trauma, ongoing hate crimes. China Room is no effortless read, but one that promises to haunt and illuminate.
PositiveBooklist... utterly contemporary ... Anam’s not-quite-love-story shrewdly exposes gender inequity, racism, homophobia, and male white privilege, achieving sharply exposing, skillfully engaging results.
PositiveBooklistPerhaps what is most noticeable upon opening Fung’s elegiac debut is all the white space. Paragraphs, phrases, words, even detached letters float across the pages, undoubtedly an ethereal reflection of lost chances, missing time, stolen opportunities, and spaces impossible to fill ... While it was always there, the space to acknowledge, exchange, and grow never seemed possible until looming loss ironically allows for open I-love-you’s. In between, the narrator fills the empty spaces with what the living are willing to share. Seemingly spare yet undeniably dense with so much unsaid, Fung’s polyphonic first novel is a magnificent literary triumph.
Sara Mesa, trans. by Megan McDowell
PositiveShelf AwarenessIntriguing Spanish writer Sara Mesa...continues to explore highly charged power dynamics ... Obvious or predictable could never describe Mesa\'s narrative here. Her sly hints...are clearly meant to manipulate readers in various directions, right or wrong, truth or not ... Mesa, meanwhile, prods, enables, challenges, maybe even misleads. Satisfaction—of sorts—arrives in Mesa\'s concluding \'Part Two,\' which shrewdly reveals the bittersweet outcome beyond the hedges.
Mia P Manansala
PositiveChristian Science MonitorChicago-based, self-described \'procrastibaker\' Manansala clearly loves her characters – even the bad guys – imbuing so many of them with rich, detailed, diverse stories of their own ... Clever with the never-saw-that-coming twists and turns, Manansala nimbly stays at least a few steps ahead, never letting complacency settle on the page. Just desserts await at the book’s end – literally and culinarily!
RaveShelf Awareness... addictively gruesome ... manages to enhance a wild, wild western with Odyssean devotion, magic realism and historical racism, to create quite the unlikely love story gone awry ... Ming\'s story of denial becomes Lin\'s ingenious assertion of his own Chinese American heritage, his fiction a literal projection of the Chinese American experience onto the page. Lin cleverly reclaims the language as he marks each of the story\'s three parts with untranslated Chinese characters ... With dexterous agility, Lin showcases Ming\'s multi-faceted identity as a native-born American, a builder of transcontinental railroads, a rebel against racist laws, a killer of injustice--and maybe even a hero who might finally get the girl.
Yan Lianke tr. Carlos Rojas
RaveBooklistYan transplants this subgenre into the turbulence of the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) to showcase \'the erotics of revolutionary activism\' as exemplified by an impossible love story ... If not love, then certainly lust-at-first-sight ensues. Despite marriages (and children) with others, their all-consuming affair translates to impassioned revolutionary fervor that leads to suicide, madness, unimagined power, and horrific downfall. In between, the lovers’ boldness galvanizes their radical (albeit, not quite clear) demands for change. Yan’s signature biting wit creates another indelible work of bittersweet humor and sociopolitical insight.
PositiveBooklist\"...a startling confrontation of memory, boundaries, disappearance, and identities bartered, elided, imagined, and betrayed. Bastašić’s intense examination of female friendship provides a portal into the tumultuous recent history of the former Yugoslavia. Awarded the 2020 European Union Prize for Literature, Bastašić’s compelling and enlightening first novel arrives in the U.S. in her own agile translation, sure to engage urbane anglophone readers.\
RaveBooklistWhile the story arc might sound familiar—other-side-of-the-world refugees who endure challenging lives in the U.S.—Nguyen’s gentle precision nevertheless produces an extraordinary debut with undeniable resonance ... Once upon a time, Hương was a village wife to teacher Công, mother to young Tuấn. Suddenly, all three are running for their lives, but only Hương and Tuấn board the boat, embarking on a path of everlasting separation ... Nearly three decades later, Hurricane Katrina will once again confront the trio with Things We Lost to the Water and the question of what can and should be salvaged from the devastation.
Geling Yan tr. Jeremy Tiang
MixedBooklistOnly the stranger’s observations seem to penetrate Hongmei’s tiresome self-absorption to guide her toward some semblance of self-awareness. Alas, this tale is unnecessarily coy for being rather obvious, and, sadly, tedious.
Bo-Young Kim tr. Sophie Bowman and Sung Ryu
RaveShelf AwarenessAs impressive as Kim Bo-Young\'s intriguing stories are, their literary provenance is equally entertaining ... Lucky readers are wise to lean in and get ready to sigh and soar ... a plethora of compelling choices seems poised to enable and encourage Kim\'s international acclaim.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor... doesn’t disappoint ... [Murakami\'s] books are an intimate invitation to revel in his perpetually unpredictable, yet remarkably convincing, imagination ... Murakami writes with such assurance as to turn the implausible credible, the outlandish engrossing ... Each story enthralls. (Readers should be aware some of the stories are not appropriate for everyone) ... Avid fans might notice that six stories previously appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, and Freeman’s, but to savor the collection in full will undoubtedly prove to be a beguiling gift.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor... doesn’t disappoint ... Murakami writes with such assurance as to turn the implausible credible, the outlandish engrossing ... Each story enthralls. (Readers should be aware some of the stories are not appropriate for everyone) ... to savor the collection in full will undoubtedly prove to be a beguiling gift.
PositiveBooklistGarcia turns her MFA thesis for Purdue University [...] into her widely buzzed first novel. Presented in 12 chapters that read more like interlinked stories, Garcia channels her Miami-based Cuban-Mexican American heritage into five generations of a Cuban American matriarchy ... Garcia’s women populate a sprawling albeit textually spare narrative that demands careful parsing for resonant rewards.
PositiveBooklist... moody, bleak ... Fatal racism, police violence, pedophilia, family dysfunction—and all the other horrific ills of contemporary society wreak destruction, but somehow humanity survives.
Viet Thanh Nguyen
RaveBooklistUndeniably erudite and culturally fluent as ever—interweaving history, philosophy, political treatise, theology, even literary criticism—Nguyê˜n effortlessly enhances the story with snarky commentary, sly judgments, and plenty of wink-wink-nod-nod posturing to entertain committed readers ... Fans of The Sympathizer will appreciate the many delight-inducing connections embedded here, but The Committed also works as a strong stand-alone.
