Nov 15

15 Must-Have Books From Modern Asian Authors

15 Must-Have Books From Modern Asian Authors

Asians have historically had a low literary presence in works of English-language literature. A new generation of Asian and Asian American authors has emerged in recent decades, writing works to express their own experiences and ideas. Today, we highlight 15 novels by prominent contemporary Asian authors. Let’s get going!

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1. The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui

Asian author Thi Bui’s moving memoir details her parents’ existence before, during, and after the Vietnam War and their flight to America following the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s. Like other immigrant families, Thi Bui’s family tried to find a better life and place to call home while yearning for their identity and culture back in Vietnam. This book, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen, “will tear your heart and mend it.” The book tells the reader a moving personal tale of overcoming obstacles and the experience of being a refugee during that time in Vietnam’s history.

2. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

National, worldwide, and the number one New York Times bestseller, Little Fires Everywhere. The tale of Mia Warren in Shaker Heights, Ohio, is revealed by the author. Mia is a single mother and an artist who poses a threat to the orderly neighborhood because of her enigmatic past and disrespect for convention. With the adoption of a Chinese-American child and the revelation of Mia’s past, the tension increases. 

Little Fires Everywhere “explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the fierce pull of motherhood—as well as the peril of assuming that obeying the rules can prevent calamity.”

3. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

Around the tale of the tea-growing family, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane narrates the tale of Li-yan and her family who reside in the isolated mountain town of the Akha tribe in China’s Yunnan region. While her daughter is raised by adoptive parents, Li-yan must overcome the strict conventions of the hamlet and flee for a better education, a life, and a business. The entire narrative revolves around the study of Pu’er to learn about the mother’s struggle and the daughter’s desire to learn about her ancestry. Overall, it’s a lovely tale about distance, culture, and family.

4. The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

“A triumph, a novelistic retelling of one of Vietnam’s hardest periods… Huge in scope but personal in its telling… affecting and captivating” —VIET THANH NGUYEN, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sympathizer.

Two intergenerational family stories are told in the novel in relation to the Vietnam War, the Great Hunger, and the Land Reform. After being forced to leave her farm with six children, Tran Dieu Lan eventually returned home with her baby granddaughter. The story is born out of the struggles and experiences of various generations.

5. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You is a New York Times, national, and international bestseller. The book tells the tale of a Chinese American family living in Ohio in the 1970s and their complicated journey through emotions and mistrust when their beloved child’s body was discovered in the river. This heartfelt tale illustrates “divisions across cultures and the rifts within a family,” highlighting the specific hardships each member of the family faces as they attempt to understand one another.

6. Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner

The singer, songwriter, and guitarist Michelle Zauner’s memoir, Crying at H Mart, is about her family, her sadness, her love of food, and her tenacity. H Mart is the name of the Asian grocery store chain that focuses on Korean and Asian goods. The experience of being an Asian American in an Oregon school, meeting her mother’s expectations, visiting her mother in Seoul, and deciding what kind of life she wants to lead when she moves to the East Coast for college are all discussed in the novel.

7. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

The author had “small feelings” because she was the daughter of Korean immigrants. “Minor sentiments happen when your reality conflicts with American optimism—when you believe the myths that are given to you about your own racial identity. Minor emotions are not insignificant; rather, they are discordant, and it is in this tension that she discovers the answer to her nagging questions. The collection chronicles Cathy’s journey as she looks for connections between friendship, the English language, and diverse emotions.

8. Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee

This novel delves into Casey’s complex identity and experience as a Korean American who works in a dry cleaner with her immigrant family. She moved to Manhattan and experimented a new way of life after receiving her degree from Princeton. The plot revolves around the issue of identity and how to preserve individuality in a constantly changing environment.

9. On Earth, We Are Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

The book is a letter from Little Dog, a son, to his mother, who was illiterate in English. The letter describes the family’s migration to the new nation as well as its background in Vietnam. The narrative is about a single mother and her kid learning about race, class, and masculinity.

10. A Burning by Megha Majumdar

Jivan, a Muslim girl, is accused of helping a terrorist attack in the first novel after making a comment on Facebook. The tale also features Lovely, an aspiring actress who is a hijra, and PT Sir, Jivan’s former physical education teacher. The tale emphasizes how disadvantaged groups were encouraged to fight among themselves.

11. The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai

Kiran Desai is the author of the honor-winning book The Inheritance of Loss. A judge and his orphaned daughter reside at the base of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas, and the story focuses on their lives as well as that of their son, an illegal immigrant who is moving from one New York City restaurant to another. The narrative explores global topics such as economic inequality, multiculturalism, and much more while revealing the plight of the weak. Despite the fact that each persona appears to be unique, they all have a shared “historical inheritance and experience of powerlessness and shame.” The story of joy and misery is told in Kiran Desai’s book.

12. The Garden of Evening Mists, Tan Twan Eng

This is the send book written in English by the Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng. The Garden of Evening Mist was later turned into a movie. The narrative follows Teoh Yun Ling, a Japanese prisoner of war during World War II, as she later rises to the position of judge presiding over criminal cases and attempts to make meaning of her life and experiences.

13. Please Look After Mother, Shin Kyung-sook

The story centers on a family’s desperate quest for their missing mother in Seoul while learning about her secrets, heartbreaks, and wants. To convey their grief and guilt over the mother’s abduction, the mother’s family members’ voices are used throughout the story.

14. Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco

The narrative begins with the passing away of renowned New York author Crispin Salvador, who left behind a list of names. One of Salvador’s students with whom he had lately developed a strong relationship is the author of The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui. He decided to pursue the clues in Manila to write the biography of Salvador. A four-generation family history dating back more than 150 years in Philippine history is discovered as a result of the determination. The novel “begins as a murder investigation and grows into an ambitious exploration of cultural identity, ambition, and artistic purpose,” according to the New Yorker.

15. Love, Chai and Other Four-Letter Words by Annika Sharma

The story of Jiran, an Indian immigrant who traveled to America in order to pursue a college degree and a new job, is the focus of this lighthearted book. After her sister’s marriage brought humiliation to the family, she promised to make no mistakes. She did, however, meet Nash, a physician who is dedicated to living alone, and she explored a variety of emotions, including love, risk, and the anxiety of disappointing her parents. The liveliness of New York City and the couple themselves are both made to fall in love with the novel.