Broccoli, a new magazine from America, is not quite as wholesome as it sounds. The first issue included a photo essay on the Japanese art of ikebana – flower arranging – with hemp (above); an interview with Korean-American designers of lounge wear for “high rollers”; a profile of a maker of marijuana ice-cream; and a three-step guide explaining how to make a bong out of an apple. Run by an all-female team (half of whom used to work at Kinfolk, a hipster bible known for the pristine aesthetic of its pages which feature artfully shot brunches and millennials bearing plants), the magazine has built itself quite the following among stylish young women who happen to also love smoking weed.
The prime minister’s new clothes
The latest satirical novel from Manu Joseph, an Indian journalist, is an unflinching portrait of his country. “Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous” is loosely based on an incident in Gujarat in 2004 in which police officers were accused of organising the murder of four Muslims, allegedly for plotting to assassinate Narendra Modi, then the state’s chief minister. Joseph takes a deep dig at the wave of jingoism under India’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party led by Modi. His irreverence has been rewarded: “Miss Laila” sits comfortably on the bestseller shelves of bookshops across the country.
Walk a mile
Lázaro Ramos is one of Brazil’s best- known actors and directors, a star of stage and screen. He is also black, in a country where whites dominate the entertainment industry, business and politics. He and his wife, Taís Araújo, also a successful black actor, and who have been described as Brazil’s answer to Beyoncé and Jay-Z, appear together in “Mister Brau”, a soap opera about a rich black couple coping with racism and success. His memoir, “Na Minha Pele” (In my skin), a meditation on the country’s slow progress towards racial equality, has proved a runaway hit. As Brazil enters an election year, he hopes it will spark a national debate. “I write out of necessity,” he says. “Stories like mine don’t appear in other books.”
Revealing the rot
Months before claims of sexual misconduct ripped through America’s entertainment and publishing worlds, there was Shiori Ito. A budding journalist, Ito says she was drugged and raped in an upmarket Tokyo hotel by a senior television reporter. Ito’s alleged attacker, Noriyuki Yamaguchi, is the author of two flattering books about Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister; the police investigation was mysteriously called off. Ito’s book, “Black Box”, which sold 50,000 copies in its first two months, is less concerned about settling scores than about highlighting the appalling treatment of rape victims in Japan. She describes having to re-enact her assault to a room of uniformed men, before being advised to forget the events. Many cases conclude with “suspended prosecution”, meaning guilt is assumed but the perpetrator can settle out of court. Police estimate that less than 5% of victims of rape in Japan report their assault.
Zeh the future
With Angela Merkel’s future as Chancellor ever more uncertain, readers in Germany have been devouring Juli Zeh’s eerily prescient new novel “Leere Herzen” (Empty hearts). A successful literary export with works like “The Method”, Zeh sets her thriller in a dystopian 2025, eight years after Merkel has been forced to resign. The far-right Concerned Citizens Movement has dismantled Germany’s democratic freedoms. But the poison, as Zeh sees it, is less the drive of the political fringe than the indifference of the democratic centre. Zeh’s liberal-minded protagonist trains and sells suicide bombers to the highest bidder, with no ideals beyond making money. Suffice it to say that things don’t quite go to plan.
Who do you think you are
Curry is a vague, umbrella term for a spiced dish consumed across many cultures and countries. In “Curry: Eating, Reading and Race”, Naben Ruthnum, a second-generation Indian-Canadian, wryly dissects the problems that stem from this reductionism. Ruthnum critiques what he refers to as “currybooks” – the stories of first- or second-generation South Asian immigrants who look to the “old country” for guidance, solutions or a sense of identity. The book starts out as a typical “currybook”, complete with a recipe for his mother’s madras prawn curry, but ends with the author’s assertion that writers of “immigrant fiction” should not be limited to a single, nostalgic narrative. “Curry” secured a place on many of Canada’s best-of-2017 reading lists for its witty deconstruction of diasporic identity in a country that prides itself on its image as the multicultural nice guy.