• Taiwan YA Fiction: The Multitudes of Growing Up in a Post-Colonial Era (II)
    Aug 18, 2023 / By Wang Yu-Ching ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    Read previous part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=224


    The Mainstream Changes Tide

    At the beginning of the 2000s, the world saw a rise in visual culture as the internet and digital media diverted readers’ attention and children’s reading comprehension skills experienced widespread decline. In 2003, the Taiwan children’s publishing industry gradually changed their stance on picture books and large amounts of “bridge books” were produced which added helpful illustrations to simple stories for middle-grade readers, but this led to a slowdown in the development of YA fiction. On the other hand, the open and pervasive nature of the internet has meant that readers have become more active in sharing their opinions in a way that has helped YA fiction develop in a new direction. Online reviews now play an increasingly influential role in book promotion and sales, prompting a shift away from the traditional top-down production and sales model where publishers would speculate on what consumers needed without necessarily understanding readers’ actual preferences.


    Guardian of the Everlasting Stone


    During more or less the same period, there was a fantasy craze triggered by translated books such as Harry Potter. Chen Yu-Ju (陳郁如) continued this with her Cultivation series (2012-2018) (修煉) which blended fantasy with elements of Chinese culture such as immortal beings and martial arts. Readers on the internet ardently recommended the novels in droves, making them record-breaking long-term bestsellers. The books were several hundred thousand words long which proved that readers were more than willing to pick up longer novels and opened the doors for a revival of original Taiwan YA fiction. They also showed that genre fiction that was popular with readers could often capture a wider audience beyond the target age range. Mainstream YA publishing, which had previously prized realistic literary stories about student life, began to change as publishers and authors paid more attention to the appealing entertainment value of genre fiction.

    Since then, there’s been a widespread trend in Taiwanese YA publishing towards integrating educational goals, such as giving readers a deeper understanding of local culture and social issues, with entertaining genre fiction. For example, Chen Yu-Ju (陳郁如) has repeatedly achieved strong sales with her Legend of the Immortals series (2016-2023) (仙靈傳奇) which incorporates Chinese poetry, calligraphy, and painting; as well as with her novel Guardian of the Everlasting Stone (2022) (長生石的守護者) which is inspired by ancient cultural relics from the Shang Dynasty. Kevin Cheng’s (鄭宗弦) Adventures Through the Palace series (2016-2023) (穿越故宮大冒險) explores themes surrounding cultural relics of the National Palace Museum, while his Young Kitchen Warriors series (2018-2020) (少年廚俠) blends the art of Taiwanese cooking and outdoor banquet culture with martial arts elements in a way that has been widely championed by readers.


    Young Kitchen Warriors


    Chang Yeou-Yu (張友漁) has been a strong successor to the line of Taiwan YA fiction established by Li Tong (李潼) and continues to explore the potential intersections between genre fiction and more traditional literary novels. Her Little Chief Yuma series (2015) (小頭目悠瑪) tells a story about the culture of an indigenous tribe and their adventures in the mountains, using it to convey concerns about environmental conservation. Elsewhere, her wuxia series Jianghu, Is Anyone There? (2019-2022) (江湖,還有人嗎?) challenged traditionally male role of killing in martial arts novels and gave young readers stories that were filled with human warmth without losing any of the fundamental traits that make it a wuxia series. My Classmate Is A Bear (2021) (我的同學是一隻熊) is a comforting fantasy story which was originally created as part of a conservation effort for Taiwanese black bears and is filled with sincere appeals to protect the animals and mountain forests. In a similar vein, Kuzuha’s (葛葉) Vali: The Lost Story of Taiwan (2020) (風暴之子) is based on prehistoric indigenous culture and is remarkable for the way it breaks away from the rigid framework typically used to portray cultural and educational issues, and instead weaves it all together into an unconventional and emotionally profound fantasy story.


    Vali: The Lost Story of Taiwan


    On the other hand, there are still authors of more realism-grounded YA novels who continue to focus on stories about social issues and growing up, writing about these elements in a more approachable, easy-to-read style which helps keep the steady trickle of more conventional YA fiction flowing. Peng Su-Hua’s (彭素華) novel Grannies in Bikinis (2021) (奶奶們的比基尼) is told from the perspective of a teenage girl and describes four grandmothers who go on an unusual trip to escape the mundanity of everyday life after one of them is diagnosed with breast cancer, prompting each of them to reflect on the position of women within the broader framework of Taiwanese society. The Girls Club of Tomorrow (2021) (明日少女俱樂部) by Lai Hsiao-Chen (賴曉珍) is set in a shop in Taichung’s old town and deftly portrays three girls with completely different personalities and family backgrounds as they each go through the process of trying to understand themselves.


