Mongolia is sometimes seen as one of the few examples of a successful youth-led revolution, where a 1990 movement forced the Soviet-appointed Politburo to resign. In Young Mongols: Forging Democracy in the Wild, Wild East, Aubrey Menard profiles many of today’s young activists in Mongolia, in a wide array of different areas like pollution, feminism, LGBT rights, and journalism.

This curious little book by Japanese technologist Ishiguro Hiroshi, now available in a very readable English translation by Tony Gonzalez, nominally discusses what robotics research teaches us about what it means to be human. But one can’t help but be left with the impression that what it really shows is just how different Japan can at times be from other parts of the world.

Writers, diasporic as well as those native to the Indian subcontinent, have used the Partition of India to capture the pain and the destruction it caused to millions of families. In Vaseem Khan’s Midnight at Malabar House, Partition constitutes the backdrop of a detective novel with Inspector Persis Wadia as the lead. It is not just the time and the place that are unusual; this fictional detective is India’s first woman police officer (some two decades before one was actually appointed).

The whimsicality and enchantment of this collection of Ossetian folk tales could best be captured in the seductive melodies of Rimsky-Korsakoff’s fairy tale operas and the evocative stagings of Leon Bakst or Ivan Bilibin. The Tales of the Narts go back deep into the well of time, to the age when the Scythians pastured their horses from the Danube to Gansu, and when the Chechens, Adyghe and Karbadians were forging iron swords in the crags of the Caucasus.

This year’s 75th anniversary of the end of WW2 and, in particular, the end of the War in the Pacific, has coincided with a number of books, some broad, some focusing on individuals. But few perhaps look at what is—at first glance—as unlikely a corner as Kelly A Hammond’s China’s Muslims & Japan’s Empire.

People from My Neighborhood is a book about relationships. Kawakami Hiromi’s collection of micro-fiction, itself only 120-pages long, is about the members of the close-knit community in an exurban Tokyo town. For a volume of short stories, the relationships between characters are remarkably strong. Two and three pages at a time, the reader begins to see the tangled network of ties that bind the people from the neighborhood together.

Tonal Intelligence: The Aesthetics of Asian Inscrutability During the Long Cold War,  Sunny Xiang (Columbia University Press, December 2020)
Tonal Intelligence: The Aesthetics of Asian Inscrutability During the Long Cold War, Sunny Xiang (Columbia University Press, December 2020)

Why were US intelligence organizations so preoccupied with demystifying East and Southeast Asia during the mid-20th century? Sunny Xiang offers a new way of understanding the American cold war in Asia by tracing aesthetic manifestations of “Oriental inscrutability” across a wide range of texts. She examines how cold war regimes of suspicious thinking produced an ambiguity between “Oriental” enemies and Asian allies, contributing to the conflict’s status as both a “real war” and a “long peace.”