Ascension to Death, Mamdouh Azzam, Max Weiss (trans) (Haus Publishing, June 2018)
Ascension to Death, Mamdouh Azzam, Max Weiss (trans) (Haus Publishing, June 2018)

Ascension to Death is a heartbreaking love story set against the backdrop of a conservative Druze region of southern Syria. It recounts the story of an orphan girl named Salma who falls in love with a boy from her village but is forced into an arranged marriage. Salma’s fate is controlled by her tyrannical guardian uncle, a powerful community leader with connections to the government, who is only too pleased to unload the burden of his brother’s daughter onto the first man to propose.

Russia is once again much in the news, although the focus has been mostly westward-looking with the occasional southerly diversion to the Middle East. It’s worth remembered that Russia is the only major power other than the US which straddles a continent, giving it a physical presence that faces east as well as west. Here is an overview of some the books we have reviewed which cover Russia and East Asia.

The Buddhist Swastika and Hitler's Cross: Rescuing a Symbol of Peace from the Forces of Hate, TK Nakagaki (Stone Bridge Press, April 2018)
The Buddhist Swastika and Hitler’s Cross: Rescuing a Symbol of Peace from the Forces of Hate, TK Nakagaki (Stone Bridge Press, April 2018)

The swastika has been used for over three thousand years by billions of people in many cultures and religions—including Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism—as an auspicious symbol of the sun and good fortune. However, beginning with its hijacking and misappropriation by Nazi Germany, it has also been used, and continues to be used, as a symbol of hate in the Western World.

All the Words a Stage, Nashua Gallagher (Chameleon Press, July 2018)
All the Words a Stage, Nashua Gallagher (Chameleon Press, July 2018)

All the world may indeed be a stage, but a poet’s world consists of words. Nashua Gallagher’s debut collection of verse resonates with themes of coming of age in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia, and is set in a belovedly re-imagined yet elusive “home” with a cast of friends, family, poets and others. Her work traverses tender recollection, wry observation, and candid commentary on the road to love, motherhood, identity, relationships, and the many entanglements of modern living.

America's Vietnam: The Longue Durée of US Literature and Empire, Marguerite Nguyen (Temple University Press, July 2018)
America’s Vietnam: The Longue Durée of US Literature and Empire, Marguerite Nguyen (Temple University Press, July 2018)

America’s Vietnam challenges the prevailing genealogy of Vietnam’s emergence in the American imagination—one that presupposes the Vietnam War as the starting point of meaningful Vietnamese-US political and cultural involvements. Examining literature from as early as the 1820s, Marguerite Nguyen takes a comparative, long historical approach to interpreting constructions of Vietnam in American literature.

And Then God Created the Middle East and Said ‘Let There Be Breaking News’, Karl reMarks (Saqi Book,s July 2018)
And Then God Created the Middle East and Said ‘Let There Be Breaking News’, Karl reMarks (Saqi Books, July 2018)

“You may wonder why the Middle East gets so much airtime. Well, regions of the world were competing to host the apocalypse and the Middle East won.”

 John Greaves, Pyramidographia and Other Writings, with Birch's Life of John Greaves", John Anthony Butler (ed) (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, August 2018)
John Greaves, Pyramidographia and Other Writings, with Birch’s Life of John Greaves”, John Anthony Butler (ed) (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, August 2018)

This is a modern-spelling edition of John Greaves’s Pyramidographia (1646), together with some miscellaneous travel-writings, letters and a biography of Greaves by Thomas Birch. It includes a full scholarly introduction and detailed notes. This book is the first of its kind in English, and undertakes a scientific evaluation of the pyramids through metrics, using state-of-the-art instruments and drawing on both ancient and modern authorities, amongst which is included Arab and Persian writers as well as Western sources.