A Most Noble Life: The Biography of Ashrafunnisa Begum (1840–1903), Muhammadi Begum, CM Naim (trans) (Orient BlackSwan, December 2022)
A Most Noble Life: The Biography of Ashrafunnisa Begum (1840–1903), Muhammadi Begum, CM Naim (trans) (Orient BlackSwan, December 2022)

A Most Noble Life is the extraordinary story of Ashrafunnisa Begum, who was born in an obscure village in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh, taught herself to read and write, in secret, against the wishes of her elders and prevailing norms, and went on to teach and inspire generations of young girls at the Victoria Girls’ School—the first school for girls in Lahore. Her unusual life was written about with great poignancy by Muhammadi Begum—the first woman to edit a journal in Urdu, and a prolific writer of fiction and poetry for adults and children, and instructional books for women during her brief life.

Landed: Transformative Stories of Canadian Immigrant Women, Gayathri Shukla (ed), Elena Esina (ed), Lindy Pfeil (ed) (JUly 2022)
Landed: Transformative Stories of Canadian Immigrant Women, Gayathri Shukla (ed), Elena Esina (ed), Lindy Pfeil (ed) (JUly 2022)

Landed is a collection of heartfelt stories about the transformative experience of immigration, funded by a Calgary Arts Development grant I was awarded earlier this year. Written by 37 women from 30 countries of origin, each story is a unique expression of the gritty choices and hard-won lessons to belong and become.

Predictions for the future of Southeast Asia on the whole follow two different narratives. On the one hand, ASEAN is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and forty years of interstate peace along with it. The region’s economy is growing at breakneck speed, led by countries like Vietnam and the Philippines. Yet, on the other hand, news reports are filled with stories about scandal and crisis, from Malaysia’s continuing 1MDB scandal, Rodrigo Duterte’s extrajudicial drug war, or the ethnic strife in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

Taiwan’s top court just recently ruled in favor of gay marriage, culminating in what could be Asia’s first jurisdiction to allow members of the same sex to marry. Despite many challenges that still persist politically with the ruling, it indicates a more liberal attitude toward non-heterosexual relationships than when Qiu Miaojin published the novel Notes of a Crocodile in the early 1990s.

It is a sultry early Autumn day in the central province of Hunan in China, half a century ago in 1967. In a small cluster of villages, remote from the main political centre in Beijing, life revolves around farming, tending animals, just making a basic living. But for a couple of weeks, from around the 20th of August, the market places, and the areas by the rivers and fields, are the scenes of a new kind of activity—the brutal slaughter by neighbors, relatives and friends of people from within their communities. The spate of daylight murder ends as abruptly as it had begun.

It is hard to exaggerate the force of Chinese journalist Tan Hecheng’s The Killing Wind. Tan, eerily, had visited the township of Daoxian—the focus of his study—only a few weeks after the murders had happened. As a young “sent down youth” then, in the early period of the Cultural Revolution, he had come to this area with a friend.

Ethnic Conflict and Protest in Tibet and Xinjiang: Unrest in China’s West is a collection of academic articles edited by Ben Hillman and Gray Tuttle. Although ethnically and historically quite dissimilar, the two regions of Xinjiang and Tibet occupy a similar space in China’s political landscape. Both are large volatile regions on the country’s western borders with large non-Han populations—many of whom continue to bristle at their integration into the People’s Republic of China.