     Grannies in Bikinis



    Today, Taiwan YA fiction continues to strive to use more natural and profound narrative approaches in its efforts to reconcile the specific characteristics that have accumulated over the island’s various eras and generations. At the same time, it uses more entertaining ways to portray meaningful issues, which helps create an appetite for reading among teenagers and enrich their literary tastes. Immersed in Taiwan’s unique multicultural atmosphere, young readers are accompanied by the characters in these novels as they experience the highs and lows of growing up, giving them the joy of leaving their worries behind and the strength to face the trials and tribulations that life brings.

  • Taiwan YA Fiction: The Multitudes of Growing Up in a Post-Colonial Era (I)
    Aug 11, 2023 / By Wang Yu-Ching ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    Post-Colonial Context

    Taiwan is a beautiful island that has been ruled by a series of colonial regimes including the Dutch Empire, Spanish Empire, Ming Dynasty, Qing Dynasty, Imperial Japan, and the Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek. This has resulted in diverse symbiotic relationships between different ethnicities and cultures that sometimes fray into conflict, and these various layers are reflected in Taiwan’s unique literary context.

    As the concept of democracy began to ferment and mature during the 1980s, Taiwan gradually started to call for more social reform and pay closer attention to its marginalised ethic groups. When martial law was lifted in 1987, Taiwanese society and culture rapidly opened up and diversified, allowing the broad spectrum of literary creation to merge into a free-flowing beam of light that could now be reflected inwards. It opened the floodgates for questions such as: “What is Taiwan?”, “What does it mean to be Taiwanese?” and, ultimately, “Who am I?” Whether these questions are in terms of Taiwan’s place in the world or one’s own internal identity, the pursuit of understanding Taiwan has become a shared core among many literary works and the same is true of young adult fiction.

    The distinctive stages of Taiwan’s unique history, as well as the island’s native languages, everyday customs, beliefs, art, legends, folklore and so on, all form a local culture that is fertile ground for YA writers. Issues involving ethnicity, gender identity, environmental concerns, bullying at school, women’s positions in society, immigrant experiences, and political repression under White Terror (1947-1987) are all key topics that these novels continue to explore.

    Li Tong’s (李潼) rich style is steeped in post-colonial context and incorporates a range of creative techniques, expanding the territory of young adult novels and laying the foundation for contemporary Taiwan YA fiction. His works extensively explored the cultures of various ethnic minority groups in Taiwan and he dared to experiment with narrative techniques and themes that were rare at the time. He wrote about indigenous root-seeking and his 1992 novel The Young Kavalan (少年噶瑪蘭) was an important milestone that combined time travel and magical realism. In the same vein, he published an ambitious 16-volume series called Taiwan’s Children (1999) (台灣的兒女), that used shifting writing styles and themes to present the lives of Taiwanese teenagers across various time periods and societal contexts.


    Read on: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=225

  • Translating Indigenous Taiwan into English: Some Observations (II)
    Jul 03, 2023 / By Chen Rong-Bin

    Read previous part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=222


    Book-length Publications: Cambria and Honford Star

    2020 saw the new era for the English translation of Indigenous Taiwanese literary works published in the Anglophone world. Sorceress Diguwan 笛鸛, a book-length novel written by the Puyuma writer Badai, had already been translated and published in 2013, but by Serenity International, a local publisher established by Taiwanese translator and bilingual writer C. J. Anderson-Wu 吳介禎. (It should also be noted that, in January 2021, Serenity International published My Dear Ak’i, Please Don t Be Upset 親愛的Ak’i,請您不要生氣, the autobiography of the Tsou writer Faisu Mukunana. For the first time, a book-length work by a female Indigenous Taiwan writer has been fully translated and published.) In March 2020, the Bunun writer Husluman Vava’s canonical novel The Soul of Jade Mountain 玉山魂 (translated by Terrence Russell) was published by Cambria, an academic publisher based in Amherst, New York, as a part of its newly founded Taiwan Literature series. It’s worthwhile to mention that this series also contains A Son of Taiwan: Stories of Government Atrocity, a volume edited by renowned scholars Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin 林麗君, with three stories selected from Walis Nokan’s story collection Cruelty of the City 城市殘酷, which mainly deals with the traumatized experiences of the Indigenous people in Taiwan during its White Terror period. In July of the same year, Honford Star, a publisher based nearby Manchester and specialized in introducing East Asian literature, published Hunter School 山豬.飛鼠.撒可努 by the Paiwan writer Sakinu Ahronglong. The translator Darryl Sterk, like Terrence Russell, is a Canadian translator-cum-scholar who dedicates himself to researching, translating, and promoting Taiwan’s Indigenous culture and literature. Sakinu’s story-like essays informs readers of a rich, but vanishing, culture of his ethnic community, which has been passed down from generation to generation. In a way, Hunter School is also a work about father-son relationship, eco-criticism, and animal ethics of the Paiwan people.