PositiveBooklistWith echoes of themes in his internationally lauded Never Let Me Go (2005)—that life can be manufactured, bartered, bought—Booker-ed, Nobel-ed, and knighted Ishiguro presents a bittersweet fable about the human heart ... In Ishiguro’s near-future dystopia, Klara—appropriately monikered to suggest both clear and obvious—could prove to be the most human of all.
PositiveBooklistSpare in pages, Navarro’s collection of 11 short stories proves dense with disconnection, dysfunction, and dismay as families fray, couples sunder, and animals are brutalized ... Set between the seemingly familiar and elusively surreal, Navarro’s tales unsettle readers through oneiric landscapes ... Navarro—adroitly anglophone-enabled by award-winning Christina MacSweeney—distinctly proves her inarguable facility with short fiction.
MixedBooklistFaleiro’s meticulous reconstruction moves far beyond the Katra events, dovetailing countless gruesome crimes, disclosing shocking data, divulging pervasive incompetence, and exposing widespread corruption. These contextual extras, while unarguably urgent, prove excessive, eventually overwhelming the girls’ tragedy.
RaveBooklistWall Street Journal correspondent Chen emerges as a fiction powerhouse, each of her 10 stories an immersive literary event ... Traversing continents and cultures, moving effortlessly between China and the U.S., Chen deftly presents everyday lives that entertain, educate, and universally resonate.
PositiveShelf AwarenessThe majority of these 14 stories deliver a gut-punch reminder of the seeming unavoidability of loneliness and isolation, despite the promises of coupledom, familial bonds and understood social contracts among various groups ... While the collection might be filled with miscommunications and disconnects, Horrocks\'s storytelling prowess shines, creating communities that draw in readers immediately, even as the inhabitants are on the verge of personal implosions. Horrocks writes with simple precision, her characters wholly convincing in all their flaws and insecurities. Life Among the Terranauts proves shrewd and rewarding.
Ae-Ran Kim, Trans. by Chi-Young Kim
RaveBooklistThe youngest winner ever of multiple important literary prizes in her native Korea, Ae-ran Kim’s first full-length novel arrives stateside, hauntingly English-enabled by lauded translator Chi-Young Kim ... In a narrative about fatal illness, compounding moments of insight and joy resonate deeply, with heartwarming results.
PositiveShelf AwarenessOwusu sometimes works a little too hard to mold her experiences into her seismic theme of faults and shocks. Repetition, too, is occasionally problematic, stalling the already non-linear narrative. But beyond any imperfections, Owusu\'s raw vulnerability hauntingly, steadily beckons readers.
Peter Ho Davies
RaveBooklist...never-knowing haunts Ho Davies’ (The Fortunes, 2016) brief, admittedly autobiographical new novel, a raw, intimate look at a couple’s journey into parenthood, from the choice to abort their first pregnancy after a diagnosis of mosaicism to the arrival of a son after a difficult birth ... a resonant treatise on identity, family, grieving, writing, and \'the taking and telling of other people’s stories.\'
PositiveShelf AwarenessWith this haunting memoir, Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Mother\'s Letter to Her Son, Qaderi literally, indelibly writes the proof of her existence into being ... Raw, honest, humble, Qaderi renders her excruciating loss into words and stories that help her live, keep her connected and never lose hope for a miraculous reunion.
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor... a quirky, sigh-inducingly satisfying read ... As a first-time novelist, Kawaguchi’s writing isn’t quite comparable (yet?) to some of his globally revered compatriots – think Haruki Murakami, Yoko Tawada, Banana Yoshimoto, and Kenzaburō Ōe. His narrative is occasionally uneven and tends to meander- readers might like to know why Kazu is the only one able to pour the brew, for example, while the description of Hirai’s family’s historic business could have skipped a few irrelevant details. The new author is also sometimes repetitive, and his sentences aren’t always exactly elegant ... And yet, where Kawaguchi excels is undoubtedly more essential: He has a surprising, unerring ability to find lasting emotional resonance. Interwoven into what initially feels like a whimsical escape are existential conundrums of love and loss, family and freedom, life and death.
MixedBooklistAlas, over the story line’s 13 years and more than 400 pages to wade through, even the most devoted readers are likely to face tedium in order to arrive at book’s end.
RaveShelf AwarenessPrefecture D is comprised of four compelling, loosely interlinked novellas ... Each novella presents a mystery that exposes the labyrinthine relationships within Prefecture D\'s sprawling police department ... Yokoyama\'s dozen years\' experience as an investigative journalist undoubtedly enhances his already sharp fiction with unexpected minutiae that proves essential. Beyond cleverly solving mysteries, he adroitly exposes gender inequity, career climbing, personal sacrifice, dysfunctional relationships, power imbalances and abuses. Who needs actual criminals when Prefecture D is already abuzz with lawbreakers?
Kao Kalia Yang
PositiveShelf Awareness... affecting ... rather than full histories, [Yang\'s] chapters offer glimpses of lives before, of escapes, of stopovers, of arrivals, of transformation ... While personal experiences cannot be judged, narratively, as literature, some stories prove stronger and more affecting than others. An epilogue would have strengthened the work, providing a fuller overview for readers to further invest in each of the family and friends Yang introduces. That said, these voices are here, their stories are here, to provide an intimate window into once faraway lives, now intertwined together in a community they call home.
RaveShelf Awareness... electrifying ... [an] impressive assemblage ... Beyond the death and destruction, Herbert certainly knows how to cultivate erudite narrative company ... Reunited with award-winning translator Christina MacSweeney, Herbert presents 10 stories ready to disturb, quite possibly even disgust. That said, even for the most reluctant readers, the surprisingly immersive humor and slyly playful wit make resistance futile.
Aoko Matsuda, Trans. by Polly Barton
RaveBooklistPreface any storytelling format with \'traditional,\' and audiences will have no expectations of feminist agency. Thankfully, prizewinning Japanese writer Matsuda imagines reclamation and brilliantly transforms fairy tales and folk legends into empowering exposés, adventures, manifestos ... adroitly translated by UK-based Polly Barton ... While each story easily entertains, there are standouts ... Matsuda enthralls with both insight and bite.
Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, tr. Iona MacIntyre and Fiona Macintosh
PositiveBooklistWith history as backdrop, Cabezón Cámara confronts colonialism, racism, sexism, and classism and even honors fluid identities to create an unexpected utopian reclamation.
Marie Ndiaye, tr. Jordan Stump
RaveShelf AwarenessThe intriguing complexity...contained in her superb novel underscores again why she is one of France\'s most lauded contemporary writers ... Reminiscent of a Beckett play—NDiaye is also a notable playwright—this surreal narrative quickly devolves into a nightmarish fever dream. With adroit precision, NDiaye transforms Herman\'s situation, his choices (or lack thereof), his complicity, his feeble attempts at rebellion, into a biting, brilliant exposé on class and privilege, entitlement and hypocrisy, power and control.
PositiveBooklistTo begin at the end is to gather the background—cultural context, short biographies of the vast cast—that further elevates and illuminates Roca’s graphic history, deftly translated into English by Rosenberg ... Page after page, Roca excels at show-don’t-tell, keeping dialogue to a minimum, deftly relying on detailed expressions to radiate hope, frustration, determination, and, of course, rebellion.
Sayaka Murata, tr. Ginny Tapley Takemori
PositiveBooklist...societally defiant, shockingly disconnected, disturbingly satisfying fiction ... Murata again confronts and devastates so-called \'normal,\' \'proper\' behavior to create an unflinching exposé of society.
RaveShelf AwarenessDebut collections rarely prove even in quality and efficacy, which makes Jenny Bhatt\'s 15 compelling stories in Each of Us Killers even more memorable ... Challenging assumptions, confronting power, manipulating barriers whenever possible--even at grave personal cost--Bhatt\'s cast surprises, inspires, frightens, beguiles, but never disappoints.
Yeong-Shin Ma, trans. by Janet Hong
RaveBooklistPresented in stark black-and-white panels, these aging moms have nothing to hide: they’re raucous, demanding, and sexual middle-aged women finding enjoyment despite useless partners, disappointing careers, unfulfilled dreams. They text at all hours, use dating apps, swear indiscriminately, steal other women’s boyfriends, occasionally pummel one another with bare fists. Their greatest challenge, like people everywhere at every age, is loneliness—but even that can’t stop Ma’s fearsome mothers from living their best possible lives.
Scholastique Mukasonga, Trans. by Jordan Stump
RaveShelf Awareness... exquisite ... five wrenching stories ... Each of Mukasonga\'s other stories expose raw moments of excruciating challenge ... Providing welcome continuity, French professor Jordan Stump translates the book, making Igifu the third of Mukasonga\'s four English-language titles Stump has translated with graceful agility ... Despite the undeniable terror, Mukasonga\'s storytelling proves illuminating and resilient.
Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum
RaveBooklistBynum’s prowess here lies in her ingenious ability to elevate seemingly minor moments into the pivotal crux of a narrative ... Although the collection proves uneven, Bynum’s more dazzling tales surpass the less memorable for ultimately rewarding results.
PositiveShelf Awareness... haunting ... Through Nahr, Abulhawa seamlessly, affectingly parallels Palestine\'s brutal, occupied history during the last half-century, humanizing headlines with names, families, dates, memories that belong to people with whom readers can identity, believe, empathize, mourn and ultimately, albeit tentatively, celebrate.
MixedBooklistRaw, angry, even sneering, Ama, Mother, and Daughter’s three-voiced narrative is often breathtaking ... The agile, abundant beauty of Chang’s phrasing, however, is not quite enough to mitigate the relentless abuse, dysfunction, and violence that permeates her debut ... stifling enough to potentially estrange less patient readers.
RaveBooklistDespite compounding challenges and tragedies, Gyasi never allows Gifty to devolve into paralyzing self-absorption and malaise. With deft agility and undeniable artistry, Gyasi’s latest is an eloquent examination of resilient survival.
PositiveBooklistRyan’s novel covers less than 24 hours, but by book’s end, readers are left feeling remarkably bonded with this fiercely independent young woman who thinks, acts, and lives differently from the so-called norm ... Her sharp, unfiltered thoughts—compellingly presented by Australian director and debut novelist Ryan, who herself is #OwnVoices neurodiverse—never seem to pause as she skips between describing her present and divulging her past, meticulously processing her actions, and regarding herself and others from unexpected perspectives. Virtually every page offers a discerning observation ... Her piercing insight is relentless. Ryan is currently preparing her intriguing tale for the screen, but how this intense inner life will transfer across media remains to be seen—literally. Until then, read the book.
Kuniko Tsurita, Trans. by Ryan Holmberg
RaveShelf Awareness... a label-defying collection ... Tsurita explores the role of women through numerous shorts in unexpected format ... Drawn & Quarterly\'s meticulously curated presentation ensures Tsurita\'s legacy will continue to gain deserved recognition internationally, decades after her untimely death.
Jayant Kaikini, Trans. by Tejaswini Niranjana
PositiveBooklistMost affecting are \'A Pair of Spare Legs,\' which portrays an incorrigible six-year-old, and the title story about young lovers in the midst of wedding plans ... Intriguing, albeit somewhat uneven multiculti fare for the internationally inclined.
RaveShelf AwarenessWith remarkable prescience, Lauren Beukes\'s Afterland takes on an \'unprecedented global pandemic\' with chilling results—and surprising comic relief threaded throughout ... Never-ending body counts, attempted sororicide and tween exploitation might not particularly be phrases that invite \'Read me!\' but this pandemic distraction is ready for worldly audiences, offering titillating thrills, schadenfreude and, most surprisingly (and necessarily), even a few take-me-away snorts and shrieks.
PositiveBooklistIn [Li\'s] first title with a non-Asian-specific cast (as if creating some semblance of distance), an adult child’s suicide propels a multilevel narrative that sprawls through relationships, perspectives, and responses ... Once more, Li confronts unbearable grief and claims agency.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor... offers another fierce, revelatory literary experience ... In a riff on the conventional immigrant novel – which features bicultural protagonists tied to two countries, departed and arrived – Tenorio adds a clever twist by creating a citizen of nowhere: Excel is always in limbo, both legally and figuratively ... Tenorio has written a resonant story about what one family is willing to do to \'protect the child.\' It’s seamlessly interwoven with cogent explorations of hybrid identity, racism, immigration history, shifting familial bonds, parental sacrifice, socioeconomic disparity, and even alternative social models ... The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the Trump administration could not rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy on an accelerated schedule, bringing DREAMers back into headlines. That attention should give Tenorio’s affecting novel a well-deserved boost; he humanizes the lives imperiled by shifting immigration policies.
Yu Miri, Trans. by Morgan Giles
RaveBooklistYu is no stranger to modern society’s traps driven by nationalism, capitalism, classism, sexism. Her anglophoned latest (gratitude to translator Giles for providing fluent accessibility) is a surreal fable of splintered families, disintegrating relationships, and the casual devaluation of humanity.
