London Letters Home of Gus Farley Jr, Penelope Pelham West (ed) (Proverse, Noevmber 2021)
London Letters Home of Gus Farley Jr, Penelope Pelham West (ed) (Proverse, Noevmber 2021)

In 1864-65, it took Gustavus Farley Jr 123 days by ship to reach Hong Kong from Boston, USA, a journey which he diarizes in the last letter in this collection. Although only twenty years old, he already had several sea-miles under his belt. At 17, he had been sent to London from his home in Ipswich, Massachusetts to be apprenticed to the tea-tasting trade under the guidance of his Heard cousins.

Although Gideon Defoe’s An Atlas of Extinct Countries, described by the publisher as “Prisoners of Geography meets Bill Bryson”, is glib and on occasion snarky, it overlays a serious and topical point: what is a country, what are borders and who says so? “Treating nation states with too much respect is maybe the entire problem with pretty much everything,” he writes. “Countries are just daft stories we tell each other. They’re all equally implausible once you get up close.”

The Legend of Prince Golden Calf in China and Korea, Wilt L Idema and Allard M Olof (Cambria Press, January 2022)
The Legend of Prince Golden Calf in China and Korea, Wilt L Idema and Allard M Olof (Cambria Press, January 2022)

Recent research in China and Korea has revealed that the tale of a prince who is turned into a calf originated in China, as early as the late sixth century when it was written up as a jataka tale. The Chinese version that circulated in Korea most likely also was composed in China. While these early versions dropped from circulation in China, the story survived there in several versions, for instance as a precious scroll. The story also continued to circulate there, just as in Korea, as a popular folk tale.

Filled with memorabilia, photos and interviews, Berlin-based artist, critic and writer Xiaowen Zhu’s bilingual book Oriental Silk documents a Chinese-American family’s migration story. Tracing Ken Wong’s family past and cultural journeys, from his parents’ childhoods in China to their eventual relocation to the US and ultimately a flourishing business, Zhu reveals the dreams, hopes and struggles of the migrants in the Chinese diaspora.

All Mine!: Happiness, Ownership, and Naming in Eleventh-Century China, Stephen Owen (Columbia University Press) Columbia University Press
All Mine!: Happiness, Ownership, and Naming in Eleventh-Century China, Stephen Owen (Columbia University Press)

Under the Song Dynasty, China experienced rapid commercial growth and monetization of the economy. In the same period, the austere ethical turn that led to neo-Confucianism was becoming increasingly prevalent in the imperial bureaucracy and literati culture. Tracing the influences of these trends in Chinese intellectual history, All Mine! explores the varied ways in which 11th-century writers worked through the conflicting values of this new world.

America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility, Rajika Bhandari (She Writes Press, September 2021)
America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility, Rajika Bhandari (She Writes Press, September 2021)

Growing up in India, Rajika Bhandari has seen generations of her family look westward, where an American education means status and success. But she resists the lure of America because those who leave never seem to return; they become flies trapped in honey in a land of opportunity. As a young woman, however, she follows her heart and a relationship—and finds herself heading to a US university to study. As she works her way through America’s tangled web of immigration, Bhandari lands in a job that immerses her in the lives of international students from over 200 countries and the universities that attract them.

Number One Realist: Bernard Fall and Vietnamese Revolutionary Warfare, Nathaniel L Moir (Hurst, Oxford University Press, December 2021)
Number One Realist: Bernard Fall and Vietnamese Revolutionary Warfare, Nathaniel L Moir (Hurst, Oxford University Press, December 2021)

In a 1965 letter to Newsweek, French writer and academic Bernard Fall (1926–67) staked a claim as the ‘Number One Realist’ on the Vietnam War. This is the first book to study the thought of this overlooked figure, one of the most important experts on counterinsurgency warfare in Indochina. Nathaniel L Moir’s intellectual history analyses Fall’s formative experiences: his service in the French underground and army during the Second World War; his father’s execution by the Germans and his mother’s murder in Auschwitz; and his work as a research analyst at the Nuremberg Trials.