Towards the beginning of his new memoir, Stay True, Hua Hsu tells how he dreamed of becoming a writer during his first year of university in the 1990s, but quickly came to the conclusion that it was not to be. He submitted pieces to his campus paper, The Daily Cal, at the University of California at Berkeley, which were not just rejected; they were ignored. He was able to successfully publish with an Asian American campus newspaper and a Chinatown community paper for which he wrote about film, art and theater. 

All families have their stories, and for families scattered around the world, as Teresa Lim’s is, the stories often have a central pivot decades or generations back. Lim’s family story gets going, if not starts, with her maternal great-great grandfather who emigrated to Singapore from Southern China at the end of the 19th-century. Draught and famine caused many able-bodied men to leave for more prosperous shores; the Chinese Exclusion Act had closed off the US, and Singapore was, in any event, closer.

Memoirs and biographies of prisoners of war during World War II are not uncommon, but accounts of women POWs remain relatively rare. In Women Interned in World War Two Sumatra: Faith, Hope and Survival, Barbara Coombes tells the story of two British women who were captured by the Japanese military after they tried to leave Singapore by boat a couple months after the city came under attack. They were sent to POW camps on Sumatra. Coombes’s book almost reads like a first-hand account because she includes many pieces of poetry, letters, and sketches from the two women she portrays. 

Salted Plums: A Memoir of Culture and Identity, Alison Hong Nguyễn Lihalakha (Kahana Press, July 2022)
Salted Plums: A Memoir of Culture and Identity, Alison Hong Nguyễn Lihalakha (Kahana Press, July 2022)

Alison Hồng Nguyễn Lihalakha was just a small child when her family fled Vietnam during the fall of Saigon. From a refugee camp in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, Alison’s family settled in Panama City, Florida, where her father worked as a fisherman until his sudden death. Left to raise seven kids on her own, Alison’s mother moved the family to Kansas to be near relatives. There, Alison found herself torn between her dual identities as both an immigrant and an American kid.

In 2012, Murali Ranganathan, a historian and translator of Gujarati and Marathi, came across the memoir of Nariman Karkaria, a Parsi from Gujarat, titled Rangbhoomi par Rakhad, published in 1922. The book recounts Karkaria’s travels throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, and his experiences in the First World War. The memoir,  Murali Ranganathan writes, “is the only Indian war memoir from the First World War to have been discovered thus far.” Though initially skeptical of Nariman Karkaria’s story, and unable to independently confirm the accounts of Karkaria’s war experiences, Ranganathan believes the accounts therein  are genuine.

Water Thicker Than Blood: A Memoir of a Post-Internment Childhood, George Uba (Temple University Press, June 2022)
Water Thicker Than Blood: A Memoir of a Post-Internment Childhood, George Uba (Temple University Press, June 2022)

In Water Thicker Than Blood, poet and professor George Uba traces his life as a Japanese American born in the late 1940s, a period of insidious anti-Japanese racism, even following the wartime incarceration of 120,000 Japanese, two-thirds of whom were American-born citizens. His beautiful, impressionistic memoir chronicles how he, like many Sansei (and Nisei) across the United States, grappled with dislocation and trauma, while seeking acceptance and belonging.