Dr Saffron Vickers Walkling introduces titles to look out for this ESEA Heritage Month and beyond. Saffron lived and worked in China for five years, and their research area includes late twentieth century Chinese Shakespeare in performance.
September is East and South East Asian Heritage Month. Founded in 2021 by Britain’s East and South East Asian Network (besea.n), it commemorates “those who have contributed positively to British society” and celebrates “the richness of ESEA culture”, says Michelle Chan.
In alphabetical order, East Asian and South East Asian countries include: Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, North Korea, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam.
Besea.n say that their “vision is one where our communities are seen and supported in all spaces”. This includes the sold out ESEA Lit Fest at Foyles Bookshop in London, which started on 23rd September 2023.
Here are some highlights from their Reading List:
A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo tells of a Chinese woman’s life in London, reflecting on the nature of cross-cultural love and language. The title references Roland Barthes’ book of the same name, and its Cantonese film adaptation. Novelist and filmmaker Guo came to YSJ in 2008 as part of our China Week to speak about her debut English-language novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, which our first years were studying on their Gender and Writing module. Although not a sequel, A Lover’s Discourse revisits and reframes many of the tropes of the earlier book. Her film She, A Chinese is also currently showing on Channel 4.
Night Sky with Exit Wounds is a collection of poetry by the Vietnamese-American writer and academic Ocean Vuong, reflecting on his refugee experience – both its horrors and its wonders.
Vuong’s novel On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous sustained us through the long holiday of 2021 as our Big Summer Read. See more here.
If you want something that will shock and amuse you in equal measures, check out Yellowface by R. F. Kuang, a hilarious satire on the ultimate in literary cultural appropriation…
This bestseller combines big ideas with humour and is simultaneously thought-provoking and immensely readable!
If you’ve never read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, then now is the time to remedy this.
A firm A-level favourite for many years, Ishiguro’s novel about a group of young people at an English boarding school quickly reveals the dystopian side of its apparent idyllic setting.
If it’s film you are interested in, Channel 4 has a selection for ESEA, including the first ever British Chinese feature film, Ping Pong, which I’ve reviewed here. “Elaine Choi (Sheen), a trainee lawyer tasked with executing the will of local businessman Sam Wong, whose body has been found in a telephone box, receiver still in hand. The trouble is, she can’t read Chinese characters.”
You can find Film 4’s complete ESEA listings here: