Winner of FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize
An unflinching and riveting meditation on the pain that attends every facet of existence—love and sacrifice and intimacy and beauty—a biography of torture.
Like all of Vi Khi Nao’s acclaimed and award-winning work, A Brief Alphabet of Torture bleeds across many modes and genres—poetry, essay, fiction, drama—and itself almost constitutes a novel of a different kind. Each tale captures the emotional, physical, psychological, political, and artistic concerns that pervade life like breath and which, even when very beautiful, are filled with pain.
These stories are all facets of Nao’s imagination that define the way she views creation, sexuality, violence, and the role of life in an ontological system that relies heavily on cultural, social, and artistic duress. Some stories like “Winter Rose” and “I Love You Me Neither” rise above the boundaries of pain to places of beauty and grace and love, where pain has no place, but make clear how rare such moments appear in life.
Camp Nine: A Novel
Vivienne Schiffer University of Arkansas Press, 2011 Library of Congress PS3619.C366C36 2011 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the U.S. military to ban anyone from certain areas of the country, with primary focus on the West Coast. Eventually the order was used to imprison 120,000 people of Japanese descent in incarceration camps such as the Rohwer Relocation Center in remote Desha County, Arkansas. This time of fear and prejudice (the U.S. government formally apologized for the relocations in 1982) and the Arkansas Delta are the setting for Camp Nine. The novel's narrator, Chess Morton, lives in tiny Rook Arkansas. Her days are quiet and secluded until the appearance of a "relocation" center built for what was, in effect, the imprisonment of thousands of Japanese Americans. Chess's life becomes intertwined with those of two young internees and an American soldier mysteriously connected to her mother's past. As Chess watches the struggles and triumphs of these strangers and sees her mother seek justice for the people who briefly and involuntarily came to call the Arkansas Delta their home, she discovers surprising and disturbing truths about her family's painful past.
Since the 1990s, a new cohort of Asian American writers has garnered critical and popular attention. Many of its members are the children of Asians who came to the United States after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 lifted long-standing restrictions on immigration. This new generation encompasses writers as diverse as the graphic novelists Adrian Tomine and Gene Luen Yang, the short story writer Nam Le, and the poet Cathy Park Hong. Having scrutinized more than one hundred works by emerging Asian American authors and having interviewed several of these writers, Min Hyoung Song argues that collectively, these works push against existing ways of thinking about race, even as they demonstrate how race can facilitate creativity. Some of the writers eschew their identification as ethnic writers, while others embrace it as a means of tackling the uncertainty that many people feel about the near future. In the literature that they create, a number of the writers that Song discusses take on pressing contemporary matters such as demographic change, environmental catastrophe, and the widespread sense that the United States is in national decline.
Born Winnifred Eaton to a British father and Chinese mother, Onoto Watanna was the first novelist of Chinese descent published in the United States. Eaton "became" Watanna to escape Americans' scorn of the Chinese and to capitalize on their fascination with all things Japanese.
This volume includes nineteen of Watanna's shorter works, including thirteen short stories and six essays. "A Half Caste," the earliest essay, appeared in 1898, a year before Miss Numé: A Japanese-American Romance, the first of her bestselling novels. The last short story, “Elspeth,” appeared in 1923. Some of Watanna’s fictional characters will remind readers of the delicate but tragic Madame Butterfly, while others foreshadow types like the trickster in Maxine Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey (where Watanna makes a cameo appearance). Throughout, Watanna tells stories of people very much like herself—capable, clever, and endlessly inventive.
My Old Faithful: Stories
Yang Huang University of Massachusetts Press, 2018 Library of Congress PS3608.U2249A6 2018 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
Showing both the drama of familial intimacy and the ups and downs of the everyday, My Old Faithful introduces readers to a close-knit Chinese family. These ten interconnected short stories, which take place in China and the United States over a thirty-year period, merge to paint a nuanced portrait of family life, full of pain, surprises, and subtle acts of courage. Richly textured narratives from the mother, the father, the son, and the daughters play out against the backdrop of China's social and economic change.
With quiet humor and sharp insight into the ordinary, Yang Huang writes of a father who spanks his son out of love, a brother who betrays his sister, and a woman who returns to China after many years to find her country changed in ways both expected and startling.
The Place of Stones: A Novel
Ali Hosseini Northwestern University Press, 2017 Library of Congress PK6561.H67S2613 2017 | Dewey Decimal 891.5533
Finalist, 2018 John Gardner Fiction prize
The Place of Stones is Ali Hosseini’s newly translated first novel, his second book to appear in English. In it, he paints a vivid portrait of Sangriz, a village in the southern part of Iran where life has been disrupted by industrialization and the revolution of 1979.
