Reading Mongolia: Travels in Manchuria and Mongolia: A Feminist Poet from Japan Encounters Prewar China

I get most of the books for the blog from the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, because libraries rule. Especially when searching through the system conjures up an oddity, like my next selection for Mongolia…

Travels in Manchuria and Mongolia: A Feminist Poet from Japan Encounters Prewar China, by Akiko Yosano and translated by Joshua A. Fogel. Like, there’s no way on this earth I would ignore that.

This book is very much a travelogue of an intelligent and very Japan-centric woman. Of her time. I’m not going to unpack the intensity and multiple layers that exist even within the title. Japan and China have a…complicated relationship, especially during the time period discussed…there are many people, much smarter than me that could inform you. From many different angles.

What I can say is that I experienced this book in conjunction with several other titles about Mongolia, and Ms. Yosano’s observations of life on the steppe fit in perfectly with what’s described in those books. It was really enjoyable to get “backup” from a somewhat detached observer. Also, it was a great reminder to be open to what you might find when you’re searching for something else…you never know what you’ll stumble across.

Dromedary camels by the sand dunes of Khongoryn Els, Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, Ömnögovi Province, Mongolia
Dromedary camels by the sand dunes of Khongoryn Els, Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, Ömnögovi Province, Mongolia
(image by User:Doron [CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
 

Reading Mongolia: The Blue Sky

I went on a bit of a reading binge with Mongolia, and it started if off in the best way possible. First of the pile was The Blue Sky, by Galsan Tschinag (translated by Katharina Rout).

It’s the first installment in an autobiographical trilogy, and one of two in the trio that have been translated from German. Why German and not Mongolian or Tuvan or some other Central Asian language? All part of the tale, my friend, and you know I don’t like to give anything away.

It’s a beautiful story, written by a fascinating, insightful author. I feel like every book I pick up has the potential to change me; some do and others, not so much. This one definitely did. It opened my eyes in a way I’m very grateful for. Oh, and I cried for like a day after I was done (the ending is heartbreaking), and it was totally worth it…

Yurt on the Mongolian Steppe
Yurt on the Mongolian Steppe (image by P.Lechien [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Reading Guyana: My Flute and My Bones

I had no idea what to expect from this novella, which is the very best way to approach a ghost story. I’ll say no more about the book itself, except that I really enjoyed the experience. It all surprised me in quite a few ways, including the author himself. Very satisfying!

Guyana has been one of those places that I only knew the lightest outlines of, and it’s been a real pleasure to gain a bit more knowledge. Both books I’ve read have been deeply engaging, and both authors that I’ve been introduced to have deep catalogs of work to explore, and personal stories that rival their fiction. Thank you, Guyana!

Harpy Eagle
Harpy Eagle (image by Clément Jacquard, via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Reading Guyana: The Ventriloquist’s Tale

Enigmatic.

I don’t check out reviews before I read a book, but am always curious afterwards if other people had a similar experience as I did. With this novel, that’s a confident Yes; everybody landed on that same word that kept flashing up for me.

A bit of magical realism, jungle and savannah and rivers and a city carrying as much weight as any major character, the past and the present, far-away and home and who we are when we are in those places, a trickster God as the narrator (or is he?), …so many elements that could have gone wrong, but didn’t. The Ventriloquist’s Tale is my first time meeting the work of the author, Pauline Melville, but it won’t be my last. She alone is fascinating, and her work is masterful.

Rupununi Savannah
Rupununi Savannah (image by Treez44est, via Wikimedia Commons)