Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) is perhaps the most famous example of a multicultural writer in the history of British literature. His novels have been translated, serialized, made into movies, and taught at numerous schools and universities throughout the English-speaking world and beyond. His multicultural credentials are impressive: he was born Józef Teodor Nalęcz (Ian Burnet misses this one in his recent study: it was the name of the Polish noble family to which Conrad belonged) Konrad Korzeniowski in Berdychev, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire and formerly a town in the Kingdom of Poland. His father Apollo was a Polish poet, translator of Shakespeare and a dedicated Polish patriot. Conrad’s first language was Polish, of course, and he learned Latin at school, but he added German, French and finally English to the list. He also knew some Russian but avoided using it for patriotic reasons.
Anne Liu Kellor’s mother was born in Chongqing during World War II, moved around mainland China during the civil war, and fled to Hong Kong with her family in 1950 before settling in Taiwan. Kellor herself grew up in Seattle in a mixed race household. Her Chinese grandmother helped raise her, keeping her hearing and speaking Mandarin until she started replying in English as she neared her teens. Her new memoir, Heart Radical: A Search for Language, Love, and Belonging, is a sort of reverse immigration story as Kellor returns to the province of her mother’s birth to feel more connected to that side of her heritage, one that was so central to her early childhood but had faded as she sought to conform more to her environment in Seattle.
The story of Alexander the Great has inspired conquerors and would-be conquerors throughout history. Alexander’s sweep through the Middle East and Central Asia left behind evidence of his mark on history—namely, in the several cities that he founded, and that sprung up to govern the kingdoms he left behind.
Maera and her ammi never talk about the Past, a place where they’ve banished their family’s heartache and grief forever. They especially never mention the night Maera’s older brother Asad disappeared from her naana’s house in Karachi ten years ago. But when her grandfather dies and his derelict greenhouse appears in her backyard from thousands of miles away, Maera is forced to confront the horrors of her grandfather’s past. To find out what happened to her brother, she must face the keepers of her family’s secrets—the monsters that live inside her grandfather’s mysterious house of glass.
Ye Chun’s new collection of short stories, Hao, mainly centers on the experience of Chinese women, both in China and in the United States. Hao, or “good” in Chinese, is the somewhat ironic theme that connects many of the stories, where women have decidedly not-good situations and explore the irony of their circumstances.
In computer engineering, an edge case occurs when someone is writing code and accidentally misses something small, but crucial, that eludes bug-testing. YZ Chin’s new novel, Edge Case, centers around a young Malaysian woman named Edwina who works at a start-up in Manhattan and is in charge of investigating edge cases. But when her husband, Marlin, suddenly disappears, her focus changes from artificial intelligence coding to figuring out what happened to her marriage.
In 1985, Studs Terkel won a Pulitzer Prize for The Good War, an oral history of World War II. Oxford professor Rana Mitter, director through 2020 of the University’s China Centre, has done well to choose a title for his book that pings Terkel’s massively influential work.