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July Bookmarks: 25 New Books by Asian Writers

The overlooked poetry of the Tang era, Indian American exile fiction, a biography of the first Japanese American novelist, and new Asian American dystopias.

By Ashley Somwaru, Ernest Tjia, and Wen Zhuang

Border Crossings by Thaddeus Rutkowski

Border Crossings explores the geographical and psychological “crossings” a person faces when traveling to another country or moving through various states of mind. In his first poetry collection, Thaddeus Rutkowski writes about his rural childhood, Asian heritage, life in New York City, and the relations between people, animals, and nature. (Sensitive Skin Books, Feb. 24)





A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman

Compiling stories that have drawn many in for centuries, fifteen acclaimed authors reimagine folklore and mythology of East and South Asia. Readers can be enchanted by star-crossed lovers or meddling immortals and have their heart broken by tales of sacrifice and death. (Harper Collins, June 26)






Brood by Kimiko Hahn

AAWW pal and poet Kimiko Hahn brings us her latest collection of poetry that is sharp with attention to the everyday and commonplace. Hahn engages in a new form of world-making that engages the minuscule and the fractal, presenting to us a landscape both known and forever unknown. You can read more of Hahn’s poetry on The Margins. (Sarabande, July 3)






The Great Flowing River by Chi Pang-yuan, trans. John Balcom

Heralded as a masterpiece within the Sinosphere, Chi Pang-yuan’s autobiographical account of the history of modern China and Taiwan takes its readers through the multiple upheavals that shaped and formed both nation-states. As the political becomes increasingly personal, Pang-yuan migrates to Taiwan to present us with this account of postwar Taiwan from the point of view of a mainlander. (Columbia University Press, July 3)





It All Falls Down by Sheena Kamal
Sheena Kamal follows up on The Lost Ones with her second novel in a thriller series following the brilliant, troubled Nora Watts, whose search into the mysteries of her late father’s suicide bring her into the complicated histories of the “Sixties Scoop” in Canada, in which indigenous children were forcibly put up for adoption, her Palestinian mother’s childhood abandonment of Nora and her sister, and gang warfare in Detroit. (William Morrow, July 3)






Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan by Ruby Lal

Historian Ruby Lal uncovers the awe-inspiring character of Nur Jahan, the 20th wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir. Due to her aristocratic upbringing, this Persian empress was not secluded behind the walls of the empire. Instead, she ruled along with her husband and governed in his stead after his health failures. Bringing to life this often forgotten queen, Lal digs up the feminist historical legacy of an era that had been seen to be ruled exclusively by men. (W. W. Norton, July 3)





What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan

Set in modern-day Shanghai, Lucy Tan’s debut novel revolves around the Zhen family and the bourgeois anomie brought on by their status as China’s nouveau riche. When a precious ivory bracelet goes missing, however, these internal tensions intensify, and the family must come to terms with its past, present, and future. (Little, Brown, July 10)






Suicide Club: A Novel by Rachel Heng

Rachel Heng’s debut novel is set in a world where the New York corporate exchange trades not in stocks but in organs—where people who have won a genetic lottery have the potential to live forever. When Lea Kirino, a “Lifer” who has the chance to live forever if she does everything right, reunites with her estranged father, her world is turned upside down as she is introduced to an underground Suicide Club. She has to make a decision: continue living her immortal life and abandon her father, or join him in his final days. (Henry Holt, July 10)





An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim
It is 1981, a flu pandemic has devastated the world, and threatens to ruin one couple’s chances at love. Frank and Polly are traveling together when Frank catches the flu, and Polly’s one chance at saving him is by entering into a contract with TimeRaiser—a company that sends healthy people into the future for work in exchange for medical treatment. But when Polly makes her way five years into the future, Frank is gone, and the country has changed irrevocably. A love story for the ages and a dystopic sci-fi novel that touches on America’s fraught politics, An Ocean of Minutes “is a story about the malleability of time, but at its core lives something timeless.”
(Touchstone, July 10)





The Marginalized Majority: Claiming our Power in a Post-Truth America by Onnesha Roychoudhuri

A call to arms during the Trump era, Onnesha Roychoudhuri attempts to debunk the myth that America has been more divided than ever before and gives us a stringent critique on collective power. (Melville House, July 10)





The Occasional Virgin by Hanan Al-Shaykh

Though now living vastly different lives, close friends Yvonne and Huda can’t help but let the past trickle back in. Both raised in Lebanon—Yvonne in a Christian home and Huda, a Muslim one—they find that their upbringing has stayed with them in more ways than they expected. Hanan Al-Shaykh flawlessly weaves the reader through the lives of these two characters as they struggle with their love lives and navigate through the past and present. (Pantheon, July 10)





My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

An unnamed narrator embarks on a quest to sleep for an entire year. In her early twenties and living off a large inheritance, Moshfegh’s protagonist in My Year of Rest and Relaxation finds herself taking increasingly extreme measures to ensure her somnophilia is satisfied. (Penguin Press, July 10)






If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi by Neel Patel

Neel Patel’s new collection of short stories begin with caricatured stereotypes but soon take sharp and exciting turns to subvert the myths that perpetuate those same caricatures. With sounding intent and deliberate eloquence, Patel brings together the urban and suburban, the traditional and modern, in order to tell stories that span the country. (Flatiron Books, July 10)






