Media Reviews

From “Asian Theatre Journal” Volume 33, Number 1 by Jennifer Goodlander:

Islands of Imagination: Volume One: Modern Indonesian Plays provides an accessible introduction to theatrical activity outside of traditional forms such as wayang or topeng happening in Indonesia in the twentieth century. This collection is part of a larger trend of publications focusing on or anthologizing modern Asian drama—including several notable books and anthologies of modern Indonesian drama. The work of translation is often undervalued in academia—but as this collection demonstrates, these resources are vital to the study and teaching of world theatre….
Islands of Imagination presents a dynamic range of modern Indonesian drama in translation. Short biographies of the playwrights and the excellent introduction provide some insight into the theatrical and historical context of the plays and inspire the reader to learn more about these interesting plays. The anthology demonstrates the vitality of Indonesian dramatic literature and these plays not only would be an excellent addition to a course focusing on theatre history or Asian performance but also would interest theatre scholars and artists seeking new plays to read and stage.

From “Dreamweaver” by Muneeza Shamsie of Dawn:

Intizar Husain (1923-2016) was a towering figure in Pakistani letters, a master storyteller, who has left behind an astonishing body of fiction which transcends time and place and yet is firmly rooted in Pakistan and the era in which he lived Story Is a Vagabond is guest-edited by Alok Bhalla, Asif Farrukhi and Nishat Zaidi. It brings together a varied and thought-provoking selection of Husain’s work translated from Urdu into English, framed by Alok Bhalla’s illuminating Introduction and Afterword. Bhalla describes Partition as “the single most important event to disrupt his [Intizar Husain’s] life and shape his creative self”. He also provides many insights into the cultural plurality of Husain’s writing which incorporates Sufi legends, Vedic lore and Jataka tales….
   The subtle and sophisticated stories are replete with stunning descriptions and invariably move in intricate loops which are unified by metaphor, parable, or theme. ‘The Boat’ unites and reconstructs the great legends of the great flood in different cultures, to tell of Gilgamesh, Noah and Manu. Each escapes from the rising waters in a boat, albeit in different circumstances, only to be confronted with the uncertainty of the unknown.

Excerpts from “Sparking Illuminations,” by Ken Rodgers of Kyoto Journal, for Writersinkyoto.com:

Mānoa is a journal that’s much more than a magazine: every issue is an exuberantly oversized paperback slab of a book, packed with dazzlingly illuminative writings. Editors Frank Stewart and Pat Matsueda succeed brilliantly in providing curated insights, with the astute assistance of local guest editors and skilled translators, into non-Western (mostly Asian/Pacific) literature—and a welcome cultural antidote to the tropes of more familiar English-language publishing.…
   The very notable recent Starry Island: New Writing from Singapore (Mānoa 26:2), guest-edited by Fiona Sze-Lorrain, showcases 30 delightfully contemporary writers from that ‘anomalous, confounding, and paradoxical society’.…A valuable and eye-opening introduction to ‘Sing Lit,’ this anthology is a party, a phantasmagorical post-modern salon which readers are privileged to gatecrash.…
  
Story Is a Vagabond (Mānoa 27:1), guest-edited by Alok Bhalla, Asif Farrukhi, and Nishat Zaidi, is a timely collection of fiction, essays and drama by Intizar Husain, a leading Urdu writer from Uttar Pradesh who migrated (with some reluctance, it seems) to Lahore, Pakistan, at the time of Partition. While present-day Pakistan is notorious for fundamentalist cultural death squads, nationalist fanaticism and gender-gap extremism, Husain’s stories reach back to a deeper tradition of tolerance and mutual respect, within a literary history of shared sources, where vagabond tales passed between Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist societies in spiritual coexistence.…
   The series’ most recent issue, The Colors of Dawn: Twentieth-Century Korean Poety (Mānoa 27:2), was guest-edited by translator Brother Anthony of Taizé (another [Kyoto Journal] contributor) and Chung Eun-Gwi. It’s essentially a reasoned catalog of the (mostly male) modern poets of South Korea, set against the tumultuous changes that have wrenched the country’s psyche since 1910, including annexation by Japan, the Korean War, postwar dictatorships, the struggle to achieve democracy, and to achieve economic stability.…Throughout, one is in awe of the way that political and social commentary is integral to the poets’ perceived role…but so often necessarily distilled into forms that read ostensibly as purely personal (yet still powerful) observations.

From “Taming the Tiger: Exploring the Possibilities for Art in a Concrete Jungle,” by Arielle Stambler for Cha: An Asian Literary Journal

[Many pieces in Starry Island: New Writing from Singapore] engage with this power of art to contemplate (and perhaps compensate for) loss—whether it be of the wilderness, of one’s home country or of one’s native language. A number of these are selections from books of flash fiction, such as Alfian Sa’at’s Malay Sketches and O Thiam Chin’s Under the Sun (both of which have previously been reviewed in Cha). These selections, often taken out of the context in which they were originally published, provide illuminating new juxtapositions, asking readers to put together their own pictures of the worlds these authors describe. In fact, the entire anthology can be viewed as a collage, displaying Singaporean writers’ work in multiple narrative forms and engaging readers to see Singapore as itself a pastiche of different cultures and international influences.
     But, to its credit, the anthology does not push any one definition of Singaporean literature and contains the musings of authors who struggle with this definition.

