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October Bookmarks: 30 New Books by Asian Writers

Jeff Yang’s poetry of placelessness, Perumal Murugan’s controversial fiction, Anita Felicelli’s timeless Tamil short stories, and Nasser Hussain’s experimental sky writings.

By Johanna Dong and Ernest Tjia

Past Lives, Future Bodies by Kristin Chang

Kristin Chang’s Past Lives, Future Bodies is full of mouths swallowing food, language, home, memory, and bodily desires, finally arriving at explosive demonstrations of what happens when the unspeakable is uttered. These poems show the process of turning a painful reflection on history, sexuality, race, family, and nation into a prismatic object of beauty. (Black Lawrence, Oct)





Love Songs for a Lost Continent by Anita Felicelli

This shining debut collection of short stories from Anita Felicelli centers Tamil Americans, touching on themes of identity, magic and everyday life, love in different forms, and the history of one’s own roots. Writes Porochista Khakpour: “This is the book we needed to read yesterday… a book we will still be reading tomorrow.” (Stillhouse Press, Oct 1)





Sky Wri Tei Ngs by Nasser Hussain

The poems in Sky Wri Tei Ngs are, remarkably, composed entirely from the three-letter airport codes assigned by the International Air Transport Association. Nasser Hussain’s acrobatic works explore the concept of place and its relation to language, all set in a global context. (Coach House Books, Oct 2)





Once and Forever by Kenji Miyazawa, translated by John Bester

The short stories featured in Kenji Miyazawa’s Once and Forever draw heavy influence from Japanese folklore and Miyazawa’s own love of nature, lending his work an ethereal and whimsical quality—though in accordance to traditional folklore, many of these tales often end in tragedy. (New York Review of Books, Oct 2)





Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

The first installment of a thrilling new YA fantasy series by beloved author Julie Kagawa, Shadow of the Fox transports readers to the land of Iwagoto, where half kitsune, half human Yumeko is tasked with bringing part of an ancient scroll to a temple, joining forces with mysterious samurai Kage Tatsumi. (Harlequin Teen, Oct 2)





All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

In her debut memoir Nicole Chung delivers the story of her childhood as a Korean adoptee. Chung explores the different facets of identity, from her experience being raised by a white family in Oregon to the personal struggles she faced while trying to define family. “What sets [this book] apart is the compassion Chung brings to every facet of her search for identity and every person portrayed in these pages,” writes Celeste Ng. You can read an interview with Nicole on The Margins. (Catapult, Oct 2)





Things to Make and Break by May-Lan Tan

In eleven short stories, May-Lan Tan explores the complexities of relationships through a rich cast that includes doppelgängers, twin brothers who fall for the same girl, and polygamous love triangles. (Emily Books/Coffee House Press, Oct 2)





Seance in Daylight by Yuki Tanaka

“These poems remind us, the world breaks again and again, but it does not end,” says Natalie Diaz of Yuki Tanaka’s Seance in Daylight. Winner of the 2018 Frost Place Chapbook Competition, this collection plays with emotion and transformation, each piece imbued with a dreamlike quality. You can read more of Tanaka’s poetry on The Margins. (Bull City Press, Oct 2)





Season of Dares by Leah Silvieus

Season of Dares follows a Korean adoptee growing up in the rural American West. Tapping into the physical and spiritual landscapes of her childhood home, Silvieus presents a collection of poems inspired by their scriptures and myths. Oscillating between the harsh and tender, the sweet and the bitter, this collection has been received as elegant and wise. (Bull City Press, Oct 2)





Hey, Marfa by Jeffrey Yang

Marfa, Texas: a town once deserted in the 1920s has now become a new creative hub for artists in the American South. This new collection by Jeffrey Yang, set in this fascinating town and engaging with its culture through photography and poetry, blends verse and visuality to meditate on place and placelessness. (Graywolf Press, Oct 2)





I’ll Go On by Hwang Jung-eun, translated by Emily Yae Won

Hwang Jung-eun, one of South Korea’s most lauded authors, delivers a striking tale of a family torn by a father’s death, a mother’s biting cynicism, and two sisters who are forced to reconcile with their relationship when one of them becomes pregnant. Is life as futile as their mother would have them believe, or is there hope and love buried under the daily heartaches of family? (Tilted Axis Press, Oct 4)





The Peepal Tree Book of Contemporary Caribbean Short Stories

The stories featured in The Peepal Tree Book—an anthology of Caribbean tales from works published by Peepal Tree Press over the past twenty-five years—sweep across the Caribbean and its diasporas, representing a myriad of ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations. Primarily set in a time frame of Caribbean nations’ post-independence to today, these short stories cover a wide variety of genres and contemporary issues. (Peepal Tree Press (UK), Oct 4)





Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Originally released last year in Japan and now translated in the U.S., Killing Commendatore doesn’t disappoint for fans of Murakami. In this surrealist epic tale, which is in fact a two-part story in one novel, a painter is left by his wife, winds up in the house of a famous artist, and discovers a painting in the attic which sets loose a maelstrom of mysteries. (Knopf, Oct 9)





Mina by Kim Sagwa

Mina, the English debut novel of South Korean author Kim Sagwa, revolves around a trio of teenagers living under tremendous pressure in a modern globalized world. Their society, increasingly Westernized yet underpinned by “the blood of Korea’s conformity,” threatens to derail their sanity and perception of life itself. (Two Lines Press, Oct 9)





