it thrills me that there are so many great books by asian-americans, asian-canadians, asian-brits out there, and here is a collection of titles i particularly loved and recommend. i'll continue adding to this as i read more.
CINELLE BARNES, MONSOON MANSION
what a life! and what a cover!
ALEXANDER CHEE, EDINBURGH
this book will haunt you. it is so, so good. let it haunt you.
ALEXANDER CHEE, THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT
if you know me, you know my deep-seated aversion of long books; i stick to my opinion that very few books need to be longer than 400 pages. THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT held me for the whole novel, though, and that in and of itself could be the best endorsement the book could get.
ALEXANDER CHEE, HOW TO WRITE AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL
this book is such an incredible act of generosity — like, i’m still stunned and so grateful that alexander chee wrote it.
TED CHIANG, STORIES OF YOUR LIFE
omg chiang is one helluva smart writer. his stories floor me and make me miss writing fiction because seriously, his stories are so smartly written — it’s writing to aspire to, and i don’t often say that.
SUSAN CHOI, THE FOREIGN STUDENT
ugh, i'm still stunned/annoyed that this is susan choi's debut novel.
SUSAN CHOI, MY EDUCATION
the novel that introduced me to susan choi — i really liked the way MY EDUCATION ends.
CATHERINE CHUNG, FORGOTTEN COUNTRY
FORGOTTEN COUNTRY taps into something maybe many of us fear — the terminal illness of someone we love — and chung does it with poignancy, gentleness, and love.
NICOLE CHUNG, ALL YOU CAN EVER KNOW
nicole chung is a gift. seriously. she’s a gift.
PATTY YUMI COTTRELL, SORRY TO DISRUPT THE PEACE
READ! THIS! BOOK! ALREADY! patty cottrell has written such a fascinating, vivid voice, and i think you'd be better off just reading the damn book than reading me trying to convince you to read it.
AJA GABEL, THE ENSEMBLE
this is one hell of a book, following the four members of a chamber music quartet over 25 years, and it's a book full of wisdom and tenderness and honesty. gabel doesn't romanticize the pursuit of ambition borne of passion, and there are some particularly damn good paragraphs in here.
EUNY HONG, THE BIRTH OF KOREAN COOL
if you're at all interested in k-pop or k-media culture, THE BIRTH OF KOREAN COOL is for you. euny hong goes into the history of korean pop, cinema, and video games, into how each industry has grown and expanded beyond the borders of korea, assisted by government investment and planning. it's fascinating. also, hong gets massive props for explaining the concept of han.
KAZUO ISHIGURO, NEVER LET ME GO
i've read this book at least 13 times, and i reread it at least once a year. if you were to ask me what my favorite book is, i'd say this.
RACHEL KHONG, GOODBYE, VITAMIN
GOODBYE, VITAMIN will make you laugh and feel and cry.
ANGIE KIM, MIRACLE CREEK
i read this in one afternoon, and i think i’d sum it up as, miracle creek is a story of good people who make some not-so-wise decisions and have to learn to live with them. it’s a story about trauma, about love, about family, and it’s a story about human meanness, the necessity for human kindness, and the lengths to which a little empathy (or lack thereof) can impact someone’s life. (FSG changed the title of this book after i received this ARC, so keep in mind that the book will be published in 2019 april under the title miracle creek.)
CRYSTAL HANA KIM, IF YOU LEAVE ME
someone should seriously adapt this korean historical novel into a film. it would be so good.
SUKI KIM, WITHOUT YOU, THERE IS NO US
to be honest, sometimes, i think the most interesting thing about this book is the dialogue that went on around it, mostly about whether or not kim crossed lines in her writing of the book and mostly about whether or not this was miscategorized as a memoir because of kim's gender. i definitely thought about the former a lot as i was reading it, and i read it before it was published and any of the dialogue started. WITHOUT YOU, THERE IS NO US is an interesting glimpse into a part of north korea most people will never see.
ALEXANDRA KLEEMAN, YOU TOO CAN HAVE A BODY LIKE MINE
no one writes sticky, viscous moods and weird stories like alexandra kleeman does.
SCAACHI KOUL, ONE DAY WE'LL ALL BE DEAD AND NONE OF THIS WILL MATTER
i laughed so much reading this book. it's light and breezy and hilarious, but it isn't just fluff and sweetness. koul is hilariously snarky and hilariously human.
