July 26, 2021 • Cee • Discussion

What common things do all these books have in common in this post? They’re written by Asian authors, and they’re books I want to read (and you should too!).

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to see so many intriguing books by Asian authors that are out this year. I may not have read any it, but I desperately want to, and I sure hope everybody is taking note and putting these books on their TBR list.

These are books that feature LBGTQ+ characters and retells history or a classic with a different spin. Let’s see what these books, shall we?

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu uses the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.

Why would I want to read She Who Became the Sun? It’s pretty bold of the publisher to market this as “Mulan meets The Song of Achilles” when this book is probably even more than those two stories. This sounds like a fantastic epic rooted down in history that features LGBTQ+ characters, which is everything I ever want in a book. I don’t read historical fiction fantasy, but that will change with She Who Became the Sun.

I imagine if people enjoyed the historical fantasy of The Poppy War, they will enjoy this too.

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

A reluctant medium discovers the ties that bind can unleash a dangerous power in this compelling Malaysian-set contemporary fantasy.

Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there’s only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma. In life Ah Ma was a spirit medium, the avatar of a mysterious deity called the Black Water Sister. Now she’s determined to settle a score against a gang boss who has offended the god–and she’s decided Jess is going to help her do it.

Drawn into a world of gods, ghosts, and family secrets, Jess finds that making deals with capricious spirits is a dangerous business. As Jess fights for retribution for Ah Ma, she’ll also need to regain control of her body and destiny. If she fails, the Black Water Sister may finish her off for good.

Why would I want to read Black Water Sister? Did you read that synopsis? A closeted Mayalasian woman who returns to her home country and discovers herself drawn into the supernatural world. Sign me up!

The Chosen and The Beautiful by Nghi Vo

Immigrant. Socialite. Magician.

Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.

But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.

Nghi Vo’s debut novel The Chosen and the Beautiful reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice.

Why would I want to read The Chosen and the Beautiful? Let’s be honest, The Great Gatsby would’ve been a hell of a lot more interesting if it was about a Queer person of color. At least we get it here! Everything about this book speaks to my entire soul. What’s not to like about books set in the 1920s Jazz Age? This is the Classic we deserve!

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

A princess in exile, the boy she left at the altar, six enchanted cranes, and a dragon from the deepest sea.

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Peniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne–a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain–no matter what it costs her.

Why would I want to read Six Crimson Cranes? We need more fairytale retellings featuring Asians!! Fairytales and mythology mixed all together? Let’s go.

The Tangleroot Palace by Marjorie Liu

Briar, bodyguard for a body-stealing sorceress, discovers her love for Rose, whose true soul emerges only once a week. An apprentice witch seeks her freedom through betrayal, the bones of the innocent, and a meticulously plotted spell. In a world powered by crystal skulls, a warrior returns to save China from invasion by her jealous ex. A princess runs away from an arranged marriage, finding family in a strange troupe of traveling actors at the border of the kingdom’s deep, dark woods.

Concluding with a gorgeous full-length novella, Marjorie Liu’s first short fiction collection is an unflinching sojourn into her thorny tales of love, revenge, and new beginnings.

Why would I want to read The Tangleroot Palace? Any stories written by Marjorie Liu should be an automatic read. I  immediately inhale any stories by her. There’s something about the way she weaves her stories—it’s absolutely riveting and magical, and no doubt that this story collection will be no different, especially with the range of stories she will tell.

Any of these books on your TBR list too? 


2 Responses to “TBR • Books by Asian Authors Everybody Should Read (Including Me)”

  1. […] Cee at The Novel Hermit recommended books by Asian authors everybody should read […]

  2. Fantastic list! She Who Became the Sun is amazing and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. I also have Black Water Sister and Six Crimson Cranes on my TBR.

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