In honour of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage month, observed in the United States during the month of May, I’ve put together a list of some books written by Asian authors that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and would like to share with those of you looking for more diverse book recommendations.
Before I share my picks for this post dedicated to Asian authors, let me firstly remind you of the current promotion I’m running in partnership with two exquisite bookish shops; Cask & Quill and A Scent Story Candle Co. To celebrate the recent launch of my monthly newsletter, I would like to offer you a discount when you shop at either one of these shops. All you have to do is Sign Up! to my newsletter by entering your email address in the box below.
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1. The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman
Summary: Viji and Rukku are poor low-caste sisters who live with their parents. Their father is an abusive man who constantly assaults their mother and by extension, them. Viji, the younger of the two convinces Rukku, who has a learning disability that they should run away from home and start a better life in the city. But they soon learn that life on their own can be tough, until they meet two fellow homeless boys; Arul and Muthu and learn of their stories of loss and suffering. The four children form a close bond and go on adventures, whilst also trying to survive each day.
The Bridge Home is a hopeful children’s story that not only challenges issues of caste-based discrimination and inequality but also speaks about finding kindness and a sense of family in an otherwise unforgiving world.
2. Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Summary: Nikki is a 22-year-old first generation millennial with a passion for women’s rights and making a difference. Contrary to the expectations of her parents’ culture, she’s a university drop-out with no intention of getting married and she bartends a pub in Shepherd’s Bush.
She decides to take on a job teaching English literacy to a group of Punjabi widows in response to an ad displayed in Gurdwara temple in Southall, the hub of Punjabi culture in London. What starts as an innocent writing class winds up becoming much more as the widows exchange graphic stories of their sexual escapades, whilst trying to evade the suspicion of Nikki’s disapproving employer, Kulwinder.
As Nikki starts to form friendships with the widows and connect more with her culture, she discovers a very distressing past about Kulwinder’s daughter, Maya and from there other dark secrets come to light.
This book was a humorous story about female empowerment and sisterhood.
3. the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur
Review: the sun and her flowers is filled with empowering, seductive and heartfelt poetry.
Rupi kuar makes poignant expressions on such things as immigration, female voice and empowerment, self-love, mental health etc and she does so beautifully with language that is both sparse yet vibrant.
4. The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Summary: The God Of Small Things follows the story of seven-year-old fraternal twins; Rahel and Esthappen during 1969 Kerala, India, a time of political upheaval and unrest. When a visit from their cousin, Sophie from England results in her tragic, untimely death, it causes the already unforgiving divide between the twins’ and the rest of the family to become even more hostile. This is further compounded by their disgraced mother, who enters an illicit affair with a social outcast.
The God Of Small Things was gritty, provocative and profoundly heart-breaking. I savoured every piece of its vivid imagery and outspokenness.
5. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
This delightfully unusual novel is about a 36-year old woman, who has been working in the same convenience store for the last 18 years. Unlike most people whose jobs serve only as a means to an end, Keiko Furukura’s life revolves entirely around her job. From the clothes she wears to the food she eats to even her personal hygiene, every action she takes is motivated by the interests of the store.
6. The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Refugees is a collection of stories where each narrative in some way relates to post-War Vietnam or to the refugees of the conflict. It’s not an anthology though as each story adheres to the same central theme and seems synonymous of a POV or Point-of-View novel. Nguyen possesses a captivating writing style, the likes of which make this book engaging throughout.
7. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Little Fires Everywhere discusses its central theme of motherhood in light of the two main characters; Mia Warren and Elena Richardson, both of which are mothers under very different circumstances and with opposing ideals. The clash between Mia and Elena creates a tense uncomfortable dynamic that boils over when a case involving the motherhood of a Chinese baby girl splits a chasm between the entire community. A powerfully written narrative.
8. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Set in Yeongdo, Korea during the early 1900s, a disabled man from a small village marries a 15-year old girl and together the two doting parents have a daughter called Sunja.
When Sunja grows into adolescence, she becomes pregnant by a very wealthy man whom she later learns is a married yakuza gang member. Shortly after this, Sunja and her mother meet a docile Christian minister, who upon learning of Sunja’s situation, offers her a new life in Japan as his wife. At first it seems like a chance to start over, freeing her from the shame of disgracing her family, but Sunja soon learns how hostile life can be in the land of Korea’s colonial oppressors.
Pachinko was a monumental undertaking of a book, spanning four generations and several decades. This book is nothing short of epic, life-changing and timeless.
9. The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-Eun
Summary: The Disaster Tourist is about 33-year-old Yona Ko, from Seoul, a programming coordinator who works for the disaster tourism company, Jungle. Yona’s job involves surveying places that have been ravished by natural disasters and then repackaging them as tourism hotspots.
Until one day, when she is asked to go on one of the company’s holiday packages in Mui, Vietnam, a town renowned for the sinkholes that devastated the area in 1963. Whilst on her trip, Yona discovers truths about Mui and the people who live there that are kept hidden from tourists. She also stumbles upon a scandal that will challenge her in ways she could’ve never imagined.
The Disaster Tourist was a strikingly realist story. It was indicative of real life corruption that seeks to harm those most vulnerable in favour of making profit.
10. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
They Called Us Enemy is a graphic novel memoir about the life of George Takei, famously known for his most pivotal role, Hikaru Sulu from Star Trek. In this stirring novel, Takei relives his personal experiences as a young boy during WWII when hundreds of thousands of Japanese American citizens were forcibly detained in internment camps.
Honourable Mention! Diamond Hill by Kit Fan
Recently published in the U.K. on the 13th May, I received a copy of this book from Dialogue Books. Unfortunately, I haven’t read it yet but the premise sounds fantastic, giving off a harsh sense of realism that I love reading in contemporary novels.
Summary: Diamond Hill is set in a Hong Kong shanty town during the year 1997 when British colonial rule ended and power over the nation was reverted back to China.
Its a story that follows a group of different characters, haunted by feelings of loss and regret, such as Buddha, a recovering heroin addict fighting to save a nunnery as well as other dark stories.
I’m always looking for more book recommendations myself so please share your favourite books by Asian authors in the comments down below!
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