In the newly-translated I Live in the Slums, her first collection of short stories in a decade, Chinese writer Can Xue invites us on a bizarre, at times whimsical, dark and unclassifiable journey exploring the terrain of and interaction with China’s urban geography. She keeps with her unique unconventional voice, as is best known in her earlier novels such as Love in the New Millennium, and Frontier.

Chinese Brothers, American Sons, Ed Shew (Earnshaw, June 2020)
Chinese Brothers, American Sons, Ed Shew (Earnshaw, June 2020)

Tens of thousands of men from southern China changed the course of American history with their tireless work in the California gold fields in the 1850s and their crucial contribution in the building of the first Transcontinental Railroad in the following decade.

Alexandra is a 25-year-old contract tech reporter in the Silicon Valley with a dilemma: should she stay in a job with neither benefits nor prospects, or move to Ithaca, New York with her boyfriend for five years while he pursues a PhD at Cornell? Alexandra Chang’s debut novel, Days of Distraction, is a fictionalized account of her own move to Ithaca for her husband’s graduate work, but, even more, a treatise on Chinese American history, and the racism that runs through it and continues today.   

If you are like most English-language readers, then indigenous writing from Taiwan in English translation will be largely, if not entirely, terra incognita, which is one reason among many why the publication of Sakinu Ahronglong’s Hunter School, which is about one non-Han indigenous tribe in particular, is important. As translator Darryl Sterk explains in his brief introduction, Sakinu speaks Paiwanese, an Austronesian language that, according to the “Out of Taiwan” hypothesis, shares a common ancestor with Polynesian languages as well as Tagalog, Malay, Hawaiian, and Maori. And as Sakinu himself informs his readers in his own introduction, the reconstruction of Paiwan culture, under threat by external forces, not only provides the impetus behind the text, but also an underlying life’s purpose.   

Floral Mutter, Ya Shi, Nick Admussen (trans) (Zephyr Press, March 2020) Poetry
Floral Mutter, Ya Shi, Nick Admussen (trans) (Zephyr Press, March 2020)

A math teacher by day, Ya Shi lives 1,000 miles from the Beijing literary scene, but is celebrated among lovers of Chinese poetry from the conservative to the avant-garde. His jagged and intense short lyrics, wild nature sonnets, punchy couplets, and genre-bending, surreal poetic essays daringly combine iconoclasm and heart.

Tales of Ming Courtesans, by Alice Poon (Earnshaw, June 2020)
Tales of Ming Courtesans, by Alice Poon (Earnshaw, June 2020)

From the author of The Green Phoenix comes a riveting tale of female friendship, honor, and sacrifice for love, set in 17th century China and featuring the intertwined stories of three of the era’s most renowned courtesans, escorts skilled in music, poetry and painting who could decide themselves whether or not to offer patrons bed favors.