30 Books By Authors of Asian Descent
30 Books by Authors of Asian Descent to Read ASAP.
Books by authors of Asian descent are my jam and if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’d know. Otherwise, just check my ‘book reviews‘ tab. Recently, I’ve been reading SO MANY MORE great books by authors of Asian descent that I honestly feel like I’d be a terrible person if I didn’t share. I’ve read about eighty percent of the books on this list but have added a few others I’d like to read.
NB: My yet TBR are marked with * / Books gifted by publishers marked **/Gifted books not yet read ***
Let’s dive in, shall we?
(Click image of book to view on amazon)
Set fully/partly in Asia
Hailed as Roxane Gay’s favorite novel of 2017, PACHINKO is the multigenerational story of a Korean family who move to Japan. In a saga spanning many decades, author, Min Jin Lee follows her characters as they navigate the challenges of immigrant life, identity and love. I deeply appreciated Lee’s ability to create an immersive story with mostly memorable characters.
MY OLD FAITHFUL*
This is a collection of interconnected short stories about a close knit Chinese family over a thirty year period. Author Yang Huang paints a nuanced, richly textured portrait – a father who spanks his son out of love, a brother who betrays his sister and a woman who shocks her family by bringing home a man of a different race. This has been on my wishlist since forever! Just see this post from January.
DIAMOND HEAD is the story of a powerful Chinese family that moves to Hawaii, told through the women in the family. Secrets about love, rivalry and family bubble to surface by means of the flashbacks of the Leong women. Wong’s mesmerizing writing is combines perfectly with the backdrop of the Red String of Fate legend. Although not quite perfect, I enjoyed this novel immensely and cannot wait to read more of author Cecily Wong‘s work.
In BURY WHAT WE CANNOT TAKE, a family is forced to flee Maoist China without one of their children. An unsettling, heart-wrenching tale of survival by author Kirstin Chen. Read my full review here.
WHAT WE WERE PROMISED by Lucy Tan is a shimmering debut. When the Zhen family moves back to China after years of living in America, they join the elite Chinese community –living in fully serviced, high rise Shanghai apartments. Lina, now a housewife as a result of her new expatriate status is bored and spends her days haunted by the circumstances surrounding her arranged marriage to her husband Wei and her unresolved feelings for his brother, Qiang. Wei, a hardworking executive, seems determined to ignore the new coldness in his marriage. However, things become harder to manage when Qiang suddenly shows up at their front door. Through all the drama, their housekeeper Sunny — with secrets of her own– bears witness. This book is honestly in my top five favorites of 2018. It’s out July 10th. Read it.
I just completed my listen of the audiobook of Lisa Ko‘s THE LEAVERS and I was floored by this novel. A slow starter with simply exquisite writing, the story follows Deming Guo whose mother goes to work one day and never returns. Deming is eventually adopted by white parents, who rename and move him to a predominantly white neighborhood. He grows up riddled with identity struggles, a lack of self worth and eventually a gambling addiction. Ko tells the story of Deming and his resilient mother Polly Guo with incredible mastery.
Crystal Hana Kim‘s debut novel, IF YOU LEAVE ME is at the top of my summer reading list. A love story interspersed with Korean history and “heartbreaking choices” sounds right up my alley. Also, what a stunning cover! Out August 7th.
I read Kirstin Chen‘s debut, SOY SAUCE FOR BEGINNERS, just a few weeks before I read her sophomore novel and they could not be more different. SOY SAUCE is a more lighthearted story about a young woman who moves back to Singapore after the demise of her marriage. Eventually, her move re-ignites her interest in her family’s soy sauce business. SOY SAUCE is full of vivid imagery of Singaporean food and culture and is sure to satisfy any foodie (or non-foodie).
I am utterly intrigued by this book and cannot wait until I am able to read it! THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANE by Lisa See tells of young Li-yan who shirks tradition to save her daughter. Her daughter, when later adopted by American parents wonders about her history, as Li-yan longs for her in return. This book reportedly “delivers both in poetry and plot”.
Novelist, Ruth finds the diary of a sixteen year old Japanese-American girl, Nao and becomes invested in the life of this girl. I’ve heard A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING by Ruth Ozeki recommended multiple times and am hoping to get to it sometime soon.
I read this book at an airport about three years ago and now my memories of it are forever linked to a cold airport. Yet, this book is chilling in typical Murakami fashion; a story of love, friendship, deep haunting and nightmares.
Sharon Bala‘s THE BOAT PEOPLE tells the story of a large group of refugees who arrive Canada from war ravaged Sri Lanka with hopes of a better life. However, their dream is interrupted because instead of acceptance, the Canadian government is riddled with suspicions of terrorism. The story is told from the perspectives of refugee Mahindan, his second gen. Sri Lankan Canadian lawyer, Priya and a Japanese Canadian adjudicator, Grace. A quiet, timely and assured debut — full review here.
Although now poised to be the summer movie of the year, before there was a movie, there was the CRAZY RICH ASIANS TRILOGY by Kevin Kwan. Honestly, I am a bit intimidated by all five hundred pages of this book (especially since I’d be reading on a kindle). Still, I decided it merits an honorary mention.
Another book that is high on my summer reading list is CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN by Sayaka Murata. Thirty six year old Keiko is content to work at a convenience store, even though she’s been there since she was eighteen. She’s also never had a boyfriend and doesn’t really understand many social behaviors. Until a cynical and bitter young man comes to work at the store and upsets Keiko’s contented stasis. SO EXCITED FOR THIS ONE! It’s out June 12th.
