1. Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok – 22-year old Charlie Wong is the daughter of a Beijing ballerina and noodlemaker from Chinatown. When Charlie begins work as a receptionist in one of New York’s finest dance studios, she starts to follow in the footsteps of her late ballerina mother, and quickly discovers her talent to teach ballroom dancing. But her new found happiness is soon to fall apart as the two worlds are in danger of colliding. When her younger sister Lisa falls ill, Charlie ultimately has to make a decision where her heart belongs.
2. The Partner Track by Helen Wan – Chinese-American lawyer, Ingrid Yung, must choose between the prestige of partnership and the American Dream that she—and her immigrant parents—have come so close to achieving.
3. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok – Emigrating with her mother from Hong Kong to Brooklyn, Kimberly Chang begins a double life as a schoolgirl by day and sweatshop worker at night, an existence also marked by her first crush and the pressure to save her family from poverty.
4. Wrack and Ruin by Don Lee – Lyndon Song is a renowned sculptor who fled New York City to become a Brussels sprouts farmer in the small California town of Rosarita Bay. Lyndon has a brother, Woody, an indicted financier turned movie producer, and Woody has a plan involving a golf course on Lyndon’s land and an aging kung-fu diva from Hong Kong with a mean kick and an even meaner drinking problem. Over one madcap Labor Day weekend, this plan wreaks havoc on Lyndon’s bucolic and carefully managed life—leading to various crises, adventures, and literature’s first-ever windsurfing chase scene.
5. The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia Kim – In early-twentieth-century Korea, Najin Han, the privileged daughter of a calligrapher, longs to choose her own destiny. Smart and headstrong, she is encouraged by her mother—but her stern father is determined to maintain tradition, especially as the Japanese steadily gain control of his beloved country.
6. Drifting House by Krys Lee – Set in Korea and the United States, from the postwar era to contemporary times, Krys Lee’s stunning fiction debut illuminates a people struggling to reconcile the turmoil of their collective past with the rewards and challenges of their present.
7. The Ghost Bride by Yangze Choo – Part 19th century novel, part magical journey to the Chinese world of the dead set in colonial Malaysia, Yangsze Choo’s debut novel is a startlingly original historical fantasy infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and unexpected supernatural twists.
8. Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford – Confined to Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage during the Great Depression, Chinese-American boy William Eng becomes convinced that a certain movie actress is actually the mother he has not seen since he was seven years old, a belief that compels a determined search for answers.
9. Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap – Set in contemporary Thailand, these are generous, radiant tales of family bonds, youthful romance, generational conflicts and cultural shiftings beneath the glossy surface of a warm, Edenic setting.
10. Moon Cakes by Andrea Louie – The second daughter of successful Chinese parents, Maya Li grew up in Ohio raised on equal measures of steamed rice and sliced white bread. Now, working in New York City in a series of dead-end jobs, she finds herself heartbroken and in search of the sense of self. Then, almost accidentally, she is drawn to the country of her parents’ youth and embarks on a trip to China.
11. Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee – Henry Park has spent his entire life trying to become a true American—a native speaker. But the very attributes that help him to excel in his profession as a spy put a strain on his marriage to his American wife and stand in the way of his coming to terms with his young son’s death. When he is assigned to spy on a rising Korean-American politician, his very identity is tested, and he must figure out who he is amid not only the conflicts within himself but also within the ethnic and political tensions of the New York City streets.
12. I, Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita – Dazzling and ambitious, this hip, multi-voiced fusion of prose, playwriting, graphic art, and philosophy spins an epic tale of America’s struggle for civil rights as it played out in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Divided into ten novellas, one for each year, I Hotel begins in 1968, when Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, students took to the streets, the Vietnam War raged, and cities burned, and features a motley cast of students, laborers, artists, revolutionaries, and provocateurs. And by the time the survivors unite to save the International Hotel—epicenter of the Yellow Power Movement—their stories have come to define the very heart of the American experience.