    Two Features in the Past

    From the observations above, we know that there have been two key features of the English translations of Taiwan’s Indigenous literary works. First, it’s an endeavor mainly pursued by scholars. Just as there are John Balcom in the US and Terrence Russell and Darryl Sterk from Canada, there are Shimomura Sakujirou 下村作次郎 in Japan and Gwennaël Gaffric in France. They all go to extra lengths to do their jobs. This is a field of translation which requires translators to have enough capacity and passion for diving into the rich history and culture of the Indigenous peoples of Taiwan. Second, in order to keep this type of translation activity alive, government sponsorship has been, and will be, very much needed. For example, the translations of The Soul of Jade Mountain and Hunter School are supported financially by National Museum of Taiwan Literature (in Tainan) and Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture respectively.


    Look forward to the Future

    However, literature changes as time goes by, so does the translation of literature. Therefore, recent years have seen the publication of English translations of works about Indigenous people but written by non-Indigenous writers. For example, Remains of Life 餘生, an utterly experimental novel written by Wuhe 舞鶴 and translated by Michael Berry, a UCLA professor, was published in 2017. It’s a work about the Musha Incident in 1930, a brutal bloodshed which heavily devastated both the Japanese colonizers and the Seediq people living in the mountains in central Taiwan. Also, Puppet Flower: A Novel of 1867 Formosa 傀儡花 was published in April this year (2023). After years of research, novelist Chen Yao-chang, a retired professor of the National University Hospital, has accomplished this grand feat of rewriting the events after the Rover Incident into a historical novel. Puppet Flower involves not only historical personae such as Charles Le Gendre (an American consul who traveled to Taiwan eight times from Amoy, in a span of just a few years), William A. Pickering (an English adventurer who spent a decade of his career in Taiwan), Bunkiet 潘文杰 (who would later become the chief of the Seqalu people), but also some fictional “mixed blood” characters, like the female protagonist Butterfly 蝶妹, the offspring of a Hakka father and a mother who had been a Seqalu noble in her previous life. These two works contain more cosmopolitan themes, showing that Indigenous Taiwan is not only about the Indigenous peoples of Taiwan but also about the world at large. This, in my opinion, will probably create more interest for English-speaking readers to get to know Taiwan.

  • Translating Indigenous Taiwan into English: Some Observations (I)
    Jun 26, 2023 / By Chen Rong-Bin

    The Beginning

    In December 1996, two English translations of Indigenous literary works were published in the quarterly The Chinese PEN (now renamed as Florescence—A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary Chinese Literature from Taiwan). One was a poem by the Atayal author Walis Nokan, translated by the American sinologist John Balcom, titled “He Makes Another Survey” 伊能再踏查; the other was the Bunun novelist Topas Tamapima’s short story “The Last Hunter” 最後的獵人, translated by Carlos Tee 鄭永康. This marks the earliest English translation of Indigenous Taiwanese literature. In June 1998, Taiwan Literature: English Translation Series, a journal published by UC Santa Barbara and headed by Professor Tu Kuo-ch’ing 杜國清, released a special issue on “Aboriginal Literature in Taiwan” (volume 3). In this special issue, what can be found are the second English translation of Topas Tamapima’s “The Last Hunter” (this time by another American scholar, Linda G. Wang) and the first of Syaman Rapongan’s work translated into English, “The Call of the Flying Fish” 飛魚的呼喚 (translated by Cathy Chiu 邱冬銀, a librarian of UC Santa Barbara), a story from his canonical collection Cold Sea, Deep Feeling 冷海情深. Taiwan Literature continued to dedicate its efforts to translating works by Indigenous Taiwan writers into English, with more works of this genre being translated and collected in its ensuing special issues on “Taiwan Literature, Nature, and Environment” (vol. 8, 2000), “Taiwan Literature and the Ocean” (vol. 17, 2005), “Mountains, Forests, and Taiwan Literature” (vol. 18, 2006), “The Mythology and Oral Literature of Taiwan’s Indigenous Peoples” (vol. 24, 2009), and “Animal Writing in Taiwan Literature” (vol. 41, in which ten animal stories of the Bunun tribe are translated and collected). Syaman Rapongan’s three other works from Cold Sea, Deep Feeling are collected in “Taiwan Literature and the Ocean” (all translated by Terrence Russell), including the namesake autobiographical essay, “Cold Sea, Deep Feeling.”


