#AsianLitBingo 2019 Wrap-up!

 

I had a fun time reading books for this challenge

 

Here is what I read:

Edinburgh by Alexander Chee LGBTQIAP+ Asian MC #ownvoices

Emergency Contact by Mary H K ChoiRomance with POC love interest #ownvoices

River of Stars by Vanessa Hua Asian Immigrant MC #ownvoices

Not Your Sidekick by CB LeeAsian superhero MC #ownvoices

My Brother’s Husband Vol 2 by Gengoroh TagameGraphic novel with Asian MC #ownvoices

Bad Friends by Ancco  – Poor or working class MC #ownvoices

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay South Asian MC #ownvoices

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo East Asian MC #ownvoices

Emergency Contact by Mary H K Choi #AsianLitBingo

 

It was thanks to being laid up in bed due to a minor procedure that I borrowed this book. All the other books on my tablet were just too serious and heavy reading for that day and I was looking for something that would be fun and lighthearted and so I reached for YA.

I love how there is so much diversity going on in YA and while I had said earlier in a previous post, how I wished I could be a teen and reading all this, I’m just going to go ahead and get my diverse YA fix now.

Emergency Contact is definitely one book my teenaged self would have approved of. Because Penny is that kind of awkward, cynical, and not very sociable person I was (and sometimes still am). She is introduced to Sam as he is her roommate’s uncle of sorts (his mom and her grandfather were married for a quick minute). But only really talks to him after she notices him having a panic attack in the street one day. She makes sure he’s ok, gives him a ride back to the cafe where he works (and unknown to her, where he lives) and adds her number to his phone to make sure he gets home safe. She’s now his “emergency contact”.

This book has been on the back of my TBR list for a while, but I think that I’ve always been a bit hesitant because I didn’t think I wanted to read a book in which texting seems to be at the forefront. But in the end, the text conversations actually felt quite natural and comfortable to read.

And I found myself just hanging on to every word in this book. I read it in one sitting.

It seems like this is the kind of book that you either detest or love (at least judging from the polarizing Goodreads reviews). I loved it. I can see why some people may not like it but for me, this was a thumbs up.

 

 

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – romance with POC love interest

Edinburgh by Alexander Chee #AsianLitBingo

This review is not going to do justice to this book. This book needs a proper, more insightful one than these notes I’m writing. Because it’s the kind of book that makes you go, wow, this is a writer who can write. This is a writer whose words can move mountains, make tea go cold without noticing, tears fall from unsuspecting eyes. This is a writer whom, I imagine, writers look up to, but also are perhaps afraid, wondering, can I write like this too?

For Alexander Chee has taken a subject that is ugly and perverse and has sculpted it into something moving and somehow, beautiful.

(Autocorrect keeps changing my “moving” into “loving” but really, loving is an equally suitable word for this book.)

A young boy joins a boys’ choir. Aphias or Fee is 12 and Korean-Scottish. He may look a bit different from the other boys but like them, he is sexually abused by the choir director.

Edinburgh is the story of how he overcomes this childhood trauma and the loss of those he loves.

It is no easy read but it is haunting and spectacular, even more so when I realized this was his debut novel. It may seem like a weird juxtaposition but this book was both beautiful and brutal.

River of Stars by Vanessa Hua #AsianLitBingo

At Perfume Bay, women are getting ready to give birth. It is a facility specifically for women from China who want to have their babies in America, for to be born in America gives their babies citizenship.

Scarlett is one of the twelve pregnant women, sent there by her lover Boss Yeung, a powerful man with lots of guanxi and gets her the best room in the house.

But at an ultrasound, Scarlett discovers that the baby boy she’s been expecting is actually a girl. Another daughter for Boss Yeung. She worries about the future of her daughter, and when she learns that Boss Yeung wants to pay her to hand over the baby, whom he still thinks is a boy, she decides to run away. Another Perfurme Bay inhabitant, Daisy, a teenager whose parents sent her away to have her baby, takes off with her too.

The two pregnant women head to San Francisco’s Chinatown where they struggle to figure out how to support themselves and their two babies. Meanwhile, Boss Yeung continues to search for his son, and Daisy begins to search for the father of her baby. Scarlett’s tourist visa is expiring and while desperately trying to scrounge for money for rent and necessities, she also has to worry about how to stay on in the US.

A solid story about motherhood and the American dream. The desperation and struggles that  the two women go through is honest and moving.

(Spoiler alert!)

