Tuesday Books No. 5: Portable Curiosities stories by Julie Koh

It’s time for Tuesday Books! I will be posting books written by Asian women, primarily those written in English, although I may also feature translated works. If you want to be featured, lmk and contact me through the ABOUT page or email. I am choosing books new or old that I believe to be relevant. Scroll back and you can see, but I will be also updating the website so you can see earlier selections.

Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh is a highly imaginative short fiction collection that takes out of literary realism and places us in the world of speculative fiction. Koh is an Australian of Chinese descent and her witty and exuberant stories remind us that humor is key to social critique. Living overseas drove home the truth for me about how geography is easily misunderstood.

(Yeah, I’m the Korean American who wrote the book Swimming in Hong Kong. My ethnicity did not match the title—could have titled it KOREA IS MY HOMELAND, NOT IOWA or HOW MY SOUL LONGS FOR SEOUL or CONFUCIANISM THE BADASS VERSION…perhaps more traction? But I digress…)

There are ways of being and living outside of the binary of our nation of citizenship and the nation of our cultural origin. To read outside of these two spaces will push us tonew ideas and ways of conceptualizing each other. Koh obliged me compare Asian Australian/Asian American experience and understand the similarities and yet, I think due to Australian English plus culture, there’s a distinctly different tone. ‘The Three-Dimensional Yellow Man’ and The Fantastic Breasts’ are highlights. I laughed.

Live dangerously and have a romp through a book that is written by someone who has nothing to do with your national or cultural origin and see what you take in. I recommend this book.

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