From “A New Anthology of Northwest Voices, by Eric de Place for Sightline Daily:

I’m looking forward to my evenings this winter because I’ll be settling in with Cascadia: The Life and Breath of the World, a new anthology of Northwest writers and artists put out by the University of Hawaiʻi Press.
     Many of the region’s better-known voices are included, but this isn’t a volume of greatest hits. It’s a quieter and more meditative collection presenting lesser-known work from some of the most expressive Cascadians, often in genres other than the ones we’re accustomed to. So we find a memoir by Emily Carr (accompanied by a few sketches) alongside an essay by Gary Snyder. The volume includes both poems and a lecture by Robert Bringhurst, voices from the First Nations, like Chief William K’HHalserten Sepass and Eden Robinson, and dozens of others, some well-known (like Barry Lopez) and many I’ve never encountered.

From a review by Sherra Wong for NewPages:

The choice of freedom as a theme [for On Freedom: Spirit, Art, and State] is a delicate one, especially for a journal dedicated to literature from and about Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas. It is difficult to come to the issue without fearing that it would teeter on the edge of cliché, simplification, and propaganda. But the strength of Mānoa lies in its juxtaposition of work that was translated into English and work originally written in English. Those who set out to write for their compatriots are not tempted to exoticize or over-explain, and the American writers in this issue exercise admirable judgment in molding their perceptions of the overseas into their work. That is also honest and true. To tell it like it is: that, surely, is a measure of freedom.

From “Inward Journey: Stories and Poems That Guide Us Out of the Dark,” by Bob Green for Honolulu Weekly:

Beautifully designed, with outstanding photography of India and Tibet by Linda Connor, the newest edition of Mānoa is especially ambitious in its choice of subject/theme. It attempts to present diverse interpretations of the meanings and implications of the term ‘freedom,’ doing so in the forms of fiction, essays, poetry, memoir and drama.…[On Freedom: Spirit, Art, and State] illustrates or exemplifies freedom as abstraction or circumstance as diverse as political censure, imprisionment, psychological conflict, censorship, repressed memories, uncertainty of identity, acts of grace.

From a review by Susan Bouterey for the International Journal of Okinawan Studies:

If English translations of Okinawan literature are rare, full anthologies in English are rarer still. The first collection of Okinawan literature in English translation, Southern Exposure: Modern Japanese Literature from Okinawa (Michael Molasky and Steve Rabson, eds.) appeared in 2000. This was followed in 2009 by Voices from Okinawa (Frank Stewart and Yamazato Katsunori, eds.), an anthology of literature by Okinawan Americans. Living Spirit, intended as a companion volume to Voices, is the third anthology, and only the second in English translation, to emerge to date. As such, this collection is of immeasurable value. What gives Living Spirit even greater significance is the sheer variety and scope of the collection when compared with its predecessors, and arguably literary anthologies in general. Indeed, this collection could be said to transcend the boundaries prescribed by the term ‘literature,’ even in its broader application.

From “Stories of Forgetting, Remembering and Ritual,” by Vinita Ramani Mohan for Kyoto Journal:

Mānoa’s Maps of Reconciliation…is an issue that looks ahead or forwards to imagine and create realities that are an appropriate response to what guest editor Barry Lopez calls the “vetted doctrines and the ruthlessness of reason,” (p. ix, Editor’s Note) that we have thus far been subject to and find ourselves complicit in propagating. Yet, in this issue we are very much looking backwards, turning our heads and opening our ears to see and hear the reiterations for reconciliation and peace found in the essays, poems, plays and photographs of writers and artists who have been uttering it for decades.
   What are we not hearing? Why is there an absence of dialogue between the people who craft legislation and set up tribunals or commissions and the artists who speak for their communities? Why do these legislators and administrators not look deeper at the collective acts of engaging in indigenous, local and deeply personal forms of reconciliation—a word that at any rate may be untranslatable into languages other than English? The essays in this edition of Mānoa do not profess to answer this question or redress this gap, this lack of communication. Instead, as a whole, they fill the void created by a one-size-fits-all approach to justice, peace and reconciliation concocted by governments and the United Nations.…
   Overall, this is a marvelous issue of Mānoa that carries us from the Pacific Islands to Asia, South Africa and Latin America to provide readers with a brief, but entirely resonant glimpse into rituals of reconciliation. One wonders whether copies should be sent to tribunal and truth commission administrators.

From Ka Wai Ola, the newspaper of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs:

There is a route to a brighter horizon: help one another to give up the burden of grief and move on. This is the premise for a new edition of Mānoa journal, entitled Maps of Reconciliation: Literature and the Ethical Imagination.…The diverse contributors have been through the fires of injustice but speak out in voices unscathed by recrimination or political rhetoric.

From the October-November 2014 issue of Hana Hou, the magazine of Hawaiian Airlines: