With May, I thought it would be the best time to discuss the 2023 books by Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) authors I want to read.
(Y’know what they say, better late than never!)
2023 Books by AAPI Authors
What’s the harm in a pseudonym? New York Times bestselling sensation Juniper Song is not who she says she is, she didn’t write the book she claims she wrote, and she is most certainly not Asian American–in this chilling and hilariously cutting novel from R. F. Kuang.
Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars: same year at Yale, same debut year in publishing. But Athena’s a cross-genre literary darling, and June didn’t even get a paperback release. Nobody wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks.
So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers to the British and French war efforts during World War I.
So what if June edits Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song–complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn’t this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That’s what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree.
But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.
Why do I want to read Yellowface? I always look forward to R.F. Kuang’s works, and Yellowface is no different. The very idea that Yellowface will be tackling the “erasure of Asian-American voices and history by Western white society” is enough to get my blood pumping in excitement.
Y/N, a novel about a Korean American woman living in Berlin whose obsession with a K-pop idol sends her to Seoul on a journey of literary self-destruction.
It’s as if her life only began once Moon appeared in it. The desultory copywriting work, the boyfriend, and the want of anything not-Moon quickly fall away when she beholds the idol in concert, where Moon dances as if his movements are creating their own gravitational field; on live streams, as fans from around the world comment in dozens of languages; even on skincare products endorsed by the wildly popular Korean boyband, of which Moon is the youngest, most luminous member. Seized by ineffable desire, our unnamed narrator begins writing Y/N fanfic—in which you, the reader, insert [Your/Name] and play out an intimate relationship with the unattainable star.
Then Moon suddenly retires, vanishing from the public eye. As Y/N flies from Berlin to Seoul to be with Moon, our narrator, too, journeys to Korea in search of the object of her love. An escalating series of mistranslations and misidentifications lands her at the headquarters of the Kafkaesque entertainment company that manages the boyband until, at a secret location, together with Moon at last, art and real life approach their final convergence.
Why do I want to read Y/N? My sister was reading this, so I decided to read the synopsis. I was intrigued by the commentary on pop culture/fandom (especially in Kpop), and my sister said it’s supposed to get weeeeirdddd (and I do like when things get weird).
For readers of Outlawed, Piranesi, and The Night Tiger, a riveting, roaring adventure novel about a legendary Chinese pirate queen, her fight to save her fleet from the forces allied against them, and the dangerous price of power.
When Shek Yeung sees a Portuguese sailor slay her husband, a feared pirate, she knows she must act swiftly or die. Instead of mourning, Shek Yeung launches a new plan: immediately marrying her husband’s second-in-command, and agreeing to bear him a son and heir, in order to retain power over her half of the fleet.
But as Shek Yeung vies for control over the army she knows she was born to lead, larger threats loom. The Chinese Emperor has charged a brutal, crafty nobleman with ridding the South China Seas of pirates, and the Europeans-tired of losing ships, men, and money to Shek Yeung’s alliance-have new plans for the area. Even worse, Shek Yeung’s cutthroat retributions create problems all their own. As Shek Yeung navigates new motherhood and the crises of leadership, she must decide how long she is willing to fight, and at what price, or risk losing her fleet, her new family, and even her life.
Why do I want to read Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea? It had me at “Chinese pirate queen.” Bring it on!
A crown princess. A monster the gods fear. A destiny no one can outrun.
Inspired by Korean history and myths, the first book in the Sacred Bone series is a rich and evocative high-stakes fantasy that is perfect for fans of Gallant and Six Crimson Cranes.
Mirae was meant to save her queendom, but the ceremony before her coronation ends in terror and death, unlocking a strange new power within her and foretelling the return of a monster even the gods fear. Amid the chaos, Mirae’s beloved older brother is taken—threatening the peninsula’s already tenuous truce.
Desperate to save her brother and defeat this ancient enemy before the queendom is beset by war, Mirae sets out on a journey with an unlikely group of companions while her unpredictable magic gives her terrifying visions of a future she must stop at any cost.
Why do I want to read And Break the Pretty Kings? Inspired by Korean history (specifically the Three Kingdoms of Korea) and myths? Annnnnd it has a gorgeous cover?? Don’t mind if I just add this to my TBR list.
A whip-smart and charming debut novel that brilliantly reimagines Pride and Prejudice, set in contemporary Chinatown, exploring contemporary issues of class divides, family ties, cultural identity, and the pleasures and frustrations that come with falling in love.
