Indian Sun is a large book teeming with larger-than-life characters, not all of whom are called Ravi Shankar. Oliver Craske gives us a whole complex world, or, if you like, two complex worlds, Indian and Western, meeting, sometimes uneasily, through music.
Works of literature that feature the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian taiga are extremely rare; the only ones that immediately come to mind are The Last Quarter of the Moon by Chi Zijian, about Evenki along the Heilongjiang-Russian border, and the (true) story of Dersu Uzala, a Nanai introduced to the world in Vladimir K Arsenyev’s now century-old Across the Ussuri Kray: Travels in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains.
In the first half of the 18th century, rival dynasties of Naqshbandi Sufi shaykhs vied for influence in the Tarim Basin, part of present-day Xinjiang. In the 1750s, the collapse of the Junghar Mongol state gave one branch of this family an opportunity to assert their independence in the oasis cities of Kashgar and Yarkand. Others sided with the armies of the Qing dynasty, which were massing on the frontiers to invade. The ensuing conflict saw the region incorporated into the expanding Qing imperium.
How did Asia fare in the “Best Books” lists of 2020? We like to keep score, but there are also many excellent recommendations and hidden gems in these many lists.
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World boldly starts with a chapter entitled “The End” which opens with the death of the main protagonist. “Her name was Leila,” the novel begins, past tense, and already Leila, or Tequila Leila as she is known to her friends and clients, breathes no more, cliffhangers be damned.
Green Mountain compiles a representative selection of lyrical poems by contemporary Chinese poet and painter Yang Jian, also a Buddhist, in Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s elegant translation.
“Ivy Lin was a thief but you would never know it to look at her.” White Ivy, the debut novel by Susie Yang, is the story of Ivy Lin, a Chinese-American teenager growing up just outside of Boston, where she struggles to achieve the trappings of suburban teenagerhood. Years later, as a 27-year-old teacher haunted by confused feelings about her upbringing, she comes across characters from her past, which spurs a desire—perhaps an obsessive one—to remake her life. The novel has won rave reviews in publications and book clubs across the United States over the past few months.