12 Contemporary Books by Asian Authors To Read

May 3, 2021

Happy Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!

May is APIHM (Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month), so I've compiled a list of contemporary books written by Asian authors to add to your TBRs. It's by no means an exhaustive list, but some of what I recommend that deserves more love. Books on this list are new and backlist titles, ranging from middle grade to adult lit.

I hope you find a few titles here to add to your ever-growing TBRs, not just during Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, but anytime of the year. For SFF readers, don't worry - stay tuned for a list of Asian SFF books.

Arzu by Riva Razdan

It is 1991, and India's economy is opening up to foreign investment for the very first time. For wealthy business families across the country, however, it is a move fraught with uncertainty. In Bombay, Arzu, the pampered daughter of a newspaper mogul, finds the situation particularly tense. Her one concern is to score a proposal from her millionaire boyfriend before the country's celebrated liberalization sours his mood any further.

Then, an innocent gesture on her part causes all her plans to go awry, and Arzu escapes to New York City with her snobby aunt Parul on the pretext of attending finishing school. While Parul Bua's one-point agenda is to fix her up with a suitable match, Arzu, revelling in the heady independence that New York offers, finds herself poised on the brink of an idea that could change the nature of an entire industry back home.

Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann

A tightly crafted series of punchy, often heartbreaking narrative poems . . . Mann's brilliant, coruscating verse novel lays out the anatomy of Amber's revolution, and the tentative first flowerings of hope and change.

I am restless, my feet need to fly.

Amber is trapped - by her father's rules, by his expectations, by her own fears.

Now she's ready to fight - for her mother, for her sister, for herself.

Freedom always comes at a price.

Run, Rebel is a trailblazing verse novel that thunders with rhythm, heart and soul - perfect for fans of Sarah Crossan, Elizabeth Acevedo and Rupi Kaur.

All the Words Unspoken by Serena Kaur

Things are not going well for Maansi Cavale.

Her depression is worsening, she barely passes her university exams and she winds up stuck at home, full of regret and unable to find a job. She'd do anything for a way out.

Though Maansi previously considered arranged marriage an outdated tradition (only to be agreed to if you're in your mid-forties and unable to bag anybody yourself), a chance meeting at an Indian wedding party changes everything. Desperate to escape the shackles of monotony and unemployment, she agrees to marry the handsome and wealthy Aryan Alekar. She convinces herself a new lifestyle and wealth will lift her out of the pit. She secures the marriage, but not before serving up a few lies about herself...

All the Words Unspoken is a fresh, new voice from debut British-Asian author, Serena Kaur. It is a love story that challenges our preconceptions of relationships and shows us that the choices we make have implications and ramifications far beyond the horizon we can see.

Sunburnt Veils by Sara Haghdoosti

Girl meets boy, ghosts his text messages, then convinces him to help her run for the student union. Just your typical love story with a hijabi twist.

Tara wears hijab even though her parents hate it, and in a swipe right world she’s looking for the ‘will go to the ends of the earth for you’ type of love. Or, she would be, if she hadn’t sworn off boys to focus on getting into med. Besides, what’s wrong with just crushing on the assassins, mages and thieves in the fantasy books she reads?

When a bomb threat on her first day of university throws her together with totally annoying party king and oh-so-entitled politician’s son Alex, things get complicated. Tara needs to decide if she’s happy reading about heroes, or if she’s ready to step up and be one herself.

Sunburnt Veils is an own-voices rom-com with a political activist edge and a deliciously savvy pop culture voice.

Tiger Daughter by Rebecca Lim

Wen Zhou is the only child of Chinese immigrants whose move to the lucky country has proven to be not so lucky. Wen and her friend, Henry Xiao — whose mum and dad are also struggling immigrants — both dream of escape from their unhappy circumstances, and form a plan to sit an entrance exam to a selective high school far from home. But when tragedy strikes, it will take all of Wen’s resilience and resourcefulness to get herself and Henry through the storm that follows.

Like Spilled Water by Jennie Liu

19-year-old Na has grown up in rural China while her parents lived and worked in the city. When her younger brother—the favored child, who moved to the city with her parents—dies unexpectedly, she sets out to learn what happened to him and uncovers more family secrets than she bargained for.

CW/TW: death of loved one; suicide; grief; homophobia; misogyny; familial pressure

Finding My Voice by Marie Miyung-Ok Lee

Seventeen-year-old Ellen Sung just wants to be like everyone else at her all-white school. But hers is the only Korean American family in town, and her classmates in Arkin, Minnesota, will never let her forget that she’s different. At the start of senior year, Ellen finds herself falling for Tomper Sandel, a football player who is popular and blond and undeniably cute . . . and to her surprise, he falls for her, too. Now Ellen has a chance at life she never imagined, one that defies the expectations of both her core friend group and her strict parents. But even as she stands up to racism at school and disapproval at home, all while pursuing a romance with Tomper, Ellen discovers that her greatest challenge is one she never expected: finding the courage to speak up and raise her voice.