13. China Men by Maxine Hong Kingston – the author chronicles the lives of three generations of Chinese men in America, woven from memory, myth and fact. Here’s a storyteller’s tale of what they endured in a strange new land.
14. Miles From Nowhere by Nami Mun – Teenage Joon is a Korean immigrant living in the Bronx of the 1980s. Her parents have crumbled under the weight of her father’s infidelity and mental illness has rendered her mother nearly catatonic. So Joon, at the age of 13, decides she would be better off on her own. Joon’s adolescent years take her from a homeless shelter to an escort club, through struggles with addiction, to jobs selling newspapers and cosmetics, committing petty crimes, and finally toward something resembling hope.
15. Everything Asian by Sung J. Woo – Newly arrived in the States from Korea in the early 1980s, Dae Joon, 12, does not know his dad and does not want to. Father left five years ago to make a home for his family in New Jersey. Now Dae Joon (“David” in America) and his older sister must adapt to a new world, working after school in Dad’s Asian gift store in the shabby Peddlers Town mall, attending ESL classes with their embarrassing parents, and discovering secrets and betrayal.
16. Free Food For Millionaires by Min Jin Lee – Casey Han’s four years at Princeton have given her many things, but no job and a number of bad habits. As Casey navigates Manhattan, we see her life and the lives of those around her: her sheltered mother, scarred father, her friend Ella who’s always been the good Korean girl, Ella’s ambitious Korean husband and his white mistress, Casey’s white fiancé, and then her Korean boyfriend, all culminating in a portrait of New York City and its world of haves and have-nots.
17. Typical American by Gish Jen – The Chang family first come to the United States with no intention of staying. Though, when the Communists assume control of China in 1949, Ralph Chang, his sister Theresa, and his wife Helen, find themselves in a crisis. At first, they cling to their old-world ideas of themselves. But as they begin to dream the American dream of self-invention, they move poignantly and ironically from people who disparage all that is “typical American” to people who might be seen as typically American themselves.
18. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan – In 1949, four Chinese women—drawn together by the shadow of their past—begin meeting in San Francisco to play mah jong, invest in stocks and “say” stories. They call their gathering the Joy Luck Club—and forge a relationship that binds them for more than three decades.
19. The Collective by Don Lee – In 1988, Eric Cho, an aspiring writer, arrives at Macalester College. On his first day he meets a beautiful fledgling painter, Jessica Tsai, and another would-be novelist, the larger-than-life Joshua Yoon. Brilliant, bawdy, generous, and manipulative, Joshua alters the course of their lives. As adults in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the three friends reunite as the 3AC, the Asian American Artists Collective, together negotiating the demands of art, love, commerce, and idealism. Long after the 3AC has disbanded, Eric reflects on these events as he tries to make sense of Joshua’s recent suicide.
20. Yokohama, California by Toshio Mori – Originally published in 1949, Yokohama, California, is the first published collection of short stories by a Japanese American. Set in the fictional community of Yokahama, California, Mori’s work is alive with the people, gossip, humor, and legends of Japanese America in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
21. Scent of Apples by Bienvenido Santos – This collection of sixteen short stories brings the work of a distinguished Filipino writer to the attention of an American audience. Bienvenido N. Santos first came to the United States in 1941, and since then, he has lived intermittently here and in the Philippines, writing in English about his experiences.
22. The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama – Set in Japan just before WWII, Tsukiyama’s novel tells of a young Chinese man’s encounters with four locals while he recuperates from tuberculosis.
23. Dream Jungle by Jessica Tarahata Hagedorn – Set in a Philippines of desperate beauty and rank corruption, Dream Jungle feverishly traces the consequences of two seemingly unrelated events: the discovery of an alleged lost tribe and the arrival of a celebrity-studded American film crew filming an epic Vietnam War movie. Caught in the turmoil unleashed by these two incidents are four unforgettable characters, a wealthy, iconoclastic playboy, a woman ensnared in the sex industry, a Filipino-American writer, and a jaded actor who find themselves drawn irrevocably together in this lavish, sensual portrait of a nation in crisis.
