Great Female Contemporary East Asian Writers – Part 2

Turning the page, we continue on our literary journey to discover the best female contemporary East Asian writers that are shaking up the world literature. Already we have dipped our attention into the writings of Han Kang and Banana Yoshimoto. In this blog we focus on three more giants of East Asian writing: Hiromi Kawakami, Krys Lee and the very moving Chinese writer Yiyun Li.

Hiromi Kawakami

Japanese fiction and novels have come a long way from the old traditional plays that toured feudal Japan centuries ago. The prose like many modern texts is completely different in 2018 than what it was three decades ago, never mind about centuries. Hiromi Kawakami is at her very best when she is describing snapshots of life, her ability to take a slice out of the moment and show how fleeting it is, is quite remarkable. She shows life for what it is, a simple existence with all of it problems, a warts and all explanation.

The ordinary day intrigues Kawakami, and she focuses on getting her readers to reflect upon their own lives and to nurture and respect the simpler parts of it. Her book Strange Weather in Tokyo is a great example of her writing and it is a really good place to sample her work.

Krys Lee

Krys Lee has taken her experience as a Korean who has spent time living in America as a template for her style and themes of writing. She has demonstrated that she has a strong grasp on language that helps her to describe just exactly what it is like to be Korean in a very modern world. A world that is full of precarious international politics and fragile cultures.

Her writing is transnational, and Lee questions the differences between cultures and about one’s own nationality. With the movement of people being so commonplace these days, questions on who we are, are difficult to answer. The Drifting House examines the lives of Koreans over seventy years of history following the end of WWII. It is a powerful tale how Korean immigrants were assimilated into America, and the great difficulties and hardships they had to face along the way.

Yiyun Li

Our final author is Yiyun Li, who is a brave contemporary writer that is not afraid to level criticism at her native China. Li now lives in America and writes about issues that are dear to her personally; her family, herself and her culture. She relates all this with complete honesty that at times is difficult for the reader to accept. Li above all is a feminist, and she grabs issues by the throat and will not let go easily until she has wrung the very life out of them. She is also a passionate author, and a brave supporter of literature and its power to be able to change opinions.

A great deal of her work challenges the reader to reflect on simple issues as well as complex. And it is all done in such an honest style that it is so convincing and powerful. Her simple way of reminding the reader that some issues need reflecting on, no matter how trivial or offending they may be, is one of her most endearing qualities.