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New International Fiction: Dark Histories, Daunting Labors

Book Review / Recos

“What does it mean to be happy?” asks Norman Erikson Pasaribu, a young Toba Batak writer, at the outset of his debut collection, HAPPY STORIES, MOSTLY (Feminist Press, 146 pp., paperback, $16.95), translated by Tiffany Tsao. It’s a difficult question, especially for many of his gay characters searching for connections. In modern-day Indonesia, they find little joy, let alone solace or acceptance.

Pasaribu’s motifs run much darker than Fonseca’s: His stories abound in heavy rain, weepy mothers, confessions and crucifixes, loneliness and suicide. Dreams go unfulfilled and the young, like their country, are often unsure which way to turn.

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