Can Xue’s first story collection in over a decade is a frenetic adventure through China’s slums. These sixteen pieces show the gritty reality of urban life, taking readers through sewers, behind concrete walls, and inside claustrophobic rooms. At the same time, with their varied and unreliable narrators, these narratives seem to unfold somewhere between the physical world and the fantastic world--charting dizzying liminal spaces where the only constants are incessant change and uncertainty. Despite this fundamental disorientation, Can Xue’s stories are threaded by questions of human nature, and what it means to share space with other forms of life. I Live in the Slums is not for everyone, but those that do decide to venture into Can Xue’s world will certainly be mesmerized.
Babalola, a self-proclaimed “romcomisseur,” breathes fresh air into ancient myths with her debut, a collection of short stories that have love and fully-realized heroines as their focal points. The myths she adapts are not the largely familiar Greek and Roman tales, but rather draw on the beautiful lore of Ghana, Nigeria, China, and many others. A true expert in romance and its tropes, Babalola writes with charming playfulness; her characters are witty, and their dialogue will have you rooting for their love. Her prose takes the readers into sunny, colorful places where warmth and magic abound. Reminding us that love is always something to celebrate, Love in Color is simply a joy to read.
Set in 1980s North Korea, what seems like a prosaic story about marriage and family offers a compelling look into a culture that outsiders rarely see. The novel unfolds during a transitional period that sought to highlight the lives and achievements of ordinary citizens while also promoting self-improvement so that people could better serve the party. It is against this background that we are drawn into the lives of a divorcing couple who cannot settle their perceptions of their roles in society. The judge responsible for their divorce takes it upon himself to investigate whether their marriage indeed must be dissolved, and what follows is a thorough examination of the intricacies of relationships within North Korean society and how these relationships affect how one contributes to the party.