Shonanto no Ramen, and Chang’an: Two books by Wena Poon

Sutajio Wena, 2016

Ramen, also known as chukka soba (Chinese noodles), originated in China and spread to Japan in the 1880’s. Japanese troops returning from colonial Manchuria further popularized this dish. During the last days of the Second World War, a Japanese military officer revisits this bittersweet legacy on the streets of Occupied Singapore. This short story is written in English and Chinese (simple script) for English-speaking students of the Chinese language. Illustrated with black and white photographs of Japan and Singapore. Features a photo gallery, with explanations, of noodle dishes in Japan, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and America. For literature students, it also includes a study guide by the author. (Publisher’s description)

When Japan surrendered to the Allies at the end of WWII, more than 6 million of their citizens were left stranded abroad. In China alone there were 2.6 million Japanese, including many women and children, despised by the world and forgotten by their government. Determined to survive, the brilliant military doctor Arthur Hayashi hid in Communist China for decades and left his grand-daughter an unforgettable legacy. The city on Chang’an in the novel is based on the cosmopolitan city in Tang Dynasty China that Kyoto was modeled after. According to Poon, “Hayashi is a role I created in order to answer my own question, ‘What does it mean to look exactly like the enemy?’ What happens when the very few barriers between two tribes are completely pared away? Could you really still shrilly point the finger at each other and say, ‘You’re not human; you’re my enemy’? (Adapted from the Japan Times)

Wena Poon is an American novelist and photographer. Her first novel Alex y Robert was adapted by the BBC and broadcast as a 10-episode Radio 4 series. Born and raised in Singapore, Wena studied English Literature at Harvard College and went on to study at the Harvard Law School. She is a lawyer by profession.

Almost Rain: Poems

https://i0.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51wEpWd951L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgby Simon Perchik
River Otter, 2016

Simon Perchik’s poems are astonishing. unadorned, unpretentious, pure music and thought, which seem to arise together as inevitable and unalterable. With few other poets do we feel as though we are listening to poetry itself, unmediated by an author, speaking in its own voice, in its own terms, of its ow concerns, A reader returns to Perchik’s work again and again and is always refreshed, surprised, and thankful for its lyrical wholeness. — Frank Stewart

Simon Perchik born in 1923 in New Jersey is an American poet with published work dating from the 1960s. Perchik worked as an attorney before his retirement in 1980. Educated at New York University, Perchik now resides in East Hampton, New York. Library Journal has referred to Perchik as “the most widely published unknown poet in America.” Best known for his highly personal, non-narrative style of poetry, Perchik’s work has appeared in over twenty books.

A Far Corner: Life and Art with the Open Circle Tribe

https://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/MasterTemplates/UNL/Modules/ProductImageHandler.ashx?ProductID=675998&endHeight=800&endWidth=600by Scott Ezell
University of Nebraska Press, 2016

The world Ezell embraced in 2002 was one of Taiwanese Aboriginals carving sculptures using chain-saws from often huge pieces of driftwood, drinking rice wine, chewing betel-nut and generally living a life of communal ease in Taiwan’s relatively pristine south-east. The group of friends informally called themselves the Open Circle Tribe, and have since become known as significant and saleable artists; they’ve even had doctorates written about them. But 13 years ago they were unknown to the outside world. Most outsiders who hear the Siren song of the Bohemian life have personal motives for adopting it, but none is immediately apparent in this book, other than a desire to find fulfillment. What can be said is that such people are rarely happy to remain Bohemians for ever, or indeed for long (Ezell says he “couldn’t imagine being buried here”). If they end up combining elements of their new life-style with their older interests then they’re lucky indeed, and this Scott Ezell appears to have accomplished. — Bradley Winterton, Taipei Times

Scott Ezell is a writer and artist living in California and Asia. He is the author of Petroglyph Americana and the chapbook Hanoi Rhapsodies, and is the editor and coauthor of Songs from a Yahi Bow.

