We are excited to reveal more information about the new books released this year which are being celebrated as part of the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival this autumn. Spanning across centuries and across the Asian continent, the new material presented covers cultural identity, history and politics, some which blur fact and fiction and others which explore myths and legends.
Through first-hand experiences and the exposure of unheard voices, we hear new perspectives on the Asian diaspora and general life through comedy, drama, and a bit of a thriller(!), both contemporary and historical. We hope you can join us for some of these fascinating discussions and that you get a chance to read some of these great new stories!
Dan Jones – Crusaders
Tues 3 Sept – See event here.
Dan Jones, best-selling chronicler of the Middle Ages, turns his attention to the history of the Crusades – the sequence of religious wars fought between the late eleventh century and late medieval periods, in which armies from European Christian states attempted to wrest the Holy Land from Islamic rule, and which have left an enduring imprint on relations between the Muslim world and the West.
From the preaching of the First Crusade by Pope Urban II in 1095 to the loss of the last crusader outpost in the Levant in 1302-03, and from the taking of Jerusalem from the Fatimids in 1099 to the fall of Acre to the Mamluks in 1291, Crusaders tells a tale soaked in Islamic, Christian and Jewish blood, peopled by extraordinary characters, and characterised by both low ambition and high principle.
Dan Jones is a master of popular narrative history, with the priceless ability to write page-turning narrative history underpinned by authoritative scholarship. Never before has the era of the Crusades been depicted in such bright and striking colours, or their story told with such gusto.
*Published in the UK by Head of Zeus on 5 September 2019.
Nikita Gill – Great Goddesses: Life Lessons from Myths and Monsters
Sat 7 Sep – See event here.
Empowering life lessons from myths and monsters.
Wonder at Medusa’s potent venom, Circe’s fierce sorcery and Athena rising up over Olympus, as Nikita Gill majestically explores the untold stories of the life bringers, warriors, creators, survivors and destroyers that shook the world – the great Greek Goddesses.
Vividly re-imagined and beautifully illustrated, step into an ancient world transformed by modern feminist magic.
‘I watch Girl become Goddess
and the metamorphosis is more
magnificent than anything
I have ever known.‘
*Published in the UK by Penguin on 5 September 2019
Hussein Kesvani – Follow Me, Akhi: The Online World of British Muslims
Thu 26 Sep – See event here.
A rich exploration of the unexpected online worlds of British Muslims.
What does it mean to be Muslim in Britain today? If the media is anything to go by, it has something to do with mosques, community leaders, whether you wear a veil, and your views on religious extremists. But as all our lives become increasingly entwined with our online presence, British Islam has evolved into a multidimensional cultural identity that goes well beyond the confines of the mosque.
Entering a world of memes and influencers, Muslim dating apps, and alt-right Islamophobes, Hussein Kesvani reveals how a new generation of young Muslims who have grown up with the internet are using social media to determine their religious identity on their own terms—something that could change the course of ‘British Islam’ forever.
* Published in the UK by Hurst on 30 May 2019
Babita Sharma – The Corner Shop: Shopkeepers, the Sharmas and the Making of Modern Britain
Tues 1 Oct – See event here.
Britain is a nation of shopkeepers, and the story of corner shops is the story of who we are.
From the general stores of the first half of the 20th century (one of which was run by the father of a certain Margaret Thatcher), to the reimagined corner shops run by immigrants from India, East Africa and Eastern Europe from the 60s to the noughties, their influence has shaped the way we shop, the way we eat, and the way we understand ourselves.
Babita Sharma was raised in a corner shop in Reading, and over the counter watched a changing world, from the clientele to the products to the politics of the day. Along with the skills to perfectly mop a floor and stack a shelf, she gained a unique insight into a changing world – and an institution that, despite the creep of supermarkets, online shopping and delivery, has found a way to evolve and survive. The Corner Shop is the remarkable human history of these little institutions that have changed the course of the country.
*Published in the UK by Two Roads Books on 18 April 2019
Azadeh Moaveni – Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of ISIS
Thu 10 Oct – See event here.
An intimate, deeply reported account of the women who made a shocking decision: to leave their comfortable lives behind and join the Islamic State.
In early 2014, the Islamic State clinched its control of Raqqa in Syria. Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, urged Muslims around the world to come join the caliphate. Having witnessed the brutal oppression of the Assad regime in Syria, and moved to fight for justice, thousands of men and women heeded his call.
At the heart of this story is a cast of unforgettable young women who responded. Emma, from Germany; Sharmeena, from Bethnal Green, London; Nour, from Tunis: these were women — some still in school — from urban families, some with university degrees and bookshelves filled with novels by Jane Austen and Dan Brown; many with cosmopolitan dreams of travel and adventure. But instead of finding a land of justice and piety, they found themselves trapped within the most brutal terrorist regime of the twenty-first century, a world of chaos and upheaval and violence.
What is the line between victim and collaborator? How do we judge these women who both suffered and inflicted intense pain? What role is there for Muslim women in the West? In what is bound to be a modern classic of narrative nonfiction, Moaveni takes us into the school hallways of London, kitchen tables in Germany, the coffee shops in Tunis, the caliphate’s OB/GYN and its ‘Guest House for Young Widows’ — where wives of the fallen waited to be remarried — to demonstrate that the problem called terrorism is a far more complex, political, and deeply relatable one than we generally admit.
*Published in the UK by Scribe Publications on 10 October 2019
Jung Chang – Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister
Sat 19 Oct – See event here.
They were the most famous sisters in China. As the country battled through a hundred years of wars, revolutions and seismic transformations, the three Soong sisters from Shanghai were at the centre of power, and each of them left an indelible mark on history.
