Lucy Tosch regrets her decision to relocate to Okinawa even before she leaves the United States. She applies on a whim for a reporting job at a newspaper catering to the American community in Okinawa after Owen, her Japanese college boyfriend, suddenly ups and leaves without so mu ch as a by-your-leave. Sarah Z Sleeper’s debut novel, Gaijin, brings Lucy—and the reader—to Okinawa, a road less traveled in English-language fiction.
Perumal Murugan’s Kazhimugham is an ugly novel. Ugly, that is, as Umberto Eco would have it: its subject is ugliness and it is a work that the author claims breaks the conventional rules of beauty.
Se-oh Yun—a reclusive young woman in her twenties— comes home to a fire in her apartment in which her father is badly injured. He dies shortly after the incident and the police are eager to close the case as a simple suicide motivated by her father’s debts. But Se-oh suspects foul play when she learns that a debt collector, Su-ho, had visited her father earlier that day.
Novelists are often admonished to “write what you know”; Christina Chiu instead decided to know what she wrote. The Asian-American writer now has a sideline as shoe designer, something she learned as an integral part of writing her most recent novel set in and around the fashion industry.
A Korean nonagenarian learns on the news that the last remaining “comfort woman” is on her deathbed. The narrator, unnamed until the end of the book, is determined to meet this last victim: she wants to know if she knew the woman from 70 years earlier. She also wants to assure her that she’s not in fact the last one left. The narrator has never told anyone about her past—not even her siblings and their children; it’s finally a chance to talk about it.
The title of Anukrti Upadhyay’s new novel is a Japanese word that literally means “to join with gold”. It is the art of repairing things that are broken to create strong, beautiful fault lines. These lines remain as reminders of something that was vulnerable. The lines in Kintsugi are visible right at the beginning when Upadhyay “joins” the two worlds of India and Japan; it’s a move that is still relatively rare for Indian writers even with today’s increasingly blurred literary boundaries.
An unnamed narrator addresses her lover: “I didn’t know your name when we first met. No one introduced us. The only thing I remember is that you were picking roadside elderflowers.” The relationship between the young Chinese narrator and “you”, the elderflower picker, progresses quickly and their relationship, from living on a houseboat to exploring Australian tourist towns, is explored through the fragments of conversations that make up Guo Xiaolu’s A Lover’s Discourse.