24. Empress Orchid by Anchee Min – Empress Orchid sweeps readers into the heart of the Forbidden City to tell the fascinating story of a young concubine who becomes China’s last empress. Min introduces the beautiful Tzu Hsi, known as Orchid, and weaves an epic of a country girl who seized power through seduction, murder, and endless intrigue. When China is threatened by enemies, she alone seems capable of holding the country together.
25. Secondhand World by Katherine Min – Isadora Myung Hee Sohn, Isa, has just spent 95 days in a pediatric burn unit in Albany, New York, recovering from the fire that burned her house and killed her parents. Moving back in time,Secondhand World casts a devastating spell, revealing the circumstances that led to the fire.
26. Long For This World by Sonya Chung – n 1953, on a small island in Korea, a young boy stows away on the ferry that is carrying his older brother and his wife to the mainland. Fifty-two years later, Han Hyun-kyu is on a plane flying back to Korea, leaving behind his own wife in America. It is his daughter, Jane a war photographer, who journeys to find him. Here, father and daughter take refuge from their demons, flirt with passion, and, in the wake of tragedy, discover something deeper and more enduring than they could have imagined .
27. Adventures of the Karaoke King by Harold Taw – Guy Watanabe is a thirty-something man who is marginally in touch with his Asian heritage and completely out of touch with his own needs and desires. Recovering from a divorce, Watanabe is unsure of himself and the course his future might take. When he wins a local karaoke contest, he discovers not only a newfound confidence, but the courage to take risks. From the western states and on to Asia, with a return trip in a shipping container, we follow his wild ride. Will a Korean barmaid be his downfall…or his redemption? Will Billy, a closeted gay man, or Milt, a heavily-armed dwarf, help Guy on his journey? And what about the patricidal Chinese businessman who will stop at nothing to create a global karaoke empire? And at the heart of their internal wars is Guy Watanabe’s quest for truth, hope, and self-discovery.
28. The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng – Set during the tumult of World War II, on the lush Malayan island of Penang, in1939, 16-year-old Philip Hutton-the half-Chinese, half-English youngest child of the head of one of Penang’s great trading families-feels alienated from both the Chinese and British communities. He at last discovers a sense of belonging in his unexpected friendship with Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat. But when the Japanese savagely invade Malaya, Philip realizes that his mentor is a Japanese spy. Young Philip has been an unwitting traitor, and must now work in secret to save as many lives as possible, even as his own family is brought to its knees.
29. A Person of Interest by Susan Choi – Professor Lee, an Asian-born mathematician near retirement age would seem the last person to attract the attention of FBI agents. Yet after a colleague becomes the latest victim of a serial bomber, Lee must endure the undermining power of suspicion and face the ghosts of his past.
30. Steer Toward Rock by Fae Myenme Ng – A solitary bachelor butcher in San Francisco’s McCarthy-era Chinatown, Jack Szeto serves the left-behind housewives of Central Valley farm laborers, falls in love with the daughter of a shunned mortician, and triggers a heartbreaking retaliatory act.
31. Mambo Peligroso by Patricia Chau – When Catalina Ortiz Midori walks into a shabby New York dance studio for her first mambo class, she has no idea her life is about to change. A Japanese-Cuban immigrant who has lost touch with her Cuban roots, Catalina is mesmerized by the one-eyed teacher, El Tuerto, and drawn to the dazzling technique of Wendy Cardoza, a Bronx mambera who is one of its reigning queens. Catalina’s growing obsession with the world of mambo will bring her back to her origins with a passion she didn’t know she possessed, and inadvertently draw her into a sinister Miami exile scheme through her disreputable cousin Guillermo.
32. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford – Set in the ethnic neighborhoods of Seattle during World War II and Japanese American internment camps of the era, this debut novel tells the heartwarming story of widower Henry Lee, his father, and his first love Keiko Okabe.