Red Sister, Ching-ling, married the ‘Father of China’, Sun Yat-sen, and rose to be Mao’s vice-chair.
Little Sister, May-ling, became Madame Chiang Kai-shek, first lady of pre-Communist Nationalist China and a major political figure in her own right.
Big Sister, Ei-ling, became Chiang’s unofficial main adviser – and made herself one of China’s richest women.
All three sisters enjoyed tremendous privilege and glory, but also endured constant mortal danger. They showed great courage and experienced passionate love, as well as despair and heartbreak. They remained close emotionally, even when they embraced opposing political camps and Ching-ling dedicated herself to destroying her two sisters’ worlds.
Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister is a gripping story of love, war, intrigue, bravery, glamour and betrayal, which takes us on a sweeping journey from Canton to Hawaii to New York, from exiles’ quarters in Japan and Berlin to secret meeting rooms in Moscow, and from the compounds of the Communist elite in Beijing to the corridors of power in democratic Taiwan. In a group biography that is by turns intimate and epic, Jung Chang reveals the lives of three extraordinary women who helped shape twentieth-century China.
*Published in the UK by Penguin on 17 October 2019
Shiv Malik – The Messenger
Tue 22 Oct – See event here.
Every reporter knows the first rule of journalism: never betray your source. But what if your source turns out to be unworthy of your silence? What if it’s your source who betrays you? The Messenger tells the story of an unlikely friendship between two men looking to change the world – a repentant jihadist and an idealistic journalist. This troubling real-life thriller takes us from their first meeting in a spartan flat in the rough suburbs of Manchester, to a bombing in Pakistan, a dramatic arrest and Malik’s reporting career on the brink of ruin. Ten years later, Malik returns to this extraordinary tale. He asks where we can place our trust – in reams of evidence, in a government we believe is on our side, in a terrorist who swears he’s changed, in a friend who has no one else to turn to. Malik explores the uncomfortable questions about why he, as well as the wider media and the nation, surrendered to fear so easily. And he reveals how the age of terror laid the groundwork for an era of fake news and demagogues. This is investigative journalism and storytelling of the highest order.
*Published in the UK by Guardian Faber on 20 June 2019
Dom Joly – The Hezbollah Hiking Club
Thu 24 Oct – See event here.
At a boozy, cricket-filled afternoon at Lord’s, Dom Joly convinces his two closest friends to agree to the unthinkable: a challenging hike across Lebanon, from the Israeli border in the south, along the spine of the country’s mountain range, all the way to the Syrian border in the north. For Joly it is something of a homecoming, having grown up in Beirut. It was a happy childhood, though he did go to school with Osama bin Laden.
Arriving in Lebanon armed with copious amounts of Vaseline – and no walking experience, bar taking the dog for the occasional stroll – Dom, Chris and Harry don’t quite know what they’ve got themselves into. Joined by their bemused chaperone Caroll, they meet a variety of characters along the way including Ali, a stony-faced Hezbollah Museum guide who seems unperturbed by circling Israeli jets, and part-time Londoner Raf, who challenges Dom and the boys to a brain-freeze drinking contest. From a hair-raising creep along the ‘Valley of the Skulls’ to accidentally flashing an unsuspecting Ethiopian cook, the three friends just about manage to keep going.
With more than a smattering of persiflage and some cringe-worthy moments, The Hezbollah Hiking Club is a big-hearted, witty and affectionate love letter to Lebanon and its rich history with a meditation on family and homeland at its heart. Written with Dom’s trademark humour, it is a paean to both the simple joys of friendship and to growing old disgracefully.
*Published in the UK by Little Brown Publishers on 13th June 2019
Both authors appearing on Thu 7 Nov – See event here.
Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan – Sarong Party Girls: A Novel
Just before her twenty-seventh birthday, Jazzy hatches a plan. Before the year is out, she and her best girlfriends will all have spectacular weddings to rich ang moh – Western expat – husbands, with Chanel babies to follow.
As Jazzy – razor-sharp and vulgar, yet vulnerable – fervently pursues her quest to find a white husband, the contentious gender politics and class tensions thrumming beneath the shiny exterior of Singapore’s glamorous nightclubs are revealed. Desperate to move up in Asia’s financial and international capital, will Jazzy and her friends succeed?
Vividly told in Singlish – colourful Singaporean English with its distinctive cadence and slang – Sarong Party Girls brilliantly captures the unique voice of a young, striving woman caught between worlds. With remarkable vibrancy and empathy, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan brings not only Jazzy, but her city of Singapore, to dazzling, dizzying life.
*Published in the UK by Allen & Unwin on 1 August 2019
Jing-Jing Lee – How We Disappeared
The heart-rending story of survival and endurance in Japanese-occupied Singapore.
Singapore, 1942. As Japanese troops sweep down Malaysia and into Singapore, a village is ransacked, leaving only three survivors, one of them a tiny child.
In a neighbouring village, seventeen year old Ang Di is bundled into the back of a troop carrier and shipped off to a Japanese military brothel. After sixty years of silence, what she saw and experienced there still haunts her.
And in the year 2000, twelve year old Kevin is sitting beside his ailing grandmother when he overhears a mumbled confession. He sets out to discover the truth, wherever it might lead, setting in motion a chain of events he could never have foreseen.
Weaving together two timelines and two very big secrets, this evocative, profoundly moving and utterly dazzling debut opens a window on a little-known period of history, and heralds the arrival of a thrilling new literary star.
*Published in the UK by Oneworld on 2 May 2019