Greater Tibet: An Examination of Borders, Ethnic Boundaries, and Communal Areas

https://i0.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41-Uy0UyIJL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgedited by P. Christiaan Klieger
Lexington Books, 2016

The concept of Greater Tibet has surfaced in the political and academic worlds in recent years. It is based in the inadequacies of other definitions of what constitutes the historical and modern worlds in which Tibetan people, ideas, and culture occupy. This collection of papers is inspired by a panel on Greater Tibet held at the XIIIth meeting of the International Association of Tibet Studies in Ulaan Baatar in 2013. Participants included leading Tibet scholars, experts in international law, and Tibetan officials.
Greater Tibet is inclusive of all peoples who generally speak languages from the Tibetan branch of the Tibeto-Burman family, have a concept of mutual origination, and share some common historical narratives. It includes a wide area, including peoples from the Central Asian Republics, Pakistan, India, Nepal Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, People’s Republic of China, Mongolia, Russia, and Tibetan people in diaspora abroad. It may even include practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism who are not of Tibetan origin, and Tibetan peoples who do not practice Buddhism. Most of this area corresponds to the broad expansion of Tibetan culture and political control in the 7th–9th centuries AD, and is thus many times larger than the current Tibet Autonomous Region in China—the Tibetan “culture area.”  (Adapted publisher’s description)

The essays in this volume are illuminating and insightful, and talk about Tibet’s unique place in the world today. Tibetan refugees, immigrants, Tibet’s relations with India, China and even the Russian Federation are some of the topics investigated in the essays that make for interesting reading even as they suffer sometimes from poor editing.

P. Christiaan Klieger is an American anthropologist and Tibetologist. He works as a researcher at the California Academy of Science in San Francisco.

Sea Home: A Novel

51dnpc8iusl-_sx322_bo1204203200_by Phyllis Gray Young
Lightning Source International, 2015

Part contemporary sea tale, part fable, Sea Home explores the boundaries between reality and the imagination and follows one woman’s passage into a new life. As a girl, Rosie Fields dreamed of a sea home–be it a pail of water, a river, a lake, or the ocean deep–that safe place in which to fulfill a sea change or even a metamorphosis. As a woman, lulled by the rhythms of work as a nurse, she loses sight of the dream until a stranger walks from the sea into her life. She embarks with him on a journey that takes her from a research vessel in Hawaiian waters to the landscapes of Italy, England, and the Azores. While her new love traces the evolutionary history of squids, she looks back on her own history–to the father who died when she was a child and to the nearly forgotten sea stories he told. Rosie struggles to reclaim the stories, along with her past, and to find the sea home that lies seemingly beyond her reach. (Publisher’s description)

Phyllis Gray Young is a retired nurse. She lives and writes in Honolulu, Hawai‘i.

Ruined City: A Novel (Chinese Literature Today Book Series)

41lj7pwnbhlby Jia Pingwa
University of Oklahoma Press, 2016

When originally published in 1993, Ruined City (Fei Du) was banned by China’s State Publishing Administration for its explicit sexual content. Since then, Jia Pingwa’s novel of contemporary China’s social and economic transformation has become a bestseller. The story of a famous contemporary writer’s sexual and legal tangles, the novel uses comedy and parody to comment on issues of intellectual seriousness, censorship, and artistic integrity in a changing Chinese society. (Adapted from publisher’s description)

Jia Pingwa (1952- ) stands with Mo Yan and Yu Hua as one of the most prominent and prolific novelists in contemporary Chinese literature. His novels, short stories and essays have a large readership in mainland China, as well as in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The French translation of Ruined City won the French Prix Femina in 1997.

Steep Tea

by Jee Leong Koh
Carcanet Press, 2015

koh-jee-leong-steep-teaSteep Tea is Singapore-born Jee Leong Koh’s fifth collection and the first to be published in the UK. Koh’s poems express many of the harsh and enriching circumstances of a postcolonial queer writer, in a voice both colloquial and musical. Like the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, Eavan Boland and Lee Tzu Pheng, Koh’s writing is forged in the pleasures of reading, cultures and communities. (Adapted from publisher’s description)

“Here are short, deft narratives that map the mismatched patterns of male and female desire grounded in partial understandings of love. The author’s native Singapore sounds out sharply, often ironically, in counterpoint to the intimate domestic interiors that help to constitute what will surely be recognized as some of contemporary poetry’s classic love poems.” -David Kinloch

Jee Leong Koh was born and raised in Singapore and moved to New York in 2003. He has a BA in English from Oxford University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. He is the curator of the website Singapore Poetry and the cochair of the inaugural Singapore Literature Festival in New York City. He lives in New York City.