RaveNPRA groundbreaking collage of epistles, mementos, poetry, and literary criticism ... In defining language as the nucleus for experience, Chang\'s innovative montage brings to mind Jorge Luis Borges\' \'The Aleph\'...where time and memory are converged as omniscient reality. While structurally complex, Dear Memory articulates grief\'s basic anxieties ... Chang\'s poignant anecdotes on motherhood, from her own experience and others\', can be read as tangible ways to illustrate memory\'s paradoxes ... Chang\'s lyrical experiment memorably evokes an individual family\'s time capsule and an artist\'s timeless yearning to shape carbon dust into incandescent gem.
A.L. Snijders, tr. Lydia Davis
RaveAsymptote... a shapeshifting amalgam of fable, zen koan, commentary, lyrical essay, and autobiography. As an immersive foray into the unknown, the instability of Snijders’s narrative form produces a trompe-l’oeil effect \'indistinguishable from the truth,\' giving the reader a sensation of being at once disoriented and illuminated ... The Dutch author vividly demonstrates how recreational play and a passion for one’s calling are one and the same...This sense of work as both duty and pleasure represents Snijders’s netsuke approach to literature—intricate art designed as miniature toggles for the necessities of our daily existence.
Hwang Sok-Yong, trans. by Sora Kim-Russell and Anton Hur
RaveNPRHwang Sok-yong\'s expansive memoir—incisively translated by Anton Hur and Sora Kim-Russell—vividly captures a South Korean writer\'s literal and metaphorical imprisonment ... Cinematic, riveting, elegiac, The Prisoner captures the dialectical tensions in Hwang\'s life and career in a manner reminiscent of Jacob wrestling with an angel, or the haunting films of South Korean director Lee Chang-dong ... Hwang\'s prison account—divided into six segments—constitutes the lyrical refrain that disrupts the chronology of his life prior to incarceration. This innovative arrangement eloquently replicates the ruptures and rhythms in Hwang\'s life and art. While The Prisoner acknowledges free expression\'s burdens and the North-South struggle\'s Sisyphean nature, Hwang\'s epilogue stands firm with his urgent yet timeless warning[.]
Manuele Fior, trans. by Jamie Richards
RaveAsymptoteAmbitiously realized by Manuele Fior and eloquently translated by Jamie Richards, Celestia—Venice’s oneiric double—is a visual poem and modernist dance in graphic novel form, encompassing diaphanous terrains and gothic undertow, exuberantly tumescent with allusions to literature, art, and architecture ... Richards’ expressive portrayal of Pierrot complements Fior’s suggestive approach. Their linguistic collaboration resembles a graceful pas-de-deux between layers of idea and perception. Fior’s painterly panels, like his organic narrative, often do not follow the sequential action-to-action layout of traditional comics, but employ disorienting shifts in perspective, scene, and mood—bringing to mind Brodsky’s metaphor of Venice as a trammeling labyrinth.
Anthony Veasna So
RaveNPRTrained as a comic, So creates deadpan and intricate vignettes about the Cambodian American community that the uninitiated may find startling ... In portraying lives subject to multiple perils and displacements, So treats the legacy of genocide with astute nuance — as if such trauma is both integral and incidental to his characters ... The idea of renewal, through something as prosaic as doing chores, or as cosmic as reincarnation, or via bold realignment of iconic works in American literature, represents the vital core of So\'s fiction.
RaveNPR... unsentimental yet deeply moving ... Ostensibly an immigrant success story, Tran\'s narrative power lies in its nuanced celebration of filial devotion that withstands the enormous cost of the American dream ... Tran\'s memoir is unique among Vietnamese American narratives in the sense that her identity crisis was not about liberating herself from her parents\' past but her unwillingness to remove herself from their suffering ... In the end, Tran\'s empathy and her parents\' appreciation of her filial love cemented the emotional bricks that steady their seemingly tenuous hold on this unaccustomed earth.
