Sunday, November 10, 2013

Four International Books with Buzz

With so many literary awards these days, some intriguing winning titles get overlooked.  Here is an assortment of titles that have been recently recognized for their merit.

The Rainbow Troops (Laskar Pelangi) (M)
by Andrea Hirata ; translated from Indonesian by Angie Kilbane
- won the general fiction category at the New York Book Festival" The novel tells the inspiring and closely autobiographical tale of the trials and tribulations that the ten motley students (nicknamed the Rainbow Troops) and two teachers from Muhammadiyah Elementary School on Belitong Island, Indonesia, undergo to ensure the continuation of the children's education." - Publisher

The Damned Utd (M) by David Peace
- named the best Soccer novel by The Independent newspaper (U.K.).
"In 1974 the brilliant and controversial Brian Clough made perhaps the most eccentric decision: he accepted the Leeds United Manager's job. As successor to Don Revie, his bitter adversary, he was to last only forty-four days. In one of the most acclaimed novels of this or any other year, David Peace takes us into the mind and thoughts of Ol' Big 'Ead himself, and brings vividly to life one of post-war Britain's most complex and fascinating characters." - publisher

Restless Empire: China and the world since 1750 (M)
by Odd Arne Westad
- wins the 2013 Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Award."With the largest national population and soon the largest national economy. China appears to most internal and external observers to stand on the precipice of world dominance. But as Bancroft Award winner Westad makes abundantly clear, China's eventual hegemony in the global marketplace may rely more on overcoming internal obstacles and on cooperating with its close neighbors than any challenges presented by an American-led West. Building a superb story of China's historically schizophrenic relationship with the outside world, Westad reaches back to the long twilight of the Qing dynasty, canvassing the nation's conflicts with Western imperialists, expansionist neighbors, and internal minorities and revealing a country in which the past threatens to overwhelm the present.

However, it is the Chinese foreign-policy developments of the twentieth century, including the republic under Chiang Kai-shek, triumph of Mao's Communists, and economic transformation under Deng Xiaoping, that form the bulk of this compelling, expansive account.Westad has provided readers with both a remarkable and timely glimpse behind the curtain that is required reading for anyone interested in Chinese political history and economic development and the future of China's position in the international community." - Booklist

Searching for Zion: the quest for home in the African diaspora (M) by Emily Raboteau
- won the nonfiction category at New York Book Festival"Part political statement, part memoir, this intense personal account roots the mythic perilous journey in the biracial writer's search for home, in the U.S. and across the globe. At 23, she leaves Harlem to visit her high-school friend Tamar Cohen in Jerusalem. Tamar lost her grandfather to the Holocaust; Emily lost her grandfather to a Jim Crow hate crime. For black Jews, like those from Ethiopia, could Israel be home? Then she interviews Americans who immigrated back to reverse the Middle Passage in search of a homeland in Ethiopia, Jamaica, and Ghana and, finally, she does the American South, including a civil rights tour and a visit to New Orleans after Katrina. Even readers who do not want all the local detail will be held by the candid contemporary search for meaning, not all of which is heroic: the Ethiopians resent the American tourists' sense of entitlement, honoring their dead but dismissive of the locals now. Never self-important, this is sure to inspire intense debate about the search for meaning, whether it concerns the din of patriotism or the lack of closure." - Booklist

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