A young sake bar owner, Yusuke Shimoki, arrives on the doorstep of Hannah Kirshner’s Brooklyn apartment “with a suitcase full of Ishikawa sake,” in Hannah’s words. That visit sparked a years-long connection between Hannah and the rural Japanese community of Yamanaka, a home for artisans and artists, hunters and farmers, and other ordinary Japanese trying to live in the countryside.
Towards the beginning of his new memoir, Stay True, Hua Hsu tells how he dreamed of becoming a writer during his first year of university in the 1990s, but quickly came to the conclusion that it was not to be. He submitted pieces to his campus paper, The Daily Cal, at the University of California at Berkeley, which were not just rejected; they were ignored. He was able to successfully publish with an Asian American campus newspaper and a Chinatown community paper for which he wrote about film, art and theater.
Alison Hồng Nguyễn Lihalakha was just a small child when her family fled Vietnam during the fall of Saigon. From a refugee camp in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, Alison’s family settled in Panama City, Florida, where her father worked as a fisherman until his sudden death. Left to raise seven kids on her own, Alison’s mother moved the family to Kansas to be near relatives. There, Alison found herself torn between her dual identities as both an immigrant and an American kid.
The writing of Water, Wood, and Wild Things: Learning Craft and Cultivation in a Japanese Mountain Town was surely an act of devotion. It is a book that defies easy categorization by genre. Readers who enjoy travel literature will surely love author Hannah Kirshner’s ability to root her writing in a place and a culture. Foodies will find evocative descriptions of unfamiliar dishes, along with detailed, thematically-linked recipes at the end of each chapter—along with instructions for finding unusual ingredients in Euro-American grocery stores. While not an academic tome, Water is nonetheless a well-researched book backed up with the support of an ethnographer and a three-page source list.
In 2012, Murali Ranganathan, a historian and translator of Gujarati and Marathi, came across the memoir of Nariman Karkaria, a Parsi from Gujarat, titled Rangbhoomi par Rakhad, published in 1922. The book recounts Karkaria’s travels throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, and his experiences in the First World War. The memoir, Murali Ranganathan writes, “is the only Indian war memoir from the First World War to have been discovered thus far.” Though initially skeptical of Nariman Karkaria’s story, and unable to independently confirm the accounts of Karkaria’s war experiences, Ranganathan believes the accounts therein are genuine.
Myanmar—or Burma, if that’s the name you prefer—is one of a small set of countries: nations that, despite natural bounty and a vibrant population, remain underdeveloped due to conflict, economic mismanagement and international isolation.
In Water Thicker Than Blood, poet and professor George Uba traces his life as a Japanese American born in the late 1940s, a period of insidious anti-Japanese racism, even following the wartime incarceration of 120,000 Japanese, two-thirds of whom were American-born citizens. His beautiful, impressionistic memoir chronicles how he, like many Sansei (and Nisei) across the United States, grappled with dislocation and trauma, while seeking acceptance and belonging.