Sunday 29 September 2019

Indie Spotlight - Myanmar - A Daughter's Promise - Ann Bennett

In my first blog post as Indie Spotlight contributor, I wrote about The Foundling’s Daughter, set partly in India in the days of the British Raj. This was my first foray into self-publishing. Since publishing the book through my own Andaman Press in December 2018, I’ve learned marketing through trial and error and the book has been more successful than I could have hoped – staying in the top 10 of Historical Asian fiction category on, and the top 20 in the same chart on Sales have tailed off lately, but have led to a two-book publishing deal with mainstream digital publisher  Bookouture. The book will be published (freshly edited and under a new title – yet to be revealed) for pre-order in December 2019, publication date February 2020.

Friday 27 September 2019

Guest post: Michael Wert

Michael Wert is Associate Professor of East Asian History at Marquette University in Wisconsin. Specializing in early modern and modern Japan, he is the author of Meiji Restoration Losers: Memory and Tokugawa Supporters in Modern Japan.

Michael has just brought out Samurai, a lively and approachable introduction to the warrior class and its influence on Japan which traces the history of the samurai until their disappearance, and explores their roles in watershed events such as Japan’s invasions of Korea at the close of the sixteenth century. Samurai gives readers access to the real samurai as they lived, fought, and served. It also critiques the role of the samurai in media and pop culture, dispelling many myths along the way.

So, over to Michael...

Wednesday 25 September 2019

The History of a Place in a Single Object, with Multiple Variations

Nicky Harman looks at translating tools, and it's more fascinating than you'd think.

It’s not often that I, as a translator, get to do research on the place where a particular author’s novels are set. In fact my recent visit, with Dylan King, to Shaanxi province to Jia Pingwa to look at where his novels Shaanxi Opera (AmazonCrossing, forthcoming) and Broken Wings (ACA, 2019) were set, was a first. We arrived with a list of questions of the ‘What does that tool do?’ and ‘What kind of a gate entrance is that?’ variety. We were primarily motivated by wanting to get the words right in translation. But it led Dylan and me into discussing the wonderful BBC/British Museum radio series, the History of the World in a Hundred Objects, and what follows is (with apologies to Neal MacGregor) a small meditation on what a particular tool can tell us about a place and how people live there.

The tool: a stone object in two parts that grinds up grain and spices, and produces soybean milk from the raw beans. There are two variations:  nian3pan2, also known as碌碡liu4zhou, consisting of a base stone and a cylindrical roller; and 石磨shi2mo4 or mo4pan2, made up of磨扇mo4shan1two circular stones, one atop the other, the bedstone (下扇) which stays stilland the upper stone (上扇) which moves around. In both versions, the top part is pushed around by a human or a beast. At least that’s what used to happen.

Friday 20 September 2019

Guest post: John D. Greenwood

John D. Greenwood is a Scot now transplanted to America. He began his career teaching philosophy, including a stint at the National University of Singapore, but he has since become an historian of psychology. He is currently in the midst of writing a projected six-part series, Singapore Saga, which will, when completed, offer a fictionalised overview of the first hundred years of modern Singapore's existence, from its founding by Raffles in 1819, to the aftermath of World War One, in 1919.

Volume 1, Forbidden Hill, published in 2017, covers 1819 to the mid 1830s. It features multiple plotlines rooted in historical events, and multiple characters - European, Chinese, Indian and Malay.

Volume 2, Chasing the Dragon, covers 1834-1854, and continues to portray the lives of the early pioneers of the expanding port city. It also extends to Borneo and China, encompassing the careers of James Brooke, the White Rajah of Sarawak, and of Hong Xiuquan, the failed scholar who dreams he is the second son of the Christian God and launches the Taiping Rebellion.

So, over to John, to talk about Chasing the Dragon

Sunday 15 September 2019

Ryuko by Eldo Yoshimizu: Femme Fatales, International Intrigue, Organized Crime, and Lots of Guns

As this is my first blog post as a regular contributor, I thought I’d change it up from my other articles – Researching Historical Japan & Researching Old Shanghai. I will continue to write about Asian history, but for now, I’d like to talk about a piece of contemporary Japanese fiction.

Friday 13 September 2019

Guest post: Jonathan Chatwin

Jonathan Chatwin writes on travel, culture and history with a particular focus on China. His first book, Anywhere Out of the World, was a literary biography of the travel writer and novelist Bruce Chatwin. His essays and articles have been published by the British Film Institute, the South China Morning Post, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Caixin, Studies in Travel Writing and the Asian Review of Books amongst others, and he now writes regularly on Chinese history and culture for a range of publications.

Jonathan's new book, Long Peace Street, intertwines travel and history to tell the story along the so-called Number One Street of China, Chang'an Jie, or the eponymous Long Peace Street, which bisects China's capital, Beijing, and which he walked from end to end.

Here, Jonathan introduces both his book and the street, and explains what inspired his walk.

Thursday 12 September 2019

Leland Cheuk talks to Elaine Chiew about No Good Very Bad Asian, doing stand-up, and why he started 7.13 Books

Courtesy Leland Cheuk

Reading a book that hits hard but also keeps you rolling around in laughter is, to quote Seneca, a res severa est verum gaudium, a "serious joy." I'm delighted to host Leland Cheuk in the Contemporary Voices column. He's funny in his interview, just as he is in his book, and (writing a funny book is no easy peasy lemon squeezy, lemme tell you)...damn, he's just naturally funny!

Welcome Leland Cheuk.

Bio: Leland Cheuk is the author of three books of fiction, including the novels THE MISADVENTURES OF SULLIVER PONG and most recently, NO GOOD VERY BAD ASIAN, forthcoming from C&R Press in November 2019. His work has appeared in SalonCatapultJoyland MagazineLiterary Hub, among other outlets. He has been awarded fellowships at The MacDowell Colony, Hawthornden Castle, Djerassi, and elsewhere. He runs the indie press 7.13 Books and lives in Brooklyn.You can follow him on Twitter @lcheuk and at   

Courtesy Leland Cheuk

Meet Sirius Lee, a fictive famous Chinese American comedian. He is a no good, very bad Asian. He is not good at math (or any other subject, really). He has no interest in finding a “good Chinese girlfriend.” And he refuses to put any effort into becoming the CEO/Lawyer/Doctor his parents so desperately want him to be. All he wants to do is make people laugh. 

A cross between Paul Beatty's The Sellout and Jade Chang's The Wangs Vs. The World, NO GOOD VERY BAD ASIAN follows Sirius’s life from his poor, suffocating upbringing in the immigrant enclaves of Los Angeles to the loftiest heights of stardom as he struggles with substance abuse and the prejudice he faces despite his fame. Ultimately, when he becomes a father himself, he must come to terms with who he is, where he came from, and the legacy he'll leave behind.

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Tsundoku #7 - September 2019

Hope your summer went well and you got your tsundoku pile down a little at least? Back to work now, and rebuilding that pile. And so issue #7 of Tsundoku – a column by me, Paul French. This is a kind of ‘back to school’ issue covering both some books that came out over the summer. So, let’s start with some new fiction...

Saturday 7 September 2019

Lion City Lit by Ken Hickson

As Asian Books Blog is based in Singapore, our regular column Lion City Lit explores in-depth what’s going on in the City-State, lit-wise. Here’s what Ken Hickson has for us……

Love’s Labour’s Lost. Literally.

There are so many books to read, review and rifle through these days. And be impressed by  - quite frankly – with the amount and quality of Singapore published authors and the products of the Lion City’s thriving book business. From publisher, printer, distributor and retailer. Plus authors and illustrators of course!

Here’s my selection and a few short ‘review-like’ assessments of each one.  Literature, definitely. Variety, yes. Not necessarily to everyone’s taste, but all worth reading. Or at least flicking through. For many different reasons.  Read on…..

Friday 6 September 2019

Looking ahead: Singapore Writers Festival 2019

The 22nd annual Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) returns this November with the theme A Language of Our Own. This edition seeks to examine the role of languages in the formation of identities and communities at a time when the world is becoming increasingly globalised, yet fractured. The theme invites authors and audiences to reflect on how they talk about different types of language, including non-standard ones such as emojis and Singlish, the local blend of English with words taken from Malay, Tamil and various Chinese dialects. Sessions will explore how, as systems of communication, languages have both the power to create a sense of belonging and also to cause displacement.