In the late 19th century, a group of Mennonites leave Russia for what is now Uzbekistan. Driven out by Russian demands that the pacifist group make themselves available for conscription, and pushed forward by prophecies of the imminent return of Christ, over a hundred families travel in a grueling journey, eventually building a settlement and church that locals still remember fondly today.
On a trip many years ago to New Delhi, I was struck by an official memorial to Subhas Chandra Bose, the wartime leader of the Indian National Army, the Japan-affiliated force of Indians who fought against the British during the Second World War. India, of course, has a more complex view of the fight against Japan than other countries involved in the War—with these soldiers being contentious, debated and, at times, celebrated.
Monica Macias, the youngest daughter of Equatorial Guinea’s first president at just seven years old, lands in Pyongyang, North Korea in 1979. Her father had sent her to the country to study, but what was meant to be a shorter visit grew to a decade-long stay when her father was ousted in a coup.
At the beginning of Once Our Lives, Qin Sun Stubis’s family memoir, the author’s grandmother feeds a beggar because she feels sorry for him. She is pregnant with the author’s father at the time and goes on to break the traditional month-long confinement after giving birth in order to continue giving food to the beggar. What ensues, according to the grandmother, is a curse that plagues her son throughout her life, and the family indeed meets with much hardship. But so did most people in China between the years of 1942 and 1975, the time in which most of the multi-generation story takes place.
When Julia Lee was fifteen, her hometown went up in smoke during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The daughter of Korean immigrant store owners in a predominantly Black neighborhood, Julia was taught to be grateful for the privilege afforded to her. However, the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of Rodney King, following the murder of Latasha Harlins by a Korean shopkeeper, forced Julia to question her racial identity and complicity. She was neither Black nor white. So who was she?
In 1960, the Soviet Union founded a university in Moscow—soon to be called the Patrice Lumumba University—with the aim of educating students from newly independent states, many of whom came from African countries. Now called the People’s Friendship University of Russia, the university has a famous list of alumni including former heads of state of Central American and African countries, among others. But the Soviet Union wasn’t the only socialist place to offer educational opportunities to students in the developing world. Cuba, China, and North Korea also did and it’s the last that forms the subject of Monica Macias’s new memoir, Black Girl From Pyongyang: In Search of My Identity.
In 2010, Ping An took over Shenzhen Development Bank, ending an experiment that had never been tried before, and not been tried since: a foreign company owning and managing a Chinese bank. Newbridge Capital, a private equity firm, shocked the financial world when it agreed to take over the bank five years earlier—and successfully made it a pioneer.