This is my first year to join the Asian Readathon hosted by Cindy, and I am happy to report that I’ve finished the books I picked in my TBR. I’ve also had some wiggle room to read more Asian-authored books, so this post is unexpectedly twice as long as I planned!
Here are mini reviews for my TBR picks + other books by Asian authors that I read this month!
Read any book by an Asian Author
The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali (Iranian)
This book was originally my pick for a non-US-centric book, but I discovered that half of it was actually set in the US.
The Stationery Shop is a love story told in two timelines: one is set in the midst of political coups in 1950s Tehran, and the other in a sleepy university town in 2013. It’s so poignant and sweet, and it has all the elements that I am an absolute sucker for. It also weaves in comments on how culture, especially family dynamics, shape a couple’s future, and my heart just wants to keep Bahman and Roya safe. I love it so much, and it has been a while since I let myself be swept away completely by this whirlwind of a romance.
Check out my gist on Readerly!
Read any book with an Asian protagonist
The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta (Indian)
The Serpent’s Secret is a super funny intergalactic romp through a universe based on Indian mythology. Kiranmala and her new friends battle demons and solve riddles while confronting difficult questions about their heritage, family, and sense of belongingness.
This is the first book I read for this readathon, and it has gotten me off to a great start! I have so much to say about this newfound favorite MG series, and you can read my full review here and my gist on Readerly.
Read any book in your favorite genre
The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by KS Villoso (Filipino)
The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng is the best conclusion to this masterpiece of storytelling, and K.S. Villoso does not leave a thread hanging as she brings this epic and heart-filled journey to a close. It takes everything I love in the first two books–worldbuilding, themes, culture, relationships, details, CHARACTERS–and brings them all together in a way that would leave no one wanting.
I’m so blessed to be part of #BleedForTheDragonthrone blog tour organized by Caffeine Book Tours! Read my ramble of a review here and a bonus post, which is a Mother’s Day greeting to one of my favorite characters! [Warning: if you haven’t read the first two books, please skip the letter.]
Read a nonfiction book by an Asian author
The Broken Circle: A Memoir of Escaping Afghanistan by Enjeela Ahmadi-Miller (Afghan)
I was really looking forward to this book, as I hadn’t read a nonfiction book in months. The Broken Circle follows Enjeela and her family’s yearlong trek from Afghanistan to India in order to reunite with their mom while navigating legal loopholes, rapidly dwindling resources, and other unknown dangers.
Sadly, this turned out to be a disappointment for me. Enjeela had interesting experiences, but her memoir fails in its execution to present this as one complete story. It also bothers me that it doesn’t fully comment on her inherent privilege.
Read my gist on Readerly.
Read a non-US centric book
Want by Cindy Pon (Taiwanese)
I ended my TBR run with a bang by sobbing all over this 5-star book! Reading Want during a pandemic lockdown in an extremely polluted and corrupt country is truly an *experience*. The first page alone reminds the reader that they are no longer in the US or UK, and I love how unapologetically Asian this book is.
I want a movie adaptation of this book! Wouldn’t it be badass to have a group of Asian teens who are ready to take down a megacorporation that feeds on poverty and exclusivity? The super sleek tech, high stakes heists, and well-written romance would translate very well from book to screen.
Even if you’re not a sci-fi fan, I really recommend that you read this to cheer on Zhou and his crew as they take down the face of capitalism from within. Full review will be up soon!
Other books by Asian authors that I read this month
Though I wasn’t able to stick to my 100% non-East Asian Authors resolution, I was able to read a few more heartwarming books! I explored my resources such as available Spotify audiobooks, Netgalley ARCs, and Kindle deals. Here’s what I read:
The Comeback by EL Shen (Chinese)
The Comeback follows Maxine Chen’s road to figure skating fame while she battles intense competition, performance pressure, hard Math homework, racial discrimination, middle school bullying, and unfair beauty standards. Whew, that’s a lot to handle, but our Maxine Chen handles it like a champ with the help of her ever supportive parents and newfound friends!
