Popular American writer and speaker Natalie Goldberg, best known for her 1986 best-seller Writing Down the Bones, has been a student of Zen for thirty years. A wonderful storyteller, her writing is full of wisdom from Asia. Her new book is a pilgrimage to the places in Japan close to the heart of her favorite haiku poets. 

Readers of the Asian Review of Books may have noticed an increasing number of young adult (YA) books among its reviews. This is in part a function of increased coverage, but it’s also a result of there being more books to cover. As a genre, Asian YA has grown in both depth and breadth, a development which, as it turns out, is relatively recent and has been led, on the whole, by books which ethnically deal with the Eastern part of the continent. And since publishing is a business after all, one can presume the increase reflects changes in the market. Yet one can’t help but wonder whether it’s a leading or lagging indicator of changes in society, or if it’s entirely coincidental.

Centuries ago, in an empire far far away, an anonymous journeyman scribe authored and assembled a picaresque that became one of China’s most revered and influential literary works. “Assembled” because Monkey King, or Journey to the West (c 1580), is in substantial part a collection of the folk tales of many previous centuries, based on the legendary journeys of a T’ang Dynasty (618-906) monk, Tripitaka.

A hero in Japan, Beate Sirota is hardly a household name in her home country of the United States. Jeff Gottesfeld’s No Steps Behind: Beate Sirota Gordon’s Battle for Women’s Rights in Japan is a new picture book illustrated by Sheilla Witanto that tells Beate’s story and how she brought change to Japan after World War II.

 Writing Poetry, Surviving War: The Works of Refugee Scholar-Official Chen Yuyi (1090–1139), Yugen Wang (Cambria, December 2020)
Writing Poetry, Surviving War: The Works of Refugee Scholar-Official Chen Yuyi (1090–1139), Yugen Wang (Cambria, December 2020)

The book is a study of the works of the Northern Song Chinese poet Chen Yuyi (1090–1139) as he fled the invading Jurchen soldiers in the political throes of a dynastic transition. Author Yugen Wang demonstrates how Chen’s poems epitomize the new style of writing in the Song that is markedly different from that of his Tang predecessors. Underscoring this stylistic and aesthetic analysis is a comparison of Chen and his model, the Tang master Du Fu (712–770).