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.
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.
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.