The volcanic Jeju Island is now a popular honeymoon destination in South Korea, but has a darker history that has only relatively recently begun to be openly discussed: a little over seventy years ago it was the scene of a massacre. Residents of Jeju had been some of the most ardent resisters of Japanese rule and supporters of an independent Korea. In April 1948, violence broke out when the regime in Seoul started an anti-communist purge in Jeju. In The Mermaid from Jeju, Sumi Hahn has written a novel centered around the massacre and a community of haenyeo, or female deep-sea pearl divers who begin their work as young as age eleven.
White women were a rare commodity in Europe’s Asian colonies, a considerable problem if one wanted to build a long-term colonial society while avoiding miscegenation. It was a matter that particularly exercised the first leaders of the Dutch East Indies.
Det, Chang and Lek are young university students living in Thailand during the 1970s. It is a turbulent time for the country’s politics: student-led protests in 1973 succeeded in (briefly) overthrowing the country’s military dictatorship. Det, Chang and Lek—three students from very different backgrounds—navigate the country’s changing politics from the streets of Bangkok to the jungles of northern Thailand.
Endō Shūsaku has the rare distinction of having one of his novels, Silence, adapted for the silver screen by none other than Martin Scorsese. Those who aren’t familiar with his opus may be surprised to find that Endō wrote from the perspective of a Roman Catholic. Sachiko, originally published in 1982 and only just now appearing in English translation, fits squarely into this tradition.
Chloe Gong sounds more like a character in a young adult novel than the author of one. A Shanghai-born, New Zealand-raised UPenn senior double-majoring English and international relations lands a book deal with one of the most reputable publishers of children’s books and publishes it to considerable (and deserved) critical acclaim.
Writers, diasporic as well as those native to the Indian subcontinent, have used the Partition of India to capture the pain and the destruction it caused to millions of families. In Vaseem Khan’s Midnight at Malabar House, Partition constitutes the backdrop of a detective novel with Inspector Persis Wadia as the lead. It is not just the time and the place that are unusual; this fictional detective is India’s first woman police officer (some two decades before one was actually appointed).
When Australian Hugh Rand sailed to New Guinea in 1943 to serve as a coast watcher for the Allied Forces, he knew he would be killed. Rand’s job was to alert the Allies of Japanese activity on the island. He befriended local villagers, but never knew whom he could trust. And as predicted, he was beheaded by the Japanese not long after he arrived. In Death of Coast Watcher by Anthony English, Hugh Rand went on to terrorize generations after him.