Let’s Talk!: Asian Readathon TBR + Book Recs

Happy May! I decided to participate in readwithcindy’s Asian Readathon —  a month-long reading marathon dedicated to reading books by Asian authors. You can find some more information here. I’m incredibly excited to participate in this readathon, and wanted to share not just my TBR, but also some of my favorite Asian reads in case anyone wants suggestions and recommendations for what to read! 

My Asian Readathon TBR: 

Challenge Prompt: Read any book written by an Asian author.

There are so many books I could read for this one (and I could double up on prompts), but I’m hoping to use this opportunity to finally read my ARC of Nghi Vo’s The Chosen and the Beautiful. Ever since I found out about this The Great Gatsby retelling, it’s been on my most anticipated list! I started buddy reading it in January with the lovely pagesofquinn, but then life happened and I had to set it down for some ARCs that were coming out sooner! 

If time allows, I might also try to read Spin the Dawn, which adaptationbrain has put on my radar many years ago, or Jade City!  Or I might end up reading something completely different — like one of my eARCs of Jade Fire Gold or Gearbreakers! Who knows! 

To add or purchase the books mentioned:

Challenge Prompt: Read any book featuring an Asian protagonist.

Stacey Lee’s Luck of the Titanic is another highly anticipated read of mine! I’ve been fascinated with the Titanic for most of my life. Fun story, when I was younger, I went on a cruise with my aunt and uncle, and my uncle took me to a history talk on the Titanic. Which, in hindsight, doesn’t sound like the best topic for a cruise — and maybe not one that you should bring a child to, but instead resulted in a fascination with the Titanic. I absolutely cannot wait for Luck of the Titanic to come out on Tuesday, and I know I’ll be dropping everything to read it as soon as my preorder comes in! 

If time allows, maybe I’ll finally read The Downstairs Girl, which is also by Stacey Lee! I’ve had my copy sitting on my shelf long enough — I love historical fiction, and the premise sounds so intriguing! 

To add or purchase the books mentioned:

Challenge Prompt: Read any book written by an Asian author in your favorite genre.

My favorite genre is without a doubt contemporary, and I know just the book for this one. Made in Korea by Sarah Suk comes out this month, and I’m so excited to be part of the book tour! It’s been compared to Frankly in Love meets Shark Tank, and features rivals to lovers — what more could a girl want? 

My more specific favorite genre is actually “Books that make me cry”, and You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao is undoubtedly that. I first read You’ve Reached Sam in January, and I’ve been meaning to reread it since! If time allows, I’ll definitely be rereading You’ve Reached Sam.

To add or purchase the books mentioned:

Challenge Prompt: Read any nonfiction book written by an Asian author.

I’ve been trying to read more non-fiction lately, and I’m so glad that this prompt is on here. I’ve been meaning to read Steve Yui-Sang Tsang’s A Modern History of Hong Kong for the longest time, as well as My Unforgotten Seattle, so I’m hoping to read at least one – if not both books – this month! As someone who grew up in Hong Kong but moved to the states at the age of nine, I’ve always wanted to learn more about my hometown and its complex history. On the other hand, Ron Chew’s My Unforgotten Seattle has piqued my interest for the longest time. I spent most weekends in Seattle’s Chinatown with my family, and its history and people have shaped me in so many ways. 

If I have time, I’m really hoping to check out Michelle Zauner’s Crying in H Mart! I’ve heard really great things about it, especially from my coworker/work bestie Leah, and it’s definitely on the top of my non-fiction TBR.

To add or purchase the books mentioned:

Challenge Prompt: Read any book written by an Asian author that’s not US-centric.

The minute I saw this prompt, I knew I’d be reading Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating — I’ve had this ARC for a couple months, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet! I loved The Henna Wars, and am so excited for Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating. Fake dating is another one of my favorite tropes, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about this one! 

To add or purchase the books mentioned:

Some Recommendations:

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights, and how excited I am for Our Violent Ends to come out. Set in 1926’s Shanghai, this Romeo and Juliet retelling is filled with lush, descriptive atmosphere, yearning, tension, and everything you could possibly want! If you’re looking for some music to listen to while reading These Violent Delights or once you’re done (for coping purposes), Caitlyn and I made this playlist for it! 

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Links for These Violent Delights: Goodreads | TheStorygraph | Bookshop | Indie Bound 

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutano

I just finished Dial A for Aunties last week, and loved it! It’s the perfect combination of murder, stories about family bonds, and rom-com, and is bound to leave you in stitches. I’m so glad that Caitlyn and Mary both recommended it to me. You can read Mary’s thoughts on it here

1 (accidental) murder
2 thousand wedding guests
3 (maybe) cursed generations
4 meddling Asian aunties to the rescue!

When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is accidentally shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working, at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for their family wedding business—“Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream cake flowers.

But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?

Links for Dial A for Aunties: Goodreads | TheStoryGraph | Bookshop | Indie Bound

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

My grandmother used to live across the street from the Panama Hotel, which is where Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet takes place. I’ve been to the tea room a couple of times — both before, and after reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which is why I’m especially fond of this one. 

