With #AsianReadaThon now complete, I’m happy with the books I’ve read this past month, though I do wish I was able to read even half as many as last year. Still, each piece had its own unique tale to tell and I’d definitely recommend giving them all a try (if they suit your own personal tastes).
All Photos Courtesy of Goodreads
The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh
Once a week, a letter came. I heard her voice, closer than it felt over the phone. I read them in my room, sitting at the desk, standing in the doorway, lying on the bed. I folded the letter and slipped it into its envelope. I placed it on my nightstand. I kept her close. I read a letter once or twice. Moving my lips, I read it again. Each time, I hoped to see something new, a word that I had missed. When I put it away, a panic returned. I took out the same letter and, with no thought to what I had read before, started over.
Short Description: A poetic memoir of a young woman’s adolescence and her relationship with her late mother.
Critic Quote: “Through writing, Koh learns to wield language not to further isolate herself, but as a way to connect with others. The result is this beautiful, scorching memoir.” –Chicago Review of Books
My Verdict: Though it took me some time to get into this memoir, when I finally found my groove, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. E.J. Koh is an artful writer, her language poetic and nuanced, her scenes following into each other with ease. Listening to her reconcile with her own struggles as well as the history of her mother and grandmother was a unique experience, the pain and longing evident in each vignette. The ending delivered quite a gut punch too.
Read Full Review Here
Serena Singh Flips the Script by Sonya Lalli
I’d been so obsessed with proving myself to her and my team that I hadn’t even considered that she was going through a difficult time transitioning away from being the company’s creative face, taking a backseat to, well, me.
Short Description: Serena Singh is a successful businesswoman, creative and determined to reach her career goals, but deeply lonely and lost when it comes to connecting with her family and friends, especially as her sister grows distant with her oncoming wedding. Perhaps a new friendship and a new (old?) love can help her face a painful past so she can design the future of her dreams.
Critic Quote: “Serena Singh Flips The Script was definitely an interesting book that had a sweet and tender message wrapped into the story.” –Harlequin Junkie
My Verdict: Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I connected with Serena as a character and I liked her friendship with Ainsley (and how this relationship was such a main focus in the novel). Unlike others, I actually found the plot pacing and romance well-structured. My only qualms happened towards the end, but even so, I’d definitely recommend this book to others looking for a character-study-based romance.
Full Review Here
Tokyo Ueno Station by Miri Yu
But life is nothing like a story in a book. There may be words, and the pages may be numbered, but there is no plot. There may be an ending, but there is no end.
Short Description: The ghost who watches over Tokyo Ueno Station recounts his life and the changes within with Japan.
Critic Quote: “But while Yu’s writing is unsparing, never letting the reader forget the enormities of poverty and loss, it’s also quite beautiful.” –NPR
My Verdict: Though there is certainly a lot of beautiful language and complex, deep themes, ultimately this book simply wasn’t suited to my tastes. Still, I understand the praise and would recommend others interested in translated literature to check it out.
Say Hello by Carly Findlay
There are very few stories where the character that looks different is the hero of the story … I’ve been the hero of my story – telling it on my own terms, proud about my facial difference and disability, not wanting a cure for my rare, severe and sometimes confronting skin condition, and knowing that I am beautiful even though I don’t have beauty privilege
Short Description: Australian writer and disability Activist Carly Findlay describes her life as a woman with Ichthyosis and what she’s learned about herself, the world, and the future of disability activism through her experiences.
Critic Quote: “There is little doubt that Carly is a leader in the space of disability, diversity and difference. She is a person to be reckoned with, even if purely for her clarity of thinking and reasoning. There are many lessons to be learnt for all of us from reading ‘Say Hello’.” –Independent Australia
My Verdict: Insightful and accessible, though a bit over-written (by the way, did you know May is also Ichthyosis Awareness month?).
Betraying Big Brother by Leta Hong Fincher
On the inside ‘everything was black and white,’ she said. ‘I knew that I was innocent and done nothing wrong, so I just needed to survive the experience and get out.’
Now, in the outside world, she had to face the heartbreak and disappointment of losing the support of so many she had relied on in the past.
Short Description: Sociologist Leta Hong Fincher details the rise of the modern feminist movement in China.
Critic Quote: “This is a fascinating and earnest book.” –Publisher’s Weekly
My Verdict: Leta Hong Fincher has done it again! A PERFECTLY executed book – striking insights, impeccable structure, and an overall thorough examination of the feminist movement in China. Highly recommend!
Read Full Review Here
Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai
The gray guilt had grown heavy, refusing to pause its relentless infusion into her joints and marrow. After all, it was her fault her brother was taken.
Short Description: A YA historical novel following a young woman’s journey to reunite with her lost brother in the United States following their separation in Vietnam.
Critic Quote: “Masterfully conjures grace, beauty, and humor out of the tragic wake of the Vietnam War.” –Kirkus Reviews
My Verdict: Unfortunately the mix of slice-of-life and historical trauma didn’t quite coalesce for me. Consider your own tastes before picking up.
I Remember Abbu by Humayun Azad
The word “liberation” confuses us. There are different kinds of liberation, but there can be only one independence.
Short Description: The story of a young girl’s recollections of her late father, taken from her during the violence of partition and following independence of Bangladesh.
Critic Quote: “If you are starting out or are generally interested about partition and the incidents in 1971, this would be a perfect read, from the perspective of someone who has lived through the war and died for it, in a very easy flowing and lyrical literature in just about a 100 pages.” –Ample Amalgams
My Verdict: A short book that provides a sensitive portrayal of loss and Bengali history. Though for me, the writing was too simplistic for the emotional impact of the narrative to really hit hard, I still appreciated the story and would recommend others give it a try.
The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam
She thought of Imran and Helen and was suddenly filled with blind rage. A feeling of contempt rose in her for the lands in which they were born, these places ruled by the wicked who didn’t recognise and honour their youth and brightness and purity, their intelligence and abilities.
Short Description: A widow with a secret, a runaway with a dark past, and a Christian servant girl must join together when political intrigue and religious turmoil collide in a torn Pakistan.
Critic Quote: “Realism and fable combine in Nadeem Aslam’s tale of terrorism, tragedy and romance across religious divides.” –The Guardian
My Verdict: Though the core of the story was strong, I ultimately found the writing too meandering to connect with the characters and their journeys. Consider your own tastes before picking up.
Read Full Review Here
Once Upon an Eid Edited/Collected by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed
There are a lot of ways to show our faith and love to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. You pick the ones that are right for who you are right now.
Short Description: A Middle Grade collection of short stories following a variety of Muslim families as they celebrate Eid.
Critic Quote: “This thoughtful and uplifting volume will keep readers turning pages year-round; here’s to many more.” –Kirkus Reviews
My Verdict: So sweet and wholesome. 100000% recommend if you want to have a good time.