In this extended essay, David Chaffetz, a scholar of Persian and related literary traditions who has lived for years in China and Southeast Asia, zeroes in on erasures in the history of these traditions: the brilliant and highly trained women virtuosos—poets, singers, and dancers—who cut a swath through the opulent courts of Iran, India, and China.
At first glance, the only thing linking the stories in Rebecca Otowa’s new book, The Mad Kyoto Shoe Swapper, is that they all take place in Japan. Yet although they span 17th-century Edo to the present day, two themes recur in most: women’s hardships and the fears of ageing. It quickly becomes clear how, in Japan at least, these two themes are closely related.
Indian poet-diplomat Abhay K is out with a larger collection of Indian poetry combining his earlier anthologies of a hundred poems each. The resulting book is The Bloomsbury Anthology of Great Indian Poems covering English poetry as well as English translations of poems written in 28 Indian languages.
In his first novel in six years, astrophysicist turned essayist and best-selling novelist Alan Lightman, has directed his literary attention away from science and the heavens toward a place quite unexpected. Three Flames is an intimate portrait of three generations of a Cambodian rural family.
Seishi Yokomizo’s The Honjin Murders, published in Japan in 1946 and now available in English for the first time, employs the plot tricks of early European and American mystery writers to tell the story of a rapidly changing Japanese society around the time of the Second World War.
Despite the rise in diversity in Young Adult literature, not least stories by Asian writers, there’s still a dearth of stories starring strong Asian males, perhaps due to the fact that most YA authors are women.
“Dissatisfaction with the womanly rôle,” the psychologist Alfred Adler wrote in Understanding Human Nature (1927), “is … more evident among [women] who escape from life because of some so-called ‘higher reasons’. Nuns, or others who assume some occupation for which celibacy is an essential, are a case in point.” Adler, of course, was not judging such women negatively, as he felt that women should not have to be controlled by the patriarchal nature of 20th-century society and that they should be able to develop their own roles.