The Jane Austen wordplay in the title of Karen Tei Yamashita’s Sansei and Sensibility really only comes into its own in the second half of her new collection of stories. The whole collection itself centers around sansei, or third generation Japanese-Americans (“san” meaning “three”).
Alexandra is a 25-year-old contract tech reporter in the Silicon Valley with a dilemma: should she stay in a job with neither benefits nor prospects, or move to Ithaca, New York with her boyfriend for five years while he pursues a PhD at Cornell? Alexandra Chang’s debut novel, Days of Distraction, is a fictionalized account of her own move to Ithaca for her husband’s graduate work, but, even more, a treatise on Chinese American history, and the racism that runs through it and continues today.
When Cho Nam-Joo’s Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 was published in South Korea several years ago, it took the country by storm, selling more than a million copies and becoming the most popular book in over a decade. Applauded by many women, those who do not support feminism have spoken out against it. Last year, the film version again caused controversy between those who want South Korean sexism to change and those who think the status quo is just fine. Now available in an English translation by Jamie Chang, English-language readers get a chance to understand this divide firsthand.
Andrea Tang seems to have it all. She’s a rising mergers and acquisitions attorney on Singapore’s 40 under 40 list. UK-educated Andrea’s goal is, via grueling hours at her Singapore law firm, to make partner at the age of thirty-three. But her family has other plans for her, which propels her to invent a boyfriend at her aunt’s Chinese New Year party. So begins Lauren Ho’s debut novel, Last Tang Standing.
Reminiscent of the tone and atmosphere of Somerset Maugham and George Orwell’s Asia-set novels, Glorious Boy is a Second World War story of adventure and loss, uniquely set in the Andaman Islands, one of India’s farthest flung territories.
Jane Austen can take a rest. It’s Tolstoy’s turn.
At the start of Kelly Yang’s debut YA novel, Parachutes, she notes the story includes incidents of sexual harassment and rape. Although Yang has been wanting to write this story for almost two decades, this novel about high school students who move alone to the US while their parents stay back in China couldn’t be better timed. While the concept of parachute students isn’t new—it was pioneered by Hong Kong students in the 1990s—mainland Chinese families have adopted the custom and students from China account for the largest group of international high school students in the US (and, indeed, other countries from Australia to Britain).