Kelli Jo Ford
RaveShelf AwarenessKelli Jo Ford makes a magnificent #OwnVoices debut ... Ford\'s interlinked structure allows for an intriguing, vast cast ... A citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Ford adroitly, affectingly weaves indigenous history into her spellbinding narrative, exposing displacement, unacknowledged violence, cultural erasure, relentless racism and socioeconomic disparity. Post-publication, Ford should expect plenty of applause and awards to come.
Seong-Nan Ha, Trans. by Janet Hong
RaveBooklistBest-selling Korean author Ha and award-winning Canadian translator Hong are two-for-two at spectacular pairing, repeating the successful partnership of Ha’s collection, Flowers of Mold (2019), with another sensational, 11-story collaboration ... Despite a significant body count, Ha’s provocative narratives never devolve into the maudlin, showcasing instead sly moments of macabre fascination and startling dark comedy.
MixedBooklistDebuting novelist Arafat’s damaged cast might resonate with untethered millennials, but utmost patience is a must.
RaveBooklist... what Tomine highlights here, with self-deprecating vulnerability and humble humor on pages of graph paper, are, well, the many failures ... In this exquisitely rendered, prodigiously articulated work, Tomine proves again why he’s still that \'famous cartoonist.\'
RaveBooklist...mesmerizing juxtaposition in \'Come Back to Me\' inaugurates Som’s extraordinary debut collection, signaling an exceptional graphic achievement. Other prodigious standouts include \'Pleasure Palace,\' about two unlikely strangers who meet at a posh resort and, as the older woman offers the younger man a glimpse of a mythic past, unexpectedly leave together; \'Swandive,\' in which a pair of conference attendees are drawn together by their flesh and—literally—blood as they map out a wondrously inclusive future; and \'I Can See It in You,\' about an interracial couple whose party-going—and perhaps their very relationship—is interrupted by a not-so-mysterious intruder. Richly hued, gorgeously lettered, and often exquisitely detailed, Som’s work, the writing as well the art, presents a brave new world of diverse women—talking, dancing, dreaming, plotting—living among friends, lovers, and chimerical creatures, in familiar cities and faraway landscapes, balancing the expectantly mundane with the utterly fantastical.
RaveLibrary JournalA riveting amalgam of history, family epic, anticolonial/antiwar treatise, cultural crossroads, and more, this latest from best-selling author Liu...is a fascinating, irresistible marvel.
Carlos Manuel Álvarez
RaveBooklistA searing work of literary excellence, Cuban writer Álvarez’s disturbing, dazzling debut novel arrives stateside, Anglophone-enabled by award-winning Irish writer/translator Wynne. Álvarez unravels this story of an imploding family-in-crisis with symmetrical precision. The novel is in five succinct sections, each of which Álvarez further divides to present the four family members’ points of view, rotating their perspectives in a pattern—visually and narratively—throughout. Although Álvarez’s characters are named, the chapter headings—son, mother, father, daughter—suggest that what happens to this family could happen to any family.
Sara Mesa, Trans. by Katie Whittemore
PositiveBooklistAnglophoned by Whittemore (an interview with her follows the novel), Spanish writer Mesa presents a painful exploration of inequity, cruelty, and the immeasurable cost of belonging.
PositiveBooklist... talking heads given agency to speak their truths, exquisitely detailed artwork, meticulously revealed events ... Amidst the arduous journeys of survival (and not), Sacco’s occasional godfather-of-manga-Tezukaesque self-parodies provide welcome, momentary (can’t resist) comic relief. Harrowing and enlightening, Sacco presents another solemn, resonating dispatch.
RaveShelf AwarenessMembers Only...is as provocative as it is comedic ... Facing social, professional, personal implosion—all in one week—might seem impossibly overdramatic, but Members Only proves remarkably convincing ... That said, don\'t expect all doom-and-gloom here: without ever eliding the gravity of serious social issues like racism, privilege and power, Pandya deftly manages to create a tragicomedy of errors driven by surprising wit, irreverent humor and razor-sharp insight.
Yoshiharu Tsuge, Trans. by Ryan Holmberg
RaveShelf AwarenessReaders have an easy choice here: to read this resonating six-chapter collection as an entertaining, albeit sobering, manga about the middle-aged life of a seeming slacker, or approach it as a prominent, pivotal example of 20th-century graphic literary history ... Drawn in stark black-and-white panels, Tsuge\'s frank narrative portrays an artist-in-decline, an anti-Bildungsroman that offers effective storytelling, enduring characters, poignant reflection and, most notably, gratifying art. Audiences who shut the book after the final panels would certainly leave Sukezō in his solipsistic reverie with satisfying closure ... translator Holmberg\'s [biographical] essay...is an illuminating enhancement—biographically, historically, literally.
Tian Veasna, Trans. by Helge Dasche
RaveBooklistFirst published in France, Veasna’s debut is notably graphic—yes, because he’s a visual artist but also because words alone couldn’t capture the magnitude of this (in)human tragic history. Prodigious Francophone translator Dascher enables English-language reading; award-winning filmmaker Rithy Panh provides introductory context.
RaveBooklistKolkata-born and Harvard- and Johns Hopkins–educated book editor Majumdar presents an electrifying debut that serves as a barometer measuring the seeming triviality of human life and the fragility of human connections.
Mieko Kawakami, trans. by Sam Bett and David Boyd
RaveBooklistJapan’s literary superstar Kawakami...significantly expands her 2008 Akutagawa Prize novella, notably translated by Bett and Boyd ... Within an affecting portrait-of-an-artist-in-transition, Kawakami deftly, deeply questions the assumptions of womanhood and family—the bonds and abuses, expectations and betrayals, choices and denials.
RaveLibrary Journal...will certainly be one of the most wondrous literary achievements to hit the shelves this year ... A multigenerational epic intertwined with spellbinding myths, Swarup’s is a many-layered narrative ... linked across borders and barriers, from sinking islands to glacial mountaintops ... Extraordinarily affecting, this work should be a priority acquisition for all libraries with astute, globally hungry patrons.
RaveBooklistUnflinching and unadorned, Beah’s novel provides an indelible portrait of desperate survival.
PositiveBooklistEverything here sounds off-kilter—on purpose. Discomfort pervades the reading, whether conversations are awkwardly not-quite-synched between speakers, or sentences spoken in an (unnamed) Caribbean island patois are made purposefully wooden and German words and phrases become virtually unintelligible. That jagged performance, however, seems integral to Williams’ 2019 Giller Prized debut novel, in which the disquieting delivery unexpectedly enhances an already unique on-the-page, meant-to-disrupt presentation ... Words don’t quite do justice here: to better interpret what’s in the ears, visual clarification with a print copy is highly recommended (which is why libraries exist!).
