Sunday, 30 July 2017

Q & A: Ovidia Yu

Ovidia Yu was born in, lives in and writes about Singapore. After a happy childhood spent reading, drawing comics and dramatizing stories, she dropped out of medical school to become a writer. She achieved international success with a trio of Aunty Lee Mysteries: Aunty Lee’s Delights; Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials; Aunty Lee’s Chilled Revenge. Her latest novel, The Frangipani Tree Mystery, takes her crime writing in a new direction.

The novel is set in 1930s colonial Singapore. Ovidia says she chose to write about her grandparents’ Singapore because it was where and when most of the stories she and her friends heard as children were set. The Frangipani Tree Mystery introduces amateur sleuth Chen Su Lin, a local Chinese-Singaporean with a limp.  She is hired by Acting Governor Palin to look after his youngest daughter.  Whilst working for the Palins, it falls to Su Lin to help ace-detective Chief Inspector Le Froy uncover the cause of a mysterious death….

Friday, 28 July 2017

New book announcement: Yuki Means Happiness by Alison Jean Lester

Yuki Means Happiness is a rich and powerfully illuminating portrait of the intense relationship between a young woman and her small charge, as well as one woman's journey to discover her true self.

New book announcement: Bloody Saturday, by Paul French

Marking 80 Years since Shanghai’s darkest day, Penguin China are bringing out Bloody Saturday, a new Penguin Special by Paul French.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Indie spotlight: Travis Lee

Indie spotlight is our monthly column on self-publishing. This month our regular columnist, Tim Gurung, chats to Travis Lee about his new book Expat Jimmy, in which he draws on his own experiences of teaching English in China. The novel concerns a young American teacher, who arrives in Wuhan looking for a year-long vacation, paid for by teaching English as a second language. Waiting for him is Adam, a jaded laowai (foreigner / expat) determined to crush his preconceptions of China, and to introduce him to the dark side of expat life.

Just quickly...

Click here for full details of the 2017 Man Booker Prize 2017 longlist. The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy makes the initial cut, as do Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Blood and Silk: guest post by Michael Vatikiotis

Journalist and international negotiator Michael Vatikiotis has worked for publications and organisations as various as the Bangkok Post and the BBC World Service. He is also a former editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review. He is currently based in Singapore where he is the Asia regional director of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

Michael’s new book, Blood and Silk: Power and Conflict in Modern Southeast Asia, explores the dynamics of power and conflict in one of the world's fastest growing regions. It peers beyond brand new shopping malls and shiny glass towers in cities such as Bangkok and Jakarta, to probe the heart of modern Southeast Asia. Why is Malaysia, one of the region's richest countries, riddled with corruption? Why do Myanmar, Thailand and the Philippines harbour unresolved violent insurgencies? How do deepening religious divisions in Indonesia and Malaysia affect the region and the rest of the world? What about China's growing influence?

Throughout Blood and Silk Michael offers vivid portraits of the personalities who pull the strings in Southeast Asia. His analysis is always underpinned by his decades of experience in the countries involved.

So, over to Michael…

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Backlist books: The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Backlist books is a column by Lucy Day Hobor that focuses on enduring, important works from or about Asia.

This post, the first in the series, is about The Art of War by Sun Tzu. This 2,500-year-old text, less than 11,000 words in total, is broken into thirteen themed sections, each of which contains a list of numbered principles only a sentence or two long. The message, in essence, is "Fight intelligently so you'll always win."

See below to find out what you need to know to decide whether you should read it, or what you should know about it even if you never do!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Singapore: Unlikely Power by John Curtis Perry

John Curtis Perry is the Henry Willard Denison Professor of History at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. He has also served as the director of Tufts’ Maritime Studies program and was the founding president of its Institute for Global Maritime Studies. He has written widely on Asia-US relations, particularly on relations between American and Japan. In 1991, the Japanese government awarded him the Imperial decoration of the Order of the Sacred Treasure for his contributions to US-Japan relations.

Perry's latest book Singapore: Unlikely Power, explores the implausibility of Singapore's success. It tracks the meteoric rise of Singapore to the status of first-world dynamo in just three decades, shows how the city-state’s founders adopted a resolutely pragmatic approach to economic development rather than following any one fashionable ideology, and offers an overview of a country that has perfected one of the world's most influential political-economic models, despite its tiny size.

In this guest post, John Curtis Perry considers whether Singapore can offer a model to other countries.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

500 words from Kaitlin Solimine

500 words from is an occasional series in which writers talk about their newly-published books.

San Francisco-based Kaitlin Solimine has been a U.S. Department of State Fulbright Creative Fellow in China. She has received several scholarships, awards, and residencies for her writing, which has appeared in a range of publications from the Wall Street Journal, to China Daily. She here talks about her debut novel, Empire of Glass - the Center for Fiction, a New York-based organization devoted to promoting fiction, has longlisted it for their 2017 first novel prize.

