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.

Samira Ahmed is a force in young adult literature, bringing voice to Muslim American teens and calling out increasingly rampant Islamophobia. In her latest novel, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, she combines a contemporary story with historical fiction that reaches back to Lord Byron (who bore the sobriquet that also titles the novel), Alexandre Dumas and Eugene Delacroix. Two young women are at the centers of these stories, thereby telling history from women’s perspectives.

The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro is a curious little volume. In length, perhaps 10,000 words, it is long for a short story but short for a novella. The protagonist, a minor feudal lord in late Tokugawa Japan, was an actual person (apparently: like much else here, it is hard to be sure), his life heavily fictionalized according to the author’s note. While labeled a “tale” or “story”, the narrative in fact lacks much of might conventionally be called a plot.