More Than Mere Light by Jason Koo

Jason Koo’s poetry engages itself in the unexplored areas of American life. With humor as well as silence, Koo drags his readers through moments in time, making them think of what is said and what is censured. His poetry dwells on Asian American identity, focusing on sexuality, romance, and everyday life in Brooklyn. You can watch Jason Koo read his work at our Singaporean & American Writers on (in)Visibilities of Race and Gender event. (Prelude Books, June 12)





John Okada: The Life and Rediscovered Work by the Author of No-No Boy ed. by Frank Abe, Greg Robinson, and Floyd cheung

The author of the Asian American classic No-No Boy, John Okada’s newly discovered works are collected in this anthology of biographical essays. Okada’s work, life, and legacy re-emerge in this ambitious volume, which includes insights from close friends and relatives. (University of Washington, July 13)





Inscrutable Belongings: Queer Asian North American Fiction by Stephen Hong Sohn

Stephen Hong Sohn brings together various fictions involving queer Asian North American storytellers, including Alexander Chee’s Edinburgh, Nina Revoyr’s Wingshooters, and Noël Alumit’s Letters to Montgomery Clift. In this “vitally important intervention in Asian North American and queer literary studies” Sohn highlights the experiences of these writers and their communities to showcase their will to survive through often disparaging narratives. (Stanford University Press, July 17)





Monsoon on the Fingers of God by Sasenarine Persaud

Told from the time of the 2014 Scottish Referendum, Monsoon on the Fingers of God explores taal and forms both metaphorical and technical. Persaud weaves together identity, history, and the intricacies of human migration. (Mawenzi House, June 15)






Crossing the Border to India: Youth, Migration, and Masculinities in Nepal by Jeevan R. Sharma

Grounded in long-term anthropological fieldwork, Jeevan R. Sharma provides an ethnographic account of migrant male laborers as they leave Nepal to seek work in India. Honing in on the symbolic act of crossing the border, Sharma interrogates what it means for these migrant laborers to leave their villages, and what it means when international boundaries are simultaneously the hurdles and doors to upward mobility in the global South. (Temple University Press, July 18)




Comic China: Representing Common Ground, 1890–1945 by Wendy Gan

If humor is another representation of power relations, then what role did writers of American comedy play in Sino-U.S. relations? Going beyond the familiar canon of the Yellow Peril, Gan analyzes musical comedies, interwar travel diaries, and the comic works of J.O.P. Bland and the Shanghai journalist Carl Crow, finding the anchoring work of comedy in the search of common ground. (Temple University Press, July 18)






Threads by Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya, and Bhanu Kapil

A combination of personal correspondence, poetry, and lyric essays, this collection attempts to refashion the lyric self inside a racialized body. All profits from this chapbook will go towards the Manuel Bravo Project in Leeds, a charity that provides legal aid to asylum seekers. (Clinic Press, July 23)





Mary B. by Katherine J. Chen
Set before, during, and after the events of Pride and Prejudice, Mary B. is a retelling of the classic Jane Austen novel from the perspective of the Bennett family’s overlooked middle sister. “From an unswept corner of literature, Katherine J. Chen has conjured a heroine whose story is heartbreaking, hilarious, and, finally, thrilling,” writes Susan Choi of Katherine J. Chen’s debut novel. (Random House, July 24)







Immigrant, Montana by Amitava Kumar

In AAWW pal Amitava Kumar’s latest novel, Kailash, a graduate student from India, often finds himself in a constant state of exile, unable to assimilate into the gripping New York culture. After many failed relationships and a continuous struggle to contend with unfamiliar political and social contexts of campus life, the story showcases a satire of migrant life, a sentiment that sounds through generations of those that have also tried to carve out space for themselves in a foreign land. You can see Amitava Kumar in conversation with Teju Cole at our space on Monday, September 10. (Knopf, July 31)




The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

Three students at an elite college unexpectedly cross paths when the mysterious Phoebe goes missing after a fatal accident. R.O. Kwon’s debut novel is written with the same urgent fervor as young adults trying to locate themselves in the world. A fast-paced cult story that is relatable in all walks of life. Read a conversation between R.O. Kwon and Rachel Khong on The Margins. (Riverhead Books, July 31)






October Dedications by Mang Ke, trans. by Lucas Klein, Jonathan Stalling, and Yibing Huang

A prominent Chinese poet, Mang Ke’s poetry is now accessible to English readers in a beautiful fete of translation. This collection of selected poems interrogates the nature of the self; how multiple selves can exist in one body: “sometimes I go shout in the valley / and when the valley sends back my voice / my voice / shocks my heart.” (Zephyr Press, July 31)




Li Shangyin by Li Shangyin, trans. Chloe Garcia Roberts

In this bilingual edition of Li Shangyin’s poetry, Chloe Garcia Roberts translates a large selection of Shanyin’s work while also including additional selections by sinologist A.C. Graham and scholar-poet Lucas Klein. Altogether, you can get an insight into the aesthetic genius of the famous but overlooked poet of the late Tang era. In these poems, the polarity of pleasure and grief, desire and failure resonate effortlessly together. (NYRB, July 31)