    Translating Syaman Rapongan

    Speaking of Syaman Rapongan, one of the most prestigious writers of Taiwan’s “Ocean Literature” and a native of the Orchid Island (Lanyu, also known as Botel Tobago in the West), some issues about the difficulty of translating Indigenous Taiwan writers should be raised. Indigenous writers, either Taiwanese or from other places in the world, are known to write with a “hybrid style,” which integrates phrases, or even sentences, from their mother tongues into the languages which they write in. In Syaman’s case, for example, he uses terms such as nanrenyu 男人魚 and nurenyu 女人魚, a pair of ethnozoological terms meaning “bad fish” (rahet) and “good (or real) fish” (oyod) in the Tao language respectively. Translators without this linguistic knowledge tend to translate these two terms into “men’s fish” and “women’s fish,” despite the fact that oyod can be consumed by all members of the Tao ethnic community, regardless of their gender and age. Also, his pinbanzhou 拼板舟 is not a “dugout canoe,” as the term is sometimes mis-translated, but a wooden plank boat built without using nails, which is named tatala (or tatara) in the Tao language. The work of translating any Indigenous Taiwan writer requires not only linguistic knowledge but also the work ethic of an ethnographer, who usually digs deep into the society and culture that they study. For example, translator Cheryl Robbins has shown her laudable ingenuity by translating the title 黑潮の親子舟 (also from Cold Sea, Deep Feeling) into “Father and Son Build a Boat to Travel Kuroshio Current,” because, unlike two other more literal translations, her rendering of the title shows the Tao tradition of boat building done by family members together.


    Representative Anthologies

    It’s not until the recent years that the book-length works by Indigenous Taiwan writers were translated fully into English. For about two decades, their translated works into English could only be found in anthologies. One good example is Indigenous Writers of Taiwan: An Anthology of Stories, Essays, and Poems, a volume edited and translated by John Balcom and published in 2005 as a part of Columbia University Press’s Modern Chinese Literature from Taiwan series. Another representative case is The Anthology of Taiwan Indigenous Literature. This three-volume anthology contains 31 short stories, 39 poems, and 29 prose essays by 49 Indigenous Taiwan authors and the works have been selected on the basis of considerations of tribe, age, gender, and geographic distribution. Though it’s published in 2015 by Taiwan’s Council of Indigenous Peoples, this large-scale translation project had been made possible via the signing of the Agreement between New Zealand and Taiwan on Economic Cooperation (ANZTEC) in June 2013, because the agreement’s Chapter 19 stipulates that Taiwan and New Zealand must both promote the exchange of research about, translation of, and publication of Indigenous literature. A quintessential byproduct of this translation was the publication of Chronicle of Significant Events for Taiwan Indigenous Literature: 1951–2014, which carefully divides the development of Taiwan Indigenous literature into four stages: 1951-1990, the 1990s, the 2000s, and the 2010s.

    Read on: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=223

  • Getting a Read on Taiwan: the 2023 Taiwan International Book Exhibition Fellowship
    Jun 05, 2023 / By Joshua Dyer

    On January 30, the evening before the opening of the 2023 Taipei International Book Exhibition (TiBE), a diverse group of publishing professionals from seven nations met at Kuo’s Astral Bookshop in the historic neighborhood of Dadaocheng for a talk on Taiwanese history and identity. The ideas presented that evening by Albert Wu, assistant research fellow at Academia Sinica, and his wife, author Michelle Kuo, would continue to reverberate through the coming week as the attendees, the 2023 TiBE Fellows, enjoyed a catered experience of the exhibition featuring guided tours, mouth-watering meals, meetings with local publishers, and, of course, more talks aimed at familiarizing them with the Taiwan’s book market. For early and mid-career publishing professionals working in rights acquisitions, or as agents, the TiBE Fellowship provides a structured format for engaging with the wide array of resources found at the book exhibition, and the opportunity to forge personal connections with their counterparts from other countries. It also happens to be a lot of fun – the adult equivalent of that childhood summer camp where you found your new best-friends-to-be over the course of one activity-filled week.



    On a guided tour the following morning, the TiBE Fellows had their first experience of the exhibition floor, including introductions to key publishers and organizations. The complexities of Taiwanese identity, shaped by successive waves of immigration and accreted layers of colonial influence, were once again on display at the Taiwan Literature Museum Booth, where the fellows learned about the 2022 Taiwan Literature Award winners. Guest-country-of-honor Poland arguably had the most stunning booth, with a medieval Bible on display and regular performances from folk musicians in traditional garb. The Taiwan independent publishers booth, dressed up as a construction site, was another favorite among the fellows.



    At noon, less than 24 hours into the fellowship program, a wealth of information was being processed as small groups of fellows sat down to enjoy their boxed lunches. Hot topics of conversation included impressions from the morning, which foreign titles were doing well in which markets, and best reads of the past year. It wasn’t all business, though – one group of fellows was overheard passionately proclaiming their favorite Bob Dylan lyrics. In the afternoon, more talks and panel discussions provided further opportunities to better understand foreign book markets.


