When I learned about the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge, I knew that I had to take part. I’m always trying to discover more diverse books, so this was the perfect opportunity. I pledged to read between 11 and 20 books during the year (ideally at least one each month) and so far I have read 10! I figured a proper update was long overdue, so here is the list of all the books I read… And loved!
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Rep: mixed Japanese/American
One of my first reads of the year, and I completely fell in love with it! Starfish is a beautiful coming of age story, with a main character who struggles with anxiety as well as her mixed Japanese/American heritage and her mom’s abuse and constant racist comments. It’s a just wonderful book, and it made me really emotional.
Kiko deserves all the love. (Full review)
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
Rep: Indian and Filipino/Spanish
This one is actually the book that introduced me to Roshani Chokshi and made me fall in love with her writing. It’s a brilliant heist-like plot — think Six of Crows except it’s set in Paris during the Exposition Universelle aka my favourite setting ever. It has a set of characters coming from various places around the globe, all with different cultural heritages and I really loved that about it. As for the author, I’m pretty sure I don’t need to introduce her by now! (Full review)
Aru Shah vol. 1 and 2 by Roshani Chokshi
Basically my new favourite thing to talk about these days. As soon as I heard this series was going to happen, I knew I had to read it (it took me long enough!) The concept: through a bet with a classmate, Aru accidentally awakes an ancient divinity, and suddenly she has 10 days to save the world. This is a fantastic book about Hindu culture and mythology. I devoured book one as well as book two ❤️
The Weight of our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
This book was brilliant. It takes place during the riots of 1969 in Kuala Lumpur, and I learned a lot about historical events that we, as Europeana, hear nothing about in school. This book was absolutely brilliant and I definitely recommend it. It’s a bit of a punch-you-in-the-face kind of book, but it’s just brilliant. The main character has OCD at a time where it was not treated nor easily diagnosed, and that was in my opinion brilliantly portrayed as well. So yes, all I have to say basically is:
Un Amour de Mille Ans by Akira Mizubayashi
This one I read in French. The author is Japanese but has also lived in France for a great part of his life — so has the main character of the book. It’s a story about music and love, and it’s very beautifully written, in a way that’s unexpectedly moving. If you asked me what genre this book was, the best answer would be literary fiction. It’s somewhat of a quiet story, but one that left an impact on me, and I’m not going to forget it any time soon. I just learned that his next novel would be released in August so I’ll try to check it out as well! This book had been sitting on my shelves for 2 years, so I’m really glad that I finally got to read it!
Quests and Quandaries by Alda Yuan
The representation is harder to describe for this one but it’s definitely a call out to fantasy novels featuring one white/caucasian character after another so I thought it would deserve a place on that list!
What I found really interesting in that book is that although it is set in a fantasy land, there are several occasions where the skin of the MC, Rahni, is referred to as not white, and she is described like a South Asian character would be. In addition to that, she notes several times that fairy tale characters are often imagined as white and that it’s just prejudice, and I thought that was a sad reflection of our society. She’s a very sarcastic and realistic character, and I’d love to see more like her!
Mangas / graphic novels:
Manabu vol. 1 and 2 by Masako Yoshi
A slice of life kind of manga in two volumes set in the 1980s featuring the life of a teenager living in Tokyo with her sister while their parents found work in Germany. It’s a story of friendship and first love that follows the characters throughout high school, and I thought it was really sweet!
Two Women by Song Aram
A very interesting graphic novel about the friendship between two women through the beginning of their adult life. They both live very different lives — one lives in Seoul, the other in the countryside; one gets married, the other doesn’t. Basically, it’s a powerful story about women living as best as they can. I don’t think it has been translated into English yet, but I definitely hope that it will!
On my TBR:
The Vegetarian by Han Kang (Korean). Really, I’ve been meaning to read this book since forever. And although I probably won’t get to read all the books on this list, this is a high priority!!
Novel Without a Name by Duong Thu Hong (Vietnamese)
There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon (Indian)
KAEROU by B. Jeanne Shibaharu (Japanese)
We The Survivors by Tash Aw (Malaysian)
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (Japanese)
Wildcard by Marie Lu (Japanese)
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (Chinese American)
Emergency Contact by Mark HK Choi (Korean American)
Please feel free to add some if you feel like I should absolutely read them!