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).
Twenty-two year-old Ava is a cash-strapped English teacher from Ireland living with roommates who pay less attention to her than the cockroaches in their Hong Kong Airbnb. When Ava meets Julian, a twenty-eight year-old Oxford-educated English banker, her life changes in ways she never imagined. Julian is conservative with expressing his feelings, yet offers his guest room to Ava for free. The two become unlikely friends—and later romantic partners—unlikely not because of their socio-economic disparities, but because they don’t seem to like one another very much.
Samira Ahmed is a force in young adult literature, bringing voice to Muslim American teens and calling out increasingly rampant Islamophobia. In her latest novel, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, she combines a contemporary story with historical fiction that reaches back to Lord Byron (who bore the sobriquet that also titles the novel), Alexandre Dumas and Eugene Delacroix. Two young women are at the centers of these stories, thereby telling history from women’s perspectives.
Comma Press’s “city anthology” series of short fiction (often in translation) has reached Shanghai. Besides the setting, these stories all follow a common theme, whether intentional or not, of loneliness and isolation.
As anti-Chinese prejudice rears its ugly head in the United States, more palpably and consequentially than it has in living memory, it is worth remembering that Chinese have been in America for generations. C Pam Zhang’s debut novel of Chinese immigrants who came for the railroads and the gold rush, How Much of These Hills is Gold, is a haunting tale of family, home, and belonging.