RaveBooklistAs former travel and culture editor for CNN in Seoul, U.S.-Hong Kong-South Korea-raised and Brooklyn-domiciled Cha writes exactingly of what she knows in her first novel. With unblinking focus, she confronts some of the darkest consequences of contemporary gender inequity by targeting the erasure of female individuality by oppressive beauty standards and expectations ... [a] magnificent tale ... Despite a society designed to stifle, these women manage to nurture mutual bonds for strength and survival.
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
PositiveBooklistAs in her debut...literary darling Buchanan’s newest presents another self-absorbed cast made memorably affecting by real-life challenges—distracted relationships, filial expectations, tiresome careers, and especially mental illness—which consume and debilitate daily lives.
PositiveBooklistWhile Mustafah writes impressively and convincingly of her Palestinian American immigrant community, she falters when revealing the shooter’s narrative, which veers too close to predictability. Her achievements nevertheless outweigh minor missteps, making her an adept author well worth reading.
Yan Lianke, Trans. by Carlos Rojas
PositiveShelf AwarenessAfter decades of glimpsing autobiographical hints in his always intriguing, often surreal novels and short stories, Anglophone audiences get access to Yan Lianke\'s real life ... Carlos Rojas returns as Yan\'s excellent translator ... Meandering through his past, Yan shows you can--and should--go home again
PositiveLibrary JournalSavvy and savage (with plenty of racist, sexist, sociopolitical bite), pop lit doyen Nguyen\'s fiction debut is poised to trigger \'new waves.\'
PositiveShelf AwarenessFractured families populate Nancy Au\'s provocative 17-story debut collection, highlighting disappearing parents--whether by choice or by death--and the children left to endure and survive. Au draws on her Chinese heritage in her narratives. Some of her characters are deeply affected by recent history: some are escaping the horrific tragedy of the Cultural Revolution, and others have the in-between identity of being an immigrant. Still others are steeped in a cultural legacy that incorporates magic, fox spirits and dragon gods. Lest readers worry that darkness overshadows, Au proves herself quite adept at sly, affecting humor ... By the book\'s end, Au\'s unpredictable cast has embodied far-ranging history, cultures, locations and genres, with irreverently engaging results. For short-form connoisseurs, Au\'s accomplishments will undoubtedly regale and resonate.
Chan Ho-Kei, Trans. by Jeremy Tiang
RaveShelf AwarenessYes, it\'s almost two inches thick and more than 400 pages, but that shouldn\'t deter readers from procuring this book promptly ... virtually irresistible, with twisty-turny, didn\'t-see-that-coming manipulations guaranteed to keep readers wide awake into the wee hours ... translated by Singaporean novelist and playwright Jeremy Tiang, who dexterously conveys Chan\'s amalgamation of prose, text streams, e-mails and blog posts complete with belligerent comments ... Chan presents what initially seems to be a linear mystery--solve the dead girl\'s murder--and amplifies the thriller into a multi-layered treatise on overcrowded cities and its overlooked citizens (his native Hong Kong earns character status here), the unchecked power of the Internet, the grey ethics of revenge, and the potential limits of morality in business, friendships and even among family members. Deftly controlling multiple narratives beyond the sisters\' tragedy, Chan exposes high tech, high finance, high fraud, high school hierarchies, dysfunctional families, absent parents, relentless surveillance, sexual politics and rape culture. For readers, the provocative mix of urgent contemporary issues and page-turning action won\'t disappoint.
RaveShelf AwarenessFor readers in search of a tautly streamlined, deeply resonating, contemporary family story, Big Familia by Tomas Moniz won\'t disappoint ... Without ignoring societal ills--racially charged police violence, incarceration bias, aggressive gentrification, generation gaps—Moniz creates a broadly diverse cast on the verge of transformation. Testing options, pushing past comfort zones and welcoming new bonds result in a big familia well worth getting to know ... engaging.
RaveLibrary JournalIn under 200 pages, Canadian poet Thammavongsa showcases 14 spectacular stories in her fiction debut ... Thammavongsa parses her own culturally amalgamated heritage through most of her narratives here, some previously published. The collection opens with the Commonwealth Short Story Prize short-listed title story, a poignant, eyes-wide-open exploration of a young girl’s embarrassed realization of how little her immigrant father seems to know. Other lingering standouts are many...
C Pam Zhang
PositiveBooklist... mesmerizing ... Zhang reveals as much through deliberate elision as meticulous storytelling ... Zhang, just 29, writes with precocious assurance as she confronts the inseparable connections between lies, liars, and secrets; the barriers of language; the impossible price of family bonds, and the everlasting longing to find home.
PositiveBooklistJournalist Hua’s debut in fiction is an intriguing collection of 10 stories with personal resonance from being the child of Chinese immigrants and a two-decade, continent-hopping career. Each of her protagonists is never quite grounded, caught between multiple cultures and countries. Each hides beneath layers of deceit, clinging to lies that enable survival ... Hua’s ability to imagine the detailed lives of her disparate characters, including a sex-scandal runaway, missionary saviors, and a lock-picking immigrant, gives her stories impact, despite a few jarring endings. Hua’s collection pairs well with those of Mia Alvar, Violet Kupersmith, and Tania James ... Hua is a writer to watch.
Sagwa Kim, Trans. by Sunhee Jeong
PositiveBooklistAt turns raw and piercing, dreamy and surreal, Kim’s latest import—urgently Anglophone-enabled by scholar/editor/Seoul-based translator Jeong—is a pressing indictment of today’s too-often onerous transition toward uncertain adulthood.
Michal Ben-Naftali, trans. by Daniella Zamir
PositiveBooklistWinner of the Sapir Prize, one of Israel’s highest literary honors, Ben-Naftali’s biographical novel portrays a vanished woman finally found. Translator Zamir provides a vivid translation.
PositiveBooklistResembling a script, complete with a classic typewriter font, Yu’s tale ingeniously draws on real-life Hollywood dead ends for Asian American actors, including, quite possibly, Kelvin Yu, the author’s younger brother. As preposterous as many scenes may seem, their sobering reality will resonate with savvy readers.
PositiveBooklistDoshi certainly writes with eyes wide open, never minimizing the challenges and the failures that prove both damning and redemptive.
