Tag Archives For: asia

16 May, 2017

The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds

/ posted in: Reading The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke
Series: Malayan #1
Published by AmazonCrossing on November 1st 2016
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 474
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Goodreads

Facing challenges in an increasingly colonial world, Chye Hoon, a rebellious young girl, must learn to embrace her mixed Malayan-Chinese identity as a Nyonya—and her destiny as a cook, rather than following her first dream of attending school like her brother.
Amidst the smells of chillies and garlic frying, Chye Hoon begins to appreciate the richness of her traditions, eventually marrying Wong Peng Choon, a Chinese man. Together, they have ten children. At last, she can pass on the stories she has heard—magical tales of men from the sea—and her warrior’s courage, along with her wonderful kueh (cakes).
But the cultural shift towards the West has begun. Chye Hoon finds herself afraid of losing the heritage she so prizes as her children move more and more into the modernising Western world.


 

This is an historical fiction novel set between the 1870s and the 1940s in Malaysia.   In this area of Malaysia at the time it was common for people to be of mixed ethnic heritage.  But now the British have started to establish a presence.  Towns and cities are growing.  Chye Hoon’s father decides to learn English and move the family to a larger city to get ahead.  Although she is smart, she is not able to go to school.  She is headstrong and not beautiful so stays unmarried for a long time before becoming a second wife to a Chinese man who left his family behind in China.

This story focuses on the way the world is changing around Chye Hoon.  She is taken to a backwater town after her marriage.  She watches Ipoh grow into a mining center.  She sees her children grow up and learn English as their major language.  Even her daughters are able to be educated.  But her family traditions are very important. She longs to be able to pass on the stories that were told to her and the traditions of the families in her area.  Her children are not interested.

What do we lose in the name of progress?

I had never heard of the Nyonyas and Babas.  It took me a while to understand exactly what those terms meant.  This is from Wikipedia.

Peranakan Chinese or Straits-born Chinese are the descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to the Malay archipelago including British Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, where they are also referred to as Baba-Nyonya) and Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia; where they’re also referred as Kiau-Seng)[4] between the 15th and 17th centuries.[5]

Members of this community in Malaysia address themselves as “Baba Nyonya”. Nyonya is the term for the women and Baba for the men. It applies especially to the Han populations of the British Straits Settlements of Malaya and the Dutch-controlled island of Java and other locations, who have adopted Nusantara customs — partially or in full — to be somewhat assimilated into the local communities. Many were the elites of Singapore, more loyal to the British than to China. Most have lived for generations along the straits of Malacca. They were usually traders, the middleman of the British and the Chinese, or the Chinese and Malays, or vice versa because they were mostly English educated. Because of this, they almost always had the ability to speak two or more languages.”

 

When you try to investigate Nyonya culture, the first things you see are food.  Food played a big part in this story.  Chye Hoon is widowed and has to make a living.  She decides to sell traditional Nyonya food to the men working in the tin mines of Ipoh.  Her specialties are cakes. Here is a video of a type of Nyonya cake.

I really enjoyed this book. I was immersed in her world that was changing so rapidly that by the time of her death it was unrecognizable. This series will be continuing and picking up with the story of her daughter-in-law in World War II.  That book comes out in the few months.  I’m glad for a bit of a break in between because I feel like a need to mourn a bit for amazing life of Chye Hoon before switching the main character of the story to the daughter-in-law.

 

 

About Selina Siak Chin Yoke

Of Malaysian-Chinese heritage, Selina Siak Chin Yoke (石清玉) grew up listening to family stories and ancient legends. She always knew that one day, she would write. After an eclectic life as a physicist, banker and trader in London, the heavens intervened. In 2009 Chin Yoke was diagnosed with cancer. While recovering, she decided not to delay her dream of writing any longer.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in Asia
  • Foodies Read 2017
  • POC authors
26 Apr, 2017

The Third Son

/ posted in: Reading The Third Son The Third Son by Julie Wu
on April 30, 2013
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
Setting: Taiwan

It's 1943. As air-raid sirens blare in Japanese-occupiedTaiwan, eight-year-old Saburo walks through the peach forests of Taoyuan. The least favored son of a Taiwanese politician, Saburo is in no hurry to get home to the taunting and abuse he suffers at the hands of his parents and older brother. In the forest he meets Yoshiko, whose descriptions of her loving family are to Saburo like a glimpse of paradise. Meeting her is a moment he will remember forever, and for years he will try to find her again. When he finally does, she is by the side of his oldest brother and greatest rival.Set in a tumultuous and violent period of Taiwanese history — as the Chinese Nationalist Army lays claim to the island and one autocracy replaces another—The Third Son tells the story of lives governed by the inheritance of family and the legacy of culture, and of a young man determined to free himself from both.

 


This synopsis sort of made me cringe. I’ve read the whole “my brother is marrying the girl I want” story so many times. I’m over it. This isn’t that though. There was a delightful change.


Saburo gets the girl. Actually, even better, the girl makes up her own mind and chooses him over his brother. Yes, a female main character with agency. I love her. She’s tough and independent minded. She’s chafing under the demands of her time and place. She’s determined to change her life and basically pushes him to get them where they need to be. That isn’t the whole point of the book either.  That happens partway through and the rest of the book is about their life.  

