“You are what you eat,” or so goes a well-worn adage. But what if “you” are an 18th-century Brit and “what you eat” is exotic fare from the Orient? The implications are explored by Yin Yuan in Alimentary Orientalism: Britain’s Literary Imagination and the Edible East.
Sometimes you must write the book you want to read. In the afterword to her debut novel Every Rising Sun, Jamila Ahmed remembers growing up with The Arabian Nights as “a cultural touchstone” while always “wanting more of her”. The “her” is, of course, Shaherazade, the teller of life-prolonging fantastical tales.
Socialist women have been erased from the history of the international women’s movement. When we write them back in, and center Asia in the process, we arrive at a richer, more complex, and more accurate understanding of global feminisms.
The First Emperor, founder of the short-lived Qin Dynasty (221-207 BCE) and even “China” writ large by some accounts, is a well-known historical figure. The excavation and subsequent global circulation of the Terracotta Warriors, crafted to guard his tomb, have given rise to a certain “Qinomania” Stories of the entombed ruler only heighten the fascination of the mass-produced and life-sized soldiers. Born into a hostage situation, the man known as Ying Zheng broke with the past, burned books, and buried scholars alive as he forged a new kind of centralized state. He survived assassination attempts and became infamously obsessed with a doomed quest for immortality. But how do we really know what we know about this world-shaking unifier of “all under heaven”?
The themes of The Earthspinner are elemental, from passion’s fire to the destructive power of the monsoon. Fire, water, and of course, earth are at the core of Anuradha Roy’s novel. Shaped when wet and fired in a kiln, earth stands for the inexorable drive to human creativity.
Though death looms in Amanat: Women’s Writing From Kazakhstan, the collection sounds a celebratory note.
I was reading Worlds of Knowledge in Women’s Travel Writing on an airplane when the pilot suddenly announced that we would be returning to our airport of origin due to a possible issue with the plane’s de-icing system. It was only my third flight since the onset of the pandemic and things were not going smoothly. As my plane banked sharply, my mind turned to the words of the volume’s editor, James Uden, who references the hurdles of COVID-era travel in the introduction.