My review of a recent debut novel, The Storm by Arif Anwar, is up at PopMatters. It is a historical novel about Bangladesh. The narrative stretches from the 1940s to the 2000s and from the South Asian subcontinent to the US. The characters are of British, Japanese, Burmese, Indian, Bangladeshi, and American descent. The main historical events included are the 1942 Japanese occupation of the British colony, Burma (as Myanmar was known then), the 1946 pre-Independence Hindu-Muslim communal violence in Calcutta (as Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, was known till 2001), and the 1970 Bhola cyclone that killed 500,000 in East Bengal (as Bangladesh was first known after the 1947 India-Pakistan partition). This is a vast physical and figurative landscape with much conflict and destruction due to race, religion, and nationality. The aftermath of these seismic events is causing reverberations in the regions even today. I also have a couple of personal theories about historical fiction in general there.
While there has lately been a growing number of small-town India travel memoirs, 'Nautanki Diaries' by Dominic Franks stands apart with its earnest sincerity and exuberant love for cycling as, beyond a sports activity, a metaphor for life. Certainly, it is worth spending a few hours to take this charming journey with the writer and let his beloved Nautanki reveal and redefine both exterior and interior landscapes for us readers too.
My review of Iraqi-American award-winning journalist and poet Dunya Mikhail's nonfiction about the Yazidi genocide in Iraq is up at PopMatters. 'The Beekeeper: Saving the Stolen Women of Iraq' is an important book because so much of this kind of news gets drowned out in the other daily inanities of he-said-she-said in both news & social media. It's due out on March 27th and is a mix of reportage, memoir (Mikhail herself had to flee Iraq due to threats from the Saddam Hussain government), and some verse. Not an easy read and I explain why in the review.