May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada and Asian American and Pacific Islander Month in the US and there’s been a lot of discussion about books by Asian authors online, both from the US and Canada and translated works. As the month comes to a close with one week remaining, perhaps you’re considering picking up a new book or are looking for a last minute read for #AsianLitBingo. So this week I’ll be posting a series of blogs featuring some of my favourite books by Asian Canadian and Asian American authors, translated books from Asia, and books I’m looking forward to reading.
The Stars Change by Mary Anne Mohanraj: Read this is you’re a fan of adorable, slice-of-life sci-fi and like some sexiness in your books as well. I tend to recommend this book for fans of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. The Stars Change is a collection of interconnected short stories following a number of characters that are drawn together one night as they work together to try and stop a number of missile attacks from hitting their home town. The world building is also quite refreshing as the planet was primarily colonized by people from India and surrounding countries, changing up the narrative of white people messing up space.
Stories of Your Life and Others (Arrival) by Ted Chiang: You actually already know one of the stories in this collection if you’ve seen the movie Arrival. I haven’t seen it yet so I can’t accurately speak about the depiction but this is a collection sci-fi fans need to read. It’s so incredibly hard to describe this collection as the stories vary from the construction of the tower of babel, actual divine apparitions and the angel seekers that follow them, alien contact, brain implants that change how people perceive attractiveness and more. All through out the collection, Chiang has a remarkably steady and distinctive narrative voice that’s a pleasure to read.
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu: Although The Grace of Kings isn’t my most favourite fantasy doorstopper (not enough characterization for me), I have to encourage people to pick it up due to the scope and scale of the world building. Based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, The Grace of Kings is a fantasy novel of incredible scope and size, starting with the unlikeliest of small rebellions that blossoms into a full-out civil war against tyranny. It’s also kind of the forefront of a new subgenre in fantasy called silkpunk, where silk gliders powered by thermal air are used in war and other practices, which is pretty good and I’m looking forward to reading more story that incorporate it.
Ru by Kim Thúy: This is one of those CanLit books that was incredibly popular in Canada, winning a whole bunch of awards, gaining international popularity and then sorta fading away into obscurity outside of Canada. Ru is described as a lullaby for Vietnam, the home a woman is forced to flee as a refugee as a young child, and a love letter to her new home in Québec. The whole book is beautiful as Thúy weaves pictures of the protagonist’s past in Vietnam, the culture shock of adjusting to living in Québec and her present live as a mother. I’ve actually only read this book in French, which is the original language it was written in, but I’ve heard that the English translation is very good.
Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz: Bone & Bread is the story of family trouble as two biracial sisters, Beena and Sadhana, struggle through tragedy at a young age and it’s long-lasting impact on their lives. Orphaned as teenagers, the two girls wind up living with their strict Sikh uncle, who runs a bagel shop in Montreal’s Hasidic neighbourhood. However, things continue downhill as Beena finds herself pregnant at 16 and Sadhana prefectionism fixates into anorexia. Shifting between Beena’s present life in Ottawa as a mother to a rebellious teenage son, and her adolescence in Montreal, the book grapples with grief and loss as Beena tries to figure out the circumstances of her sisters death. Bone & Bread is an excellent story filled with great characters but I also loved it for a smaller selfish reason. I was living in Ottawa when I read it and it was wonderful to know the areas of the city the characters lived in a visited.