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.
- Part Three: Featuring Eka Kurniawan, Banana Yoshimoto, Han Kang, and Eileen Chang
- Part Two: Featuring Rupi Kaur, Elisha Lim, Vincent Lam, Vivek Shraya, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
- Part One: Featuring Mary Anne Mohanraj, Ken Liu, Ted Chiang, Kim Thúy, and Saleema Nawaz
Note: This article was originally written for The Charlatan. An edited version appeared in Volume 47, Issue 1.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (My Review): Do Not Say We Have Nothing was one of my favourite books last year and it well deserves all the praise it’s gotten with winning the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General Award, and being longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. This is a beautiful, epic family saga that chronicles love and loss, as the book follows a young woman named Marie trying to piece together her family’s past during the Chinese cultural revolution. Thien does an amazing job at balancing the characters’ stories and her prose as she follows the entwined lives of two generations of two different families.
even this page is white by Vivek Shraya (My Review): Vivek Shraya is one of the current and upcoming Canadian writers to pay attention to. even this page is white is her first poetry collection and forms a beautiful and brutal look at racism through an examination of the body and skin. This is poetry at its finest in my opinion, powerful, personal and evocative. even this page is white is poetry as activism, a conversation about the complexities and experiences of race and racism that everybody needs to have. This is a collection to read over and over and an author to watch for.
SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki: SuperMutant Magic Academy first made its appearance as an online webcomic and Jillian Tamaki has since compiled it all into a collected volume with an additional story at the end. Chronicling the daily lives of a classmates at an academy for mutants, SuperMutant Magic Academy is a wonderfully funny, humorously dry, slice-of-life comic. Think less X-men and more teenage existentialism, unrequited love and worrying about finding a date for prom. Tamaki’s organic, sketchy art style bring the characters to life, almost making the book seem like a sketchbook diary.
The Devourers by Indra Das: Inda Das appeared on the fantasy scene last year with The Devourers and I’m already ready for more. Set in Kolkata, India, college professor Alok meets a man one night who claims to be part werewolf. The Devourers blends between horror and fantasy as it shifts between present and past, chronicling the lives of supernatural shapechangers. This book has some of the most beautiful, yet brutal and gruesome prose I’ve read in a long time, but Das’s writing just stucks you right in. This is a hard book to put down and one to feel sorry when it’s over.
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee: Ninefox Gambit is a military space opera set in a pan-asian galactic empire. Captain Kel Cheris is disgraced and has one chance to redeem herself by retaking a heretic fortress. The only catch is she has to do so while being a host to the ghost of a long dead general who’s a brilliant tactician and a mass-murderer. This is a book that require the reader to take a leap of faith as it unceremoniously dumps you into the middle of the story. However Lee does an amazing job crafting and piecing the world and technology together, as well as writing compelling characters that keep you turning the pages.