Despite being separated by the sea and eight centuries, both of these poets share feelings of exile and displacement and exile as they wander more or less aimlessly around their respective countries, attempting to sort themselves out through writing poetry. They also share the good fortune of having attracted excellent biographers, who let them speak freely and directly through their poetry rather than simply writing about their deeds and personalities. Readers as a result vicariously travel with the poets, feeling their experiences directly and responding to them viscerally and emotionally as well as intellectually.

In 1995, twenty years after the formal end of the war, the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam established diplomatic relations. The early 1990s marked a pivotal period for the country’s economy and politics, as well as on the diplomatic front, the improvement in relations among major powers: the normalization of relations with China came in 1991, and the accession to the ASEAN in the same year of the establishment of diplomatic ties with the USA. These political milestones brought forth changes in the economy for they also activated access for entrepreneurs, tourists, journalists and diplomats alike coming to Vietnam for various different purposes.

Tokyo Love Story: A Manga Memoir of One Woman's Journey in the World's Most Exciting City, Julie Blanchin Fujita, Marie Velde (trans)(Tuttle, March 2021)
Tokyo Love Story: A Manga Memoir of One Woman’s Journey in the World’s Most Exciting City, Julie Blanchin Fujita, Marie Velde (trans) (Tuttle, March 2021)

A funny and intimate travelogue of one woman’s unexpected adventures in Japan. French illustrator Julie Blanchin-Fujita arrived in Tokyo for what she thought would be a one-year stint, and ended up never leaving.

Chiru Sakura—Falling Cherry Blossoms: A Mother & Daughter’s Journey through Racism, Internment and Oppression, Grace Eiko Thomson (Caitlin Press, March 2021)
Chiru Sakura—Falling Cherry Blossoms: A Mother & Daughter’s Journey through Racism, Internment and Oppression, Grace Eiko Thomson (Caitlin Press, March 2021)

At 8 years old, Grace Eiko Nishikihama was forcibly removed from her Vancouver home and interned with her parents and siblings in the BC Interior. Chiru Sakura—Falling Cherry Blossoms is a moving and politically outspoken memoir written by Grace, now a grandmother, with passages from a journal kept by her late mother, reflecting on their family history, cultural heritage, generational trauma, and the meaning of home.

At 10:20pm on 15 August 1969, Ravi Shankar—then, and still, the most famous practitioner of the sitar and Indian classical music—takes the stage at Woodstock. It’s arguably the zenith of Indian music’s popularity in the West, with musicians like the Beatles, the Byrds and Led Zeppelin embracing elements of Indian music. But this was merely the middle-point of Shankar’s artistic development, nor was it a personal highlight in a long and storied career. For many musicians in several different genres, both in and outside of India, Shankar is the most important messenger for the ideas and concepts of Indian music.

A hero in Japan, Beate Sirota is hardly a household name in her home country of the United States. Jeff Gottesfeld’s No Steps Behind: Beate Sirota Gordon’s Battle for Women’s Rights in Japan is a new picture book illustrated by Sheilla Witanto that tells Beate’s story and how she brought change to Japan after World War II.