    As the week progressed, the schedule of events increasingly included activities geared towards empowering the fellows to hone their professional skills and engage in the business of rights acquisitions. After morning talks that provided a deep dive into developing trends in the local book market, fellows spent much of their day in the rights room, a suite of meeting spaces set aside for rights negotiations.[1] Under the auspices of fellowship organizer TAICCA (the Taiwan Creative Content Agency), fellows received assistance with contacting publishers, making appointments, and in-meeting translation services.


    One of the more memorable events of the fellowship was a speed-dating style whirlwind of pitches by publishers and agents, held on the final morning of the four-day program. Every twenty minutes fellows rotated through meetings to hear book pitches catered to their individual tastes and markets. Fellows had the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of recent Taiwanese titles while the local publishers and agents honed their English-language pitching skills. Though the format was playful, forcing the presenters to deploy their best elevator pitches in rapid succession, it also generated substantial follow-up from fellows eager to learn more about specific titles. All in all, the event was characteristic of the fellowship as a whole: facilitating serious business with a light-hearted and personalized touch.



    Of course, no book fair experience is complete without meals and drinks on the town, all the more so in a foodie paradise like Taipei. The first evening of the fellowship concluded at Jin-Zhu, a unique establishment that gathers dozens of Taiwanese specialties only available at food-stalls and cramped holes-in-the-wall onto a single menu to be enjoyed at spacious dining tables with comfortable seating. Subsequent evenings saw fellows roaming the stalls of the Linjiang Night Market, exploring Taipei’s hidden watering holes under the guidance of a local literary agent, and testing the limits of their taste buds with the piquant flavors of 1010 Hunan Cuisine, located above Taipei’s iconic 24-hour bookseller and lifestyle retailer Eslite Bookstore.



    The schedule of events concluded with a farewell dinner at Le Ble D’Or, a European-style brewpub, where the fellows were joined by officials from TAICCA. The chance to make last-minute connections, enjoy a final drink with newfound friends and colleagues, and thank the organizers in person was greatly appreciated. Despite the exhaustion induced by four days of hard work and after-hours socializing, the last call came too soon for most. At closing time, groups of fellows lingered by the front door, bidding their heartfelt farewells and snapping the all-important commemorative selfies.


    As we all learned the hard way during the pandemic, the rights industry thrives on personal connections, and book fairs are the place where those relationships are forged and renewed. Book fairs are also where you can gauge the barometer of interest in a new title, learn what is on offer in an unfamiliar market, and, most importantly, make the deals that drive the industry forward. The TiBE Fellowship is designed to enhance the book fair experience for international publishing professionals, easing them into the Taiwan book market, while also catalyzing the formation of the personal connections that will shape their future career trajectories. As world events thrust Taiwan deeper into the international spotlight, and interest in East Asian authors surges, the TiBE Fellowship can provide that extra support you need to grasp this dynamic book market, setting you up for one of most inviting, memorable, and successful book fair experiences of your career.


    [1] Disclosure: the author presented a talk to fellows on the recent trend of Taiwanese fiction featuring the supernatural creatures of traditional folklore.

  • Grant for the Publication of Taiwanese Works in Translation (GPT)
    Apr 06, 2023 / By Books from Taiwan

    GPT is set up by The Ministry of Culture to encourage the publication of Taiwanese works in translation overseas, to raise the international visibility of Taiwanese cultural content, and to help Taiwan's publishing industry expand into non-Chinese international markets.

    Applicant Eligibility: Foreign publishing houses (legal persons) legally registered in accordance with the laws and regulations of their respective countries.


    1. The so-called Taiwanese works must meet the following requirements:

    A. Use traditional characters
    B. Written by a natural person holding an R.O.C. identity card
    C. Has been assigned an ISBN in Taiwan
    i.e., the author is a native of Taiwan, and the first 6 digits of the book's ISBN are 978-957-XXX-XXX-X, 978-986-XXX-XXX-X, or 978-626-XXX-XXX-X.

    2. Applications must include documents certifying that the copyright holder of the Taiwanese works consents to its translation and foreign publication (no restriction on its format).

    3. A translation sample of the Taiwanese work is required (no restriction on its format and length).

    4. The translated work must be published within two years, after the first day of the relevant application period.

    Grant Items:

    1. The maximum grant available for each project is NT$600,000, which covers:

    A. Licensing fees (going to the copyright holder of the Taiwanese works)
    B. Translation fees
    C. Marketing and promotion fees (limited to economy class air tickets for the R.O.C. writer to participate in overseas promotional activities related to the project)
    D. Book production-oriented fees
    E. Tax (20% of the total award amount)
    F. Remittance-related handling fees

    2. Priority consideration is given to books that have received the Golden Tripod Award, the Golden Comic Award, or the Taiwan Literature Award.

