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October Bookmarks: 16 New Books by Asian Diasporic Writers

A graphic history of the American surveillance state, Illokano love poems, the imagined correspondence between Miguel Cervantes and Chinese Ming Emperor Wanli, and more.

By Yasmin Majeed


Sokunthary SvayApsara in New York by Sokunthary Svay

Cambodian American poet Sokunthary Svay traverses Thai refugee camps, the Bronx and Phnom Penh in her debut poetry collection. Apsara in New York offers up a poetics of survival and strength in the face of political and personal violence. “The poet is both fierce and tender, street-smart and thoughtful, maternal and filial, political and haunted,” writes Bunkong Tuon. “With Apsara in New York, Svay emerges as a powerful new voice in Cambodian American poetry.”

(Willow Books)



Janice Lobo SapigaoLike Solid to a Shadow by Janice Lobo Sapigao

In her newest collection Filipino American poet Janice Lobo Sapigao writes about the work of transcribing and translating the Illokano love letters her deceased father recorded on cassette tapes for her mother. Sapigao examines her relationship with language and her father, remapping and rewriting her personal and family history. Eleni Sikelianos writes that,Like Solid to a Shadow is a primer for how to seek in absence and grief the language one needs to get through.”

(Timeless, Infinite Light)


DovetailDovetail by Kimiko Hahn and Tamiko Beyer

Each year Slapering Hol Press publishes a “Conversation” chapbook in which an established female poet works collaborates with an emerging poet, and this year’s Dovetail is composed of work written by Japanese American poets Kimiko Hahn and Tamiko Beyer. Dovetail is a seamless collaboration, one written, according to Beyer, as “an intensely creative and joyful opposition to the racism, misogyny, and xenophobia that Trump and his administration have foregrounded.”

(Slapering Hol Press)


Linh DinhA Mere Rica by Linh Dinh

“I’ve come to realize that I much prefer to live on the periphery of the English language, so that I can steer clear of the tyranny of its suffocating center. In this sense, I am a quintessential American,” wrote Linh Dinh in The American Poetry Review of his poetry practice. His new collection, A Mere Rica is poetry written from the peripheries and is Dinh’s sixth collection.

(Chax Press, Oct 1)





Iasmin Omar Ata
Mis(h)adra by Iasmin Omar Ata

“Visceral, hilarious, utterly human, and unlike anything you’ve ever read,” Iasmin Omar Ata’s debut graphic novel is the semi-autobipgrahpical story of Isaac, an Arab American college student who struggles to manage his epilepsy with everyday life. As his condition worsens, Isaac grows more and more isolated, until an expected friendship offers some hope for him.

(Simon & Schuster/Gallery 13, October 3)




Aditi Machado
Some Beheadings by Aditi Machado

Aditi Machado’s debut poetry collection is a lyric exploration of the contours of language that traces out a map from India’s Western Ghats to the Mojave Desert. Publisher’s Weekly gave Some Beheadings a starred review, describing the book as “a labyrinthine sensorium where thinking about thinking generates ever more pleasures.”

(Nightboat Books, October 3)



Craig Santos Perez
from incorporated territory [lukao] by Craig Santos Perez

The fourth installment in his series of poetry books about his homeland, Guam, and his current home, Hawai’i, from incorporated territory [lukao] is a collection of poems that interweave anxieties about colonialism, militarism, and the environment, composing a work that is “ground-shaking, delight of breath and ecstatic heart.”

(Omnidawn, October 3)




Xiaolu Guo
Nine Continents: A Memoir in and out of China by Xiaolu Guo

One of the most acclaimed novelists of her generation, Xiaolu Guo chronicles her journey from her childhood in a fishing village on the East China Sea to England, where she now works as an artist and writer, in her new memoir, Nine Continents. The author of I Am China and A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, Guo offers up a tender personal history of life in 80’s and 90’s China and abroad.

(Grove Atlantic, Oct 3)




Madeleine Thien
Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien (reissue)

Man Booker shortlisted writer Madeleine Thien’s second novel Dogs at the Perimeter tells the story of a woman whose brutal childhood as a young girl during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia haunts her present day life in Montreal. First published in 2011, Dogs at the Perimeter is a “clear-eyed and truthful” story of the legacy of war.

(WW Norton, Oct 3)




Marcelino Truong
Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 by Marcelino Truong, translated by David Homel

The sequel to Marcelino Truong’s graphic memoir Such a Lovely Little War, Saigon Calling follows young Marco and his family as they leave Vietnam for London upon the assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem. As the war back home intensifies, Marco and his family struggle to make a new life for themselves in 60’s London.

(Arsenal Pulp Press, Oct 3)


Nidhi Chanani
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Nidhi Chanani’s Pashmina is a Young Adult graphic novel about Indian American teenager Piryanka Das, whose questions about her mother’s decision to leave India and who her father really is are complicated by the discovery of a mysterious pashmina that transports her to India. Both an immigrant coming of age narrative about being caught between worlds and a fantastical adventure story, Pashmina is a “lively, engaging exploration of culture, heritage, and self-discovery.”

(First Second, Oct 3)


Jennifer Chang Some Say the Lark by Jennifer Chang

“In Some Say the Lark, anything can erupt into fury, anything into tenderness,” writes Patrick Rosal of Jennifer Chang’s latest book. “This book: what an agony, what a reconciliation.” In these poems Chang writes about grief and loss with a lyricism and bite that sets her apart. Some Say the Lark is her second poetry collection.

(Alice James Books, Oct 10)





Amy Tan Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir by Amy Tan

“The best new memoir I’ve read in a decade is Amy Tan’s breath-taking high-wire act of memory and imagination,” says Mary Karr of the Joy Luck Club writer’s first memoir, Where the Past Begins. Tan uncovers family mysteries (involving a DNA test and lies her parents told about her education), and revisits her fraught relationship with her father, and her own coming of age as a writer.

(HarperCollins, October 17)




Max Yeh Stolen Oranges by Max Yeh

When a Chinese American historian discovers a collection of documents in Spanish and Chinese that connect imperial China to a rare book shop in Mexico City, he writes an imagined correspondence between Miguel Cervantes and Chinese Ming Emperor Wanli. The celebrated author of The Beginning of the East, Max Yeh fictionalizes history and remaps literature in his latest novel Stolen Oranges.

(Kaya Press, Oct 24)




Brian Castro The Garden Book by Brian Castro

A “triumph of intelligence and imagination,” The Garden Book is the multi-layered story of Norman Shih, a rare-book librarian who tries to track down the lost life and work of Shuang He, an Australian poet who died in poverty without knowing that her work would garner success overseas. As his search takes him around Australia, Shih uncovers the mysteries of the haunted, turbulent life of an Asian Australian writer during the early 20th century.

(Kaya Press, Oct 24)




Pratap Chatterjee & Khalil Verax: The True Story of Whistleblowers, Drone Warfare, and Mass Surveillance by Pratap Chatterjee & illustrated by Khalil

Investigative journalist Pratap Chatterjee and artist Khalil (the co-author of the best-selling Zahra’s Paradise) team up for a indepth look at the recent history of American surveillance and drone warfare in their new graphic history, Verax. Featuring the stories of Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden, and the NSA Four Verax is a comprehensive look at the post-9/11 American surveillance state.

(Metropolitan Books, October 24)