Sasha Marianna Salzmann, Trans. by Imogen Taylor
PositiveLibrary JournalBe forewarned: identity, nationality, and gender are all fluid here—histories intertwine and conflict, narrators change and prove unreliable, and pronouns are a challenge throughout ... Salzmann’s multilayered first novel should find resonance with cosmopolitan Stateside audiences, most especially with internationally savvy LGBTQIA readers.
MixedLibrary JournalAnappara’s journalist training helps create a keen sense of place populated by vivid characters, but her fiction skills aren’t quite as honed, and the narrative drags, proving more unsatisfying than edifying.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
PositiveLibrary JournalAdichie\'s tone seems light, and she uses ironic humor brilliantly throughout ... But she doesn\'t shy away from getting angry, dismantling stereotypes, exposing inequity, and demanding change. Adichie\'s own definition of a feminist is simply empowering ... Libraries aware of Adichie\'s global popularity will surely want to spread her concise, common-sense, inclusive feminism.
Cathy Park Hong
RaveBooklistTitle aside, nothing is minor about Hong’s taut, sharp collection. The award-winning poet’s prose debut will elicit comparisons to contemporary race-conscious luminaries—think Claudine Rankine, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Roxane Gay—but Hong’s singular voice expresses both reclamation and declaration ... Seven stupendous essays mark her journey toward claiming agency ... Hong creates a fierce amalgamation comprised of careful memoir, radical history, sociopolitical treatise, and revolutionary call-out.
PositiveShelf AwarenessThat Kashua\'s protagonist is a nameless \'I\' who shares considerable biographical overlaps suggests, perhaps even implies, the so-called truth of Kashua\'s first-person fiction. Yet his character, whose job is to transcribe others\' memories onto the page, repeatedly reveals his elisions from and additions to strangers\' memoirs-for-hire, often inserting his own memories as their own, thereby erasing his life in scattered pieces. The narrator\'s confessions are hardly reliable, making every level of his storytelling suspect, which Kashua further visually underscores by \'track changes\'-style crossed-out text. For savvy, curious readers, that interplay of parsing fact and fiction proves to be a lively, interactive experience.
RaveBooklistYoon again exemplifies his unparalleled ability to create a quietly spectacular narrative that reveals the unfathomable worst and unwavering best of humanity; the result here provides mesmerizing gratification.
PositiveBooklistAdiga, who’s become a part-time Australian, again scrutinizes the human condition through a haves-vs.-have-nots filter with sly wit and narrative ingenuity ... Best-selling Adiga’s smart, funny, and timely tale with a crime spin of an undocumented immigrant will catalyze readers.
RaveBooklistWith precocious dexterity, Jin—Chinese-born, Harvard-educated, Brooklyn-based—adroitly privileges her readers with a haunting omniscience she denies her characters, giving voice to Liya’s first caregiver and the runaway stranger whose genes are Liya’s dubious legacy. Skillfully revealed, exquisitely rendered, Jin’s first novel undoubtedly presages future success.
Valérie Mréjen, Trans. by Katie Shireen Assef
PositiveLibrary JournalIn language that’s laconic and concise, Mréjen writes affectingly without emotional entanglement—\'her aim is not to eulogize but to describe, to enumerate, to record,\' writes Assef (making her full-length translation debut) in her elucidating ending commentary ... While the novel is \'certainly not for members of the cult of the carefree,\' as Assef wryly notes, internationally-savvy seekers will undoubtedly be intrigued.
Perumal Murugan, trans. by N. Kalyan Raman
PositiveBooklistMurugan—smoothly anglophone-enabled by award-winning Tamil translator Raman—moves fluidly between human and animal viewpoints, from detailing the humans’ relationship with their land and flock, to anthropomorphizing Poonachi’s maturation from fragile survivor into playful kid, longing lover, even miraculous mother. Yet as pastoral as this story seems, Murugan’s multilayered intentions prove far more admonitory. Poonachi is more daughter—with all the limitations of womanhood thrust upon her—than livestock. Beyond the fields, a regime looms, fear controls, and societal rigidity rules as Murugan adroitly transforms his caprine idyll into cautionary chronicle.
Hiromi Kawakami, Trans. by Allison Markin Powell
RaveBooklistThe presentation is exquisite: in this small volume, Kawakami’s spare text is interrupted by Takako Yoshitomi’s delightful two-color illustrations of mostly geometric shapes with anthropomorphized additions ... this less-than-100 pages tome easily stands alone as a parable about memory, mythic characters, and confessional regrets, but for a lingering, sigh-inducing experience, read this only after finishing its companion, the internationally bestselling, Man Asian Literary Prize finalist, Strange Weather in Tokyo ... Kawakami’s enduring afterword follows—and haunts—as she ponders what happens to \'stories that have ended,\' of \'echoes that [she] hear[s], far off in the distance,\' how \'[t]he world that exists behind a story is never fully known, not even to the author.\' The result—Anglophoned once again by Powell, Kawakami’s translator of choice—is an ethereal, resonating literary gift.
PositiveShelf AwarenessDovalpage adeptly draws on her heritage, intertwining her native country\'s tumultuous history with the contemporary experiences of the Cuban diaspora. While the collision of past and present produces fatal results, the ensuing labyrinthine journey provides readers with plenty of compelling diversions along the way.
Fernanda Torres, Trans. by Eric M. B. Becker
PositiveShelf AwarenessBrazilian actor Fernanda Torres writes about what she knows, while writer, editor and translator Eric M.B. Becker provides English-language audiences ready access to Torres\'s affecting performance on the page. Having alchemized theater into her standout debut, The End, Torres returns with another tragicomedy about the cost of \'this bind they call fame\'—the irresistible lure, the blinding reception, the fickle adoration and the unrelenting need for reinventions.
PositiveBooklistLok channels her intimate observation of human relationships into an astute first story collection ... Through eight provocative stories, Lok’s sharp gaze transforms disconnection and longing with compelling results.
PositiveBooklist...translator Yasemin Çongar...transfers...immediacy onto the page with reverence and grace, the essays alchemized into this phenomenally inspiring memoir. Despite stifling, Kafka-esque circumstances, Altan channels freedom through his imagination; he escapes through his mind. His unfailing creativity feeds his very soul to survive[.]
RaveBooklist... monumental ... Mengiste’s extraordinary characters—shrewd Kidane, militant Aster, the enigmatic cook, narcissistic Italian commander Fucelli, conflicted photographer Ettore, elusive prostitute Fifi, even haunted Selassie—epitomize the impossibly intricate ties between humanity and monstrosity, and the unthinkable, immeasurable cost of survival.
