“Historians”, wrote Simon Schama, “are painfully aware of their inability ever to reconstruct a dead world in its completeness however thorough or revealing their documentation,” but Amy Stanley succeeds as well as anyone could hope in her masterfully told and painstakingly researched evocation of an ordinary Japanese woman’s life in Edo on the eve of the opening of Japan.
Back in the day, whenever one was in a waiting room or vestibule, one would likely come across a copy of “Reader’s Digest”, which would include a diverse selection of pieces, often abridged, often extracts from elsewhere: easy reading, something to interest anyone and everyone, thought-provoking but not enough to require too much mental exertion.
Raj Bhatt is a professor of anthropology at a university in California and father of two young sons. Raj’s wife, Eva, grew up in the town where they live and had been a member of an exclusive members’ only tennis club as a child. So when Raj and Eva marry, they naturally join the Tennis Club, or TC, as Raj calls it, which has, unsurprisingly, a mostly white clientele.
Adeeba Shahid Talukder, a translator of Persian and Urdu poetry into English, makes an audacious attempt to invoke the sensibility of the ghazal in her contemporary American verse. That a young, first-generation American writer can have such a feel for the ghazal is not a given, for the genre is full of traps, arising from gender, from the audience, from the poet’s voice, to the poet’s relationship to the tradition. Talukder escapes, successfully, from each of these in turn.
November 12, 1941 was in Shanghai a day like another. Except that this was the day of the Champions Day horse races at the Shanghai Race Club. And that within a month the Japanese would put an end to the Shanghai that everyone knew. In Champions Day: The End of Old Shanghai, James Carter uses this one day to paint a “kaleidoscopic portrait” of a dynamic city on the brink of war. On that day thousands of people across Shanghai gathered at one of three places around the city: a celebration of Sun Yat-sen’s birthday; the funeral of Liza Hardoon, Asia’s wealthiest woman; and the Champions Day horse races at the Shanghai Race Club.
Liberal intellectuals, whether in India or writing about India, may not take kindly to Brian A Hatcher’s latest book Hinduism Before Reform. But it is a book that they must read to examine the roots of their attitude towards everything perceived as right-wing Hinduism in India and the Indian diaspora.
The story begins in Jakarta, a hubbub of street vendors, motorbikes, and calls to prayer from mosque loudspeakers. “Travelling is the most ancient desire”, writes Intan Paramaditha in her first novel, a choose-your-own-adventure story published this February as global mobility ground to a halt. The wandering narrator, addressed in the second person befitting the conventions of the form, travels along multiple routes to Berlin, New York, and even outer space as she faces ordeals that illustrate the privileges of going abroad and the limitations of individual choice.