The Souls of Yellow Folk by Wesley Yang

Wesley Yang delivers a collection of essays on the many facets of the Asian-American experience. Many of the essays are centered on modern-day trends or events, such as the Virginia Tech shooter, online dating, and Asians in the context of the American Dream. (Norton, Oct 9)





White Dancing Elephants by Chaya Bhuvaneswar

Winner of the 2017 Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Prize, White Dancing Elephants employs speculative fiction and magical realism to explore a diversity of women of color. These characters range from artists to cheating partners to queer lovers to any combination of the above, and experience in sharp prose the full expanse of human emotion. (Dzanc Books, Oct 9)





One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan, translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan

Tamil writer Perumal Murugan’s first novel One Part Woman stirred controversy when it was first published in India in 2010. A long-married couple’s struggles to conceive get desperate, until the find out about a religious festival where sex between married men and women is permitted. Writes Anuk Arudpragasm of the novel: “A brutally elegant examination of caste, family, and sex in South India.” (Grove Atlantic, Oct 9)





The Identity Thief by Derek Mong
“Here is the resiliency of desire and the persistence of spiritual hunger with plenty of interstitial reverie and music,” writes Deborah Landau of Derek Mong’s latest collection, The Identity Thief. Mong’s poly-vocal collection gathers together the voices of”saints, thieves, environmentalists, new parents, and glaciers.”





The Black Khan by Ausma Zehanat Khan

The Black Khan is the highly-anticipated second installment in Ausma Zehanat Khan’s epic fantasy series The Khorasan Archives, described as a cross “between N.K. Jemisin and George R.R. Martin.” At play are an oppressive regime and the resistance group Companions of Hira, who must draw on their wits and magic to infiltrate a deadly court and topple the regime. (Harper Voyager, Oct 16)





A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

New York Times bestselling author Tahereh Mafi returns with an incisive contemporary novel set a year after 9/11, centered around a teenage Muslim girl who loves to breakdance. She must learn to navigate around the prejudice of her peers, on top of normal teen struggles such as first love. (HarperCollins, Oct 16)





Famous Adopted People by Alice Stephens

Korean-born American adoptee Lisa Pearl travels to South Korea in an attempt to track down her birth mother, but ends up in North Korea as the captive of an enigmatic white woman named Honey. In her debut novel, Alice Stephens spins a dizzying tale of personal journeys and political satire, in which her wandering protagonist’s bid for truth twists into something far more mysterious. (The Unnamed Press, Oct 16)





What We Owe by Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde, translated by Elizabeth Jane Clark Wessel

The prognosis for Nahid, our protagonist, is not good. Aged fifty, the doctors tell her she has six months to live just as she learns that her daughter is pregnant with a firstborn. Both sorrowful and an ode to life, What We Owe is a story about home and homelessness, about love and guilt. Watch Golnaz read from the book at our Lit Lunch. (Mariner Books, Oct 16)





A Portrait of the Self as Nation by Marilyn Chin

A Portrait of the Self as Nation combines both new and selected poems from celebrated poet Marilyn Chin, whose activist poetry is known for its passion and complexity. This collection spans thirty years of Chin’s work, and includes pieces with themes of love, political identity, feminism, and the Asian American experience. You can read an interview with Marilyn on The Margins. (WW Norton, Oct 16)





Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif

With a blend of surrealism, nonlinear storytelling, and biting humor, Red Birds brings together an eclectic cast that includes a refugee boy, an American bomber pilot, and a dog named Mutt. Hanif delivers an imaginative and irreverent take on the absurdity of war in this book, dubbed “a black comedy by a world in crisis” by The Guardian. (Bloomsbury (UK), Oct 18)





Imagine Us Happy by Jennifer Yu

Jennifer Yu’s Imagine Us Happy is a poignant YA novel in which Stella, a high school junior struggling with depression, recounts her tumultuous relationship with Kevin, another teenager dealing with mental illness. Stella realizes that love and relationships can turn toxic, and that to survive, she must learn what she truly needs in life. (Harlequin Teen, Oct 23)





The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, translated by Philip Gabriel

Originally published in 2017, this international bestseller follows a crooked-tail cat named Nana and his owner Satoru as they travel across Japan to visit Satoru’s various friends. A tender and joyful tale of friendship, love, and self-sacrifice, this is certainly a release to pick up. (Berkley, Oct 23)





Useful Phrases for Immigrants by May-Lee Chai

May-Lee Chai’s short story collection spans China and the Chinese American diaspora, bringing to life family dramas and personal struggles through a cast of unique and unforgettable characters, who must learn to adapt and forge their individual paths in a modern and increasingly globalized world. (Blair, Oct 23)





Family Trust by Kathy Wang

When twice-married family man Stanley Huang is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and prepares to reveal the details of his will—including the fortune he’s always claimed he owned—his son, daughter, wife, and ex-wife are faced with family drama like they’ve never seen before. Family Trust is a contemporary American novel dealing with cultural expectations, personal ambition, and the bubble of Silicon Valley. (William Morrow, Oct 30)





On Haiku by Hiroaki Sato

Famed English translator of Japanese poetry and former president of the Haiku Society of America Hiroaki Sato delivers a nonfiction history of the haiku. On Haiku covers the haiku’s Japanese origins, the significance of its form, and the wide variety of modern haiku styles and genres across the Pacific. (New Directions, Oct 30)





Toddler Hunting and Other Stories by Taeko Kono translated by Lucy North

Translator Lucy North brings award-winning author Taeko Kono’s uncanny Japanese prose to the Anglophone reader in Toddler Hunting and Other Stories, a collection disquieting short stories about intimate relationships that are at once fantastical and terrifying. (New Directions, Oct 30)