This is the second book I read because of Shenwei’s post about the 228 Massacre in Taiwan. This first one was The 228 Legacy. I enjoyed The Third Son a lot more.  I actually read it in one sitting.  

I’d recommend this one to any historical fiction fans especially if they are looking for settings you don’t often see.  I hadn’t read anything about Taiwan prior to these books.  This is set during a period of a lot of unrest in Taiwan and did a great job explaining the history.  

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Backlist Books
  • Books Set in Asia
  • POC authors
21 Oct, 2015

Where Am I Reading in Africa and Asia?

/ posted in: Reading

I’m going to answer this question with some of the books that I’ve read since the last readathon in October 2014.

These just the Adult Fiction books not about food because Nonfiction and YA and food books all have their own days later in the readathon.

Asia

China

The Three-Body Problem (Three-Body, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth.

My review

Hong Kong

Earth to Hell (Journey to Wudang, #1)Earth to Hell by Kylie Chan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

A fabulous story of gods and demons, shapeshifters and martial arts . . .

This is part of a series that I started earlier and I read a lot of the books this year. I didn’t review them because it is too confusing if you haven’t read them all.

Japan

FudokiFudoki by Kij Johnson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Enter the world of Kagaya-hime, a sometime woman warrior, occasional philosopher, and reluctant confidante to noblemen–who may or may not be a figment of the imagination of an aging empress who is embarking on the last journey of her life, setting aside the trappings of court life and reminiscing on the paths that lead her to death.

My review

Saudi Arabia

Finding Nouf (Nayir Sharqi & Katya Hijazi #1)Finding Nouf by Zoë Ferraris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

In a blazing hot desert in Saudi Arabia, a search party is dispatched to find a missing young woman. Thus begins a novel that offers rare insight into the inner workings of a country in which women must wear the abaya in public or risk denunciation by the religious police; where ancient beliefs, taboos, and customs frequently clash with a fast-moving, technology-driven modern world.

My review

Singapore

Crazy Rich AsiansCrazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.

My review

Turkey

Noah's WifeNoah’s Wife by T.K. Thorne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Noah’s wife is Na’amah, a brilliant young girl with a form of autism (now known as Aspergers). Na’amah wishes only to be a shepherdess on her beloved hills in ancient Turkey–a desire shattered by the hatred of her powerful brother, the love of two men, and a disaster that threatens her world.

My review

Africa

Botswana

The Living BloodThe Living Blood by Tananarive Due
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

Jessica Jacobs-Wolde worked hard to rebuild her life in Miami after the disappearance of her husband, David, and the death of her daughter Kira at his hand. Four years later, she is still coming to terms with a shocking truth: David, who is part of an ancient group of immortals — a hidden African clan that has survived for more than a thousand years — gave Jessica and their second daughter, Fana, the gift of his healing blood. – Book 2 in a series

My review

Egypt

NefertitiNefertiti by Michelle Moran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nefertiti and her younger sister, Mutnodjmet, have been raised in a powerful family that has provided wives to the rulers of Egypt for centuries. Ambitious, charismatic, and beautiful, Nefertiti is destined to marry Amunhotep, an unstable young pharaoh. It is hoped by all that her strong personality will temper the young Amunhotep’s heretical desire to forsake Egypt’s ancient gods, overthrow the priests of Amun, and introduce a new sun god for all to worship.

My review

Ghana

The Book of Phoenix (Who Fears Death, #0.1)The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York’s Tower 7. She is an “accelerated woman”—only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix’s abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperienced in the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading e-books, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7.

Then one evening, Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated by his death and Tower 7’s refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realize that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape.

But Phoenix’s escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story. Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity’s future.

My review

Kenya

The God Who Begat a Jackal: A NovelThe God Who Begat a Jackal: A Novel by Nega Mezlekia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

In The God Who Begat a Jackal, the 17th-century feudal system, vassal uprisings, religious mythology, and the Crusades are intertwined with the love between Aster, the daughter of a feudal lord, and Gudu, the court jester and family slave. Aster and Gudu’s relationship is the ultimate taboo, but supernatural elements presage a destiny more powerful than the rule of man.

My review

Nigeria

LagoonLagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.

My review

Rwanda

Baking Cakes in KigaliBaking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This gloriously written tale—set in modern-day Rwanda—introduces one of the most singular and engaging characters in recent fiction: Angel Tungaraza—mother, cake baker, keeper of secrets—a woman living on the edge of chaos, finding ways to transform lives, weave magic, and create hope amid the madness swirling all around her.

My review

Zimbabwe

We Need New NamesWe Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

A remarkable literary debut — shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize! The unflinching and powerful story of a young girl’s journey out of Zimbabwe and to America.


What would I recommend most?

If you like mysteries – Finding Nouf.

If you like science fiction – Lagoon and The Three Body Problem.

If you like historical fiction – Nefertiti and Noah’s Wife.

Previous suggestions

 

7 books set in Africa 7 books set in south asia

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