    3. The grant will be given all at once after the grant recipients submit the following written documents to the Ministry within one month of publication:

    A. Receipt (format given along with the Ministry's formal announcement);
    B. A detailed list of expenditures;
    C. 10 print copies of the final work published abroad (if the work is published in an e-book format, grant recipients shall instead provide purchase authorizations for 10 persons);
    D. An electronic file with aforementioned documents in PDF.

    Application Period: Twice every year. The MOC reserves the right to change the application periods, and will announce said changes separately.

    Announcement of successful applications: Winners will be announced within three months of the end of the application period.

    Application Method: Please visit the Ministry’s official website (https://grants.moc.gov.tw/Web_ENG/), and use the online application system.

    For full details of the GPT, please visit https://grants.moc.gov.tw/Web_ENG/PointDetail.jsp?__viewstate=pvWqz/p/nta24J579unZRwn9PKt77jmtn7aTE1VXtTw+KPMfSuwgOHJZcscjkMix7n5bknQ4C1jvfwxUC1ZSeBfK7nUo4Ss4 

    Or contact: [email protected]

  • An Overview of Taiwan’s Book Market 2022 (II)
    Jan 03, 2023 / By Su Shin

    Read previous part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=218


    Returning now to publicity and rights licensing news, Chen Yuhong (陳育虹), close friend of the late Yang Mu and translator of both Anne Carson and Nobel Laureate Louise Glück, is herself an important poet; translations of her work exist in English, French, and Japanese, and she was awarded the prestigious Cikada Prize in Sweden this September.


    Booker-prize longlist author Wu Ming Yi (吳明益) visited Europe to promote the German edition of The Man with the Compound Eyes (Der Mann mit den Facettenaugen). There, he attended the Climate Culture Festival, the Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin, and gave a talk at the University of Zurich.


    Writer of Ocean literature and one of the most well-known Indigenous authors, Syaman Rapongan (夏曼.藍波安), visited France to promote the publication of Les Yeux de l'océan, Mata nu Wawa (大海之眼), the second of his books to be published in French. He met readers and joined academics at universities in Bordeaux, Paris, and Lyon. Rapongan’s unique perspective and narrative style have left strong impressions on foreign readers, and his works have been translated into English, Russian, Czech, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and other languages.


    Puppet Flower (傀儡花), a piece of well-received historical fiction written by part-time novelist and full-time medical specialist Yao-Chang Chen (陳耀昌), was made into a TV miniseries (Seqalu: Formosa 1867) and is to be published in English by Columbia University Press in 2023.


    Gold Leaf (茶金) is another book-to-screen success story. What began as a self-published biography documenting the rise and fall of a tea-exporting Hakka family was adapted into a 10-part television series broadcast in 2021.


    In conversation, several international publishers have remarked to me on the steady demand for children’s books in the Taiwanese market. One might wonder what is driving the demand, and some may be surprised to hear it attributed to our low childbirth rate. Indeed, even if the absolute number of children is smaller, parents often have more resources available, both in terms of finance and time, to spend on the children they do have.


    Twenty years ago, cheap story books such as The Fairy Tales of Grimm and Andersen, published with small, low-quality illustrations throughout, were the go-to choice for parents; but now high-value picture books are just as popular. However, the continuing decline in the total fertility rate is nevertheless alarming for our industry, and we have seen school and university closures due to the significant reduction in pupil numbers. The other drive for children’s books is likely to come from millennial, trend-conscious parents, known in Mandarin as wenqing parents (文青家長). These consumers are drawn to well-crafted and beautifully illustrated books, and they tend to purchase books that they themselves would like to read. This is a trend we see across the world, with the rise of imprints such as Big Picture Press from Templar, or new publishers such as Magic Cat Publishing in the UK. 


    Many illustrated books, where genre boundaries can be quite blurred—as is the case with picture books, graphic novels, and independently produced manga—enjoy a wide readership that ranges from children to adults. We also see illustrators choosing to work in multiple genres, for example Pei-Hsiu Chen (陳沛珛), Yi-Wen Huang (黃一文), and Zhou JianXin (周見信), to name but a few. Although the presence and enduring cultural influence of manga has deep roots in Taiwan, graphic novels have often been seen as a niche and difficult-to-sell product category. Pei-Shan Huang, founder of Slowork, who has been on a mission to publish graphic novels by local authors and illustrators (for which she has received great critical success), shared that she is pleased that her books have performed well in Japan but is disappointed that sales have remained sluggish in Taiwan. Though progress might feel frustratingly slow, acceptance of graphic novels is increasing, and the market is slowly expanding; classic, award-winning examples such as Maus by Art Spiegelman, Understanding Comics and Making Comics by Scott McCloud, and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, have all been translated and published in Taiwan within the past five years.


