Vanessa R Sasson’s debut novel Yasodhara and the Buddha takes the life of Gautama Buddha, the stuff of scripture and legend, and lays out a story about love between him and his wife. And a fascinating story it is, too, about ego, love, and renunciation as love.
Catherine Menon’s debut novel, Fragile Monsters, is a beautifully written story of one Indian Malaysian family’s history, entwined with secrets and hidden heartbreak, told through the fractious relationship of Durga and her Ammuma, her grandmother Mary. When Durga, a mathematics lecturer returns home to rural Pahang after ten years away in Canada and in Kuala Lumpur, to spend Diwali with Mary, the pair are forced to untangle the mystery of their past. “Stories twist through the past like hair in a plait,” Durga says.
Shaw Kuzki’s middle-grade novel Soul Lanterns begins in August 1970. A generation earlier, an atomic bomb leveled Hiroshima. Nozomi and her friends have grown up attending yearly memorials and learning about “the flash” in their peace studies class. When a much-loved art teacher takes an unexpected leave of absence, Nozomi begins to wonder about how the war really affected the adults in her life.
When Shek Yang was a little girl at the end of the 1700s along what came to be known as the “China Coast”, she lost her mother and newborn brother within hours. To make up for the loss of his son, her father trained Shek Yang in sailing, fishing and other seafaring skills. But he couldn’t prepare her for what was to come. His gambling debts accumulated and after selling his boat, he sold Shek Yang to a floating brothel, euphemistically called a flower boat. And so begins Larry Feign’s new book—and his first historical novel—The Flower Boat Girl, which tells of the real-life Shek Yang’s rise to become one of the fiercest pirates in the South China Sea in the early 19th century.
The Ming Dynasty ended in a slow-motion train wreck that inspired poetry, opera and wistful memoirs. It also provided a platform for remarkable women entertainers, the mingzi, to shine and even outshine their male contemporaries, politicians, literati and courtiers. Later observers admired the “manly” virtues of three heroines, Chen Yuanyuan, Liu Rushi and Fragrant Princess Li, their loyalty, their incorruptibility and their refinement, as well as their incomparable beauty and musical talent. All three met tragic ends in the collapse of the dynasty, but continue to live in literature, opera and cinema.
Ahmet Altan is something of a master of the evocative opening line, brief this time: “Some nights he woke to the footsteps of the ants crawling across the Persian carpet.” Although Love in the Days of Rebellion, the second installment in Ahmet Altan’s “Ottoman Quartet”, is a sequel to Like a Sword Wound, it can also be read alone.
William Gross (or Grose) was a 19th-century African-American pioneer and hotelier in Seattle that caught the attention of author Amy Sommers. She bases her novel Rumors from Shanghai on a fictional grandson, Tolt Gross, a young lawyer who moves to Shanghai and soon after learns of Japan’s plans to bomb Pearl Harbor.