Asian American writers you SHOULD be reading because we are having a moment right now!
There are literally just some great Asian American authors. Please read them then talk to us about them.
No book listicle is complete without Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, the heartbreaking chronicle of four friends and a testament to surviving trauma. But don’t overlook Yanagihara’s other novel: People in the Trees, equally as challenging and ambitious, about the fatal consequences of cultures colliding. Features immortals?! Anthropology! Moral ambiguity!
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop is by all accounts the definitive history of the beginnings of hip hop. Chang follows the origins of the genre from 1960’s Kingston, Jamaica to the Bronx in the 70s to the turn of the century. He is VERY thorough.
Beautifully illustrated, Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do does for the Vietnam War what Maus did for the Holocaust. She interviews her parents about the reality of being an average civilian in the crossfire of world powers. A book about family and how the raging anxiety of war can torture generations to come.
Chances are if you haven’t heard of Celeste Ng’s wildly popular Little Fires Everywhere, soon to be a limited series featuring Reese Witherspoon AND Kerry Washington (yaaaaas), you’ve been living under a rock. Or you’re just not that into books. Celeste Ng’s writing will make you turn the pages so fast they’ll—wait for it—catch fire.
In The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar spirits us away to the bustling and vibrant streets of Bombay where we meet our two heroines: Sera, a wealthy widow, and Bhima, her elderly housekeeper. The Space Between Us and its sequel The Secrets Between Us are poignant chronicles of womanhood, class, and race. An engrossing drama that’ll make you see, smell, and hear the wonders of Bombay. And it’s much cheaper than a plane ticket.
Weike Wang’s debut novel, Chemistry, left us crying out for more (seriously—we hope Weike is typing away furiously as we write this). Insanely smart and funny, Chemistry chronicles the unraveling of a Chinese-American PhD student who suddenly realizes she didn’t sign up for her life.
A burgeoning master of all things LA and crime, Steph Cha is the author of Follow Her Home, Beware Beware, Dead Soon Enough and the forthcoming Your House Will Pay—which we have read and are dying to share (out 10/15!). Your House Will Pay tracks a nearly 30-year-old tragedy as its aftermath screams into the present. With a deft touch, Cha examines the racial and cultural undercurrents of LA life.
Ted Chiang is a master of the concept-driven sci-fi short story. Each one takes a thoughtful near-future idea to its extreme but will hit you right in the feels. His sci-fi story collections Exhalation and Stories of Your Life are quintessential to the next generation of American Sci-Fi. He's also won a whopping four Nebula awards and four Hugo awards. Whew.
VIET THANH NGUYEN
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s writing is essential to understanding the Vietnamese American experience. Through his double agent spy novel The Sympathizer, moving short stories The Refugees, and masterfully curated anthology The Displaced, Nguyen has made it his mission to shine a spotlight on the lives of immigrants all across America. Oh, and they’re damn fun to read, too.
Ocean Vuong is, hands-down, the breakout star of the year. He first crashed onto the literary scene with his poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds which was simultaneously masterful and accessible for non-poetry aficionados. His novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous debuted this year to rave reviews from both critics and us! If you’re looking for a lyrical, heart wrenching masterpiece read Vuong!
Is capitalism making us into zombies? Ling Ma’s dystopian novel, Severance, is an extended metaphor about what could happen in a world of people who live to work. Told from the perspective of the orphaned child of Chinese immigrants as she numbly deals with her continued survival amidst the chaos.
Esmé Weijun Wang
Esmé Weijun Wang’s Collected Schizophrenias is a collection of memoir-esque essays addressing her lifetime with schizoaffective disorder. This book is a much needed discussion about mental illness, those who have it, and the institutions bestowed with the responsibility of caring for them—and their many failures.
KAREN TEI YAMASHITA
Tropic of Orange is the ultimate Los Angeles book. Its plot is a sprawling and winding as its central motif—LA highways. Wildfires, citrus and, yes, The Industry are also included in the six disparate but intertwining stories.
One of Chevalier’s all time favorite authors, Yiyun Li is a masterful storyteller whose repertoire ranges from short stories to novels to memoirs. Li’s ability to humanize her characters, address motivations, and stomp all over your heartstrings is unparalleled. For short stories try Gold Boy, Emerald Girl. For novels try Kinder Than Solitude. For memoirs try Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in Your Life.
MIN JIN LEE
Pachinko opens in Korea shortly after the turn of the 20th century and travels across time and place to Japan and the US in the 21st century. Min Jin Lee spins a multi-generational family saga shot through with sacrifice, shame, mystery, courage and love.
R.O. Kwon’s Incendiaries is a slim volume jam-packed with characters you’ll swear you know in real life. A book about college, cults, and the devastating consequences of unrequited love. R. O. Kwon’s sharp writing is only challenged by her eyeliner which is impeccable.
Daniel Nieh—translator, interpreter, model, and now, author. His debut Beijing Payback is the perfect summer thriller which will take you from the San Gabriel Valley to Beijing and back. Stuffed full of edge-of-your-seat suspense and laugh-out-loud one liners, join our hero Victor Li as he grieves his father’s sudden death...and uncovers his hidden mafioso past.
Jen Wang is our favorite middle-grade graphic novelist. Her stories are both fantastical and grounded with characters that feel true-to-life. Check out Prince and the Dressmaker or In Real Life (written by Cory Doctorow) for touching coming-of-age stories complete with flowing and expertly colored illustration. (Btw, our middle-reader book club loves her!)
LA poet and co-founder of Writ Large Press, Chiwan Choi has giant personality and a meticulous pen. His book The Yellow House is a 124 page poem about finding a home, losing it, and then finding it again inside yourself. 5 Stars would read again!!!