33. Troublemaker and Other Saints by Christina Chiu – Meet the Wongs, Shengs and Tsuis. Each of these families has its own troubles and secrets—and something the other two want. But the three clans—whose members include a matriarch who talks to dead relatives; her nymphomaniac granddaughter; an old man who reads only decades-old newspapers; and a street punk—share a past and face a common future.
34. Eating Chinese Food Naked by Mei Ng – Ruby Lee, the heroine of Eating Chinese Food Naked, has just graduated from college and come back home to live with her parents over the family’s laundry business. Her parents, Bell and Franklin, are hardly a match made in heaven, and for all of her life Ruby has been her mother’s defender—a role she can’t give up even as she longs to be free of it. During the course of her summer at home, Ruby must navigate the choppy waters of familial relations—her mother and father’s estrangement, her irresponsible older brother’s volatile relationship with everyone, her sister’s recent marriage to a non-Chinese—as well as sort out her own feelings about Nick, a young man whom she loves but cannot seem to remain faithful to.
35. This Is A Bust by Ed Lin – Circa 1976 Chinatown, Vietnam vet and an alcoholic, Robert Chow’s troubles are compounded by the fact that he’s basically community-relations window-dressing for the NYPD: he’s the only Chinese American on the Chinatown beat, and the only police officer who can speak Cantonese, but he’s never assigned anything more challenging than appearances at store openings or community events. But when his superiors remain indifferent to an old Chinese woman’s death, Chow is forced to take matters into his own hands.
36. Love Made of Heart by Theresa Leyung Ryan – 27-year-old Ruby Lin has finally gotten her life together, working as a manager of special events at San Francisco’s upscale St. Mark Hotel and finishing her B.A. at night. Just as she is settling into a gorgeous new apartment, her mother shows up, having left Ruby’s abusive father. In putting together the pieces of her mother’s life, Ruby finds herself exploring the wounds of her own past.
37. Brothers by Yu Hua – Here is China as we’ve never seen it before, in a sweeping, Rabelaisian panorama of forty years of rough-and-rumble Chinese history, from the madness of the Cultural Revolution to the equally rabid madness of extreme materialism. Yu Hua gives us a surreal tale of two comically mismatched stepbrothers, Baldy Li, a sex-obsessed ne’er-do-well, and the bookish, sensitive Song Gang, who vow that they will always be brothers—a bond they will struggle to maintain over the years as they weather the ups and downs of rivalry in love and making and losing millions in the new China.
38. Peach Blossom Pavilion by Mingmei Yip – When Precious Orchid’s father is falsely accused of a crime and found guilty, he is executed, leaving his family a legacy of dishonour. Her mother’s only option is to enter a Buddhist nunnery, so she gives her daughter over to the care of her sister in Shanghai. And even as she commands the devotion of China’s most powerful men, Precious Orchid never gives up on her dream to escape the Pavilion, be reunited with her mother, avenge her father’s death, and find true love.
39. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng – Malaya, 1951. Yun Ling Teoh, the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle-fringed tea plantations of Cameron Highlands. There she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the enigmatic Aritomo, exiled former gardener of the emperor of Japan. Despite her hatred of the Japanese, Yun Ling seeks to engage Aritomo to create a garden in memory of her sister, who died in the camp. As the months pass, Yun Ling finds herself intimately drawn to the gardener and his art, while all around them a communist guerilla war rages.
40. The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh – Unable to forget Dolly, the girl befriended during the British invasion of 1885 when soldiers forced the royal family of Burma into exile, Rajkumar, a poor boy, is lifted on the tides of political and social chaos to create an empire in the Burmese teak forests. Still Rajkumar cannot forget Dolly, and years later, as a rich man, he goes in search of her.