RaveShelf AwarenessDespite a sense of head-shaking impossibility, Wilson somehow manages to make his make-believe believable--in between the inappropriate laughing and bittersweet empathizing ... When it comes to unconventional families, Wilson again proves himself a master of heartstring-tugging, drop-jaw shocking, guffaw-inducing, (can\'t resist) highly combustible entertainment.
RaveThe San Francisco ChronicleYoon, a New York City-born Korean American, writes with such sparse precision as to create a visceral portrait of lost souls, each searching in worlds both living and dead ... In spite of all that is missing for his characters, Yoon\'s writing results in a fully formed, deftly executed debut. The lost lives, while heartbreaking, prove illuminating in Yoon\'s made-up world, so convincing and real. To read is truly to believe.
RaveBooklistTruong, whose family’s violent 1975 displacement from Vietnam when she was six makes her intimately familiar with peripatetic longing, stupendously imagined the life of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’ Vietnamese Parisian cook in her award-winning debut, The Book of Salt ... She displays similar ingenuity in her extraordinary new book (an eight-year effort) presenting Lafcadio Hearn through the four most important women in his life ... By reclaiming these exemplary women’s voices, Truong enhances history with illuminating herstory too long overlooked.
RaveBooklist... spectacular ... Hage’s visceral reminder that beyond money, power, religion, and war, we are nothing more than corpses to either let rot or set aflame.
Yoko Ogawa, Trans. by Stephen Snyder
RaveBooklistAs fantastical as the premise of her latest anglophoned novel seems, Ogawa intends exactly that universality ... Ogawa’s anointed translator, Snyder, adroitly captures the quiet control with which Ogawa gently unfurls her ominously surreal and Orwellian narrative. The Memory Police loom, their brutality multiplies, but Ogawa remarkably ensures that what lingers are the human(e) connections—building a communicating device with tubing, sharing pancake bites with a grateful dog, a birthday party. As the visceral disappears, somehow the spirit holds on.
RaveBooklistFollowing The Art of Death (2017), a reflection on her mother’s passing and writing, Danticat focuses this haunting eight-story collection on, well, death ... Danticat once again urges readers out of comfort zones to bear witness to urgent topics—refugee crises, polarizing inequity, violence, disasters—and alchemizes sorrows and tragedies into opportunities for literary enlightenment.
Yukio Mishima, Trans. by Sam Bett
PositiveBooklist[Mishima\'s] slim novella—smoothly translated into English for the first time by prize-winning Sam Bett—is a raw, scathing examination of fame: \'The very thing that makes a star worth watching is the same thing that strikes him from the world at large and makes him an outsider.\'
RaveLibrary Journal\"Vuong mines his memories, his traumas, his triumphs to create an epistolary masterpiece addressed to his mother—who can\'t read ... Fearless, revelatory, extraordinary; an essential acquisition for every library.\
RaveBooklistSentenced in 1993, renowned South Korean writer Hwang...served five of a seven-year sentence for making an unauthorized trip to North Korea to promote artistic exchange between the divided nations. Combining brutal adversity, escapist fantasy, and deep humanity, Hwang—adroitly Anglophone-enabled by expert translator Kim-Russell—indelibly alchemizes the plight of the North Korean refugee, and refugees worldwide, into resonantly timely storytelling.
PositiveBooklist...a formidable balancing act negotiating parents, cultures, religions, and expectations ... Presenting her memories in hues of pinks, oranges, and blues, Gharib augments them with stinging, comically poignant interruptions ... Forthright and funny, Gharib fiercely claims her own American dream.
PositiveBooklistAwarded the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, Talusan bravely alchemizes unbearable traumas into a potent memoir remarkably devoid of self-pity, replete with fortitude and grace.
PositiveBooklistAward-winning translator MacSweeney enables anglophone readers access to Herbert’s electrifying testimony, first published in Mexico in 2015.
MixedBooklist...a historical, multigenerational sprawl, with a stupendous beginning that, alas, devolves into a tumultuous muddle of superfluous characters and unnecessary side-narratives, ending with a disappointing lost-letter-induced-insanity ploy. That the twentysomething novelist is already an enviable wordsmith promises, however, that experience and maturity will produce sustained spectacularity in future titles.
RaveBooklistChoi’s fifth, and finest, novel ... Despite being a reference to a soul-baring acting exercise, \'trust\' will have little correlation to truth ... Literary deception rarely reads this well.
PositiveBooklistThe daughter of Brooklyn Palestinian immigrants, Rum was often told \'a woman is no man.\' Overcoming her fear of community reprisal, she alchemizes that limiting warning into a celebration of \'the strength and power of our women.\'
RaveBooklist\"Joining a growing cohort of notable Korean imports, Ha’s dazzling, vaguely intertwined collection of 10 stories is poised for Western acclaim ... PEN/Heim Translation Fund–awarded Hong enables English-language readers access into Ha’s disturbing, unpredictable, oneiric—yet all too recognizable—world in which heat stifles, waste rots, and bonds break; yet, for most, life goes on.\
RaveBooklistA stupendous multigenerational family saga, See’s latest also provides an enthralling cultural anthropology highlighting the soon-to-be-lost, matriarchal haenyeo phenomenon and an engrossing history of violently tumultuous twentieth-century Korea. A mesmerizing achievement.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorBlending the personal with pivotal world history, Zia succeeds in creating a universal, timeless story ... She counters the dismissive narrative of refugees as \'freeloaders and parasites\' with examples of their global successes ... Gathered, analyzed, and distilled with insight and meticulous documentation, Zia’s book gives voice to a history almost lost.
PositiveBooklistSartori ruthlessly confronts the Catholic Church, hypermasculinity, environmental manipulation, capitalism, feel-good entitlement, and more, all in the name of God (whose perfection proves anything but). PEN/Heim Translation Fund–awarded Randall ensures that Sartori’s English-language debut conveys the full impact of Sartori’s scathing humor.
Un-Su Kim, Trans. by Sora Kim-Russell
RaveBooklistThe winner of prestigious prizes in Korea, Kim makes his anglophone debut, thanks to Kim-Russell, who captures his dark, dark wit and searing sarcasm in an irresistible sociopolitical parable designed to delight and dismay.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorFor the curious Anglophone reader of world literature, Cho Ung is a dramatic adventure filled with royal intrigue, swashbuckling wars, filial duties, multigenerational revenge—and, of course, a swooning love story ... To ensure a smooth, narrative experience, Cho makes reading the 138-page adventure straight through easily doable, clearly separating the story from additional information, keeping even footnotes relegated off the page until after the final line. Readers might close the book fully satisfied with a glimpse of vernacular fiction from another time, a faraway culture while digesting a bit of sociopolitical history. But beyond simply enjoying literature-in-translation, Cho’s contextual enhancements (totaling an additional almost-100 pages) are emphatically laudable as well as rewardingly readable. Her comprehensive introduction provides a treasure trove of exacting details about versions of the classic tale, a parsing of its factual and imagined elements, astute character studies, textual insights—undoubtedly illuminating for the casual reader, surely motivating for the academic scholar.
