Category Archives: Thai

I Live Here by Mia Kirschner, J.B. MacKinnon, Paul Shoebridge, and Michael Simons

i-live-hereA genre-defying four-book documentary that captures the raw lives of refugees surviving war in Chechnya, the deadly sex-trade along the Burma/Thai border, globalization in Mexico, and AIDS in Malawi. Sometimes, the jaw just drops in utterly devastated awe at the loss of humanity in the world …

Review: “TBR’s Editors’ Favorites of 2008,” The Bloomsbury Review, November/December 2008

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2008

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Graphic Novel/Manga/Manwha, .Memoir, .Nonfiction, Burmese, Thai

Bombay Anna: The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of the ‘King and I’ Governess by Susan Morgan

bombay-anna

Immortalized by Deborah Kerr, Anna Leonowens – yes, that Anna, the one who taught the children of the King of Siam – was, without a doubt, a remarkable character. Unfortunately, her story remains buried in Susan Morgan’s overwritten Bombay Anna: The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of the ‘King and I’ Governess.

Previous biographies have presented Leonowens as a genteel, upper-class British woman who faced tragic loss before she became the beloved governess to the children of the King of Siam. Leonowens herself held fast to those claims throughout her life.

But Anna’s “factual origins,” Morgan explains, were hardly genteel or even very British. She was born Anna Harriett Emma Edwards on November 26, 1831, in Ahmednuggar, India, to a British soldier and his teenaged Anglo-Indian orphan wife. Leonowens grew up in Army barracks amid a multicultural mix of many races and languages. … [click here for more]

Review: Christian Science Monitor, September 16, 2008

Readers: Adult

Published: 2008

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Filed under ...And Awful Duds, ..Adult Readers, .Biography, .Nonfiction, British, Hapa, Indian, South Asian, Thai

Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski

fieldwork1

Even with a protagonist who shares the author’s name, as well as various biographical similarities, Mischa Berlinski’s first book is indeed a work of fiction: “None of this stuff happened to anyone,” he insists in the book’s endnote. Never mind that Berlinski proves to be such an effortless conjurer of convincing details that I kept trying to Google for further information. (The meticulous footnotes alone are an enticing literary feat!) But the cover confirms it’s “A Novel.” How ironic that this disclaimer follows the title Fieldwork – what anthropologists call their real-life primary research.

Having arrived jobless in Thailand to follow his teacher girlfriend, Mischa Berlinski (the character) supports himself writing articles on subjects he knows little about. He observes the Westerners around him, commenting: “There is something about the life as a foreigner in Thailand that draws those who find themselves unwilling or unable to think about their 401(k)s; and in the leisure, freedom, and isolation that the Far East provides, these types swing inexorably toward the pendulum-edges of their souls.” When an expat buddy takes Berlinski out for a meal and entices him with hearsay about a dead woman’s life, he cannot let the skeletal details go: “My soul, too, began to swing. Such is the power of a good story.”

A really, really good story is exactly what Fieldwork is. …[click here for more]

Review: The Washington Post, February 28, 2007

Readers: Adult

Published: 2007

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Filed under .Fiction, Nonethnic-specific, Southeast Asian, Thai

The Happiness of Kati by Jane Vejjajiva

happiness-of-katiAlthough the main character is just 9, the book is definitely for an older audience. Kati’s happy life with her grandparents is disrupted by a visit to her mother, whom Kati has not seen for almost five years. Suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, Kati’s mother wants to spend the last days of her short life with her beloved daughter, whom she left in her parents’ care because she feared for Kati’s safety with her debilitating condition. Even while she is bewildered by her mother’s death, Kati is well-loved by many nurturing relatives, and is able to peacefully let her mother go.

Review: “In Celebration of Asian Pacific American Month: A Literary Survey,” The Bloomsbury Review, May/June 2006

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2006

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Filed under ..Middle Grade Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Fiction, Thai

Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap + Author Interview

SightseeingClint Eastwood, Summer Love, and Cockfighting

The good news first: Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s family in Thailand is all fine; the tsunami thankfully did not harm them. The other good news: His collection of short stories, Sightseeing, which debuts this week, is absolutely superb.

Born in Chicago, raised in Bangkok, and currently living in Norwich, England on a fellowship at the University of East Anglia, the 25-year-old Lapcharoensap (called “A” by everyone except “unfriendly bureaucratic institutions,” he says) vividly captures a slice of life for each of his memorable characters. From a young hapa boy (who keeps a pet pig named Clint Eastwood!) who believes he’s in love with a summer tourist, to an old American codger transplanted to Thailand to live out his final years with his son and Thai daughter-in-law, to a young girl on the brink of adulthood who witnesses her father’s humiliating downfall through gambling, Lapcharoensap’s characters leave a lingering memory even as his words come to an end.

AsianWeek: Where did the inspiration for Sightseeing come from? I understand that these stories are not at all autobiographical …
Rattawut Lapcharoensap: Many of the stories were partly born out of a certain frustration with depictions of Thais and Thailand in contemporary English-language literature. The Thailand I often encountered seemed a far cry from the Thailand I thought I knew, the Thailand I loved.

Whether or not my stories are ‘autobiographical’ depends upon what is meant by the term. If ‘autobiography’ means an account of a life’s events, then this is not an autobiographical book. The events of my life have not been transposed onto the page. Nevertheless, I don’t think there’s such a thing as a piece of writing uninformed by an author’s life experiences. You can’t write about people unless you’ve known a few. My characters often come to me by way of their voices – a line of dialogue, snippet of conversation, the way they may or may not say something.

AW: How has your family reacted to your book?
RL: My family’s reaction to the book has been one of pride and a certain measure of relief, I think. I was unemployed in the winter of 2004 and had decided to finish my book on the small bit of money that I had set aside over the years. There was quite a bit of skepticism about my decision at the time, not only from my family but also, of course, from myself; watching my bank account dwindle that winter made me feel pretty foolish, particularly when the writing wasn’t going as planned. Needless to say, when the book was accepted for publication in April, there was joy, but there was also, I think, an enormous amount of relief. I felt – and continue to feel – inordinately lucky: [that] I should be able to make my living doing something I love. … [click here for more]

of my life have not been transposed onto the page.
Nevertheless, I don’t think there’s such a thing as a
piece of writing uninformed by an author’s life
experiences. You can’t write about people unless
you’ve known a few. My characters often come to me
by way of their voices — a line of dialogue, snippet
of conversation, the way they may or may not say
something.
HOW HAS YOUR FAMILY REACTED TO YOUR
BOOK?
RL: My family’s reaction to the book has been one of
pride and a certain measure of relief, I think. I was
unemployed in the winter of 2004 and had decided
to finish my book on the small bit of money that I had
set aside over the years. There was quite a bit of
skepticism about my decision at the time, not only
from my family but also, of course, from myself;
watching my bank account dwindle that winter made
me feel pretty foolish, particularly when the writing
wasn’t going as planned. Needless to say, when the
book was accepted for publication in April, there was
joy, but there was also, I think, an enormous amount
of relief. I felt — and continue to feel — inordinately
lucky: [that] I should be able to make my living doing
something I love.

Author interview: “Clint Eastwood, Summer Love, and Cockfighting,” AsianWeek, January 21, 2005

Readers: Adult

Published: 2004

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Filed under ...Author Interview/Profile, ..Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Short Stories, Southeast Asian, Southeast Asian American, Thai, Thai American