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06Feb

East Side Voices, edited by Helena Lee review – reflections on exile and exoticism

This thoughtful collection reminds us of the narratives that lie buried beneath belittling stereotypes

East Side Voices boasts contributions from a dazzling range of east Asian and south-east Asian public figures, from Eternals actor Gemma Chan to model Naomi Shimada. It grew out of a salon convened by the book’s editor – and acting deputy editor of Harper’s Bazaar – Helena Lee in February 2020, just before the pandemic that Donald Trump branded the “China virus” and “Kung flu”, fuelling a wave of racist violence against east and south-east Asian people.

The anthology describes instances of racism in all its forms: crude vilification, sexualised exoticism, entitlement, self-righteous ignorance and insularity. But it also reaches back through centuries of colonisation, exploitation and migration and reminds us that in the sweep of human history, there is often no fixed motherland and no fixed resting place.

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