Empire of Glass explores recent changes in China through the lens of one family's experiences. In the mid-1990s, an American teenager, named Lao K in Chinese, must decide whether to help her Chinese homestay mother, Li-Ming, who is dying of cancer, in ending her life. Twenty years later, Lao K receives a book written by Li-Ming called Empire of Glass; it chronicles the lives of Li-Ming and her husband, Wang, in pre- and post-revolutionary China over the second half of the twentieth century. Lao K begins translating Empire of Glass. But, as translator, how can she separate fact from fiction, and what will be her own role be in the book?

So, over to Kaitlin…

Friday, 14 July 2017

Q & A: Balli Kaur Jaswal

Balli Kaur Jaswal is a Singaporean novelist of Punjabi extraction.  As a child, she lived all over the world, thanks to her roaming diplomat father. After studying for an undergraduate creative writing degree in the US she continued work on her first novel, Inheritance, during a year spent in the UK, where she was a recipient of the David TK Wong Fellowship at the University of East Anglia – an award made annually to a novelist whose work deals with some aspect of East Asia. She then moved to Australia to do a postgraduate teaching degree in Melbourne, where she met her partner. She ended up staying in Melbourne for 5 years. In 2014, Inheritance won the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelist Award. She then moved back to Singapore, and in 2015 her second novel Sugarbread was a finalist for the city-state’s richest literary prize, the Epigram Books Fiction Prize.  Her recently-published third novel, Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows, was the subject of a hotly-contested auction won by HarperCollins, in London, for a six-figure GBP sum.

Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows follows members of the Punjabi immigrant community in the UK as they struggle to negotiate between two cultures. It is set in London, in Southhall, an area which is home to a large Punjabi population. Balli says her novel is about “a group of Punjabi widows who sign up for a literacy class, which quickly evolves into a space where they can speak freely about things that their community considers taboo. At first, their discussions are centred on erotic fantasies but as the trust builds, the women become empowered to break their silence about other injustices in the community.”

Liu Xiaobo

Amongst many other retrospects, tributes and obituaries, click here for the response from The New York Review of Books.

Friday, 7 July 2017

LSE Review of Books bookshop guides

The London School of Economics (LSE) is one of the world’s leading insitutions for the study of social sciences, economics, politics, and related subjects.

LSE Review of Books publishes daily reviews of books across the social sciences, all of them written by experts. This encourages wide public discussion of some of today’s most pressing global issues, including climate change, the struggle against religious fundamentalism, the challenges currently faced by Western-style democracies, the rise of China, how the internet is changing society, and issues connected with maintaining, or promoting, free speech.

The LSE Review of Books also runs an online guide to the world’s best bookshops, which has included contributions on Mumbai, and Fukuoka - and you don’t have to have a connection to the LSE to contribute.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Freedom to publish and the IPA Prix Voltaire by Trasvin Jittidecharak

The International Publishers Association (IPA) makes an annual award to publishers, the IPA Prix Voltaire. This rewards exemplary courage in upholding the freedom to publish and in enabling others to exercise their right to freedom of expression.

The IPA Freedom to Publish Committee is responsible for picking the shortlist. It announced the shortlist for the 2017 prize  in June.

Thai publisher Trasvin Jittidecharak is a member of the IPA Freedom to Publish Committee

Issues connected with freedom of speech, and freedom to publish, are of particular importance across much of Asia, since ours in a region where these freedom are often denied, or actively resisted. Trasvin Jittidecharak here offers an Asian perspective on the Prix Voltaire.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Extract: City of Protest: a recent history of dissent in Hong Kong by Antony Dapiran

As part of Penguin’s new Hong Kong series – for which see the previous post - Antony Dapiran has just brought out City of Protest: a recent history of dissent in Hong Kong, which explores the role of protest in Hong Kong life, up to and including the Umbrella Movement.

Antony has written and presented extensively on China and Hong Kong business, politics and culture. A contributing editor of Art Asia Pacific magazine, his writing has also appeared in publications including the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Financial Review, Nikkei Asia Review and Hong Kong Free Press. In a legal career of almost twenty years, Antony advised China’s leading companies raising capital and doing business internationally.

He here provides a short extract from the preface to City of Protest.

The Hong Kong Series: new books celebrating the many faces of HK

Twenty years ago, Hong Kong’s sovereignty was handed from Britain, to China. Since then, Hong Kong has accumulated new stories worth telling: stories looking slantwise at history; stories containing lessons for people everywhere. The multicultural hub, bustling with possibility and promise, has become a centre for creativity and a source of inspiration for those on the mainland, throughout the Chinese diaspora, and beyond. But what conclusions can be drawn from a city that faces daily contradictions, such as bank towers looming over shanty towns, mango trees growing on industrial roundabouts, and art that seems driven by commercial requirements? Then there are the political strains of negotiating Hong Kong people’s desire for Western-style democracy, with Beijing’s insistence the Chinese way is best.

These and other issues are explored in a new Hong Kong Series from Penguin. Authors of launch titles are Dung Kai-cheung, Antony Dapiran, Xu Xi, Christopher DeWolf, Ben Bland, Simon Cartledge, and  Magnus Renfrew. They use both fiction and non-fiction to examine Hong Kong’s past, and future, its people, politics and art, its architecture and economy. All except Xu Xi are based full-time in Hong Kong. Collectively, the launch titles shine a light on the whole of Hong Kong’s society, and on the city’s changes over the past twenty years.