CHANG-RAE LEE, THE SURRENDERED
i'm still annoyed THE SURRENDERED didn't win the pulitzer in 2011.
CHRISTINE HYUNG-OAK LEE, TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU DON’T REMEMBER
christine lee had a stroke at age thirty-three, and she writes about her recovery, delving into brain science and blending the personal with the scientific. also, christine is one smart, tough cookie.
KRYS LEE, HOW I BECAME A NORTH KOREAN
krys lee casts a sharp light on the north korean refugee crisis, and she doesn't go gentle. this should be required reading, especially for people interested in north korea (along with barbara demick's NOTHING TO ENVY).
YIYUN LI, DEAR FRIEND, FROM MY LIFE I WRITE TO YOU IN YOUR LIFE
i don't quite know how to write a pithy little blurb for this. if you live with suicidal depression, let this book comfort you.
KEN LIU, THE PAPER MENAGERIE AND OTHER STORIES
omg these stories. THESE STORIES. liu blends genres brilliantly.
MALINDA LO, ASH
ASH is a lovely, queer retelling of cinderella. i'm not a fan of retellings, but this one, i liked a whole lot. i've really got to get a hard copy of this ...
LING MA, SEVERANCE
this is a zippy, fun read, a fresh take on a post-disease-has-made-zombies-of-humanity narrative.
CELESTE NG, EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU
i plowed through this when it was first published and loved it so, so much. i love the way ng writes asian-americanness; she doesn't make a Thing of it but writes it like so many of us experience it — as something that's a part of us that colors our lives but doesn't define us.
JULIE OTSUKA, THE BUDDHA IN THE ATTIC
you wouldn't think a novel this slim could pack the punch it does, but you would be wrong. otsuka writes such haunting prose, too.
RUTH OZEKI, THE TALE OF THE TIME BEING
this book is told in two alternating POVs (nao and ruth), and i admit that i was a little less enamored with ruth's POV than nao's, but, omg, this book is so good, i'm afraid to reread it because i loved it so much. and i like to reread books.
PATRICIA PARK, RE JANE
i am not as keen on the "retelling of JANE EYRE" bit, but, luckily, RE JANE isn't so dedicated to being a retelling and is its own story. park writes the korean-american experience so well.
SAMUEL PARK, THE CAREGIVER
funny, smart, insightful — i’m so impressed by sam park’s ability to inhabit the voice of a young girl.
LARISSA PHAM, FANTASIAN
omg can larissa pham write sex or what.
SHOBHA RAO, GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER
i read this as a queer novel, and i will continue to argue for it as a queer novel, that damn last paragraph be damned. GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER is a brutal read, and knowing that it tells stories of experiences that girls go through every day today makes it even more brutal.
SJ SINDU, MARRIAGE OF A THOUSAND LIES
the narrator is a lesbian married to a gay man, and they’re friendly but not intimate, their marriage there to keep their traditional south asian families off their backs. and, then, her former best friend is thrown back into her life. her former best friend who is also a closeted lesbian. because said best friend is getting married. to a man. the ending of this novel wrecked me.
JILLIAN TAMAKI, MARIKO TAMAKI, THIS ONE SUMMER
i love jillian tamaki's art.
KIM THUY, MAN and RU
thuy's prose is sparse and carries so much emotion and heart.
ESMÉ WEIJUN WANG, THE BORDER OF PARADISE
this. book. is. OMG. omg. O M G.
ESMÉ WEIJUN WANG, THE COLLECTED SCHIZOPHRENIAS
esmé never disappoints. this is a sobering collection of essays about living with a schizoaffective disorder, but it’s not a personal memoir, though there is much of the personal in this book. there’s a lot of research, a lot of writing that is fact-based, and, altogether, the collected schizophrenias is essential reading. (and, for anyone who might be concerned, i took that horn away from my puppy after learning that he could possibly get his tongue stuck in it.)
YOOJIN GRACE WUERTZ, EVERYTHING BELONGS TO US
wuertz makes me nostalgic for a seoul i never lived in at a time during which i wasn't even alive.
JUNG YUN, SHELTER
i barreled through SHELTER because it is so good, and you should, too.
JENNY ZHANG, SOUR HEART
jenny zhang has a distinct voice that cannot be imitated, and she writes girls who are so thrillingly, vividly, grossly alive.