A novel based on anthropologist and author Nigel Barley’s writing career might well be called The Man Who Collected Colorful European Characters from the History of Southeast Asia.
If you don’t like creepy crawlies, have no fear: Miss Benson’s Beetle is a comic quest to find oneself rather than the eponymous insect.
With the exception of Singapore and Malaysia, where English is relatively widely used, and with the further exception of so-called “expat fiction” featuring foreign protagonists, Southeast Asia seemingly generates fewer novels in English—whether in translation or written directly in the language—than other regions of South and East Asia. This situation has ameliorated somewhat in recent years, a period that has coincided with the rise of a regional Southeast Asian culture and media market. Southeast Asian publishers are increasing sourcing and marketing books regionally.
Danilo Cruz, the protagonist of Danton Remoto’s Riverrun, is a young Filipino man raised near an American army base. From the get-go, something about Danilo is different, and everyone in his village can make it out. Even as a young boy, going to watch television at a friend’s house, the mother responds by slamming the door in his face. His reaction is violent.
Graphic novels, which less generous souls might call comic books, rarely feature middle-aged women and certainly not as the main characters. Not until, that is, Yeong-shin Ma wrote Moms, a graphic novel based on his mother and her friends. First published in Korea in 2015, it’s now available in an English translation by Janet Hong, whose name will be familiar to those in the know.
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.
Lucy Tosch regrets her decision to relocate to Okinawa even before she leaves the United States. She applies on a whim for a reporting job at a newspaper catering to the American community in Okinawa after Owen, her Japanese college boyfriend, suddenly ups and leaves without so mu ch as a by-your-leave. Sarah Z Sleeper’s debut novel, Gaijin, brings Lucy—and the reader—to Okinawa, a road less traveled in English-language fiction.