May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada, a time “to celebrate the contributions that Canadians of Asian descent have made, and continue to make, to Canada’s growth and prosperity” (Government of Canada, 2022). Though we commemorate the achievements of communities of Asian descent this month, it’s important to note the significant contributions they have made and continue to make. In this post, I am highlighting some book recommendations by Asian authors to help expand your knowledge and awareness of Asian culture, art, languages, and more.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Before the Coffee Gets Cold takes place in a small back alley in Tokyo where customers visit a local coffee shop but also have the chance to travel back in time. However, the small setback is that the trip back will only last as long as it takes the coffee to go cold. An international bestseller, Kawaguchi’s novel explores the age-old question: “What would you change if you could travel back in time?”
From Little Tokyo, with Love by Sarah Kuhn
On the outside, Rika’s life seems like a fairytale. However, this isn’t the case as she’s an orphan living with two bossy cousins. She is also a hard worker at her aunt’s business but doesn’t fit the princess criteria. It’s then when Rika sees Grace Kimura, America’s Rom-Com sweetheart. She thinks she’s her birth-mother and embarks on a journey to prove it. Deep down, though, Rika knows real life doesn’t have fairy-tale endings, and she wonders if her search will give her the happy ending she wants.
Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen
To truly understand what freedom and reinvention is, journalist and author Te-Ping Chen takes readers through the modern diaspora of the Chinese people through compelling stories. The Land of Big Numbers urges us to reflect on the ultimate question relevant in 21st Century America: “What is freedom?”
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Named as New York Times Top Ten Book of the Year and National Book Award finalist, Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko highlights the moving story of four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family as they fight to control their destiny in 20th century Japan. Lee showcases strong, stubborn women, who are both devoted sisters, and sons who survive and thrive in their struggles.
Tokyo Ever After (Volume 1) by Emiko Jean
As a Japanese American, being brought up by a single mother in a small, mostly white, California town isn’t easy. Izumi (or Izzy for short because “it’s easier” to say) discovers a secret that her unknown father is really the Crown Prince of Japan, which means Izzy is a princess. In a turn of events, Izumi travels to Japan to meet her father and the country of her dreams. Over a series of events, Izumi finds herself caught between her “fairytale” and her “reality”.
This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura
Seventeen-year old CJ has never been able to live up to her mom’s expectations, especially after she’d rather help her Aunt Hannah at their family’s flower shop. It isn’t until her mom decides to sell the shop to the McAllisters, a family who swindled her family and many others when Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during WWII. As a result, a rift ensues between her family, her friends, and the community, but CJ is not backing down without a fight.
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala
Labelled as one of CrimeReads’s “Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2021,” Arsenic and Adobo is a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and thrilling mystery. The debut not only introduces readers to Filipino American food, culture, and Tagalog language, it also focuses on family and cozy tropes.
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
Named as a 2021 Most Anticipated Pick for Oprah Magazine and USA Today (among many others), The Chosen and the Beautiful follows Jordan Baker, a woman who grows up with money, education, and invitations to the most exclusive parties with the most rarefied circles during America’s 1920s Jazz Age. Unaccepted by some, Baker is queer and a Vietnamese adoptee, who is treated as exotic by her friends. While most important doors remain closed to her, Jordan has a gift to connect with the other world where she speaks to ghosts.
My Year Abroad by Chang-Rae Lee
Pulitzer Prize finalist, Chang-Rae Lee’s My Year Abroad highlights an exuberant story about an American life transformed by the human capacities for pleasure, pain, and connection. The story tells of a Chinese American entrepreneur, Hong Lou, bringing Tiller, an American College student in her first year, abroad on a trip across Asia and helps him dramatically transform his view of himself and the world.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
A beautiful mother-daughter memoir, Crying in H Mart depicts a raw and emotional story about a Korean American who lost her family and is trying to find herself. Zauner speaks about losing her identity among the mother-daughter expectations of others and finding her gifts and passion that brought her into this world.
There you have it – ten recommendations of Asian authors to look out for! Each story has the grit and strength that makes one believe that there’s always hope and resilience. Each allows readers to get lost in its pages and become aware of Asian culture and identity (or the search for one).