Magdaragat is Filipino for “seafarer” or “mariner.” Its dictionary meaning is straightforward enough, and even those with only cursory knowledge of the lands colonially known as “the Philippines” will understand why one would choose that word as the title for an anthology of Filipino diasporic writing. After all, the Philippines is an archipelago of approximately 7,000 islands in the South Pacific; the sea, as both literal and metaphorical entity, has dominated Filipino life—economically, politically, and culturally—since time immemorial.

Canadian lawyer Patrick Brode has written an interesting and fast-moving account of the little-known Allied war crimes and treason trials of Canadian-born Kanao Inouye, known as the Kamloops Kid by the Canadian soldiers who suffered beatings and torture by Inouye and his Japanese confederates in Hong Kong during World War II. It is a tale of war, suffering, racial animosity, inhumane conduct and, Brode believes, partial injustice.

In Larissa Lai’s new novel, The Lost Century, elderly Violet Mah wonders, “Why is it that the grandchild most distant from the history is the one most interested in it?” It is this question that frames Lai’s story set in Hong Kong just before and during the Japanese occupation. This question is also the basis of another new novel, Nancy Lam’s debut, The Loyal Daughter, which takes place in southern China, Hong Kong, and Ontario. 

“I’d kill a Chinaman as quick as I would an Indian and I’d kill an Indian as quick as I would a dog.” This chilling remark, recorded in a police report, was made in 1884 by a man who had taken part in the lynching of Louie Sam, a fourteen-year old indigenous boy from the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, Canada. He had been waiting to be tried for murder in New Westminster when he was kidnapped by an American mob, taken across the border and lynched, presumably because the alleged murder had taken place in Nooksack, Washington. It later transpired that two members of the lynch mob were likely responsible for the murder.

One might be forgiven for thinking “Oh no, not another book on modern China… What could anyone possibly have left to say about it?” But Alexandre Trudeau does not simply write about what he observes, but, like all good travel-writers, shows us what effect the journey had on him. And he does so without thrusting himself into the foreground; there is no large talking head loudly proclaiming “look at me” in the foreground and with tiny buildings in the background incidentally pointing to a foreign location.