    As I re-read various materials in preparation for this post, I began thinking about how the hybridity of our books and our heterogeneous readership exist as reflections of a national sensitivity; Taiwan is the in-betweener inhabiting divergent identities that cannot be neatly categorized. But there is an irony here too: despite their genre-straddling nature, many publications from recent years have had a strong focus on the local. Be they community histories, picture books dripping with nostalgia, or novels written in the gradually fading Taiwanese language, although some publications possess universal qualities that transcend their setting, much of their content can appear as targeting a specifically Taiwanese readership.


    I write this without judgement; a complicated history means many of us are experiencing shifts within the collective self. Martial law was lifted only in the late 1980s, and eerie feelings of the authoritarian linger still. Those of the White-Terror generation might, whether consciously or subconsciously, have forgotten the worst of what they went through, a forgetting that in some instances amounts to an omission.


    But the rise of the internet brought with it access to information previously unavailable, and the 2014 Sunflower Movement instilled a new generation with the means and motivation to become politically minded. Some of us began to question what it meant to be Taiwanese. Were we heirs to Chinese culture? Were we a neo-colonial vassal to the USA? Or could we in fact become something else?


    Alongside this venturing outward into the unknown universe, some have chosen introspection; they have looked at what has been lost or at what is in danger of disappearing. Depending on one’s perspective, this could be viewed either as resistance or as naïveté. But whatever it is, we are seeing the rise of authors and illustrators whose artistic impulse is local to Taiwan. Despite the occasional difficulty in translocating a hyper-specific cultural reference, the steady accumulation of international awards, rights sales, and domestic content licensing have helped the industry gain confidence and momentum. With that in mind, we very much look forward to reading new works and to introducing them to our readers around the world.


    For more information on the latest updates surrounding our creative industry and international book fair, please visit:

    Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA) English official website

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  • An Overview of Taiwan’s Book Market 2022 (I)
    Jan 03, 2023 / By Su Shin

    Many of us have already begun planning for the 2023 Taipei International Book Exhibition. While these preparations are underway, it seems an appropriate time to review the 2021 publishing industry’s figures and share the latest insights and highlights.


    The total sales revenue from the publishing industry in 2021 was USD718 million (+5% YoY), compared with USD680 million in 2020. The revenue increase is widely attributed to the effect of the VAT-exemption policy that came into force in 2021, and it is therefore not viewed as real growth. However, one definite increase has been the surge of new ISBN applications, which rose by nearly 60% YoY, with over 54,000 numbers being issued in 2021. One factor behind this rise could be the significant growth in the eBook segment. Delayed consumer interest—when compared with other international markets—combined with 2021’s elevated Covid restrictions to produce marked changes in consumer habits.


    Readmoo, one of the major eBook platforms, saw revenue growth of +160% in 2021. It is worth noting that although Readmoo is based in Taiwan, approximately 40% of their readership is located overseas, in places such as the USA and Hong Kong. The growth in Hong Kong is perhaps to be expected, as in the present political climate it might be seen as easier (and safer) to purchase certain titles as eBooks, rather than visiting physical bookstores.


    Another growth area was in audiobooks and podcasts. MirrorFiction, who launched their audio platform in 2021, has seen great success; they distribute a wide range of audiobooks, using a subscription model similar to Audible, and offer a curated selection of podcasts, produced in collaboration with major authors, critics, and academics.


    In terms of marketing and publicity, social media outlets such as Facebook and Youtube continue to be important platforms for the promotion of books. TikTok is widely used in Taiwan, but we have yet to see domestic BookToker sensations.


    During October’s Taiwan Story Salon at Frankfurt Book Fair, Porter Anderson from Publishing Perspectives engaged in a stimulating discussion with Kim Pai from Paisha Agency; they spoke about the trends in fiction and non-fiction, in particular from a feminist perspective. Kim shared that many of our bestselling authors of recent years have been women and that (relative to other markets) there hasn’t been such a pressing need to address gender representation in our industry. Female authors in their 30s and 40s write on various topics, including LGBT issues, #MeToo, and identity topics such as living as a career-woman or being a mother or a daughter. It is difficult to pinpoint reasons for the wide acceptance of female writers or matriarchal figures in our society, but ever since the 1950s, Eileen Chang (張愛玲), San Mao (三毛), Chiung Yao (瓊瑤), and numerous other female authors have sold millions of books across different genres.


    Veteran publishers and editors in Taiwan often refer to the 1970s & 80s as the ‘golden age’ of our publishing industry. It was during this time that the influential Small Fives (五小) were established. These were independently founded highbrow literary publishers that acted as a collective with regards to sales and distribution. Their authors included essayist and translator Lin Wen-yueh (林文月), modernist literary author Kenneth Hsien-yung Pai (白先勇), feminist author Li Ang (李昂), celebrated poet, essayist, and publisher Yang Mu (楊牧), and numerous other authors now present in the Taiwanese literary canon. Two of the Small Five founders, who were also acclaimed authors in their own right, were women: Lin Haiyin (林海音) founded Belle-Lettres Publishing House (純文學出版社), and Yao Yni Ying (姚宜瑛) founded Vast Plain Publishing House (大地出版社).


