Eun Ji Koh was a typical Californian teenager before her immigrant parents surprised Koh and her brother with some startling news. Her father had been offered a far more lucrative job back in Seoul than he could ever expect to be offered in the US. It isn’t uncommon for immigrants to return to their countries of birth for better employment opportunities, but in this case Koh and her brother would be staying behind.

Earnshaw Books, an independent publisher specializing in China matters, has recently issued two books featuring westerners sojourning in China over a period of a century and a half. Frances Wood, a respected scholar of Chinese history, presents the account of Aeneas Anderson, who served as a valet to Lord Macartney when the latter led an embassy to the court of the Qianlong emperor (1792) and Graham Earnshaw introduces a book of photographs taken by Isabella Bird on her travels through China in 1898.

As Amaryllis Fox’s memoir opens, she is walking through the back alleys of Karachi when she senses a man following her. What she doesn’t write then is that she has an infant daughter back home in Shanghai, cared for by her CIA undercover agent husband. Fox is also an undercover CIA agent but one who doesn’t travel on diplomatic passports or enjoy the protection or cover of embassies and consulates. These agents operate “in the field” as aid workers or businessman without any hint of government connection. In Fox’s case, her cover is a dealer in Asian, Middle Eastern, and African art.

An American Bum in China, Tom Carter (Camphor Press, September 2019)
An American Bum in China, Tom Carter (Camphor Press, September 2019)

An American Bum in China: Featuring the bumblingly brilliant escapades of expatriate Matthew Evans is the remarkable but true story of an Iowan misfit. At the age of twenty-one, cancer survivor Evans flees his Mississippi River hometown of Muscatine and heads to China in pursuit of love. He ends up destitute, deported, working as a professor at a prestigious university, homeless, imprisoned, and an accidental participant in the 2014 Hong Kong protests.

The Boundless Sea: Self and History, Gary Y Okihiro (University of California Press, October 2019)
The Boundless Sea: Self and History, Gary Y Okihiro (University of California Press, October 2019)

The last book in a trilogy of explorations on space and time from a preeminent scholar, The Boundless Sea is Gary Y Okihiro’s most innovative yet. Whereas Okihiro’s previous books, Island World and Pineapple Culture, sought to deconstruct islands and continents, tropical and temperate zones, this book interrogates the assumed divides between space and time, memoir and history, and the historian and the writing of history.