Looking for books by authors of Asian descent set in and outside the Asian continent? Look no further! Here's a list of 30 great books (to start with)! Click To Tweet
Set Outside Asia
Miranda and Lucia are Chinese-American sisters, different as day and night. The older sister, Miranda is responsible while Lucia is free-spirited and often impulsive. When Lucia begins hearing voices, it is Miranda who repeatedly swoops in to save the day. Miranda is her sisters number one protector and advocate, sometimes, even to the point of self-neglect. EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL by Mira T Lee is told from multiple perspectives. It follows the lives of both girls as they repeatedly diverge and intersect. Striking, affirming and heart-wrenching– full review here.
Lillian Li‘s debut, NUMBER ONE CHINESE RESTAURANT is out June 19th. It is said to be “an exuberant and wise multigenerational debut novel about the complicated lives and loves of people working in everyone’s favorite Chinese restaurant.” I’m really all for the books centered around food. So, just sign me up for this one already.
A sweet, quirky and moving story about a father’s descent into Alzhiemers and how his family manages to cope. I loved GOODBYE, VITAMIN by Rachel Khong. Full review here.
CHEMISTRY by Weike Wang is centered around an unnamed Chinese American grad student whose life essentially starts to fall apart during her PhD. The book traces the root and results of her breakdown from her parents’ strict way of raising her to her yearning for her mother’s love and all the ways it changes her psyche. If you like stories with perfectly wrapped up endings, stay away from this beauty!
Everything I never told you
I LOVED Celeste Ng‘s EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU so much. A quiet, but powerful story of what happens when parents so desperately seek to live through their children. If you enjoy this (even if you don’t), you should also read her most recent novel LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE.
A RIVER OF STARS is the “entertaining, wildly unpredictable adventure” of a Chinese woman shipped to America by her lover in order to secure The American Dream for their offspring. Vanessa Hua‘s debut is out August 14th.
This classic by Amy Tan is the story of mothers and daughters — Chinese immigrants– who begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves THE JOY LUCK CLUB. This has literally been on my TBR for AGES. I need to get to it already!
Young Adult, Middle Grade Fiction & Picture Books
In THE SCIENCE OF BREAKABLE THINGS, Tae Keller tackles a multitude of themes with impressive finesse and relatable writing. From a parent suffering depression to what true friendship means, family and the importance of heritage, this book is loaded! I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book for people of all ages. It is so well written with complex, engaging characters that you will never forget.
I’m currently halfway through this book and I’ve learned so much about Filipino culture. THE HOUSE THAT LOU BUILT by Mae Respicio centers around Lou’s desire to build a tiny house on her late father’s land in order to stay close to her loved ones. Lou is just about twelve and excels in her woodwork class. Despite having a solid team of friends behind her, things come crashing down when she finds out she may lose her land.
I saw a sneak peek of this adorable book and I couldn’t help but be delighted! Yoomi is determined to eat kimchi after her brothers call her a Baby for not eating it, but it’s Just Too Spicy! Will she ever conquer it and will her brothers stop teasing her? Hopefully, Grandma will find a way to solve this problem! NO KIMCHI FOR ME is illustrated by Aram Kim.
American Born Chinese*
AMERICAN BORN CHINESE tells the story of three apparently unrelated characters: Jin Wang the powerful Monkey King, subject of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables; and Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, who is ruining his cousin Danny’s life with his yearly visits. Their lives and stories come together with an unexpected twist in this action-packed modern fable. Although, I’m not big on comic books, Gene Luen Yang‘s work has garnered much praise!
Mia Tang is a ten year old Chinese immigrant who lives in a motel with her parents. They run the motel for it’s crooked owner, Mr Yao. Mia runs the front desk and enjoys it. I highly recommend this debut by Kelly Yang. I think it deals with heavier topics like racism, class prejudice, the value of diligence and the struggles of immigrants in a dignified way that kids can relate to. Overall, FRONT DESK is a compelling, refreshing book for everyone!
American Panda follows seventeen year old Taiwanese-American, Mei. Mei is a germaphobe, forced into a premed program by her very traditional parents. They believe that medicine is a secure and respectable career and they care little about how Mei actually feels about the choice. She is afraid to reveal that she instead would rather own a dance studio. Especially after her brother Xing is disowned for choosing a spouse his parents disapprove of. Anyone who’s ever embarked on the arduous journey to self will enjoy this read. Undoubtedly a perfect blend of wit and substance, AMERICAN PANDA by Gloria Chao is delightful, inspiring and stimulating! Full review here.
Maurene Goo‘s I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE is an adorable pick for all lovers of YA and K-dramas.
“In her first memoir, award-winning novelist Yiyun Li offers a journey of recovery through literature: a letter from a writer to like-minded readers. Startlingly original and shining with quiet wisdom, this is a luminous account of a life lived with books. Written over two years while the author battled suicidal depression, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life is a painful and yet richly affirming examination of what makes life worth living.”
The guest on this episode of the What Should I Read Next? podcast recommended this book. After losing her teen sister to suicide, Anna Akana turned to comedy for relief. In SO MUCH I WANT TO TELL YOU, Anna opens up about her own struggles with poor self-esteem and reveals both the highs and lows of coming-of-age. I’ve already queued this up on Scrib’d!
Check out this great list of 30 books by authors of Asian descent -- from fiction, non fiction, Young Adult, Children's and Middle Grade literature! Click To Tweet
I really hope you find something you’re even slightly interested in on this list (and not just because it too ages to compile!). The Asian continent is one I’ve always been curious about and only explored on the pages of books — and what a journey it’s been!
So, quickly, tell me which ones you’ve got your eye on, and of course which ones I’ve missed! I want to know.
(Click photos to view on Amazon)