Stealing Luna by Carla de Guzman

Cora Justa Dumagat has had enough.

She is tired of watching the corrupt, fat cats of the council override the monarchy and risk the people’s lives in exchange for a payday. Despite advice from her Queen, Cora has decided to take matters into her own hands and hit the Joaquins where it hurts—to steal their precious Juan Luna painting right from under their noses in Barcelona.

The job shouldn’t be too difficult. If only Luis Ang, her ex-boyfriend, wasn't hired to be her bodyguard.

Luis knows that Cora is up to something, and will stop at nothing to make sure she’s safe, even at the cost of Cora’s plans.

As Luis and Cora become more and more deeply entangled into each other, the more dangerous the situation becomes. Will Cora have her revenge? Or will stealing Luna be the last thing she ever does?

Delight by Moras Dela Paz

Serena and Eli have known each other for as long as they can remember. Their parents are good friends and all but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to get along as well. Serena always thought that being a basketball prodigy destined for the pros has made Eli obnoxious and she finds his inflated ego out of this world.

As the two of them spend more and more time together, they learn that even if they’ve known each other their whole lives there are some things about the other that is just a delightful surprise.

Misunderstanding Mr. Popular by Dane Luna

Sebastian Reed. Part of the jujitsu team. Six feet tall and a hunk and a half. Struts along the hallways of Welton Prep like he owns the place. The whole school has fallen for his charms.

But just because everyone likes Mr. Popular doesn’t mean Oli Park can’t hate him.

Because Oli Park hates Sebastian Reed. And there’s nothing that can change her mind.

Love and Other Moods by Crystal Z. Lee

Love and Other Moods is a coming-of-age story set in contemporary China, about falling in love, learning to adult, finding strength, and discovering one’s place in the world.

Naomi Kita-Fan uproots her life from New York to China when her fiancé’s company transfers him to Shanghai. After a disastrous turn of events, Naomi finds herself with no job, no boyfriend, and nowhere to live in a foreign country.

This multilayered novel explores a kaleidoscope of shifting relationships——familial friction, amorous entanglements, volatile friendships——in one of the most dynamic metropolises of the twenty-first century.

Queen of Fire by Devika Rangachari

Lakshmibai, the widowed queen of Jhansi, is determined to protect her son's right to his father's throne and safeguard the welfare of her kingdom. Faced with machinations to take over Jhansi, at a time when all of India is rising up against the British, she has to prove her valour and sagacity time and again. But will this be enough to save all that she values?

In this gripping novel, award-winning historical novelist Devika Rangachari brings to vivid life the interior life of this nineteenth-century queen, thrust into a position she does not desire but must assume, and of her son, who is cowed by the challenges he has to face but determined to live up to his mother's courage.

Let's chat! Have you read any titles
from this list? Any hidden gems I
might've missed? Let me know in the comments!

As we celebrate AAPIHM/APIHM, it's also important to be informed of the rising Asian hate crimes that's increased over the past year and do what you can to help support fellow Asians and stop Asian hate. 

Stop Asian hate in the U.S. and around the world by contacting elected officials, donating, signing petitions, volunteeringattending bystander intervention trainings, supporting Asian businesses/creators, reporting anti-Asian hate crimes near you, and more: Stop AAPI Hate, Stop Asian Hate carrd, Anti-Asian Violence Resources carrd, Asian American Commission, Asian American Advocacy Fund, Asian Mental Health Collective, and this comprehensive list of Asian-led orgs and resources via NYMag. More resources in the sidebar as well. ➔

Support Pacific Islanders in Oceana and abroad by signing petitions to protect their land or donating to their causes and mutual aids. Some orgs/aids to donate to: Covid: Hawai'i Resilience FundPasifika Medical Association, Hawai'i Food BankHawai'ian Way Fund via Council for Nativa Hawai'ian Advancement, sign petitions to protect Hawai'i Mauna Kea (and here and here and here), and send an open letter to Hawai'i governor. Get to know some amazing Pacific Islander folks and meet these Pasifika artists/activistscheck out these lists of Pasifika books to read and this thread of Pasifika artists! Into podcasts? Check out these podcastsHere's a list of films to peruse via IMDB. Be sure to check out their works and support and uplift them in any way you can.

Resources + educational tools on what's going on around the world right now and ways to help: worldissues.carrd.co | issuesintheworld.carrd.co | getinformed.carrd.co | currentinfo.carrd.co | dotherightthing.carrd.co | allcards.carrd.co

If you've found this list helpful, consider buying me a ko-fi.

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