Yes, I’m sure you’re ALL shocked by this post and did NOT see it coming!!
Today I’m here to stay on brand as always and recommend some books by Asian authors with Asian characters! These are perfect to read for any time of year, but especially in the month of May since it’s Asian Heritage Month and a great way to celebrate Asian voices is to read them.
I’ve talked about a lot of these books before, especially in this post recommending authors of color, but I never recommended them for Asian Heritage Month before so I thought why not! These are definitely not all the Asian books I’ve read, so be sure to check out my 2018 and 2019 posts as well. (It makes me happy to see how much bigger my lists have gotten.)
Most of these I’ve read since last May, so they’re “new”, but I have a tendency to, ah, talk about the same books… so everyone act surprised at certain books on this list okay! I’m talking about The Poppy War… Fang Runin fan club will be started by me.
if you like fantasies with martial arts and rivalries…
THE POPPY WAR (CHINESE) OR
JADE CITY (CHINESE)
For some reason, I associate both of these books with each other, probably because they’re both Chinese-inspired adult fantasies… and I also bought them at the same time. But they actually aren’t too similar besides that and also the epic martial arts/fighting scenes and rivalries they feature!
Both of these books are absolute masterpieces. I’ve already talked about The Poppy War endlessly so I’ll just say if you haven’t read it, and you can handle the content… you NEED to pick it up. But Jade City is also phenomenal, and reading it was a whole experience! It features gangs and jade magic and a twist that no one—and I mean actually no one—saw coming or believed was true.
if you like contemporaries with cute romances…
THE HENNA WARS (BANGLADESHI) OR
LOVE FROM A TO Z (INDIAN)
Both of these books I just finished, but they were both so good that I couldn’t exclude them from my rec list! They’re both similar in terms of being contemporary romances, tackling/addressing several social issues, and featuring Muslim characters (ownvoices)!!
I think The Henna Wars focus a bit more on the protagonist and Love From A to Z is more romance-centered (I mean from the very start, it says “this is a love story”), but they both had really cute, well-developed romances. All of the characters and love interests are POC, and The Henna Wars is also f/f!!
*Note: The author of Love From A to Z is Indian; the main characters are Pakistani-Guyanese-Trinidadian and Chinese-Finnish.
if you like books on the darker side…
MONSTRESS (CHINESE) OR
FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS (VIETNAMESE)
While both of these are both fun to read, in a “I can’t wait to see how much darker it gets” way, Monstress is a comic! The art is so stunning and genuinely some of the most beautiful comic art I’ve seen. It’s so deliciously dark, with a character living with trauma and a link demonic, powerful monster. But there’s also an ADORABLE half-fox, so it balances out a little bit!
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is definitely a villain origin story, and just as dark. (I mean… she gets magic from eating the hearts of people killed!) Though it wasn’t completely perfect for me, I loved the antiheroine main character so much and it was a very gripping book to read.
*Note: The author of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is Vietnamese; the book is based on East Asian mythology.
if you like fantasies with character squads…
THE GILDED WOLVES (INDIAN/FILIPINO) OR
WE HUNT THE FLAME (SRI LANKAN/ARAB)
I feel like if I think of some of the most loved YA books by authors of color on book twitter, these two come to mind?? But the love is completely well-deserved, as they’re both so fun to read and also have really beautiful writing!
What stands out to me from both of these, though, are the character squads they both feature! I LOVE character squads, because I live for the types of dynamics that usually come with them, and neither of these disappoint. The banter is great, and the romantic tension between certain characters is also lovely, and I can’t wait for the sequels to see more of these characters.
if you like books with lighthearted adventures…
A WISH IN THE DARK (THAI),
DRAGON PEARL (KOREAN), OR
THE DRAGON WARRIOR (CHINESE)
I’m recommending all three of these at once because they are my favorite three middle grade books with Asian rep, never mind the fact that they are the only MG Asian books I’ve read…
One thing I love about MG, though, is how the books are always SO much fun. And while there may be more serious parts—like class issues or depictions of grief—it overall remains hopeful and bright. Which is what a lot of us need right now!
They also have some pretty great adventures: A Wish in the Dark follows two characters as they try to improve living conditions for the poor, Dragon Pearl follows a girl trying to find her brother and a powerful magic object, and The Dragon Warrior features a Percy Jackson-esque quest to decide a girl’s destiny!
if you like fantasies with beautiful prose…
SPIN THE DAWN (CHINESE) OR
THE CANDLE AND THE FLAME (INDO-FIJIAN)
Both of these books have gorgeous writing to match their gorgeous covers, and I enjoyed reading them. While I think these two books have entirely different premises, they’re both full of magic, with female protagonists you can’t help but root for, and also are a little darker than you might expect! (Which I adored, of course.)
To showcase the Beautiful Writing, here’s a quote from Spin the Dawn: “We melted into each other until the dawn slid into dusk, and the sun paled into the moon, and the stars, once lost, became found again.” And here’s one from the Candle and the Flame: “The desert sings of loss, always loss, and if you stand quiet with your eyes closed, it will grieve you too.”
if you like books that I don’t shut up about…
PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT (CHINESE) OR
DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY (IRANIAN)
I recommended these for last year’s post, but I’m doing it again because clearly not enough of you have read it and you all should feel terribly ashamed of yourselves. (Not really, but… please read them.)
Both of these feature gay male main characters and tackle mental health and self-hatred. Both of these include an exploration of their identities and the protagonists connecting to their families. Both of these made me cry, and both of these are just… deeply beautiful stories.
(Also, Darius the Great is Not Okay does not have a romance, but Picture Us in the Light has a really beautiful friends-to-lovers m/m romance that I may or may not have cried over.)
BOOKS I HAVEN’T READ
I mentioned a lot of East Asian authors, so I’m dedicating this section specifically to books by non-East Asian authors! These are all books I’m planning to read outside of this month. You can check out my May TBR here; it’s made up of mostly non-East Asian authors!!
(Ordered by release date.)
- Not Your Sidekick(Chinese-Vietnamese): f/f superheroes!!!!
- Empire of Sand (Indian): Indian-inspired + an apparently very good romance
- The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali (Bangladeshi): more, brown-girl f/f!
- Internment (Indian): important and timely alternate-America story
- Tell Me How You Really Feel (Arab): yes f/f again, this time it’s hate to love
- I Hope You Get This Message (Pakistani): gay sci-fi, the best kind
- The Empress of Salt and Fortune (Vietnamese): novella with a nonbinary main character!
ANTICIPATED THIS YEAR
- Girl, Serpent, Thorn (Persian): more f/f but with morally grey characters & monsters
- Star Daughter (Indian): Hindu mythology and the daughter of a star and mortal!
- Where Dreams Descend (Filipino): Moulin Rouge + Phantom of the Opera >>
- Dating Makes Perfect (Thai): not what I’d usually read but hello!!! Thai!!! crying forever
what books by asian authors do you recommend?? have you read any of the books I won’t shut up about? have you read the books on my tbr? rec me some of your favorite asian books!!!