In 1933, Maurice Wilson—First World War hero, drifting veteran, and amateur aviator, lands in the aerodrome at Purnea in British India. His goal is to be the first man to climb Mt Everest. And nothing—not his complete lack of climbing experience, the lack of official permission, and the efforts of British civil servants—will stop him.
Two young women fall from a Bombay clocktower, twenty feet and minutes apart. It’s 1892 and the women are sisters-in-law in a prominent Bombay Parsee family. No reliable witnesses are found, but some bystanders saw a skirmish between three men just around the time the women fell to their deaths. This is how Nev March’s debut novel, Murder in Old Bombay, begins.
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.
The stories in Land of Big Numbers, Te-Ping Chen’s debut collection, are—to get the headline out of the way—fine, well-crafted works. Some have appeared in such publications as The Atlantic, Granta and The New Yorker and it’s easy to understand why: the prose is limpid, the observations acute, the situations original, the pacing near perfect. Read them.
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.