Scholar and professor Joseph Sassoon was never interested in his family’s history until he received a letter ten years ago from another Joseph Sassoon. The name is not common and, sure enough, this other Joseph was a very distant relative who had come across an article by Professor Sassoon about authoritarian regimes. The two spoke on the phone, which sparked interest in the family and led to Professor Sassoon’s new book, The Sassoons: The Great Global Merchants and the Making of an Empire, a story of a refugee family that reinvented itself in India, China, and ultimately the United Kingdom, and one that sometimes takes on biblical dimensions.

Of all the waves of Chinese emigration that have taken place throughout history, it is arguably the Cantonese diaspora that has left an indelible mark wherever they have settled around the globe. The footprints of early migrants—mainly from Hong Kong or southern mainland China—can be tracked by the opening of Chinese takeaways, through which a (Westernized) taste of home was introduced to foreign lands. 

When journalist Erika Hayasaki was participating in a science journalism fellowship in 2016, she had recently given birth to identical twin sons. Her experience as the mother of twins informed her interest in researching the way one’s environment interacts with one’s genes. Soon she was interviewing sets of twins and was introduced to sisters, Ha and Isabella, teenagers who as infants were adopted in Vietnam. In her new book, Somewhere Sisters: A Story of Adoption, Identity, and the Meaning of Family, Hayasaki examines Ha’s and Isabella’s separation as infants and their later reunification, and whether their genes or environment played a stronger role in shaping their personalities. 

Towards the beginning of his new memoir, Stay True, Hua Hsu tells how he dreamed of becoming a writer during his first year of university in the 1990s, but quickly came to the conclusion that it was not to be. He submitted pieces to his campus paper, The Daily Cal, at the University of California at Berkeley, which were not just rejected; they were ignored. He was able to successfully publish with an Asian American campus newspaper and a Chinatown community paper for which he wrote about film, art and theater. 

All families have their stories, and for families scattered around the world, as Teresa Lim’s is, the stories often have a central pivot decades or generations back. Lim’s family story gets going, if not starts, with her maternal great-great grandfather who emigrated to Singapore from Southern China at the end of the 19th-century. Draught and famine caused many able-bodied men to leave for more prosperous shores; the Chinese Exclusion Act had closed off the US, and Singapore was, in any event, closer.

Memoirs and biographies of prisoners of war during World War II are not uncommon, but accounts of women POWs remain relatively rare. In Women Interned in World War Two Sumatra: Faith, Hope and Survival, Barbara Coombes tells the story of two British women who were captured by the Japanese military after they tried to leave Singapore by boat a couple months after the city came under attack. They were sent to POW camps on Sumatra. Coombes’s book almost reads like a first-hand account because she includes many pieces of poetry, letters, and sketches from the two women she portrays.