In his 1994 speech accepting the second Nobel Prize for Literature ever awarded to a Japanese author, Kenzaburo Oe claimed that, in the history of modern Japanese literature, “the writers most sincere and aware of their mission were those ‘post-war writers’” who “tried with great pains to make up for the inhuman atrocities committed by Japanese military forces in Asian countries.” He went on to describe more contemporary writers as “a youth politically uninvolved or disaffected, content to exist within a late adolescent or post adolescent subculture.”

Given that Buddhist thought is widely circulated in popular culture (in reference to mindfulness, wisdom, productivity, and spirituality), it is not surprising that Buddha’s story, or the Buddha himself, has come to be the subject of storytelling aimed at the larger audience. Advait Kottary’s debut novel Siddhartha: The Boy Who Became the Buddha reconstructs the Buddha’s story to present a version of how perhaps the most well-known spiritual quest in the world might have unfolded. 

During the 1910s, Hong Kong’s new Governor Francis Henry May seconded a delegation of Sikh police officers to Fiji. May had had a recent stint as Governor of Fiji and before that Captain Superintendent of the Hong Kong Police Force. He felt that Hong Kong’s police force could teach Fiji a thing or two. While it was by no means unusual for the British to employ Sikh policemen in their imperial possessions, Fiji differed in that it already had a population of Indian indentured servants who worked the sugarcane fields on a contract for five years. 

Brinda Charry found inspiration, she writes in her author’s note, for her debut novel The East Indian, from a little known piece of US history. Dating from almost the first days of the English settlement in the early 1600s, servants and laborers from India arrived in colonial Virginia and Maryland via London, having been England in the first place as servants to officials of the East India Company. Charry explored this piece of history and set her story around the first-known Indian immigrant, a young Tamil man who went by the name of Tony. The result is a fascinating story in itself—Tony’s adventures, sometimes against his will and sometimes by choice—complemented by vivid writing. 

Once upon a time, many of the largest cities in what was at the time called the “Near East” enjoyed the benefits of the presence of thriving Jewish communities. Constantinople, Aleppo and Baghdad were just a few cities with tens of thousands of Jews that have since dwindled down to almost a handful. In award-winning Elizabeth Graver’s new novel, Kantika, she writes about her grandmother’s Sephardic family from Constantinople. At the end of the book, she states that she decided to use family photos and real names to keep parts of her story true all while using creative license with ancillary details.