I read this as an audiobook on Spotify, and though it took me a while to get used to the narration, I really enjoyed it! It also made me look up the figure skating jumps that Maxine describes in her routines.
Pashmina by Nidhi Chainani (Indian)
Pashmina follows Pri’s struggle to accept the changing dynamics within her family and discovers a magic shawl that might just hold the answer to her questions. It’s a tapestry of so many stories of women empowerment, and I can’t help but cry over this masterpiece.
It’s marketed as YA, but a lot of reviews peg this as MG due to its simple writing and art style. However, I agree with the YA tag. Though it reads younger than other books in the same category, I think it’s interesting that making Pri the same age as her mom when she migrated wouldn’t have the same impact if it were targeted to a younger set of readers.
Read my gist on Readerly.
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan (Bangladeshi)
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali is an exploration of the issues that many members of the LGBTQ+ community encounter within the Bangladeshi culture, both in their homeland and in the American diaspora, by following Rukhsana’s struggle for freedom to have her own choices. Please check the list of trigger/content warnings before reading! I knew it was heavy going in, but I did not expect it to be that graphic or detailed.
Though the writing style and pacing are not for me, I really appreciate this book for its presentation of Bangladeshi culture. It goes beyond aesthetics of food and clothes, and it confronts difficult issues that the community faces.
I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn (Japanese)
I Love You so Mochi follows Kimi Nakamura on her mission to find her passion on a soul-searching spring break trip in Japan, where she reconnects with her estranged grandparents and where she runs into aspiring medical student and part-time mochi mascot Akira.
I couldn’t stop smiling while reading this book. It is so wholesome, fluffy, and beautiful. This audiobook kept me going while I sobbed over and FINALLY submitted my coursework!
Read my gist on Readerly.
Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan (Singaporean)
Jade Fire Gold is a story of magic, vengeance, and suppression of history to fit the narratives of people in power. For my fellow Zutara shippers, this is the book we never knew we needed. And yes, I can confirm that the side character gays don’t die!!! See other tags in the author’s tweet.
It took me a while to get into the story because I was not very familiar of the conventions in xianxia and wuxia, but with some Googling (and some really interesting recommended titles I might check out soon), I fell in love with this book. My full review will be up soon!
All in all, I had a good reading month. I love diving back into my old comfort genres and discovering new favorites now that more Asian authors are given the chance to shine.
Despite my really poor listening comprehension, I’ve gotten over my fear of audiobooks and I’m never going back! It’s a totally different reading experience, and I would absolutely recommend audiobooks for people who are more aurally-inclined. It’s also so amazing that there are some books available on Spotify, a highly accessible platform!
Even though Asian Heritage Month is over, I hope that everyone still continues to read, boost, and support Asian authors throughout the whole year! I still have so many books left on my TBR, and thanks to all the ebook sales this month, I’m excited for my reading journey for the foreseeable future. Yes, I emptied my PayMaya AND my GCash. Thank you Ena for making my book buying binge this month all too possible!
Moreover, I hope that reading Asian stories this month opened your eyes to the different issues that Asians face, whether in their home countries or in diaspora. Please take the same amount of time and devotion in educating yourselves about events in the Global South and make sure to uplift the voices of those who need to be heard–not those who are out to silence dissent and spin the narrative in their favor.
I hope that you help in whatever capacity you can, whether through prayer, donations, likes, RTs, and so on. Here are some of the ongoing issues that you might want to look up:
- PGH fire, red-tagging of community pantries, attacks on Lumad schools, and fight to uphold the UNCLOS ruling on the West Philippine Sea in the Philippines
- surge in COVID-19 cases in India and Nepal
- protests against military coup in Myanmar
- blatant violation of human rights and commission of war crimes against Palestine
- hate crimes against Asian Americans
- civil war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen
- lack of vaccine supply in several Asian countries due to hoarding from richer countries
- Did you join the Asian Readathon? What was your favorite read?
- Do you have any other recs for Asian-authored books, especially underrated ones? I would love to check them out!