If there were ever a question regarding the role of regional “indie” publishers, Unseen Burma should answer it. Who else but Bangkok-based River Books would bring out a book with a local collector’s century’s worth of photographs of this usually out-of-sight, out-of-mind country?
A walk down any shopping street in South Korea reveals countless images of glamorous celebrity women, endorsing skincare products from the windows of stores such as Olive Young and Innisfree. Seoul’s affluent Gangnam neighborhood is crowded with buildings filled with competing plastic surgeons, and decorated with commercials with before/after photos showing the starkly unadorned next to the newly beautified. Job applicants may find themselves asked to include a headshot with a resume and cover letter. In casual conversation, it won’t be long before appearance comes up, along with myriad techniques and products that can improve it.
Among the current surfeit of books that claim to explain China, Terminus: Westward Expansion, China, and the End of American Empire, a new treatise on Sino-American relations, distinguishes itself by placing the current bilateral tensions in the context of almost two and half centuries of American expansion (“imperial expansion” as author Stuart Rollo puts it) which, it argues, had China as its target and which have reached its limit (hence “Terminus”).
“How,” starts the marketing literature for Noorjahan Bose’s recent autobiography, “does a girl from a tiny Bangladeshi island end up reading Tagore, Marx and de Beauvoir and become a leading feminist campaigner?” How indeed?
“Replete with symbolism,” writes Navina Najat Haider in Jali: Lattice of Divine Light in Mughal Architecture, “the Indian jali evolved to become both a technical and an aesthetic marvel in Mughal-period buildings, and eventually an international ‘Islamicate’ style of the modern age.”
Narrative history at its best, Adrian Goldsworthy’s Rome and Persia is informative, readable, carefully sourced, and cautious in its judgments about events that occurred between 90 BCE and the 600s CE in the Mediterranean world, north Africa, and western Asia. It is also instructive about imperial rivalries, geopolitical competition, and human nature across the ages—including our present one.
In the opening chapter of Susumu Higa’s manga, Okinawa, a group of Japanese soldiers land on a Ryukyuan island to prepare for World War II’s Battle of Okinawa. A child asks her principal whether the soldiers will occupy their island forever. “Until they know all of us are safe,” he replies. His words are an ominous beginning for readers who know anything about the next seventy years of Okinawa’s history.