To close out Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, guest blogger Joce shares six more AAPI reads for your TBR!
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When I was younger, I loved reading; however, I rarely saw characters in books who shared my experience and ancestry as an Asian woman. In the past few years, I have been able to find more and more books that I can say I saw myself in, and as a result, have safe spaces to reflect upon and examine my cultural identity. Recently, we have seen an increase of new releases by Asian authors such as Chemistry by Weike Wang, The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon, A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna, and Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan; and thankfully, it doesn’t look like this trend is stopping anytime soon. In this post, for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I want to recommend three books and highlight three upcoming releases by Asian women.
3 Books I Love by Asian American Women
You Bring the Distant Near features two of my auto-buy characteristics of a novel. First, it is a multigenerational story, and second, it is an #ownvoices book by a woman of color. The main characters are a part of a Bengali family originally from Bangladesh, eventually immigrating to Queens in New York. The story opens with Ranee in the oldest generation, then her daughters Tara and Sonia, and finally Chantal and Anna in the youngest generation. Mitali Perkins crafts the layout so intelligently, in that we see each generation of women in detail when they are teenagers, classifying this book as young adult, but as we move on to the next generation, the older women are part of their story as mothers and grandmothers. She discusses colorism, Westernization, interracial relationships, modesty, and so many more important topics, all presented in a heartwarming and approachable manner.
Nayomi Munaweera is a Sri Lankan woman who lives in the Bay Area of California, as is her main character in What Lies Between Us. The book opens with our unnamed narrator in prison. We don’t know why, but she is about to take us on a harrowing journey beginning in a village in Sri Lanka with an awful assault, and we see the lasting trauma throughout the remainder of the story, and later on, she and her mother escape to the Bay Area of California. There is something viscerally searing about Nayomi Munaweera’s writing. She does not mince words; every single word is carefully and meticulously crafted. The book is on the shorter side, around 300 pages, but it shook me to my core.
As a new mother, this book provided me healing and reflection in ways that I didn’t think possible. When the story opens, Scarlett and Daisy, pregnant women who are Chinese and Chinese-American, respectively, meet at a maternity home called Perfume Bay, and go on the run after discovering something shocking on Scarlett’s sonogram. Readers see them in the throes of the newborn phase, trying to balance making money as new immigrants with raising their babies. Vanessa Hua skillfully portrays the struggle of immigration, as well as building a found family. My favorite part of A River of Stars was the way she presented how women’s bodies, especially mothers’ bodies, are policed from the minute they reveal they are pregnant, from the food they eat to how they feed their children. Because my baby was so young when I read this, it resonated with me immensely and was definitely the right book at the right time.
3 Anticipated Releases for the Rest of 2019
Pub Date: June 11, 2019
This book was blurbed by Helen Hoang, who wrote The Kiss Quotient and The Bride Test, two of my favorite romance novels. Like A River of Stars that I mentioned above, there are themes of mother-daughter relationships and it is set in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Natalie Tan’s mother has passed away and she returns to San Francisco to find that she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant. A fortune teller says that she must cook three recipes to assist her neighbors so the restaurant will succeed. Through building friendships and a potential romantic relationship, she works through her resentment and grief.
Pub Date: June 11th 2019
The Chai Factor is my most anticipated romance novel for the remainder of 2019! It follows Amina Khan, who is 30 years old and an engineer who has promised herself she would not date until her thesis is complete. However, her grandmother has rented the basement to a barbershop quartet (I LOVE musical characters in books), and the baritone, Dustin, is super annoying. She finds herself growing more and more attracted to him. The hate-to-love trope is one of my favorites, so I am super excited for this one!
Pub Date: October 15, 2019
Steph Cha is the author of a mystery series featuring Juniper Song, an amateur detective who loves noir fiction and Philip Marlowe. These were the first and some of the only mystery/thriller novels I have ever read featuring an Asian American woman as the detective, a Korean American woman specifically. Your House Will Pay is a standalone novel set in Los Angeles in the early 1990s after the police shooting of a Black teenager. The families of Grace Park, a Korean woman, and Shawn Matthews, an African American man, cross paths, and tensions come to a head.
Joce is a Booktuber on her channel squibblesreads (on a hiatus, but will be back soon!), and a co-blogger at The Quiet Pond. She is an advocate for diversity and representation in books. Lately, she's been hanging out with her beautiful 5 month old daughter and loving motherhood. Her hobbies include calligraphy, running, weightlifting, and makeup. If she's not at Disneyland, she's probably destroying the patriarchy or taking a nap.