By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
“Realm of the Goddess”
By Sabina Khan
Sabina Khan, 2014
When she was 7 years old and living in Kolkata, India, Callie Hansen would have nightmares about fighting against evil demons. They were so realistic, she nearly lost her mind, so she and her family moved to Seattle. The nightmares stopped, but when she turned 17, they returned.
Callie learns it is because she is an avatar for the Hindu Goddess Kali and the nightmares are actually visions from her past life as Kali. The return of the nightmares means the return of Mahisha, the King of Demons, who she (mostly) defeated thousands of years ago.
Callie eventually accepts her fate after Mahisha captures her parents. She embarks on a quest to find the Sword of Knowledge to defeat the demon king and rescue her parents. Along the way, she is helped by Shiv, a new student at her high school with more to him than meets the eye, and his parents.
“Realm” takes place in the present day, but in a world where myths and legends surrounding the gods and goddesses of Hinduism come to life. Khan expertly juxtaposes and weaves the two seemingly opposing settings together, as we follow Callie and Shiv on their action-packed adventures from Seattle to the jungles of India. Khan educates readers on Hindu folklore through Callie, as she reflects on the stories she learned from her family and community.
While there are a few small moments throughout the story in which Callie is conflicted between her Indian and Hindu customs and traditions, and American customs and traditions, what I particularly enjoyed was the pride Callie has in her heritage. She often describes her favorite dishes her mother prepares, as well as her favorite stories from Hinduism, leaving readers hungry and wanting to learn more.
For someone who has read countless stories about first-generation Americans from immigrant families, it was refreshing to meet a protagonist who is able to strike a balance between the two dominant cultures in her life. Callie is American, but she is also unapologetically Indian, and she never tries to turn away from her roots.
“The Clout of Gen”
By Ahmad Ardalan
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012
Things are not going well for John Teddy. The newspaper reporter has been stuck in the same dead-end job for about a decade. The only bright spot in his failing marriage is his son, and he finds himself in financial trouble after losing a large portion of his family’s savings in the stock market.
And when it all falls apart, John sees no other choice but to end his life.
But just as he is about to do the deed, he comes across a box containing a video featuring a Japanese man from the past who seems to know far too much about the would-be future.
This sparks John’s curiosity and he sets out on a journey to find the man in the video, Yaturo Hitari. His travels take him from an unnamed American city, to a soccer stadium in Mexico City, to a pub in England, and finally to the Japanese city of Kyoto. There, he meets Yaturo. John learns the other man came by his knowledge of future events from a man only known as “Alexi,” who seems to be from the future himself.
“Clout” is a story of “what ifs.” What if time travel was possible? What if you had knowledge of major events that could change the course of history and mankind? What if you could stop or cause these events?
These are all things John contemplates as he delves deeper into the mystery that is Alexi. And these are all things you, the reader, will be contemplating, and wondering what you would do if you were in John’s situation.
“Clout” is a fast-paced story that will have readers absorbed in John’s journey around the world and cause you to think. You’ll wonder alongside him, trying to figure out who Alexi is and just what role he plays in the bigger picture. And once you’re done, you’ll find yourself wondering whether time travel is possible and if there really are people controlling the world’s puppet strings, and we just don’t know it.
“A Whisper of Leaves: (A Paranormal Novella)”
By Ashley Capes
Close-Up Books, 2015
After losing her job teaching English, Riko goes on a hike in the forests beneath Mt. Fuji, where she finds an old journal buried in the ground. But instead of leaving it where she found it, something compels her to take it home with her.
The more she studies it, the more she realizes that she has brought home more than just the journal. Some sort of malevolent force begins to threaten Riko.
She begins getting sick and seeing things she’s not sure are really there. All of this leads her to wonder what is happening to her and if she is losing her mind.
Riko is positive that the key to her sanity is somewhere within the pages of the journal, but that could mean risking her life and the life of those around her.
Her best lead seems to be an eccentric old man who spends much of her time in the forest where she found the journal.
While “Whisper” may be short in length, it packs a punch. The story is intense and while it deals with the paranormal, Capes balances it with just enough realism that she’ll have your heart pounding in certain moments and wondering if something like this could possibly happen.
Despite the story’s relatively short length, Capes manages to create complex characters who are multifaceted and relatable. From Riko, who is working and living away from home and her family, but still finds them a little overwhelming at times, to Yuuki, who can’t seem to stand up to his overbearing father, we are able to see ourselves in them and feel for the human struggles they face.
Samantha Pak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.