Reading my parents' collection of Han Suyin novels as a kid later nurtured my love for books written with an Asian historical background - but I'd always have to say that the Amy Tans, Salman Rushdies and Bharati Mukherjees will always be a mere second to my first dear love :)
Featured here in this review are Han Suyin's autobiographical "The Crippled Tree", and the fictional "..And The Rain My Drink".
The Crippled Tree starts off with the discovery - about finding a hasty letter written by her Belgian mother in the 1880s to her parents about the current state of affairs in China. The story further unfolds as Han Suyin researches more of her parents' past, of the present, and passionately weaves with much finesse an intricate story of China's history and how it related to her family and herself. This covers the period between 1885 - 1928, including events such as the Sino-French War, the 1991 Revolution, and the emergence of Chiang Kai-Shek, among others. It isn't a dry history-book-like read, but rather a really personal and intimate view of political, social, cultural and intellectual events were like then. It's been well researched from all perspectives, although I've read that critics regard it as rather partisanship in its narration - but she's been quoted as saying such:
"I write as an Asian, with all the pent-up emotions of my people. What I say will annoy many people who prefer the more conventional myths brought back by writers on the Orient. All I can say is that I try to tell the truth. Truth, like surgery, may hurt, but it cures."
"...And The Rain My Drink", on the other hand, is a fictional tale of our own Malaysia, and I've to admit that I often felt smug in my history lessons because I'd read about them already in a book of my namesake ;D It presents itself as an extensively research novel about the Emergency period in Malaysia, as well as of the South East Asian region - of its hardships under the British, of the communists, of the politics, economy, community, culture - and all this yet again in an intimate that just willingly draws you into the very shoes of the protagonist, and live the life of the era - something that KBSM history textbooks have failed to inspire in me.
These two books, among other Han Suyins (another favorite is "A Many-Splendored Thing"), have accompanied me through my childhood, and now into my adulthood, and upon each and every read I find more gems, and am continually enlightened by her prose.