Category Archives: Indonesian

Captain Long Ears by Diana Thung

Captain Long EarsSo enthralled by Diana Thung‘s August Moon earlier this week, I immediately ordered Captain (her first and only other title thus far), and was delightfully tickled to find a blurb on the back cover from Gene Luen Yang (of first-ever National Book Award graphic novel finalist-fame for American Born Chinese): “Goofy and endearing with a touch of Taiyo Matsumoto.” Always comforting to come across graphic agreement (I, too, commented on that Matsumoto-channeling in Moon).

The connection here is even visually stronger: Thung’s titular Captain Long Ears pays homage to both brothers who star in Matsumoto’s TEKKON KINKREET, sporting Black’s goggles and White’s animal hat (which resembles a tiger through most of TEKKON, but at story’s end a bonus drawing of the boys as toddlers shows White wearing .. well … long ears!). No worries, however, about encountering something derivative; Thung’s got a captivating style all her own.

Somewhere in space, Captain Big Nose has gone missing. Captain Long Ears, together with his most trusted companion, Cap’n Jam – a giant purple gorilla with self-reported “32 perfectly, perfect sparkling white teeth” – prepare to head out to Space Ninja headquarters (also known as Happy Land). There they hope to find some answers about Captain Big Nose’s “top secret reconnaissance mission that will take a long, long time to accomplish,” as reported by Mum, who also insists calling Captain Long Ears “Michaeeel …”

All is not well at headquarters: the fearless Space Ninja pair are threatened by a “cannibalistic blob witch,” get attacked by flesh-eating piranhas, are trapped in the revolving prison, and must rescue a baby elephant. All the while, the dynamic duo are not any closer to finding Captain Big Nose – who seems to look a lot like Daddy – who remains elusive, always waving goodbye, no matter how much Captain Long Ears begs him to come back.

Throughout her action-filled debut, Thung presents the powerful ability of a child’s imagination to make sense when no answers can be found. Young Michael’s escapist world – complicated, adventurous, exciting – in which he’s never alone, provides a necessary antidote to a loss too difficult to bear … for now. Michael will return to the so-called real world soon enough, but first he’ll need to draw on his Space Ninja superhuman strength to get through the challenges ahead.

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2010

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Filed under ..Middle Grade Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Graphic Novel/Manga/Manwha, Australian, Indonesian

August Moon by Diana Thung

Get ready for surreal delight.

When a mysterious creature with an imbedded bullet turns up, Fi and her scientist father head to the town of Calico – linked “to the rest of the country! and the world!” by a single bridge. They’ll be staying with Fi’s Uncle Simon, the younger brother of Fi’s late mother.

Insulated by headphones, Fi seems to distance herself from what’s going on around her. Her vision of the world is mitigated by one of those pre-digital age instant cameras, watching the photographs slowly develop into something other than what’s visible right in front of her.

In Calico, Fi meets Jaden, a young boy everyone knows but who doesn’t seem to belong to anyone, although he has a special relationship with Grandmama, an elderly food cart vendor who keeps him well supplied with her delicious bao (steamed buns). Jaden is no ordinary child – he has seemingly imaginary friends, he can fly, and he just might be able to save the world from the corporate out-of-towners who are snapping up all the empty spaces of unsuspecting Calico.

With elements of save-the-planet, good-vs.-evil, reclaiming the mother-daughter bond, celebrating heritage, and even a hint of Totoro-like faith in the impossible (while visually reminiscent of Taiyo Matsumoto’s dystopic TEKKON KINKREET: Black & White), Indonesian-born Australian artist Diana Thung creates a magical, mystical adventure for all ages.

Intrigued? How could you not be?

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2012 (United States)

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, ..Middle Grade Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Graphic Novel/Manga/Manwha, Australian, Indonesian, Southeast Asian

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

dreams-from-my-fatherThe inaugural post for a historic inaugural year!

While finding out so much more about our first African American president, you can also discover his Asian Pacific American cultural heritage, as well. He was born in Hawai‘i, his father-figure ages 4-6 was an Indonesian man, Lolo Soetero, who would eventually become his stepfather, he lived in Indonesia fitting right in with the locals during formative years 6-10, has a hapa Indonesian American sister, Maya Soetero-Ng, who is herself married to a Chinese Canadian, learned Indonesian in six months, and returned to Hawai‘i to finish his pre-college education at Punahou School. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Of course, the book has so many memorable characters and stories to offer. The preface to the latest re-issued edition is a heart-breaking homage to his late mother. The memories of his maternal grandmother are especially wrenching with the realization that she passed away just before she could witness her beloved grandson’s victory as the 44th U.S. President. And his experiences in Kenya with his absent, late father’s side of the family are both comedy and tragedy combined.

Tidbits: The audible version of the book, which Obama himself reads, is quite the experience – that voice makes you believe he’s personally telling you his stories. The final track is a bonus: his 2004 Democratic Convention keynote address as the good Senator from Illinois, thumping for John Kerry and John Edwards. But if you take out those names, that speech still remains eerily now – war, economic woes, still too much inequity. Now that he’s the one who’s moved into 1600 Pennsylvania … ‘Yes, we can,’ and ‘Yes, we will!’

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 1995, 2004 (re-issued with new preface)

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Audio, .Nonfiction, African American, Indonesian, Indonesian American, Pacific Islander, Pan-Asian Pacific American, Southeast Asian, Southeast Asian American

The Killing Sea by Richard Lewis

killing-seaAmerican teenager Sarah would much rather be hanging out with her friends back home in an air-conditioned mall than being stuck with her family vacationing in faraway Indonesia. When the massive tsunami of 2004 hits the Aceh coast, Sarah must save her younger brother, even at the cost of losing their mother and possibly their injured father. Fighting to keep her brother alive, Sarah meets Ruslan again, the Indonesian teen who served her family warm Cokes just hours before the devastation. Ruslan’s search for his own missing father intersects with Sarah’s search for a doctor for her brother. A searing tale of human bonds, old and new, made memorably vivid by Lewis’ personal experience of surviving the tragedy.

Review: “In Celebration of Asian Pacific American Month: New & Notable Books,” The Bloomsbury Review, May/June 2007

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2006

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Filed under ..Middle Grade Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Fiction, Indonesian, Nonethnic-specific, Southeast Asian

All That Is Gone: Stories by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, translated by Willem Samuels

All That Is GoneLyrical collection of semi-autobiographical short stories by one of Asia’s most famous authors. The title story is a heartbreaking memory piece of a boy’s first years that captures through young, trusting eyes the loss of his beloved caretaker, his parents’ troubled marriage, and his dissolving family ties. The most disturbing of all is possibly the story, “Inem,” about an 8-year-old child-servant who is sold by her desperately poor parents to marry a brutal 17-year-old boy. One year later, as a 9-year-old divorcee trying to escape her horrifyingly abusive existence, she is no longer allowed back in the narrator’s home as a servant because of so-called propriety.

Review: “New and Notable Books,” AsianWeek, February 27, 2004

Readers: Adult

Published: 2004

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Short Stories, Indonesian