May 7, 2022
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and to celebrate, we are featuring a wonderful second novel from a Chinese American writer, and a powerful memoir about the LBGTQ+ Cambodian immigrant experience. We also have a new English comedy about women’s friendship, and a favorite contemporary Japanese writer returns with another breathtaking novel. For something completely different, revel in a tried-and-true crime novelist’s latest.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By Vanessa Hua
Published by Ballantine Books
A River of Stars was Hua’s first published novel, but she began writing the extraordinary Forbidden City in 2007. Mei, a teenage peasant girl in Communist China, becomes involved in Chairman Mao’s inner circle when she is chosen to leave her village for a place in the leader’s dance troupe. But the intoxicating proximity to power has its downsides and as Mei comes of age, she also experiences the trauma of being an insider to male domination and the corruption of politic upheaval. This fresh take on the Cultural Revolution brings forth the human toll in a book that redefines literary historical fiction.
Ma and Me
By Putsata Reang
Published by MCD
When Reang was a baby she fled Cambodia on a boat with her family, a harrowing trip during which she was actually pronounced dead on arrival. After surviving, she becomes inextricably bound to her mother until Reang tells her she is gay, causing a serious rupture. Will she choose to shame her family in their eyes or find a man to marry as is expected? Reang shares her emotional rollercoaster with the reader in this coming of age and coming to terms, mother/daughter, queer immigrant story that is as powerful as it is beautifully composed..
One Day I Shall Astonish the World
By Nina Stibbe
Published by Little, Brown and Company
A favorite of mine, Stibbe’s comic English novels and her wonderful memoir of being a nanny, Love, Nina, are highly amusing and satisfying. Her new fiction stars a young woman working in a haberdasher in Leicestershire called The Pin Cushion. An appealing heroine, Susan spends her days tutoring the boss’s daughter, Norma, while selling Harris Tweed, and her evenings with eventual husband Ray. But it’s her friendship with Norma that takes center stage with a look at that relationship thirty years on as Susan reviews the choices she has made. It’s a novel full of the joyful foibles and absurdity of life.
All the Lovers in the Night
By Mieko Kawakami
Published by Europa Editions
Translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd
Kawakami (Breasts and Eggs, Heaven) has a quiet, distinctive voice. The action of her novels often happens in the interior lives of her protagonists. Fuyuko, a 30-something single, freelance proofreader in Tokyo, spends her days going over the same pages trying to find sometimes-invisible mistakes. She takes pride in the work, but it has little effect upon her solitude. A hesitant friendship begins with a physicist she meets and their tender, halting conversations about the nature of light are the most dramatic thing in possibly both their lives. Kawakami makes a simple story emotionally potent, and it resonates in your psyche like a soft ghostly echo..
City on Fire
By Don Winslow
Published by William Morrow
Winslow, bestselling crime novelist, screenwriter and author of the popular drug trade trilogy that includes The Cartel, begins another trilogy, which takes place among Providence, Rhode Island mobsters. It opens on a beach clambake as a beautiful woman rises from the sea like a mermaid. Featuring warring families (Irish and Italian) it is a contemporary Iliad, set in the 80s and 90s. Winslow’s mastery of visceral stories, great dialogue and gritty characters has been evident in over twenty novels.