RaveBooklistBy having Chinonso’s chi serve as storyteller, Obioma alchemizes his contemporary love story into a mythic quest enhanced by Igbo cosmology, centuries of history revealed through glimpses of the chi’s past hosts, elements of autobiography conjuring Obioma’s own Cyprian education and his meeting a fellow Nigerian whose dire experiences initially sparked the novel. Magnificently multilayered, Obioma’s sophomore title proves to be an Odyssean achievement.
Hwang Sok-yong Trans. by Sora Kim-Russell
RaveBooklist... indelibly, adroitly anglophoned by Seoul-based Kim-Russell ... A piercing modern tale about all we can never know about our loved ones and ourselves.
MixedBooklistDespite repetition and disjointedness (some chapters seem like separate essays), Ariosto’s insights are plentiful, and amid erratically evolving Cuba-U.S. relations, such personal perspectives, even from a yuma, provide the best portals to mutual understanding.
Miguel De Cervantes and Ilan Stavans
PositiveBooklistWeil is an ideal accomplice; his emotive artistry verges close to colorful caricature, and his text bubbles break panel boundaries as if he knows the script is too large to ever be contained. Stavans notes the simultaneous availability of a \'Spanglish\' edition. Undoubtedly, this is not your lit professor’s classic. Purists need not open, but readers in search of a good guffaw can expect rollicking fun times.
RaveBooklistBefore personal and political events finally allowed her to go \'home\' to South Africa, Msimang spent her first 20-plus years in peripatetic exile ... Hauntingly raw (her sexual assault at age seven) and unblinkingly honest (her lingering hatred of a school bully), Msimang’s memoir and first book recounts the intimate, inspiring, tumultuous journey of a woman \'piecing [herself] back together.\'
Pyun Hye-young, Trans. by Sora Kim-Russell
RaveBooklist\"The first collaboration between Pyun and translator Kim-Russell, The Hole, introduced one of Korea’s most lauded writers to Anglophone readers. Kim-Russell’s ability to replicate Pyun’s stifling terror repeats here as he presents a nameless antihero, known only as \'the man.\' ... A slap-in-the-face parable of the perils of society’s failures, Pyun’s suffocating tale reveals a future all too possible and real.
Frederick Luis Aldama
PositiveBooklist\"The latest title in Mad Creek’s impressive Latinographix series showcases 80-plus contributions from the flourishing Latinx graphic community. Creators were prompted \'to reflect upon the most significant moments of their lives,\' rendering seven sections that explore language, coming-of-age, mythology, identity, heritage, self-image, and pop culture ... As testimony and magnification of the multitudinous Latinx experience, La Vida bursts forth con fuerte.
RaveBooklistEisner-winning Kuper’s career of \'translating Kafka into comics\' began in 1995, when his initial collection of nine shorts hit shelves, with Give It Up! He adds another five here, scrambles the previous order, and includes his \'Kuperesque\' foreword, emphasizing how, since Kafka’s death at 40, in 1924, \'our world increasingly reflects the adjective ‘Kafkaesque’\'—nightmarish, oppressive, surreal ... In distilling Kafka’s timeless themes, Kuper creates stark panels of disturbing truth and powerful warning. While Kafka aficionados will savor enhanced perception, readers without prior knowledge will nevertheless appreciate Kuper’s unflinching interpretations.
RaveBooklist...The author, who describes herself as being \'among the first generation of transnational, interracial adoptees,\' takes charge with a tale that will knock your expectations to, well, somewhere surreal yet real. Step into Villa Umma, where Lisa has been kidnapped, no, delivered. She’s had a shattering fight with her BFF, fellow adoptee Mindy, at a Seoul Dunkin’ Donuts about meeting Mindy’s birth mother and absconded to Jeju Island with the MotherFinders representative. Turns out Mindy’s bioparent doesn’t particularly want her, but Lisa’s certainly does—not to reclaim 27 lost years but to further her Machiavellian plans to place Lisa’s half brother at the helm of a nuclear-power-to-be ... Stephens’ darkly comic, sharply irreverent, undeniably wise \'Great Adoption Novel\' is an unexpectedly timely, not-to-be-missed, epic wild ride.
RaveBooklist...With shrewd insight, inventive plotting, and stinging history lessons, Apostol...puts the \'unremembered\' Philippine-American War on display, deftly exposing a complicated colonial legacy through the unlikely relationship between a U.S.-educated Filipino translator and a visiting American filmmaker ... The multilayered challenge, enhanced by the presences of Elvis, Muhammad Ali, various Coppolas, and a sprawling cast of characters both historical and imagined, proves exceptionally rewarding.
RaveShelf AwarenessUsing a similar format that won him awards for Drowned City, Brown presents a graphic hybrid of history and facts—explained in text boxes—with scenes of personal experiences. Beyond numbing data, Brown gives faces and voices to the refugees, as he chronicles various journeys out ... Brown\'s panels can\'t—won\'t?—contain all that the Syrians must endure, as weapons, explosions, fleeing crowds, suffering victims repeatedly break through panel outlines. Yet amid the struggles, Brown won\'t abandon hope ... In urgently humanizing The Unwanted, Brown\'s sobering explication and tenacious advocacy prove both necessary and revelatory.
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
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.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor\"[Passing on this book would be a mistake,] Because beyond the specifics here – as unique, affecting, heartstring-pulling as this debut is – Nicole Chung’s All You Can Ever Know will resonate with any sensitive, thoughtful reader ... Raw, open, forthright, Chung’s personal odyssey is an intimate journey toward self-understanding and acceptance.\
Haruki Murakami, Trans. by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen
RaveChristian Science Monitor...the latest evasive, magical, utterly unique novel by Murakami ... seamlessly translated ... At over 700-plus pages, it’s (thankfully) another intriguing, time-challenging tome you can’t wait to finish ... As entertainingly evasive as always, Murakami allows for some mysteries to be solved, while others remain in limbo. Avoiding absolutes, his playful slyness pops up throughout.
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.
Kyung-Sook Shin, trans. by Anton Hur
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.