In a story in Agnes Chew’s impressive debut collection, Eternal Summer of My Homeland, a Singaporean woman named Nadine gets to know a German man and speaks to him about love, mortality, and philosophy. Mortality seems to be a theme throughout the collection of stories about regular people in Singapore. There’s nothing Crazy Rich about them, which perhaps is why they place so much thought on the decisions they make.
Chinese Jewish connections go back a millennium, probably first during the Song dynasty when Persian Jewish traders traveled along the Silk Road and reached ancient Kaifeng, as Erica Lyons writes in her author’s note at the end of her new picture book, Zhen Yu and the Snake, illustrated by Reina Metallinou.
Nod Ghosh begins her new novella, The Two-Tailed Snake, with some wise words from the perspective of a snake.
A piano competition in a seaside town near Tokyo brings together pianists from around the world. Among the competitors are a former prodigy who left the competition circuit seven years earlier after her mother died, a third-generation Japanese-Peruvian, and a teenaged child of a beekeeper. Riku Onda’s Honeybees and Distant Thunder, the basis of a Japanese film a few years ago and newly translated by Philip Gabriel, begins when three of the judges first hear the beekeeper’s son audition in Paris and continues through to the end of the competition in Japan.
Yunte Huang writes in his new book of a meeting between Anna May Wong and Sir Robert Ho Tung in Hong Kong. What started with a gathering at Ho Tung’s estate on the Peak quickly turned into a miniature biography of Ho Tung himself, the son of a Dutch Jewish father and Chinese mother. In this account, Huang writes of Ho Tung’s half-brother, a man with twelve wives and more than thirty children. One of these children was a woman named Grace Ho. This account appears to be a little slice of Hong Kong history, fascinating and not atypical of the mixing of families in the earlier years of the British colony. But then Huang writes that Grace Ho was the mother of Bruce Lee, an actor who, like Ho Tung’s guest, Anna May Wong, was slighted by Hollywood.
At the end of Yiyun Li’s newest book, Wednesday’s Child, she explains that she wrote the stories in this collection—most of which originally appeared in The New Yorker—over the last fourteen years. It was also during this time that she lost her father, teenage son, mentor, and close friend. “They live among these pages now,” she explains.
In the opening story of Saras Manickam’s collection, My Mother Pattu, a sixteen year-old Tamil girl named Meena is sent from her home in Penang, Malaysia to live with an aunt and uncle in Mambang, an inland town halfway to Kuala Lumpur. Her crime: writing and receiving letters from a boy at school. This story, “Number One, Mambang Lane”, sets the tone for the collection with colorful Malaysian settings and characters that exemplify Malaysia’s diverse cultures, racial issues and all.