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.

Growing Up Asian in Black and White America, Julia Lee (Henry Holt and Co, April 2023)
Growing Up Asian in Black and White America, Julia Lee (Henry Holt and Co, April 2023)

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.

We are often told that the trend toward globalization is unstoppable, but then some event occurs—whether it is the war in Ukraine or Brexit—that reminds us of the power of nationalism; the emotional attachment that citizens have to their land and people. That power, that emotional attachment, jumps off every page of The War Diary of Asha-san, written by a young Indian nationalist in the midst of the Second World War. 

At this point it is almost a truism that travel memoirs are more about the author’s internal journey than the physical one. “It is the journey, not the destination,” we are frequently told. Never was this point more clearly made than in The White Mosque by Sofia Samatar. Billed somewhat humbly as merely a “Silk Road memoir”, the author provides a personal account of her trip following the passage of a group of Mennonites who relocated from Czarist Russia to Central Asia in the late 19th century.