If I’m being completely honest, this post was drafted partly out of spite, but these are also books that I have a great amount of love for or am looking forward to read due to recommendations from trusted friends. I want to elaborate on my experience as a huge fantasy reader from 2010-2014 in a separate post, but I will say that own-voices representation makes a world of difference for the person reading a book. For a long time, even if I was able to find a character who looked like me in a book, they still failed to accurately represent me as a whole, unique person, because they were written by white authors. When I finally found a book that represented me, where the character’s Asian-ness was not used as a way to other them in a fantasy world, where they were actually connected with their culture and took pride in it, I cried. My tears came from joy, yes, but also sadness for younger me as I thought about how different my own journey to being proud of my culture could have been if I had found these books sooner.
Without further ado, here are 20 books written by Asian authors to add to your TBR immediately.
Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao was the FIRST book that made me feel really seen as a Chinese-American girl who had to overcome an internalized sense of shame surrounding her culture in a sea of whiteness, and for that, it will always have a special place in my heart.
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim was another book that unsurprisingly made me bawl my eyes out. It has such a great discussion about the stigma around mental health in Asian cultures and it was such a healing read!
I‘ll Be the One by Lyla Lee is about Skye Shin, who is competing to become the first plus-size K-pop star. The cover alone is so joyous and brings a smile to my face, and I cannot wait to read Skye’s story!
Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo is about a K-pop star falling in love with someone who works for the same tabloids that target her. I haven’t read any books by Maurene yet, but her books come highly endorsed by my cousin, and I’m itching to get started.
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay has been widely praised for its commentary on the war on drugs in the Philippines, and I urge people to pick this book up and educate themselves on what’s going on in other parts of the world.
Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen takes place in Taiwan, as Ever Wong’s parents send her away to study Mandarin over the summer. I’m definitely looking forward to reading this one given some of the glowing reviews, such as Tiffany’s!
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee tells the story of the children of Japanese immigrants and Japanese incarceration camps, and I fully expect it to wreck me.
Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed is about two different young women in different timelines, whose lives connect in unexpected ways. Unfortunately, my library loan for this book expired before I was able to finish it, but hopefully I’ll be able to resume it soon!
Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali is a book that I’ve been recommending to anyone and everyone who’s asked. It is such a beautifully heartwarming love story between two Muslim teens, and also highlights how exhausting it can be, especially for teens, to deal with microaggressions every day of their lives.
This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura unpacks intergenerational miscommunication and trauma, and I think it’s far past time for me to reclaim my copy from my mom so I can finally read it for myself.
I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn has me hooked by the title alone! It sounds like just the kind of cute, fluffy, joyous romance that I could use right about now.
Frankly in Love by David Yoon is another book with a phenomenal pun in the title that’s been sitting on my shelves for far too long. The premise is a favorite of mine (fake dating), but there is also more depth and nuance to Frank Li’s story that I can’t wait to discover for myself.
Dating Makes Perfect by Pintip Dunn is a Thai own-voices novel that takes a hilarious spin on the parenting stereotype that Asian kids are all too familiar with. On top of that, there’s most likely enemies-to-lovers AND fake dating?? I’m probably way too excited for this!
Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim is primarily a contemporary romance with just a hint of magic! My grandparents have consulted fortune-tellers before, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading a book that incorporates that subtle magic.
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan is a book I have admittedly been avoiding because I am 1000% certain it will make me cry. Another contemporary lushly interwoven with magic, this book seems to break its readers to pieces as it explores complex themes such as grief, only to put them back together at the end.
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon has one of my favorite contemporary covers ever because of that smile! It has glowing reviews as an exemplary rom-com, and there are plenty more books set in the same universe for those who want more.
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar has a wonderfully compelling premise as a queer rivals-to-romance story that also deftly tackles the severity of cultural appropriation, and it’s high on my list of books to read next!
Loathe at First Sight by Suzanne Park has such an interesting and funny synopsis that also alludes to a discussion about misogyny in video games – I don’t know about y’all, but I’m sold! I read and enjoyed Suzanne’s YA novel The Perfect Escape, but especially all of her jokes and quips, and I’ll be picking this book up when it hits the shelves for sure.
Parachutes by Kelly Yang comes highly recommended for its commentary on corruption, privilege, and trauma, and it also comes along with pretty heavy trigger warnings about sexual assault. I’m looking forward to reading this book about the problems inherent in the elite, but I’ll be treading lightly when I finally dive in.
Fake It Till You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen also has fake dating with enemies/rivals-to-lovers and I am SO HERE for this trend in contemporary YA!
Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts? Which books will you be adding to your TBR?
I’d love to know!