Lucy Tosch regrets her decision to relocate to Okinawa even before she leaves the United States. She applies on a whim for a reporting job at a newspaper catering to the American community in Okinawa after Owen, her Japanese college boyfriend, suddenly ups and leaves without so mu ch as a by-your-leave. Sarah Z Sleeper’s debut novel, Gaijin, brings Lucy—and the reader—to Okinawa, a road less traveled in English-language fiction.

Asia has recently, and somewhat unexpectedly, been the source of some of the most exciting, and bemusing, discoveries in human evolution. In the context of the history of human evolution, or even the history of the study of human evolution, “recent” is a relative term; these developments date back to the first years of the new century when the discovery of Homo floresiensis, “Flores Man” aka “the hobbit”, put Asia back on the evolutionary front burner.

“As soon as he took his first spear, he writhed in pain. Leaking urine and making a miserable spectacle, he took nine spears.” The gruesome and cruel execution of one Heizō Takamiya described here took place in Osaka in 1829; the unfortunate Heizō was accompanied by five other people, one a woman (Toyoda Mitsugi) and four others who were already dead and had been pickled in salt so that their remains could be symbolically crucified and methodically stabbed with spears as a form of humiliation.