41. The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw – 1940, Lim Seng Chin, 20-year-old descendant of poor, illiterate southern Chinese laborers transported as mine workers to British Malaysia in the late 19th century, renames himself Johnny Lim. Johnny’s factory is the most impressive structure in the region, and to the inhabitants of the Kinta Valley Johnny is a hero—a Communist who fought the Japanese when they invaded. But to his son Jasper, Johnny is a crook and a collaborator who betrayed the very people he pretended to serve, and the Harmony Silk Factory is merely a front for his father’s illegal businesses.
42. The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka – At the age of 14, Lakshmi leaves behind her childhood among the mango trees of Ceylon for married life across the ocean in Malaysia, and soon finds herself struggling to raise a family in a country that is, by turns, unyielding and amazing, brutal and beautiful. Giving birth to a child every year until she is 19, Lakshmi becomes a formidable matriarch. From the Japanese occupation during World War II to the torture of watching some of her children succumb to life’s most terrible temptations, she rises to face every new challenge with almost mythic strength.
43. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie – Two hapless city boys are exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution. There the two friends meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, the two friends find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined.
44. Angel De La Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery by Eveline Galang -Angel has just lost her father. She’s got a sister and a grandmother to look out for, and a burgeoning consciousness of the unfairness in the world—in her family, her community, and her country. Set against the backdrop of the second Philippine People Power Revolution in 2001, the contemporary struggles of surviving Filipina “Comfort Women” of WWII, and a cold winter’s season in the city of Chicago is the story of a daughter coming of age, coming to forgiveness, and learning to move past the chaos of grief to survive.
45. The Book of Salt by Monique Truong – A wholly original take on Paris in the 1930s through the eyes of Binh, the Vietnamese cook employed by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Viewing his famous mesdames and their entourage from the kitchen of their rue de Fleurus home, Binh observes their domestic entanglements while seeking his own place in the world. Truong takes us back to Binh’s youthful servitude in Saigon under colonial rule, to his life as a galley hand at sea, to his brief, fateful encounters in Paris with Paul Robeson and the young Ho Chi Minh.
46. Fake House: Stories by Linh Dinh – the first collection of short stories by poet Linh Dinh, explores the weird, atrocious, fond, and ongoing intimacies between Vietnam and the United States. Linked by a complicated past, the characters are driven by an intense and angry energy. The politics of race and sex anchor Dinh’s work as his men and women negotiate their way in a post-Vietnam War world.
47. Short Girls by Bich Minh Nguyen – Two estranged Vietnamese sisters, Van Luong and Linny Luong, each wrestling with her own life, career, and romance, are reunited at their father’s American citizenship party, and forge a new relationship.
48. When The Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka – On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family’s possessions, like thousands of others Japanese-Americans. In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells their story from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience: the thin-walled barracks and barbed-wire fences, the omnipresent fear and loneliness, the unheralded feats of heroism.
49. The Gangster We Are All Looking For by Thi Diem Thuy Le – In 1978 six refugees—a girl, her father, and four “uncles”—are pulled from the sea to begin a new life in San Diego. In the child’s imagination, the world is transmuted into an unearthly realm: she sees everything intensely, hears the distress calls of inanimate objects, and waits for her mother to join her. But life loses none of its strangeness when the family is reunited. As the girl grows, her matter-of-fact innocence eddies increasingly around opaque and ghostly traumas: the cataclysm that engulfed her homeland, the memory of a brother who drowned and, most inescapable, her father’s hopeless rage.
50. Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong – Originally published in 1945 and now reissued with a new introduction by the author, Jade Snow Wong’s story is one of struggle and achievements. These memoirs of the author’s first twenty-four years are thoughtful, informative, and highly entertaining. They not only portray a young woman and her unique family in San Francisco’s Chinatown, but they are rich in the details that light up a world within the world of America.
51. The Silent Girl by Tess Geritsen – Discovering primate hair at the scene of a grisly murder in Chinatown, Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles discover clues linked to the fable of the Monkey King.
52. Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories by Hisaye Yamamoto – Hisaye Yamamoto’s tale of a naive American daughter and her Japanese mother captures the essence of the cultural and generational conflicts so common among immigrants and their American-born children.
53. The Gangster of Love by Jessica Tarahata Hagedorn – Rocky Rivera arrives in the U.S. from the Philippines the day that Jimi Hendrix dies. So begins a blazing coming-of-age story suffused with the tensions of immigration which finds Rocky moving from the counter-culture in 1960s San Francisco to the extravagant music scene in Manhattan of the 1980s.
54. Waiting by Ha Jin – Ha Jin portrays the life of Lin Kong, a dedicated doctor torn by his love for two women: one who belongs to the New China of the Cultural Revolution, the other to the ancient traditions of his family’s village.
55. The Tapestries by Kien Nguyen – This epic tale of romance and revenge immerses us in the world of a spirited young boy in turn-of-the-century Vietnam: Dan Nguyen, who is thrust into an arranged marriage at age seven, who secretly witnesses his father’s beheading, who escapes certain death by being sold into servitude, and who, ultimately, must choose between passion and family honor when he falls in love with the one woman he can never have
56. Evening Is The Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan – When Chellam, the Rajasekharan family’s rubber-plantation servant girl is dismissed for unnamed crimes, it is only the latest in a series of precipitous losses that have shaken 6-old Aasha’s life. In the space of several weeks her grandmother passed away under mysterious circumstances, and Uma, her older sister, left for Columbia University, forever. Aasha is left stranded in a family, and a country, slowly going to pieces.
57. Fade to Clear by Leonard Chang – Korean-American P.I., Allen Choice, now a full partner at Baxter & Choice Investigations, finds his life in upheaval by the reappearance of his ex-lover Linda. Over the objections of his current girlfriend Serena, Allen reluctantly takes on the case of finding Linda’s niece, who was abducted by her father in a bitter divorce battle.
58. Monkey Bridge by Lan Cao – Monkey Bridge tells two parallel, interlocked stories: one left in a secret journal by a Vietnamese mother who cannot make the transition between the land whose ghosts still haunt her and her home in the United States; the other is told by her teenaged daughter, who is caught in her own right of passage, coming of age in America after leaving Saigon in 1975.
59. The Barbarians Are Coming by David Wong Louie – In a tale that alternates between black comedy and out-and-out slapstick, Louie explores the painful alienation between a Chinese-American man and his immigrant father – a conflict that is deepened by the son’s decision to become a chef instead of a doctor.
60. Soy Sauce For Beginners by Kristin Chen – Gretchen Lin leaves behind a floundering marriage to return to her Singapore home, where she confronts the challenges of her mother’s alcoholism and her father’s artisanal soy sauce business before being pulled into a family controversy.
61. A Gesture Life by Chang-Rae Lee – The secret life of a Japanese-American pharmacist, Franklin Hata, in a small town in New York. On the surface a model of propriety and serenity, he is torn by memories of his service in the Japanese army in World War II and the comfort woman he loved and could not save.
62. A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li – In this rich, astonishing collection, Yiyun Li illuminates how mythology, politics, history, and culture intersect with personality to create fate. From the bustling heart of Beijing, to a fast-food restaurant in Chicago, to the barren expanse of Inner Mongolia, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers reveals worlds both foreign and familiar, with heartbreaking honesty and in beautiful prose.
63. Gold Boy, Emerald Girl: Stories by Yiyun Li – Yiyun Li gives us exquisite stories in which politics and folklore magnificently illuminate the human condition. A professor introduces her middle-aged son to a favorite student, unaware of the student’s true affections. A lifelong bachelor finds kinship with a man wrongly accused of an indiscretion. Six women establish a private investigating agency to battle extramarital affairs in Beijing. Written in lyrical prose and with stunning honesty, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl introduces us to worlds strange and familiar, creating a mesmerizing and vibrant landscape of life.
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Asian and Asian-American fiction book written by authors of East Asian and Southeast Asian descent