T5W: #OwnVoices Books That Aren’t Set in the Western World

Happy Wednesday, everyone! We are officially half-way through the week, thank goodness! This week has been trudging on by very slowly for me, so I am ready for the weekend to arrive.

For today’s post, I decided to go ahead and partake in the Top 5 Wednesday meme, for which today’s topic is about books that are either set-in or inspired by the non-Western parts of the world. I’m actually pretty excited for this meme as most of the books that I read and gravitate towards are decidedly non-Western, not that I don’t enjoy them nonetheless. So, for the meme I’m going to be listing books on my current TBR, focusing on narratives in and around the Asian continent and subcontinents.

5. The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

An #OwnVoices contemporary Indian narrative about two compelling and achingly real women: Sera Dubash, an upper-middle-class Parsi housewife whose opulent surroundings hide the shame and disappointment of her abusive marriage, and Bhima, a stoic illiterate hardened by a life of despair and loss, who has worked in the Dubash household for more than twenty years. The book illustrates how the lives of the rich and poor are intrinsically intertwined while still being immensely separated from one another, as well as how the bonds of womanhood can surpass any divisions made by class or culture.

4. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

An #OwnVoices historical fiction Malay novel, the book takes place in Malaya in 1951 and follows Yun Ling Teoh. She is the lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp. Seeking solace among the jungle-fringed tea plantations of Cameron Highlands, she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and it’s owner and creator, Aritomo. He is the exiled former gardener for the Emperor of Japan.. Despite her passionate loathing of the Japanese, Yun Ling engages Aritomo to create a garden in the memory of her sister, who died within the camp. Aritomo refuses her requests, but instead agrees to accept Yun Ling as his apprentice, so that she can design a garden for herself. As time passes along, Yun Ling finds herself drawn intimately to Aritomo and his art, while they are surrounded on all sides by a communist guerilla war.

3. Brothers by Da Chen

An #OwnVoices historical fiction Chinese novel that revolves around two brothers: Tan and Shento. Tan was born to the general’s wife and into a life of luxury and comfort, while his brother was born to the general’s mistress, who threw herself off the cliff and committed suicide, moments after giving birth. Whilst growing up, they remained utterly ignorant of one another’s existence. Though on divergent roads, each brother is driven by a passionate desire—one to glorify his father, the other to seek revenge against him. Separated by distance and opportunity, Tan and Shento follow the paths that lie before them, while unknowingly falling in love with the same woman and moving toward the explosive moment when their fates finally merge.

2. The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim

An #OwnVoices historical fantasy Chinese novel for middle-grade readers, this book is about a young girl named Li Jing. In the village of Huanan, in medieval China, the deity that rules is the Great Huli Jing. Though twelve-year-old Li Jing’s name is a different character entirely from the Huli Jing, the sound is close enough to provide constant teasing-but maybe is also a source of greater destiny and power. Jing’s life isn’t easy. Her father is a poor tea farmer, and her family has come to the conclusion that in order for everyone to survive, Jing must be sacrificed for the common good. She is sold as a bride to the Koh family, where she will be the wife and nursemaid to their three-year-old son, Ju’nan. It’s not fair, and Jing feels this bitterly, especially when she is treated poorly by the Koh’s, and sold yet again into a worse situation that leads Jing to believe her only option is to run away, and find home again. With the help of a spider who weaves Jing a means to escape, and a nightingale who helps her find her way, Jing embarks on a quest back to Huanan–and to herself.

1. The Setting Sun by Osamu Dazai

This is an #OwnVoices historical Japanese narrative that takes us back to the post-war period of Japan, which was one of immense social change as Japanese society adjusted to the shock of defeat and to the occupation of Japan by American forces and their allies. The Setting Sun takes this context as its background to tell the story of the decline of a minor aristocratic family. The story is told through the eyes of Kazuko, the unmarried daughter of a widowed aristocrat. Her search for self-meaning in a society devoid of use for her forms the crux of the novel. Kazuko’s mother falls ill, and due to their financial circumstances they are forced to take a cottage in the countryside. Her brother, who became addicted to opium during the war, is missing. When he returns, Kazuko attempts to form a liaison with the novelist Uehara. This romantic displacement only furthers to deepen her alienation from society.

That does  it for my Top 5 Wednesday post! What are some non-Western books that you all are looking forward to diving into, or have thoroughly enjoyed?

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