Haydar and Jamal are best friends, and their families have always made their living from the land in the foothills of Iran’s Zagros Mountains. Haydar is a dreamer who searches the hills for an ancient treasure called the Black Globe. Jamal is in love with Haydar’s sister, Golandam, and he attempts to accommodate himself to modernization as a way to create a better life for the two of them. The rapacious conversion of farmland to brick factories draws the trio into escalating conflict with the village landlord.
As Jamal, Haydar, and their families confront land reform, industrialization, revolution, and war, their lives are pulled forcefully toward the explosive events that will change them all. In masterfully crafted prose that never sinks into sentimentality, The Place of Stones illuminates how a lost past continues to shape the present.
Longlisted for the 2021 Pen America Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection Prize
Longlisted for the 2020 Story Prize
Exploring what it means to be human through the Korean diaspora, Caroline Kim’s stories feature many voices. From a teenage girl in 1980’s America, to a boy growing up in the middle of the Korean War, to an immigrant father struggling to be closer to his adult daughter, or to a suburban housewife whose equilibrium depends upon a therapy robot, each character must face their less-than-ideal circumstances and find a way to overcome them without losing themselves. Language often acts as a barrier as characters try, fail, and momentarily succeed in connecting with each other. With humor, insight, and curiosity, Kim’s wide-ranging stories explore themes of culture, communication, travel, and family. Ultimately, what unites these characters across time and distance is their longing for human connection and a search for the place—or people—that will feel like home.
Son of Amity
Peter Nathaniel Malae Oregon State University Press, 2018 Library of Congress PS3613.A423S66 2018 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
Three lives on the verge of ruin intersect in the small Oregon town of Amity: Pika, a half-Samoan ex-con from California, seeks to deliver justice to his sister’s rapist; Michael, a five-tour Iraq War Marine, faces the cracked mirror of his own embattled soul; and Sissy, a recent convert to Catholicism, must resist the lure of ruthless self-judgment and discover what love is.
Determined to escape the past, these characters find themselves sharing the same torn-down house, bordering tweaker poverty and bucolic wine country. Violence and penance, family and legacy, recidivism and post-traumatic stress disorder linger with the heavy rain of desperation. At the center of this storm is five-year old Benji, whose wide-eyed energy and openhearted faith could show all of them how to still be saved.
In this unforgettable tale, award-winning author Peter Nathaniel Malae explores the depths of human pain and trauma with genuine cultural authority. Son of Amity is a novel whose voices cry out with truth and vulnerability, never betraying that slight tilt toward hope needed to make the long, hard trek to tomorrow.
Nancy Au’s debut collection is rich with scents, sounds, imaginative leaps, and unexpected angles of vision. These seventeen stories present the challenges facing characters whose inner and outer lives often do not align, whose spirits attempt flight despite dashed hopes and lean circumstances. Marginalized by race, age, and sexuality, they endeavor to create new worlds that honor their identities and their Chinese heritage.
Au excels at inhabiting the minds and hearts of children and the elderly. In the title story, Sophie Chu dresses daily in her increasingly shabby elephant costume to ensure her missing parents recognize her upon their return. In “The Unfed,” a village elder seeks to revive, with her dimming magic, a mountain community struck by tragedy. “Louise” follows, with deceptive hilarity (involving a one-eyed duck), the nuanced give and take between May Zhou and Lai, dissimilar yet passionate partners considering parenthood. The volume also offers sparkling speculative work that taps into the strength of nature—fox spirits and fire beetles, swollen rivers and rippling clouds—to showcase the sometimes surreal transformations of Au’s protagonists.
Spider Love Song and Other Stories treads the fault line that forms between lovers, families, friends, cultures—exposing injuries and vulnerabilities, but also the strength and courage necessary to recast resentment and anger into wonder and power. Au’s lyrical style, humor, and tender attention to her characters’ fancies and failings make this powerful debut a delight to read.
In this thought-provoking collection, Sri Lankan immigrants grapple with events that challenge perspectives and alter lives. A volunteer faces memories of wartime violence when she meets a cantankerous old lady on a Meals on Wheels route. A lonely widow obsessed with an impending apocalypse meets an oddly inspiring man. A maidservant challenges class divisions when she becomes an American professor’s wife. An angry tenant fights suspicion when her landlord is burgled. Hardened inmates challenge a young jail psychiatrist’s competence. A father wonders whether to expose his young son’s bully at a basketball game. A student facing poverty courts a benefactor. And in the depths of an isolated Wyoming winter, a woman tries to resist a con artist. These and other tales explore the immigrant experience with a piercing authenticity.