“The Three Women of Chuck’s Donuts” was published in The New Yorker in early 2020, generating great interest for Anthony Veasna So’s forthcoming collection of stories, Afterparties. But months before his book came out, So died suddenly from an overdose. “The Three Women of Chuck’s Donuts” kicks off this collection and tries to answer a question that runs throughout the book, namely “what does it mean to be Khmer, anyway?”

 “Violence composes a fundament of modern Taiwan history,” opens Ian Rowen’s introduction to Transitions in Taiwan: Stories of the White Terror. In the almost forty years during which Taiwan’s authoritarian ruling party, the Kuomintang (KMT), kept the country under martial law and suppressed any form of political dissent, thousands of citizens—including alleged proponents of Taiwan’s independence from China or presumed communist collaborators—were abducted, imprisoned, or executed. This violence has undoubtedly left a scar on a generation of Taiwanese, and the stories that make up this volume, penned by some of Taiwan’s most notable writers, explore the mechanisms of power during that painful—and indeed violent—time. There isn’t however much gore or literal brutality in these stories, which rather reconfigure the violent trauma of history in its most subtle, almost mundane, aspects, displaying how authoritarian power effectively manages to infiltrate every aspect of people’s lives. 

A Son of Taiwan: Stories of Government Atrocity, Howard Goldblatt (trans), Sylvia Li-chun Lin (trans), (Cambria Press, April 2021)
A Son of Taiwan: Stories of Government Atrocity, Howard Goldblatt (ed), Sylvia Li-chun Lin (ed), (Cambria Press, April 2021)

In many ways, Taiwan presents a compelling example of how autocratic regimes impose their will on a population, often as colonial overlords. A peaceful island peopled by Austronesians and ethnic Chinese, rich in agricultural output, has been a geopolitical pawn in recent history, first by the Japanese and then the defeated regime of Chiang Kai-shek in China. Parallels throughout the world are not difficult to find.