Nomad, Nomad, Jonan Pilet (Bound to Brew, June 2021)
Nomad, Nomad, Jonan Pilet (Bound to Brew, June 2021)

In his debut short story collection, Jonan Pilet explores the lives of Mongols and expats, looking for a sense of home within the nomadic culture. Based on the author’s insights having grown up in Mongolia, the series of interlinked narratives capture the cultural turmoil Mongolia experienced after the fall of the Soviet Union, painting a vivid picture of Mongol landscapes, Western interactions, and the rise of cultural tensions.

Biographies have much to offer as a way into the past. Lives are messy, and avoid neat conclusions about history—frustrating things, they refuse to fit a preconception. Human lives have a complexity that can keep history-writing honest. To navigate subjectivities keeps us alive to the truth that the work of history, too, is subjective. 

Mongolia is sometimes seen as one of the few examples of a successful youth-led revolution, where a 1990 movement forced the Soviet-appointed Politburo to resign. In Young Mongols: Forging Democracy in the Wild, Wild East, Aubrey Menard profiles many of today’s young activists in Mongolia, in a wide array of different areas like pollution, feminism, LGBT rights, and journalism.

Young Mongols is a book full of energy. Aubrey Menard has interviewed young Mongolian activists at work across different sectors of society; these she profiles together on the basis of a common commitment to make society more equal, more functional, more inclusive. Their participation in Mongolia’s social and political betterment is told with respect and enthusiasm, and most readers will find their passion irresistible.

Humanism, secularism, pluralism: these were the spirit of the age in the exchange system known as the Mongol Empire. So Roxann Prazniak finds in Sudden Appearances: The Mongol Turn in Commerce, Belief, and Art. Prazniak’s starting place is art history, but her study of artistic exchange opens out into a wide view of the intellectual and cultural world under Mongol globalization in the 13th century.

The story of Roman Fyodorovich Ungern-Sternberg—“a Russian general, Baltic baron, Mongolian prince, and husband of a Chinese princess”—more or less writes itself. In his novella, Horsemen of the Sands, Russian writer Leonid Yuzefovich tells the story largely from the perspective of the Buryats—ethnic Mongols living in Russia—through the medium of a lost talisman.