by Wena Poon
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014
Shanghai, 1936. On the eve of World War II, the Jewish, Chinese and Japanese customers of a famous Viennese café on Zhoushan Road get together for an international project: to bake the ‘king of the cakes’, the legendary German baumkuchen. Illustrated with modern and vintage photography. (Amazon.com)
American novelist Wena Poon is the author of ten books of fiction, often exploring diaspora culture, transnational identity, and gender. Her stories have been widely anthologized and translated into French, Italian, and Chinese.
by Naomi J. Williams
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015
Williams makes an entertainingly erudite debut with a prismatic reimagining of the doomed French attempt to circumnavigate the globe in the 1780s. With their “scientific mission paramount, no reasonable expense to be spared,” captains Jean-Francois de Galaup de Lapérouse and Paul-Antoine-Marie Fleuriot, Viscount de Langle, set sail in 1785 aboard the Boussole and the Astrolabe. As the “savants” onboard—geologists, physicists, botanists—prepare to study the exotic, Williams’ narrative focuses on the human. Especially poignant is her illustration of how native cultures are poorly interpreted by European explorers celebrating the virtues of Enlightenment. From overweening functionaries and pretentious colonialists, captains and savants are soon forced to decipher personalities and politics. Amid the seesawing boredom and terror of days at sea, William crafts an elegant and entrancing narrative to match her dissection of the landfalls. Literary art of the first order, intelligent and evocative in the way of the best of historical fiction. — Kirkus Reviews
Born in Japan, Naomi J. Williams holds an MA in Creative Writing from UC Davis. In 2009, she received a Pushcart Prize and a Best American Honorable Mention. She lives in Northern California and is working on her second novel.
by Gary Pak
University of Hawaii Press, 2013
Gary Pak’s latest novel is the story of two Korean-American brothers, Nam Kun and Nam Ki Han, raised in a devout Christian household on a Hawaiian plantation. Following their father’s death, Nam Kun works to support his mother and younger brother, but distances himself from the same Christian faith his remaining family clings to. Years later, at the start of the Korean War, Nam Ki is drafted into the army—an occurrence Nam Kun believes will make a man out of his younger brother. However, the need to kill clashes with Nam Ki’s religious convictions, and the ethical turmoil that follows is soothed only when he meets and falls in love with a young Korean, Christian woman. Nam Ki vows to return for her once the war ends, but upon doing so learns that she has fallen into an ignominious lifestyle, confronting him with a final choice between faith and flesh.
Gary Pak is a third-generation Korean-American. He received his BA from Boston University and his MA and PhD from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, where he is currently a professor of English. His published fiction includes the novels A Ricepaper Airplane and Children of a Fireland, as well as the short story collections The Watcher of Waipuna and Other Stories, and Language of the Geckos. He is the recipient of the 1992 Elliot Cades Literary Prize, as well as a 2002 Fulbright award to Seoul, South Korea.