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    Book Club in a Bag

    May is Asian Heritage Month...

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    ... so what better time to read a great book by an author of Asian descent, or set in Asia.

    With such a vast and rich tapestry of countries, cultures and languages, this is only the tiniest sampling of the compelling fiction available.

    The World we Found by Thrity Umrigar

     

    The acclaimed author of The Space Between Us and The Weight of Heaven returns with a breathtaking, skillfully wrought story of four women and the unbreakable ties they share. As university students in late 1970s Bombay, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta were inseparable. Spirited and unconventional, they challenged authority and fought for a better world. But much has changed over the past thirty years. Following different paths, the quartet drifted apart, the day-to-day demands of work and family tempering the revolutionary fervor they once shared. Then comes devastating news: Armaiti, who moved to America, is gravely ill and wants to see the old friends she left behind. For Laleh, reunion is a bittersweet reminder of unfulfilled dreams and unspoken guilt. For Kavita, it is an admission of forbidden passion. For Nishta, it is the promise of freedom from a bitter fundamentalist husband. And for Armaiti, it is an act of acceptance, of letting go on her own terms even if her ex-husband and daughter do not understand her choices. In the course of their journey to reconnect, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta must confront the truths of their lives'acknowledge long-held regrets, face painful secrets and hidden desires, and reconcile their idealistic past and their compromised present. And they will have to decide what matters most, a choice that may just help them reclaim the extraordinary world they once found. Exploring the enduring bonds of friendship and the power of love to change lives, and offering an unforgettable portrait of modern India's nation struggling to bridge economic, religious, gender, and generational divides, The World We Found is a dazzling masterwork from the remarkable Thrity Umrigar.

     

     

    Custody by Manju Kapur

    When Shagun leaves Raman for another man, a bitter legal battle ensues. The custody of their two young children is thrown into question and Shagun must decide what price she will pay for freedom. Meanwhile, Ishita, a failed marriage behind her, finds another chance at happiness with Raman. But when the courts threaten the security of her new family, she decides to fight for it – whatever the cost. From prize-winning author Manju Kapur, Custody is an intimate portrait of marriages that disintegrate and intertwine, with heart-rending consequences.

     

     

     

     

    Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

     

    At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful meeting . . .

    Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by the elite "valuation" firm of Underwood Samson. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his infatuation with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

    But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.

     

     

    After Dark by Haruki Murakami


    A short, sleek novel of encounters set in the witching hours of Tokyo between midnight and dawn, and every bit as gripping as Haruki Murakami's masterworks: The Wind-Up Bird, Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore. At its center are two sisters: Yuri, a fashion model sleeping her way into oblivion; and Mari, a young student soon led from solitary reading at an anonymous Denny's into lives radically alien to her own: those of a jazz trombonist who claims they've met before; a burly female "love hotel" manager and her maidstaff; and a Chinese prostitute savagely brutalized by a businessman. These "night people" are haunted by secrets and needs that draw them together more powerfully than the differing circumstances that might keep them apart, and it soon becomes clear that Yuri's slumber-mysteriously tied to the businessman plagued by the mark of his crime - will either restore or annihilate her. After Dark moves from mesmerizing drama to metaphysical speculation, interweaving time and space as well as memory and perspective into a seamless exploration of human agency - the interplay between self-expression and understanding, between the power of observation and the scope of compassion and love. Murakami's trademark humor, psychological insight, and grasp of spirit and morality are here distilled with an extraordinary, harmonious mastery.

     

     

    My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk

     

    From Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, the 2006 Nobel Prize laureat and one of the most important and acclaimed writers at work today, comes a thrilling new novel — part murder mystery, part love story — set amid the perils of religious repression in sixteenth-century Istanbul.


    When the Sultan commissions a great book to celebrate his royal self and his extensive dominion, he directs Enishte Effendi to assemble a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land. Their task: to illuminate the work in the European style. But because figurative art can be deemed an affront to Islam, this commission is a dangerous proposition indeed, and no one in the elite circle can know the full scope or nature of the project.


    Panic erupts when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears, and the Sultan demands answers within three days. The only clue to the mystery—or crime?—lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves. Has an avenging angel discovered the blasphemous work? Or is a jealous contender for the hand of Enishte’s ravishing daughter, the incomparable Shekure, somehow to blame?


    Orhan Pamuk’sMy Name Is Red is at once a fantasy and a philosophical puzzle, a kaleidoscopic journey to the intersection of art, religion, love, sex, and power.

     

     

    The Feng Shui Detective Goes West by Nury Vittachi

     

    Feng shui master C.F. Wong has never been to the West, but he knows he doesn't like it. It is unquestionably full of Westerners, with their large noses and their disgusting food and their habit-he has seen it many times in movies-of fighting with each other on top of speeding trains. And yet C.F. is going to England. The Family has been having a bad time. The Family needs a feng shui master. Only Wong can bring balance to Buckingham Palace.

     

     

     

     

    If you've read your fill and are looking for more cultural experiences,

    have a look at the ImaginASIAN 2012 events calendar for some great ideas!

     

     

     

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