When Elizabeth Chen’s ever-hustling realtor mother finally sells the beloved if derelict community center down the block, the new owners don’t look like typical New York City buyers. Brendan Lee and Darcy Wong are good Chinese boys with Hong Kong money. Clean-cut and charismatic, they say they are committed to cleaning up the neighborhood. To Elizabeth, that only means one thing: Darcy is looking to give the center an uptown makeover.
Elizabeth is determined to fight for community over profit, even if it means confronting the arrogant, uptight man every chance she gets. But where clever, cynical Elizabeth sees lemons, her mother sees lemonade. Eager to get Elizabeth and her other four daughters ahead in the world (and out of their crammed family apartment), Mrs. Chen takes every opportunity to keep her investors close. Closer than Elizabeth likes.
The more time they spend together, the more conflicted Elizabeth feels…until a shocking betrayal forces her to reconsider everything she thought she knew about love, trust, and the kind of person Darcy Wong really is.
Why do I want to read Good Fortunes? An Chinese-American Pridge & Prejudice set in Chinatown? God yes. I never knew I needed this until I found Good Fortunes.
Sailor Moon meets Cinder in Guardians of Dawn: Zhara, the start of a new, richly imagined fantasy series from S. Jae-Jones, the New York Times bestselling author of Wintersong.
Magic is forbidden throughout the Morning Realms. Magicians are called abomination, and blamed for the plague of monsters that razed the land twenty years before.
Jin Zhara already had enough to worry about—appease her stepmother’s cruel whims, looking after her blind younger sister, and keeping her own magical gifts under control—without having to deal with rumors of monsters re-emerging in the marsh. But when a chance encounter with an easily flustered young man named Han brings her into contact with a secret magical liberation organization called the Guardians of Dawn, Zhara realizes there may be more to these rumors than she thought. A mysterious plague is corrupting the magicians of Zanhei and transforming them into monsters, and the Guardians of Dawn believe a demon is responsible.
In order to restore harmony and bring peace to the world, Zhara must discover the elemental warrior within, lest the balance between order and chaos is lost forever.
Why do I want to read Zhara? First off, wow at this cover. How would it not convince you to read it based on this cover alone? Second, magic and monsters? Please let me read this now.
Inspired by a classic of martial arts literature, S. L. Huang’s The Water Outlaws are bandits of devastating ruthlessness, unseemly femininity, dangerous philosophies, and ungovernable gender who are ready to make history—or tear it apart.
In the jianghu, you break the law to make it your own.
Lin Chong is an expert arms instructor, training the Emperor’s soldiers in sword and truncheon, battle axe and spear, lance and crossbow. Unlike bolder friends who flirt with challenging the unequal hierarchies and values of Imperial society, she believes in keeping her head down and doing her job.
Until a powerful man with a vendetta rips that carefully-built life away.
Disgraced, tattooed as a criminal, and on the run from an Imperial Marshall who will stop at nothing to see her dead, Lin Chong is recruited by the Bandits of Liangshan. Mountain outlaws on the margins of society, the Liangshan Bandits proclaim a belief in justice—for women, for the downtrodden, for progressive thinkers a corrupt Empire would imprison or destroy. They’re also murderers, thieves, smugglers, and cutthroats.
Apart, they love like demons and fight like tigers. Together, they could bring down an empire.
Why do I want to read The Water Outlaws? S.L. Huang always has top-notch cover art, so I naturally gravitated towards The Water Outlaws. Once I read more, how could I turn away from a book inspired by martial arts literature? It’s impossible.
A lyrical, queer sci-fi retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a locked-room thriller
Hayden Lichfield’s life is ripped apart when he finds his father murdered in their lab, and the camera logs erased. The killer can only have been after one thing: the Sisyphus Formula the two of them developed together, which might one day reverse death itself. Hoping to lure the killer into the open, Hayden steals the research. In the process, he uncovers a recording his father made in the days before his death, and a dying wish: Avenge me…
With the lab on lockdown, Hayden is trapped with four other people—his uncle Charles, lab technician Gabriel Rasmussen, research intern Felicia Xia and their head of security, Felicia’s father Paul—one of whom must be the killer. His only sure ally is the lab’s resident artificial intelligence, Horatio, who has been his dear friend and companion since its creation. With his world collapsing, Hayden must navigate the building’s secrets, uncover his father’s lies, and push the boundaries of sanity in the pursuit of revenge.
Why do I want to read The Death I Gave Him? Queer sci-fi Hamlet. That’s it!