    Read on: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=219

  • The Key to Making Math Fun
    Dec 27, 2022 / By Anting Lu ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    When most people think about math, the first thing that comes to mind tends to be the complicated problems that are difficult to solve, as well as the painful memories of studying math without really knowing why. However, according to Lai I-Wei, author of Numeracy Lab: 12 Real-Life Math Experiments, it doesn’t need to be this way! Lai has been promoting math education for over ten years and in 2016 he co-founded “Numeracy Lab” with his wife Liao Pei-yu which is all about turning math into something fun, whether it be by putting on camps or making interesting videos, and, of course, by publishing books.


    Why Make Math Fun? Because That’s How You Learn It!

    Numeracy Lab: 12 Real-Life Math Experiments consists of 12 mathematical experiments to get children to work closely with math in a practical, hands-on way. The biggest difference between this style of teaching and traditional lessons, books, and math problems is that children can actively participate in the process.

    Lai notes that the issue has been particularly exacerbated by remote classes during the pandemic when children lost the spatial boundary of the classroom and the sense of routine that came with the start and end of lessons, meaning that they were even more distracted and would often do other things while they were listening in class. For a new generation of teachers, their competitors aren’t just other teachers at their schools but also famous YouTubers and popular online games etc., so the most important thing is to hold the attention of their students by making class fun.

    He firmly believes: “We want to nurture an interest in math and motivate children to learn so that they’re willing to take the initiative and master those lessons, then when they come across harder math in the future, they’re more likely to persevere with it.”


    We’ve Made It Fun, Now What? Practical Uses for Math in Everyday Life

    In addition to helping motivate children to study and making it fun, there’s another benefit of keeping children exposed to math: it helps them develop numeracy skills. We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of numeracy in ordinary life. Lai cited popular astrology as an example. He saw a news report which revealed that among the nearly 200 heads of state across the world, Scorpios were the most represented star sign. Meanwhile, a different news source revealed that in Taiwan over the years, Scorpios had been defrauded more than any other star sign. The average person might laugh and guess that this somehow makes Scorpios too clever for their own good. However, someone with strong numeracy skills would immediately think: “The population isn’t evenly distributed across the 12 astrological signs!” and from there they would explore whether these statistics are the result of Scorpios being the largest portion of the population.

    “Modern news includes more and more statistics, but we need to be careful about how we interpret this data. Numeracy can help us grasp the actual meaning behind data,” says Lai, adding: “If you have an acute understanding of numbers, you’ll be better at distinguishing whether information is true or not.”


    How Do We Make Math Fun? Share Real First-Hand Examples

    For Numeracy Lab: 12 Real-Life Math Experiments, Lai actually had children do each of the math experiments in the book for themselves. During our interview, he shared some of the interesting anecdotes that occurred along the way.

    One of the experiments illustrates the math behind the golden ratio and how it applies to flower arranging, since artistic works that use the ratio are more likely to appeal to popular tastes. Lai found some flowers and got the students to arrange them, some used the golden ratio while others didn’t. Although some of the arrangements that didn’t use the golden ratio were quite eye-catching, a lot of them were creative in a way that wouldn’t be considered conventionally attractive. By contrast, the arrangements that did use the ratio felt more like they’d been made in a factory as they were all equally attractive and shared a sense of consistency.

            Through this experiment, Lai didn’t just share with the children what the golden ratio was but also let them feel the difference between using mathematical thinking and using creativity or intuition, which also allowed them to experience the different beauty of each.

    Lai also encourages parents to let their children experience the math experiments for themselves. In addition to the flower arranging example above, other experiments such as calculating the ratio of different colors in a packet of chocolate M&Ms and examining the mathematical pattern on the outer skin of a pineapple, are very easy for parents to do with their children.


    No Matter Where You’re From, You’ll Have a Reason to Enjoy This Book

    When asked how Numeracy Lab: 12 Real-Life Math Experiments could grow internationally, Lai says he believes that mathematics is like a language that is spoken all over the world. People from different countries all study the same subject from a young age, we all use the same Arabic numerals and basic functions of arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) to express mathematical concepts. Given the lack of cultural differences, Lai hopes that everyone can experience the interesting mathematical content in this book for themselves.

    There are also some surprising Eastern elements in book, such as the probability question about a traditional Chinese divination method used in temples and the auspicious number phrases that Taiwanese people use when celebrating Lunar New Year. These elements simultaneously make math even more fun to study and let overseas readers gain new cultural knowledge as part of their reading experience.