Passing for Perfect: College Impostors and Other Model Minorities, erin Khuê Ninh (Temple University Press, 2021)
Passing for Perfect: College Impostors and Other Model Minorities, erin Khuê Ninh (Temple University Press, 2021)

In her engaging study, Passing for Perfect, erin Khuê Ninh considers the factors that drove college imposters such as Azia Kim—who pretended to be a Stanford freshman—and Jennifer Pan—who hired a hitman to kill her parents before they found out she had never received her high school diploma—to extreme lengths to appear successful. Why would someone make such an illogical choice? And how do they stage these lies so convincingly, and for so long?

The narrator in Pik-Shuen Fung’s debut novel, Ghost Forest, is a child in an “astronaut” family. As anyone who has ever orbited Hong Kong knows, this term was coined there to describe families that emigrated—usually to Canada, Australia or the United States—while the fathers stay back to work, “flying here, flying there”. It’s a resulting father-daughter relationship that provides the backbone of Fung’s novel, arranged as a collection of related vignettes, mostly one or two pages, but sometimes consisting of only several words. 

Injustice produces indignation at those responsible for it. Shrabani Basu’s The Mystery of the Parsee Lawyer is filled with indignation as it tells the story of the investigation, prosecution, conviction, and partial pardon of George Edalji, a British lawyer of Indian descent who served three years in prison for crimes (mutilating animals and sending threatening letters) he did not commit. It is a tale of racial prejudice, an inept judge, a biased chief of police, and an obstinate criminal justice bureaucracy. But it is also the tale of men who saw injustice and worked persistently to right a terrible wrong. Included among those men was the creator of the fictional master detective Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Anti-miscegenation laws—laws prohibiting interracial marriage and relationships—plagued the United States and were a part of the American fabric for centuries, some lasting until the 1960s. Tom Lin frames his debut novel, The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu, around this issue as the eponymous protagonist of the story was married to a white woman until her father and the local law enforcement put an end to it. Ming Tsu is now out for revenge. He’s also an assassin by trade.

Beh’s family was already in Canada when she was born. Her parents and two older siblings emigrated there from Afghanistan to escape war; Beh’s uncle, Kaka Farhad, had previously settled in British Columbia. Monster Child, Rahela Nayebzadah’s impressive new novel of immigration and family dysfunction, is told from the perspective of thirteen year-old Beh and her two teenage siblings, Alif and Shabnam.

Well before ping-pong diplomacy in the early 1970s, there was acrobat diplomacy. As a result, many people around the world became familiar with Chinese acrobats, performers that did more than just walk a trapeze or juggle on stilts. Chinese acrobats brought circus performing to a new level, for instance by balancing multiple stacks of cups and saucers on the top of long sticks—often from two hands and a foot. In Jingjing Xue’s memoir, Shanghai Acrobat, the author not only tells of training with the Shanghai acrobats from a young age, but also shows how these troupes became the face of China, starting in developing countries and eventually reaching the west.