A special insert on Asian American books and authors

Hello readers! It’s been too long since we came out with a book review supplement and I felt we couldn’t let this year slip away without re-connecting. This issue takes a look at local writers and titles. We pull in some lists of favorite recent reads from local book people and writers as well.

Our feature interview is with Bruce Fulton. Together with his wife Ju-chan as frequent co-translator, they have in the last 20 years been responsible for some of the major English translations of 20th century Korean literature in this country. Translators are our link to the world and through them, we see how others live. As our world becomes increasingly inter-connected, translation serves as a vital link of communication and understanding. We talk with Fulton about his recent book on Columbia University Press entitled “Modern Korean Fiction” co-translated with Youngmin Kwon.

Janet Brown edits the informative “Booknotes” for Elliott Bay Book Company and Karen Maeda Allman also works there as a community outreach coordinator. Binko Chiong-Bisbee is co-owner with husband John of KOBO, an artisan gallery featuring fine crafts from Japan and the Northwest. All of them supply lists of their favorite reads.

In addition we have reviews of local and national authors and a look at new titles on Northwest authors. Enjoy the holidays and keep reading! See you next year with more book coverage.

— Alan Chong Lau, Pacific Reader Coordinator

The Ultimate Recommended Books List 2005

Karen Maeda Allman, Elliott Bay Book• My favorite book last year was the novel “Maps for Lost Lovers” (Knopf) by Nadeem Aslam. A Pakistani man struggling with his sense of dislocation and the increasingly ultra-orthodox Muslims in his family must confront the disappearance and death of his brother in an apparent “honor killing” in a small English town. (Kiriyama Prize winner for Fiction in 2005 and New York Times Notable Book). Others I enjoyed:
• Seattle author Mary Matsuda Gruenewald’s “Looking Like Enemy” (New Sage Press)
• Amitov Ghosh’s novel “The Hungry Tide”

Binko Chiong-Bisbee, KOBO• “The Art of Gaman” – a powerful collection of art created by internees in camp with found materials they had available to them. Even in the face of adversity – art and beauty is created.

• “Washoku” – Written by Elezabeth Andoh, a frequent contributor to the New York Times Travel section. An exploration of the meaning of traditional Japanese food – a detailed look at the ingredients, flavors, aesthetics and recipes in context with Japanese culture. Beautiful photography and sensible writing.

• “Looking Like the Enemy,” Mary Matsuda Gruenewald. Many of us have parents who did not express their thoughts and emotions about the camps. Her account gave me additional insight in the psychological aspects of going through those experiences.

• “70 Japanese Gestures,” (Stone Bridge Press) – Great book for the student of the Japanese language – these are the things you won’t learn from a textbook.

• “The Way of Taiko” (Stone Bridge Press), Very nice paperback book with photographs. Includes a history of taiko as well as a detailed explanation of contemporary taiko and its traditions.

Janet Brown, Elliott Bay Books

• “Sightseeing” by Rattawut Lapcharoensap, who takes us beyond the postcard into modern Thailand, smashing stereotypes and providing true pictures of the people I love in short stories that are far too good for a first-time writer.

• “Crossing Three Wildernesses” by U Sam Oeur is an amazing biography of a heroic, humane, and deeply honest man, whose life encompasses 70 years of Cambodia’s turbulent history. Whether he discusses his childhood in a farming village, his 1960s adventures at the University of Iowa, the horror of the Pol Pot years, the difficult aftermath when Cambodia was under Vietnamese control, or the spirit world that guarded and guided him with his family, he is always fair-minded and articulate, with the voice of the poet that he is. This is history that lives and breathes and provides a stunning example of one man whom we could all do well to emulate.

• “The Art of Gaman” by Delphine Hirasuna is a stunningly beautiful book, which combines history that must never be forgotten with art that is lovely and heartbreaking. Hirasuna, whose parents were both placed in U.S. concentration camps during World War II, has made it her mission to uncover the art that was created by those who were imprisoned there. Accompanying her discoveries, which are wonderfully photographed, is a brief but eloquent history of that disgraceful period of our country’s history. (This makes a fine accompaniment to Mary Matsuda Gruenewald’s excellent memoir, “Looking Like the Enemy,” which illustrates the art of gaman verbally.)


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