UNESCO created World Book and Copyright Day, which falls on 23 April every year. That’s your cue to shift attention to the East and look beyond the ever-popular Murakami to diversify your Asian literature collection. Support these contemporary creatives who put their heritage at the forefront with narratives that blur reality and dreams.
The title sounds like a promising positive read, but beneath it lies countless mortal perils. After the intense A Little Life, the editor-in-chief of New York Times’ T style supplement still heads down into the tormented path in her latest novel. Consisting of three stories—an alternate past circa 1893 where a wealthy man navigates through a gay- and lesbian-accepted society, a tumultuous relationship between a young Hawaiian man and an older white gentleman in 1993 Manhattan during the AIDS pandemic, and a restrictive future in 2093 filled with oppression and governed by totalitarian rule—nuances depicted by Yanagihara will surely elicit strong emotional reactions upon reading.
Beasts of a Little Land
Korea’s evolution into a prosperous country didn’t materialise in an instant. The country faced poverty during the colonial era, World War II’s Japanese occupation, North-South division and independence. Weaving folklore with factual details and inspired by her family’s past, Kim explores the coming-of-age story as well as the bond between an orphan beggar and a peasant girl that happened during those five decades. Both, like the country’s rise, flourished into something rewarding. But it isn’t a saga without a twist of fate, explained in the concept of inyeon (the lifelong interconnection with the people we meet during our lives).
How High We Go in the Dark
Sci-fi and speculative fiction provide much-needed escapism from the real world. But don’t scoff at this plague-driven piece caused by the melting Arctic ice (global warming is real). Set in 2030, this dystopian novel is mapped in a series of separate but interlinked stories of the consequence of that devastating outbreak. Death, grief and loss are expected. But there’s hope within despair, and compassion among characters gives this bleak read an optimistic closure.
Cold Enough for Snow
A mother-daughter overseas holiday sounds like a fun trip, right? Not when both are estranged from each other. While experiencing Japan’s rich culture, the daughter attempts to make amends through offhand conversations on their encounters, not knowing that this will unpack their backstories surrounding Asian beliefs in non-linear flashbacks including what made them distant. This 86- page novella feels like a travelogue due to Au’s impeccable eye on vivid details in describing the sights and sounds of Japan, and her polished prose style will make us examine our inner desires.
These titles are available at Books Kinokuniya.