Laura Gao was born in Wuhan and spent her first four years with grandparents in China while her mother and father studied in the US. When she reunites with her parents, she finds herself in the strange land of Texas where teachers and new classmates can not pronounce her Chinese name, the only name she knows. Gao writes about culture shock and identity in her engaging new book, Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American, a story nicely accompanied by vivid drawings.
Felipe Fernández-Armesto doesn’t think much of Ferdinand Magellan. Particularly galling is that the famous explorer’s “renown seems impregnable” despite the fact that “his failure was total”.
On 9 September 2001, Ahmed Shah Massoud—called one of the greatest guerilla leaders in history, alongside names like Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh, was assassinated by two Al-Qaeda suicide bombers. Coming just two days before the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Massoud’s assassination is thus one of those points in history that invites counter-factuals: was it a warning of things to come? And what might have happened in Afghanistan had the assassination failed?
Of all the three great sects of Zen in Japan, the Soto school is perhaps the best-known and most inclusive, admitting to its ranks lay people and women in addition to monks. It’s one of the most widely practiced forms of Buddhism in Japan, where there are reportedly nearly fourteen thousand temples dedicated to it. Soto is also very popular in North America; in 1966 the Soto Zen Buddhist Association was founded by Japanese and American teachers, a response to a great and growing interest outside Japan in the practices of this school.
This political biography of the current Indonesian President Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, explains why his style is so successful and what his major undertakings as president have been. The stated aim of Jokowi and the New Indonesia by Darmawan Prasodjo with assistance from Tim Hannigan, is to give a full picture of the man and his presidency in English. The book is based on an Indonesian language version, but has been extended to give context to readers not familiar with Indonesia’s past.
At this time of shifting geopolitical relationships—“decoupling” between China and the US, rapprochement between China and Russia—it is unsurprising that the cultural and intellectual as well as political history of these relationships has attracted increasing attention. Recent volumes on Sino-Soviet “internationalist” interaction is now joined by Arise, Africa! Roar, China!, Gao Yunxiang’s recent study of “the close relationships between a trio of famous twentieth-century African Americans and two little-known Chinese” from, roughly, the 1930s through the advent of the Cold War.
Karen Cheung’s new book, The Impossible City: A Hong Kong Memoir, about growing up and coming of age in a city she feels is like no other, is characterized by a narrative style both intimate and candid. It’s hard to avoid being swept up by her story from the beginning as she describes the day of the Handover in 1997 when she was four years old.