Don Ascher is a young American living in Kyoto in the 1970s. He is a student of Japanese. He also teaches English, works at a shabu-shabu restaurant, and hangs out in the company of gangsters, hostesses, housewives, tea teachers, and fellow foreigners. Set amidst the timeless beauty of the ancient capital and its garish modern entertainments, this collection of fanciful episodes from Don’s life is a window into Japanese culture and a chronicle of romance and human connections.
A swamp turns into a castle. A princess shapeshifts into a squid of one pound and four ounces. An ugly toad by day transforms into a handsome young man at night. A betrayed sister reincarnates into a black bird to haunt who hurt her.
Thank You, Mr Nixon, Gish Jen’s latest work of fiction, comprises eleven loosely linked short stories essentially about people in the flow of a modern Chinese diaspora.
The stories in Chinese/American/Australian writer Paige Clark’s debut collection, She Is Haunted, deal with relationships—both romantic and those between mothers and daughters—and mortality. The lead story is titled “Elisabeth Kubler-Ross” after the psychiatrist who framed the five stages of grief. Many of the female characters are named Elizabeth, including a Paige Elizabeth, or variations of that name and Clark dedicates her book to “all the Elizabeths who have lived through this and more”.
In India, a land of many languages, not all languages are created equal. In particular, the government has designated a half dozen as being “classical” and therefore deserving of special support. One of these is Sanskrit, but others are still being spoken (albeit in versions very different from the ancient times). One of these officially venerable languages is Telugu, spoken in two southern provinces Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The “best” in Telugu: The Best Stories of Our Times—a collection of works from 26 writers, selected by award-winning Telugu writer Volga and translated by by Alladi Uma and M Sridhar—is not meant as a superlative or subjective but rather as a reflection of Telugu-speaking society since the 1990s: the “our times” of the title.
If you thought the Taobao in the title of this new collection of stories is that Taobao—China’s version of Amazon, except perhaps more so—you’d be right. The shopping website is mentioned throughout the collection, showcasing the unprecedented availability of consumer goods in China regardless of quality or practicality.
Norman Erikson Pasaribu is an Indonesian poet whose debut collection Sergius Mencari Bacchus won the 2015 Jakarta Arts Council Poetry Competition. It was translated as Sergius Seeks Bacchus by Tiffany Tsao. Pasaribu’s recent collection of short stories, Cerita-Cerita Bahagia Hampir Seluruhnya, has also been translated by Tiffany Tsao, under the title Happy Stories, Mostly. The collection was longlisted for the 2022 International Booker Prize.