In 1986, Henry Lee joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the owner displays and unfurls a Japanese parasol, Henry, a Chinese American, remembers a young Japanese American girl from his childhood in the 1940s—Keiko Okabe, with whom he forged a bond of friendship and innocent love that transcended the prejudices of their Old World ancestors. After Keiko and her family were evacuated to the internment camps, she and Henry could only hope that their promise to each other would be kept. Now, forty years later, Henry explores the hotel’s basement for the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot even begin to measure. His search will take him on a journey to revisit the sacrifices he has made for family, for love, for country.

Links for Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: Goodreads | TheStoryGraph | Bookshop | Indie Bound

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

I’m currently reading Interior Chinatown for Literasian Book Club, and I’m truly enjoying it. I’m so glad that it’s our very first book club pick, and I’m hoping to share my thoughts on it with you all soon! 

Willis Wu doesn’t perceive himself as a protagonist even in his own life: he’s merely Generic Asian Man. Every day, he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He’s a bit player here too. . . but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy—the highest aspiration he can imagine for a Chinatown denizen. Or is it?

After stumbling into the spotlight, Willis finds himself launched into a wider world than he’s ever known, discovering not only the secret history of Chinatown, but the buried legacy of his own family, and what that means for him, in today’s America.

Links for Interior ChinatownGoodreads | TheStoryGraph | Bookshop | Indie Bound

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

Where Dreams Descend — and subsequently, it’s sequel — is any musical theatre lover’s dream. It’s completely immersive, and reminds me so much of Moulin Rouge meets The Phantom of the Opera. The sequel, When Night Breaks, which comes out later this fall, supposedly has Hadestown vibes, and I couldn’t be more excited. You can read about Caitlyn’s thoughts on Where Dreams Descend here

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Links for Where Dreams Descend: Goodreads | TheStorygraph | Bookshop | Indie Bound 

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

The Last Story of Mina Lee made me bawl my eyes out when I first read it last summer. It was one of my very first ARCs, and I wrote a more comprehensive review here

Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother. Interwoven with Margot’s present-day search is Mina’s story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she’s barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death. Told through the intimate lens of a mother and daughter who have struggled all their lives to understand each other, The Last Story of Mina Lee is a powerful and exquisitely woven debut novel that explores identity, family, secrets, and what it truly means to belong.

Links for The Last Story of Mina Lee: Goodreads | TheStorygraph | Bookshop | Indie Bound

You’ve Reached Sam

As mentioned above, You’ve Reached Sam is definitely a tearjerker. If you’re ever looking for a book that’ll make you weep, this is the one! I first read it in January, and this If I Stay meets Your Name book has had my heart since. 

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.

Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.

And Sam picks up the phone.

In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.

Links forYou’ve Reached Sam: Goodreads | TheStorygraph | BookshopIndie Bound 

Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

Rent a Boyfriend is undoubtedly one of my favorite books. With the cutest fake dating trope, delicious descriptions of food, and an exploration of family dynamics, this one is a comfort read for sure. You can read my review on it here

 Chloe Wang is nervous to introduce her parents to her boyfriend, because the truth is, she hasn’t met him yet either. She hired him from Rent for Your ’Rents, a company specializing in providing fake boyfriends trained to impress even the most traditional Asian parents.

Drew Chan’s passion is art, but after his parents cut him off for dropping out of college to pursue his dreams, he became a Rent for Your ’Rents employee to keep a roof over his head. Luckily, learning protocols like “Type C parents prefer quiet, kind, zero-PDA gestures” comes naturally to him.

When Chloe rents Drew, the mission is simple: convince her parents fake Drew is worthy of their approval so they’ll stop pressuring her to accept a proposal from Hongbo, the wealthiest (and slimiest) young bachelor in their tight-knit Asian American community.

But when Chloe starts to fall for the real Drew—who, unlike his fake persona, is definitely not ’rent-worthy—her carefully curated life begins to unravel. Can she figure out what she wants before she loses everything?

Links for Rent a Boyfriend: Goodreads | TheStorygraph | Bookshop | Indie Bound

Last Night at the Telegraph Club

I read Last Night at the Telegraph Club as our teatimereads February pick and loved it so! Admittedly, I don’t read enough historical fiction, even though it’s one of my favorite genres, and a sapphic, historical fiction book was just what I was looking for! Mary reviewed it for the blog, and you can read her review here

“That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: “Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

Links for Last Night at the Telegraph Club: Goodreads | TheStorygraph | Bookshop | Indiebound

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous 

Ocean Vuong is one of my favorite poets, and so when his epistolary novel came out two years ago, I knew I had to pick it up! On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is beautifully written, with lyrical prose, and everything I love about Vuong’s poetry.  

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.

With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.

Links for On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: Goodreads | TheStorygraph | Bookshop | Indie Bound

If you liked this post, or even if you didn’t, please consider donating to covid relief funds in IndiaThis carrd and this one also have additional compiled resources!

What are you reading this month? Let me know in the comments below!

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