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Tiny Moons: A Year of Eating in Shanghai

As the title already suggests, Tiny Moons: A Year of Eating in Shanghai is particularly directed at readers interested in food. The slim volume is based on blog entries written by Nina Mingya Powles when, after studying Creative Writing in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand, she went to Shanghai, China, on a scholarship for a year to improve her Chinese. These lyrical short texts, infused with a sense of loneliness and a search for her own identity, are a collection of snapshots. Often the fragments seem incomplete, which in a way adds to the beauty of the text: it shows how memory works, how everyday experiences shape people and make them grow. The story about food allows for gentle, profound musings on language, belonging and living as a mixed-race person in different places.

Powles has divided the book into four sections corresponding to four seasons. Whether it’s pouring rain or it’s actually too hot to leave the air-conditioned dorm room at university for more than ten minutes, her love for dumplings and all kinds of noodle dishes drives her outside. Very often, the narrative voice comes across as an outside observer who has an extremely good eye for detail. Tastes, smells, the preparation of food, the colours of fruit, plants and the sky at the given time of year are all meticulously rendered with great eloquence. Although I have never been to Shanghai and have not tried many of the dishes described, reading it felt like I was there, as if I too were making my leisurely way from one street food stall to the next.

I thoroughly enjoyed devouring this slim volume in one go on a Sunday afternoon. Tiny Moons: My Year of Eating in Shanghai will make you hungry, while at the same time being soothingly nourishing.

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