The horse is a beautiful animal, so it is fitting that an art historian should take us through the history of India on horseback. Yashaswini Chandra describes animals and the men and women who rode them, their grooms, their saddlery, even the grand tombs of horse dealers turned sultans. We are left with an ever richer picture in the mind’s eye of this most visual of countries. Her sensitive and insightful description of the great Mughal and Rajput equestrian portraits show how rulers depended on the horse to express who they were and what they stood for. As Mughal vizier Abu Fazl put it, “The horse is a means of attaining personal excellence.” For Chandra, it is a means of retelling the story of Indian history.

Love and Other Moods, Crystal Z Lee (Balestier, December 2020)
Love and Other Moods, Crystal Z Lee (Balestier, December 2020)

Love and Other Moods is a coming-of-age story set in contemporary China, about falling in love, learning to adult, finding strength, and discovering one’s place in the world. Naomi Kita-Fan uproots her life from New York to China when her fiancé’s company transfers him to Shanghai. After a disastrous turn of events, Naomi finds herself with no job, no boyfriend, and nowhere to live in a foreign country.

While Asian protagonists are no longer rare in young adult fiction, some cultures seem more prevalent in the genre than others. Think Jenny Han’s books and the various K-Pop stories, as well as Taiwanese-American stories like Loveboat Taipei and Rent a Boyfriend. In an apparent first, Loan Le’s debut novel, A Pho Love Story, adds to this list with a rom-com featuring Vietnamese-American teens. Although the details of the Vietnamese refugee experience may not be familiar to all teens, the restaurant setting and accompanying food most likely will be.

The poems of Song Lin, born in Fujian in 1959, are, according to his translator and personal friend, the poet Jami Proctor Xu, “weavings of history, myth, nature, city, everyday life, melancholy, joy, story, image, and classical and modern Chinese.” This would be a formidable range for any poet, but reading Sunday Sparrows leaves little doubt that Xu was completely accurate in her assessment, which is made easier (for her) and perhaps more profound (for us) by its personal nature.