One of the first members of Albert Samaha’s family introduced in his memoir Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes is his uncle Spanky: a baggage handler in San Francisco’s airport. Spanky emigrated to the United States from his home country, the Philippines, where he lived a very different life as a rockstar: one of the founding members of VST & Co, one of the country’s most famous bands.

At the beginning of More Than One Child, Shen Yang writes, “I broke a law simply by being born.” She was her parents’ second daughter, and she is referring to the family planning laws which until recently saw China’s One-Child Policy strictly enforced. Her childhood was thus essentially intertwined with politics, but her memoir of that childhood does not serve a political narrative; it is instead a personal attempt to exorcise ghosts, heal old wounds, and secure recognition for “excess-birth children”, a community of young adults who are still suffering in China from their non-status. 

Unlike most memoirs about the immigrant experience that center around overcoming hurdles to build a new life, Jolie Phuong Hoang instead structures Three Funerals For My Father: Love, Loss and Escape from Vietnam around her father’s death as he tries to escape Vietnam by boat in 1985. Her younger sister also drowned on that journey. It takes Hoang three decades to come to terms with her father’s and sister’s deaths and her book tells their stories and how her father did whatever he could to bring his family to safer shores.

America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility, Rajika Bhandari (She Writes Press, September 2021)
America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility, Rajika Bhandari (She Writes Press, September 2021)

Growing up in India, Rajika Bhandari has seen generations of her family look westward, where an American education means status and success. But she resists the lure of America because those who leave never seem to return; they become flies trapped in honey in a land of opportunity. As a young woman, however, she follows her heart and a relationship—and finds herself heading to a US university to study. As she works her way through America’s tangled web of immigration, Bhandari lands in a job that immerses her in the lives of international students from over 200 countries and the universities that attract them.

Many Western entrepreneurs and businesses have foundered in trying to set up shop in China. Different expectations, different ways of doing business, different institutions and platforms—all come together to remove any pretensions that one can easily transplant a foreign business model into the Chinese market.

As Albert Samaha’s memoir, Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes, begins, he hears from his mother that she’s being scammed by a man she met online. He and his mother view American politics very differently: she’s a Trump supporter and he’s progressive. In his narrative about Philippine history, American colonialism, immigration law, and his own family’s story, Samaha shows why this all matters. Although Filipinos are, by his count, the fourth largest diaspora group in the US, Filipino-Americans seem under-represented in everything from cuisine to popular culture and politics. His book does its part in trying to fill this large void.

From Rural China to the Ivy League: Reminiscences of Transformations in Modern Chinese History, Yü Ying-shih, Michael S Duke (trans), Josephine Chiu-Duke (trans) (Cambria Press, September 2021)
From Rural China to the Ivy League: Reminiscences of Transformations in Modern Chinese History, Yü Ying-shih, Michael S Duke (trans), Josephine Chiu-Duke (trans) (Cambria Press, September 2021)

This book is much more than the memoir of the scholar who has been hailed as the most important living Chinese historian of our times—it is also an invaluable record of a history of our times, witnessing the cultural, political, and social transformations of what Professor Yü Ying-shih notes as the period of the most violent turmoil and social upheaval in modern Chinese history.