Australian deserts remain dotted with the ruins of old mosques. Beginning with a Bengali poetry collection discovered in a nineteenth-century mosque in the town of Broken Hill, Samia Khatun weaves together the stories of various peoples colonised by the British Empire to chart a history of South Asian diaspora.
Australianama (The Book of Australia) composes a history of Muslims in Australia through Sufi poetry, Urdu travel tales, Persian dream texts and Arabic concepts, as well as Wangkangurru song-poetry, Arabunna women's stories and Kuyani histories, leading readers through the rich worlds of non-white peoples that are missing from historical records.
Khatun challenges a central idea that powerfully shapes history books across the Anglophone world- that European knowledge traditions are superior to the epistemologies of the colonised. Arguing that Aboriginal and South Asian language sources are keys to the vast, complex libraries that belie colonised geographies, Australianama shows that stories in colonised tongues can transform the very ground from which we view past, present and future.
In The Bells of Old Tokyo, Anna Sherman explores Japan and revels in all its wonderful particularity. As a foreigner living in Tokyo, Sherman's account takes pleasure and fascination in the history and culture of a country that can seem startlingly strange to an outsider.
Following her search for the lost bells of the city - the bells by which its inhabitants kept time before the Jesuits introduced them to clocks - to her personal friendship with the owner of a small, exquisite cafe, who elevates the making and drinking of coffee to an art-form, here is Tokyo in its bewildering variety. From the love hotels of Shinjuku to the appalling fire-storms of 1945 (in which many more thousands of people died than in Hiroshima or Nagasaki), from the death of Mishima to the impact of the Tohoku earthquake of 2011. For fans of The Lonely City, and Lost in Translation, The Bells of Old Tokyo is a beautiful and original portrait of Tokyo told through time.
In 1945, Indonesia's declaration of independence promised: 'the details of the transfer of power etc. will be worked out as soon as possible.' Still working on the 'etc.' seven decades later, the world's fourth most populous nation is now enthusiastically democratic and riotously diverse - rich and enchanting but riddled with ineptitude and corruption. Elizabeth Pisani, who first worked in Indonesia 25 years ago as a foreign correspondent, set out in 2011, travelling over 13,000 miles, to rediscover its enduring attraction, and to find the links which bind together this disparate nation. Fearless and funny, and sharply perceptive, she has drawn a compelling, entertaining and deeply informed portrait of a captivating nation.
Bundook. Gun. A common word, but one which turns Deen Datta's world upside down.
A dealer of rare books, Deen is used to a quiet life spent indoors, but as his once-solid beliefs begin to shift, he is forced to set out on an extraordinary journey; one that takes him from India to Los Angeles and Venice via a tangled route through the memories and experiences of those he meets along the way. There is Piya, a fellow Bengali-American who sets his journey in motion; Tipu, an entrepreneurial young man who opens Deen's eyes to the realities of growing up in today's world; Rafi, with his desperate attempt to help someone in need; and Cinta, an old friend who provides the missing link in the story they are all a part of. It is a journey which will upend everything he thought he knew about himself, about the Bengali legends of his childhood and about the world around him. Gun Island is a beautifully realised novel which effortlessly spans space and time. It is the story of a world on the brink, of increasing displacement and unstoppable transition. But it is also a story of hope, of a man whose faith in the world and the future is restored by two remarkable women.
We have read well over 80 books since the book group began.