When Kat Chow was a girl, her mother once joked about being preserved by taxidermy after she dies so that her family will still have her around. Not long after, she succumbs to cancer, leaving grief in her wake. Grief pervades the immigrant story of Kat Chow’s new memoir, Seeing Ghosts. Although most of the book takes place in Connecticut, where Chow was born and raised, her story reaches back to Southern China, Hong Kong, and Cuba.

One would think that comparing civilizations as far removed in time and space as Ancient Egypt and Ancient China might not reveal much. Yet Professor Tony Barbieri’s Ancient Egypt and Early China: State, Society, and Culture gleans much from a deeply-researched comparison of political structures, diplomatic relations, legal systems, ideas of the afterlife, and other aspects.

 The Art of Useless Fashion, Media, and Consumer Culture in Contemporary China, Calvin Hui (Columbia University Press, September 2021)

The Art of Useless Fashion: Media, and Consumer Culture in Contemporary China
, Calvin Hui (Columbia University Press, September 2021)

Since embarking on economic reforms in 1978, the People’s Republic of China has also undergone a sweeping cultural reorganization, from proletarian culture under Mao to middle-class consumer culture today. Under these circumstances, how has a Chinese middle class come into being, and how has consumerism become the dominant ideology of an avowedly socialist country?

The unnamed narrator of Yan Ge’s novel Strange Beasts of China, a former zoology student-turned-fiction writer, resides in the fictional city of Yong’an, somewhere in southern China, described as “a huge, filthy, ungovernable city, full of all sorts of beasts of unknown origin, and secrets, likewise.” Yong’an perhaps resembles the concrete jungles of nearly every provincial Chinese capital, save for the fact that it is also home to a number of exotic creatures, each species of which resembles homo sapiens, save for certain afflictions and anomalies.

Anyone who has gone even slightly off the beaten track in Southeast Asia is likely to have come across “sea people”, which go by various names: Orang Laut, Sama Bajau, Chao Le, “Sea Gypsies”. These are the people covered in Sea Nomads of Southeast Asia From the Past to the Present, a recently-published collection of (very) academic essays.

Refreshing the Singapore System: Recalibrating Socio-Economic Policy for the 21st Century, Terence WL Ho (World Scientific, August 2021) By (author): Terence W L Ho
Refreshing the Singapore System: Recalibrating Socio-Economic Policy for the 21st Century, Terence WL Ho (World Scientific, August 2021)

Entering the 21st century, however, slowing economic growth, an ageing population, global competition, and widening income dispersion have put the Singapore System under strain. This has prompted a significant refresh of social and economic policies over the past 15-20 years.