The Book of Esther, one of the historical books in the Torah and the Old Testament, is known as a story of community, discrimination, and human ingenuity. It’s core to the Jewish holiday of Purim, with singing, feasting, and other merriment. And it’s unique as one of the few books in the Bible that doesn’t mention God. At all.

Issues of identity take center stage in Mary Jean Chan’s new poetry collection Bright Fear. Chan’s poems deal with a variety of uncomfortable personal experiences: growing up queer in a Chinese household, dealing with racism and racial prejudice when moving to the United Kingdom, and grappling with learning—and then eventually writing in and making a career out of—the “colonial language”, as Chan puts it, of English.

A piano competition in a seaside town near Tokyo brings together pianists from around the world. Among the competitors are a former prodigy who left the competition circuit seven years earlier after her mother died, a third-generation Japanese-Peruvian, and a teenaged child of a beekeeper. Riku Onda’s Honeybees and Distant Thunder, the basis of a Japanese film a few years ago and newly translated by Philip Gabriel, begins when three of the judges first hear the beekeeper’s son audition in Paris and continues through to the end of the competition in Japan. 

Max Weber, an heir of the Enlightenment, wrote about “‘progress’, to which science belongs as a link and motive force”’ when considering the limitations of scientific rationalism. In detaching science from the strictures of reason, he had come full circle. This quote helps frame Alexander Statman’s ambitious essay, A Global Enlightenment: Western Progress and Chinese Science, a book about the reception of Chinese ideas on science or, rather, natural philosophy, in France during the late Enlightenment.

“Take up the White Man’s burden— / Send forth the best ye breed— / Go bind your sons to exile / To serve your captives’ need,” starts Rudyard Kipling’s notorious poem of American expansionism in the Philippines, “The White Man’s Burden”. Those lines will ring familiar to many, particularly those who have received an education in the United States—so widely has the poem become emblematic of American imperialism and the “civilizing mission” during the 19th and 20th centuries.