Black Flower – Young-Ha Kim, translated by Charles La Shure
In 1904, as the Russo-Japanese War deepened, Asia was parceled out to rising powers and the Korean empire was annexed by Japan. Facing war and the loss of their nation, more than a thousand Koreans left their homes to seek possibility elsewhere—in unknown Mexico.
After a long sea voyage, these emigrants—thieves and royals, priests and soldiers, orphans and entire families—disembark with the promise of land. Soon they discover the truth: they have been sold into indentured servitude.
Aboard ship, an orphan, Ijeong, fell in love with the daughter of a noble; separated when the various haciendados claim their laborers, he vows to find her. After years of working in the punishing heat of the henequen fields, the Koreans are caught in the midst of a Mexican revolution. Some flee with Ijeong to Guatemala, where they found a New Korea amid Mayan ruins.
A tale of star-crossed love, political turmoil, and the dangers of seeking freedom in a new world, Black Flower is an epic story based on a little-known moment in history.
Raj – Gita Mehta
Jaya Singh is the intelligent, beautiful, and compassionate daughter of the Maharajah and Maharani of Balmer. Raised in the thousand-year-old tradition of purdah, a strict regime of seclusion, silence, and submission, Jaya is ill-prepared to assume the role of Regent Maharani of Sirpur upon the death of her decadent, Westernized husband. But Jaya bravely fulfills her duty and soon finds herself thrust into the center of a roiling political battle in which the future of the kingdom is at stake… and her own future as well.
The Towers of Silence – Paul Scott
India, 1943: In a regimental hill station, the ladies of Pankot struggle to preserve the genteel façade of British society amid the debris of a vanishing empire and World War II. A retired missionary, Barbara Batchelor, bears witness to the connections between many human dramas; the love between Daphne Manner and Hari Kumar; the desperate grief an old teacher feels for an India she cannot rescue; and the cruelty of Captain Ronald Merrick.
The Holder of the World – Bharati Mukherjee
This is the remarkable story of Hannah Easton, a unique woman born in the American colonies in 1670, “a person undreamed of in Puritan society.” Inquisitive, vital and awake to her own possibilities, Hannah travels to Mughal, India, with her husband, and English trader. There, she sets her own course, “translating” herself into the Salem Bibi, the white lover of a Hindu raja.
It is also the story of Beigh Masters, born in New England in the mid-twentieth century, an “asset hunter” who stumbles on the scattered record of her distant relative’s life while tracking a legendary diamond. As Beigh pieces together details of Hannah’s journeys, she finds herself drawn into the most intimate and spellbinding fabric of that remote life, confirming her belief that with “sufficient passion and intelligence, we can decontrsuct the barriers of time and geography….”
Sunlight on a Broken Column – Attia Hosain
Laila, orphaned daughter of a distinguished Muslim family, is brought up by her orthodox aunts who keep purdah. At 15, she moves to the home of a “liberal” uncle in Lucknow.
Here, during the 1930s, as the struggle for independence sharpens, Laila is surrounded by relatives and university friends caught up in politics. But Laila is unable to commit herself to any cause: her own fight for independence is a struggle with traditional life as she falls in love with a man not chosen by her family. With its beautiful evocation of India, its political insight and unsentimental understanding of the human heart, this is a classic of Muslim life.