RaveNPR... haunting ... poignantly explores all the ways in which Vietnamese refugees are affected by country and water — in sum, by dislocation ... gracefully manages to be both panoramic and specific, allegorical and literal ... Nguyen\'s narrative language, as consistent with his fluid universe, is an organic blend of English and Vietnamese...slipping into dialogues, recorded messages, and descriptions. This hybrid language highlights his characters\' complex essence, showing that their experiences are not subjugated by one dominant mode of expression but formed by layered syntaxes. It also vividly illustrates the borderless, convergent quality of country/water.
Viet Thanh Nguyen
RaveNPRWith smoke-and-mirrors panache, The Committed continues the travails of our Eurasian Ulysses ... From a satirical James Bond-esque spy story in The Sympathizer, the author shifts to James Baldwin\'s intersectional politics in The Committed to address greed, prejudice, and violence ... The Committed\'s revolutionary core is its plasticity — a novel of ideas that continuously shapeshifts to question its raison d\'être ... Nguyen\'s decision not to put diacritical marks on his Vietnamese characters\' names enhances the novel\'s paradoxes and allows it to gain multivalent, poetic meanings across languages.
Kikuko Tsumura, trans. by Polly Barton
PositiveNPRTranslated from the Japanese by Polly Barton, the novel, originally written in 2016, uncannily captures our job landscape during COVID — when we have jobs that sit \'on the borderline between a job and not\' ... We may also read this novel as Tsumura\'s 21st-century response to Herman Melville\'s \'Bartleby, the Scrivener.\' While Bartleby resists by staying put, the author\'s protagonist strives to redefine her professional preferences by submitting to a picaresque array of alternative vocations ... Tsumura eloquently contrasts her depictions of male prejudice with examples of female solidarity ... Polly Barton\'s British translation, having words such as a total tip (a complete mess); was not half convenient (was very convenient); moreish (tasty); skiver (a job shirker); and put paid to (finish) serves as a weirdly appropriate lens to approach the novel. This double distancing effect — British flavor imposed on a Japanese oeuvre — encourages us to imagine the voice of Tsumura\'s narrator/avatar as both cheeky and self-deprecating, the perfect balance to wage a stealth feminist revolution.
PositiveNPRMost poignantly, Must I Go can be read as an extension of Li\'s 2019 semi-autobiographical novel, Where Reasons End ... Lilia\'s extended argument with her deceased daughter also exposes the inadequacy of language to express difficult, \'unspeakable\' subjects. She resists grief\'s metaphor of a broken heart since it fails to capture the immensity of a mother\'s loss ... In juxtaposing Lucy\'s suicide with Roland\'s self-centered narrative, Li also raises a provocative question: Is suicide just an underdeveloped story that requires editorial intervention? ... While Li may not be religious, her contemplative novel brings to mind John Donne\'s Meditation XVII — Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, or what\'s commonly known as For Whom the Bell Tolls. Like Donne\'s devotional on the intimacy of death that connects all human beings, Must I Go affirms the complex bonds of divergent characters who learn to navigate through loss. The novel also serves as a literary equivalent of Schrödinger\'s cat: In recapturing lost time through Roland\'s diary, Lilia can exist in an infinite loop between ending and beginning.
Quế Mai Phan Nguyễn
RaveNPRNguyễn Phan Quế Mai has created a luminous, complex family narrative ... Quế Mai [has] an astute and graceful ability to sustain contradictory truths about war, displacement, aesthetic representations, and human nature ... Most importantly, the novel helps all of us see \'the enemy\' not as abstract or demonic, but corporeal, even familial ... In depicting the dire consequences of war and Marxist ideology, which forced citizens and family members to become either traitors or patriots, The Mountains Sing affirms the individual\'s right to think, read, and act according to a code of intuitive civility, born out of Vietnam\'s fertile and compassionate cultural heritage.