New Books Highlight: Travel to Asia, No Airplane Needed
When I saw Gene Luen Yang’s newest graphic novel on the shelves, I was inspired to pair it with a couple of other new releases set in, and about life in, Asian countries. Interestingly, these books almost perfectly span the entire 20th century, and are also tied together by a common theme of ancient versus modern cultural values: Yang takes us to late-nineteenth century China, we fast-forward to mid-century India in A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bradbury, and finally Amanda Sun’s first book in the Paper Gods series lets us travel to modern-day Japan.
In true Yang fashion, this is an incredibly unique offering. First of all, it is two books, published simultaneously. You finish one and pick up the other immediately. Oh yeah, and it’s a fictionalized account of real Chinese history. In China in 1898, Christian missionaries from abroad roam the country, converting Chinese peasants through demeaning and violent coercion. Little Bao is fed up with seeing his people suffer in the name of this foreign religion, so he summons the powers of the ancient Chinese gods, and an army of commoners who call themselves Boxers, to fight them down. Saints tells the story parallel to Little Bao’s. Four-Girl is an unwanted daughter, not even given a name, But she finds acceptance, and a name, through Christianity. Because of the Boxer rebellion, China is unsafe for Christian Chinese like herself and she finds her loyalties tested between her nationality and her faith.
It is 1947 in India, a country about to be liberated and partitioned – the Muslim part, Pakistan, severed from the remainder of the country. Tariq is a Muslim Indian, so life is not easy at this moment for him. He dreams of getting out and studying at Oxford in England, but because of his religion he does not have clear access to that world. When he is offered a job translating for the English cartographers working on drawing the India-Pakistan borders, he leaps at the opportunity in the hopes it will lead him to his Oxford dream. He soon meets Margaret, the cartographer’s daughter, who is desperate for fun and attracted to Tariq’s foreignness. But Anupreet, the Sikh girl – and thus very off-limits – catches Tariq’s attention. The tensions in the country do not make love easy, and all three young people find their paths are wilder than they had every hoped.
Sneak Peek! “‘I know you will make us proud, Tariq,’ Master Ahmed calls out to me as I step onto the dusty sidewalk outside the school gates. I lift my palm to my face, fingertips to my forehead, bow. ‘Khuda hafiz.’” (Text copyright © 2013 by Jennifer Bradbury)
This is the first book in a planned series by debut author, Sun, called Paper Gods. When Katie’s normal life explodes in front of her eyes, she is sent off to live in Japan with an aunt. She doesn’t speak the language and is utterly alone and out of place, until she meets Tomohiro. Tomo is popular, gorgeous, and shouldn’t want to have anything to do with awkward Katie, but neither of them can deny the things that happen when they are together. Pens explode, ink drips from nowhere, drawings…live. Tomo is part of an ancient order called the kami. Soon the two are drawn into a world of intrigue as the wrong people start asking the right questions about the kami and both Katie and Tomo find themselves in danger.
Sneak Peek! “I made it halfway across the courtyard before I realized I was still wearing my school slippers. No lie. I had to turn around and slink all the way back to the genkan, the stifled laughs from my classmates trailing me as I mustered what slippered dignity I could.” (Text copyright © 2013 by Amanda Sun)