Asian Readathon

READ THE WORLD – Turkmenistan: The Tale of Aypi by Ak Welsapar

Translated by W.M. Coulson.

After industrialists convince a village of fishermen and their families on the coast of the Caspian Sea, they start to make plans to move to the city. All but one, Araz refuses to leave and give up his ancestral home and his trade of being a fisherman. As tensions rise between Araz and the elderly fishermen, the ghost of Aypi, a woman betrayed and murdered by her husband and her village, begins to exact revenge on the villagers.

The Tale of Aypi is such a strange little story. It’s one that starts out relatively simple but then becomes a story that’s laced with mystery and magic as it becomes difficult to tell what is and isn’t real.

There’s a lot of true to life problems Araz and the other fisherman are facing. The majority of them have come to terms with the fact they are being forcibly relocated, and many of them are starting to see it as a necessity in order to keep connected to their children and grandchildren, as their city-living is so different to village life. Araz is like a one man protest as even his wife is looking to the future outside the village, even though she wouldn’t tell him that. The way Araz is almost abducted by the police so corrupt officials can hold and intimidate him to try and get him to agree to move from the village is very uncomfortable but also almost funny as Araz has such a strong sense of purpose he refuses to move.

Then there’s the ghost of Aypi. The way she interacts with the village and its people is interesting. It’s like she changes shape depending on who she is trying to influence or torment, and the thin line between real and imaginary is always there. Sometimes she’s a physical presence, she can be seen by the villagers and have conversations with them, while there’s other times where she attacks them in a fit of rage and they see a sandstorm. Then there’s also the blurring between dreams and reality where thing’s happen before someone wakes up and is unsettled by the whole encounter.

Aypi’s rage is certainly justified, and she offers some interesting ideas on the roles of men and women and their relationship in society. How what both men and women want has changed so men are more interested in finding foreign wives to fit in their strict moulds as the local women are striving for something else. There are some impactful lines like: “Women’ve lost their natural personality, and men’ve become too submissive and they can’t take it anymore.”

The Tale of Aypi is odd and melancholy as so many characters in this story have sad or hard lives. While many of the villagers have decided to give in and move, it’s clear that they won’t have it easy when they’re in the city as their attitudes are so different to people from the city. The Tale of Aypi is a story of community and cultural clash. The inclusion of Aypi the vengeful spirit is sometimes hard to follow as she often goes from being an almost solid person to some sort of spirit who isn’t connect to anything. Still, The Tale of Aypi is a compelling story and at less than 200 pages it packs in a lot of thoughts and ideas into it.

Asian Readathon TBR

In May in the United States it is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and in honour of that Cindy from WithCindy on YouTube created a readathon where the main aim is to read books by Asian authors. I think this is the second or third year of the readathon, but this is the first time I’m participating. Her announcement video explains it all really well and she also has a Google Doc with extra info and resources and there’s a Twitter account for the readathon too.

There are five challenges in this readathon and any amount of them can be combined to make things easier for yourself:
– Read any book written by an Asian author.
– Read any book featuring an Asian protagonist.
– Read any book written by an Asian author in your favourite genre.
– Read any nonfiction book written by an Asian author.
– Read any book written by an Asian author that’s not US-centric.

There is a twist to combining the prompts though. You can combine challenges and read in any order; however, each book you read should feature a character or author of a different Asian ethnicity. This is to encourage cultural diversity. Books by Chinese, Korean, and Japanese authors do tend to be more common or popular here in the UK, so I think this is a great way to encourage people to read more diversely. Because like any ethnicity, Asians aren’t one huge monolith.

Thanks to my Read the World Project I’ve already read books from authors from over thirty different Asian countries – in fact I think Asia is the continent I’ve read the most books from. You can check out my Read the World Project masterpost to see all the countries and books I’ve read so far and links to all the reviews.

Like any readathon, my TBR is going to be far too big but I wanted to use this moment to highlight books by authors of different nationalities and backgrounds. I also used this readathon to order some books from both the library and bookshops that I’d been thinking of for a while so some of these haven’t arrived yet and a couple are on my kindle. I’m going to be (hopefully) reading books in all formats for this readathon.

Shepherd of Solitude: Selected Poems by Amjad Nasser, translated by Khaled Mattawa (Jordan)
This is a poetry collection and is the first English collection of Amjad Nasser’s work. The poems are from various collections originally in Arabic published between 1979 – 2004.

Palestine +100 edited by Basma Ghalayini, translated by Raph Cormack, Mohamed Ghalaieny, Andrew Leber, Thoraya El-Rayyes, Yasmine Seale and Jonathan Wright (Palestine)
A collection of short soties from twelve Palestinian writers imagining what their country might be like in the year 2048. These stories are in a whole range of genres including sci-fi, dystopia and farce.

The Silent Steppe: The Story of a Kazakh Nomad under Stalin by Mukhamet Shayakhmetov, translated by Jan Butler (Kazakhstan)
This is a memoir from Mukhamet Shayakhmetov, who was born into a family of nomadic herdsman in 1922, about life under Stalin’s rule.

QuixotiQ by Ali Al Saeed (Bahrain)
I’m not even sure what this book is about. It hasn’t arrived yet and all I’ve got from Waterstones and Goodreads is that it’s about two men whose lives take dramatic turns. It’s also the only book I could find in English by an author from Bahrain.

Armenian Golgotha by Grigoris Balakian, translated by Peter Balakian (Armenia)
A memoir about Grigoris Balakian’s eyewitness account of the Armenian Genocide which happened from 1915-1918.

Mama Hissa’s Mice by Saud Alsanousi, translated by Sawad Hussain (Kuwait)
Three friends who share neither ethnic origin nor religious denomination, get involved in a protest group and one of their grandmothers, Mama Hissa, warns them against it.

Mother’s Beloved: Stories from Laos by Outhine Bounyavong (Laos)
This collection of short stories is the first collection of Lao short stories to be published in English. I think this collection has both the English translation and the short stories in the original language and I really like when books do this. This is one I’m waiting to pick up from Waterstones.

The Tale of Aypi by Ak Welsapar, translated by W.M. Coulson (Turkmenistan)
The story of a group of Turkmen fishermen who are trying to save their ancestral home from the ruling powers who are attempting to confiscate their land.

Looking at my books here and the challenges, the only one I’m unsure if I’ll complete is “book written by an Asian author in your favourite genre” mainly because I’m not even sure what my favourite genre is anymore, though I do like some hard-hitting non-fiction which is certainly here so those books could count for that.

Are you taking part in the Asian Readathon? Or do you have any books by Asian authors on your TBR in general? I would love to hear about them.