An old farmer, trying to build a plane in his village. A young man that gambles everything on the roaring stock market. A community transformed by a magical fruit that evokes vivid memories. A Chinese woman unable to understand her American partner. People stuck in a train station, waiting for a train that never comes.
A desire to love, befriend, and uncover characterize Purple Perilla, a short collection of three stories from acclaimed Chinese author Can Xue. The book offers a poetic reckoning for our present moment, while the COVID-19 crisis continues to shape our lives.
The stories in Land of Big Numbers, Te-Ping Chen’s debut collection, are—to get the headline out of the way—fine, well-crafted works. Some have appeared in such publications as The Atlantic, Granta and The New Yorker and it’s easy to understand why: the prose is limpid, the observations acute, the situations original, the pacing near perfect. Read them.
It’s been just about a year since international travel all but came to a standstill, so it could either feel timely or insidious to be presented with a new book of short stories set across East Asia, the Pacific, and Europe, several of which feature travelers. Simon Rowe’s latest collection, Pearl City: Stories from Japan and Elsewhere, fortunately falls into the former category. Rowe is known as a noir writer and these stories all fall under that genre; and here Rowe gets to the heart of everyday people in each of the places he covers.
People from My Neighborhood is a book about relationships. Kawakami Hiromi’s collection of micro-fiction, itself only 120-pages long, is about the members of the close-knit community in an exurban Tokyo town. For a volume of short stories, the relationships between characters are remarkably strong. Two and three pages at a time, the reader begins to see the tangled network of ties that bind the people from the neighborhood together.
Caroline Kim’s debut short-story collection The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories grew out of an identity crisis she suffered some fifteen years ago. How would her life have differed had her parents not left South Korea for the US? Would she look different and like different things than her Korean-American self? And what does it even mean to “be Korean”?
Angry women hold a special place in Japanese folklore. Many of Japan’s best-known tales are about “vengeful ghosts”, almost always women, who wreak havoc on the living for some perceived wrong.