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10 Things to Read Before Saturday

A taste of what’s in store at this year’s Page Turner Festival



In anticipation of Page Turner, our biggest food and books festival yet, we’ve rounded up a list of must reads published in The Margins by and about the work of writers who’ll be gracing our presence this Saturday. Read, share, and join us on October 5.

1. If Death is a Postman | An excerpt from Jadalliya co-founder Sinan Antoon’s The Corpse Washer, a self-translated poetically grotesque novel set in Baghdad. In the novel, a young aspiring sculptor born into a family of corpse washers hopes to break from the family tradition only to find himself drawn back in by the reality of war. The Corpse Washer “captures the experience of an Iraqi everyman who has lived through the war with Iran in the first half of the 1980s, the 1991 Gulf War over the Kuwaiti invasion, and then the 2003 war” (Three Percent).


2. The Boss | Lauded as “a rare, much needed meditation on work, and the self within it” (SF Weekly), Victoria Chang’s The Boss, a new collection of associative, unpunctuated poems, published by McSweeney’s this summer, playfully reflects on hierarchy and control, labor and power. Don’t miss these four musical poems from the book published in The Margins this July. And find Chang reading from The Boss at Page Turner alongside other writers who’ll share stories from their worst office jobs.

3. Unquarantined | Two decades before Rahul Mehta’s short story collection Quarantine, the winner of this year’s Asian American Literary Award in fiction, Jessica Hagedorn gave us permission to conceive of a different kind of Asian-American literature when she edited Charlie Chan is Dead. “In my own work,” writes novelist Brian Leung, “I have always feared I haven’t lived up to her challenge, but there, in Maine, I held a book that found the answer, or an answer.” Leung, who will present the award to Mehta at the Page Turner after-party and award ceremony, makes a case for Quarantine in The Margins.

Front cover of Vivek Bald's Bengali Harlem

4. The Skin I’m In | Filmmaker and author Vivek Bald’s book Bengali Harlem documents the untold history of South Asian sailors who settled in the US in the early 20th century after deserting British steamships docked in Harlem, and married into the Black and Latino community. Naeem Mohaimmen wrote about the book and recounted a time when marrying an undocumented immigrant man invalidated your own citizenship, when southern blacks would pretend to be Indian to cleverly avoid Jim Crow, and when South Asian American intellectuals argued, amongst each other and in court, whether they were people of color or white. Listen to Vivek Bald speak about hidden immigration stories at Page Turner.

5. Since Tao Lin Declined | Determined to dig deep into Tao Lin’s latest novel Taipei, Anelise Chen sent him a series of questions that left him speechless. When he declined the interview, she returned to her questions, and to the novel. Find Chen at Page Turner reflecting on her year reporting from Sunset Park for Open City.

6. The City of Devi | In Manil Suri’s Suri’s latest novel The City of Devi, Sarita struggles to find her husband, and Jaz goes in search of his ex-lover in dystopian Mumbai just a few days before nuclear holocaust. Read an excerpt from the novel, in which we hear Jaz’s coming of age and coming out story. Find Manil Suri on Saturday talking about ‘The Speculative City’ alongside Tash Aw and Jess Row.

Photo by O Zhang
Photo by O Zhang

7. I Am Your Mirror | Late last year, reporter, book critic, and author Gaiutra Bahadur wrote for us about Chinese-born artist O Zhang, who shot more than a thousand photographs of the faces of blank and neglected billboards during two years of extended road trips across recession-worn America. Bahadur’s book Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture, a powerful story of indentured laborers who made their way from India to the West Indies nearly two centuries ago, and the then to the US, is forthcoming this November.

8. The Evolution of the Female Fictional Lawyer | Entertainment lawyer Helen Wan’s new novel The Partner Track is a redemptive tale of a Chinese-American woman who’s groomed to become the first woman of color partner at a prestigious law firm, until she finds herself at odds with the old boys’ club. Anne Ishii writes about the book and workplace chauvinism in legal dramas.

9. Alexander Chee’ Writing Tips | Novelist, journalist, and critic Alexander Chee is offering personalized Tarot Card readings at the Page Turner after-party. Read the advice on writing he shared with us in the run-up to our first annual publishing conference last December.

McNally Jackson

10. “Where is your ‘White literature’ section?” | What happened when author, professor, and provocateur Amitava Kumar walked into New York City bookstores asking for the ‘White Literature’ section? “Josh, the bookseller, said, half to himself, ‘Who are the great white authors?’ Immediately to his right was the seeming answer. Withdrawing a copy of Freedom half an inch from its place on the shelf, he gently intoned, ‘Franzen.'” Read about his experiment in The Margins. He’ll be moderating a panel on literature and war at Page Turner.