 

 

 

 

The women’s stories were compelling but the men in this story seem rather uneven. Boss Yeung, I can’t really tell sometimes whether we are meant to dislike him or not. At times he’s  heartless or is he really just in pursuit of his true love? But for me, the part that doesn’t seem to sit well with the rest of the book is the super-sweet ending that Daisy receives. Maybe if her ending turned out different, I would have rated this higher. Maybe if the book had kept more of its focus on the two women? It bothered me, this saccharine ending. Maybe I am just too skeptical…

 

 

 

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Asian Immigrant MC

Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee #AsianLitBingo

I’ve had this book on my TBR for a while but never got around to picking it up from the library. But I wanted to read a book with an Asian superhero for Asian Lit Bingo so this filled the theme perfectly.

Although when we first meet Jess Tran, she’s desperately trying to find out what exactly her superpower is – does she even have any in the first place? Why so desperate? Well, it is post World War III, and there are meta-humans. More specifically, her parents are superheroes – her father can fly and so can her older sister. Her parents are Smasher and Shockwave, the two resident heroes of Andover. C-list heroes that is.

And since Jess will be turning 17 in a week, she needs to find out what powers she has, as no one has presented with powers after the age of 17.

She doesn’t even have an “unacceptable” ability like the power to change the colour of her fingernails. She’s resigned to the possibility that she will never have powers and lands herself a dream internship instead. But it turns out that she’s working for the town’s villains (and her parents’ enemies). On the other hand, she gets to work with Abby, whom Jess has had a secret crush on.

I love that Jess is bisexual Vietnamese- Chinese, and that she struggles with trying to figure out who she is. The background to the story is fun and Jess and her friends are very appealing. The romance in the story was sweet too. But parts of the book were a bit meandering and the plot wasn’t the greatest. I don’t want to spoil it for you but it’s kind of the way Superman puts on his glasses and tada he is unrecognisable as Clark Kent.

It was a fun read though and I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series, Not Your Villain, which has Bells as the main character.

My Brother’s Husband Vol 2 by Gengoroh Tagame

This is volume two of this two-part series so if you haven’t read it yet, please understand that there may be spoilers!

So go go go! Go read the first part!

Ok!

So since you’re still reading, I’m guessing you know that this is a continuation of the stories of Mike, Yaichi and Kana. Mike is still staying with Yaichi and Kana.

Yaichi continues to understand more about his feelings towards Mike’s relationship with his brother. He’s starting to realize that they make a family too, even though they may not look like your typical Japanese family.

The three of them, as well as Kana’s mother, take a trip to an onsen and you’re going to want to start booking a trip to Japan because oh, I definitely did after reading those pages!

But wanderlust aside, I loved how Yaichi continues to grow in this volume. His talk with Kana’s teacher is a lesson in calm and sensibility. His realization about his treatment of his brother is devastating and yet also redeeming.

And I shed many a tear as the book drew to an end.

What an absolute pleasure this series was to read.

(I just found out that there is a TV series based on the book – three episodes were aired in Japan in 2018 – hopefully it’ll be something that will be available in the US??)

 

 

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Graphic novel with Asian MC.

Bad Friends by Ancco #AsianLitBingo

Wow this book was really brutal and, to be honest, quite depressing.

Why read it then?

What made me borrow this book was because it’s a translated comic, and one from Korea. I haven’t read many Korean comics, and this was a rare one on the library shelves.

The story is told from the perspective of 16-year-old Pearl, growing up in the 1990s in a poor neighbourhood in Seoul, South Korea. Her father is abusive, but then so is nearly every relative in the building she lives in, who treat her like a punching bag.

“But in all the times Dad beat me, I never once hated him.

Any parent would have done the same.”

Those lines just made me ache with anger and sadness.

Pearl has a group of close friends at school. Her best friend is Jeong-Ae and the two of them run away for a while, staying at a motel and trying to get work as hostesses. But they both eventually return home. While Pearl has an abusive father, she realizes that her family is more ‘normal’ than the other girls’ families, especially Jeong-Ae’s. That while her father beats her, there is still someone who cares for her and wants better for her. One day, Jeong-Ae doesn’t turn up at school and no one knows where she is, although rumors are rampant. Pearl, ten years later, wonders what happened to her best friend.

“Why did it take me so long to figure out that being beaten didn’t have to be part of life?”

I came away from this book wondering if Korean culture was still like that – this acceptance of physical abuse. Parents, usually fathers, hitting, kicking, punching their children. Students physically hurting each other in school. Even teachers abuse their students.

It’s not uncommon to have canes in households in Singapore, even today. I don’t know about schools now but when I was in primary school, I remember that some teachers had canes. Is it something that’s just more accepted in Asian societies?

A harsh but honest look at the lives of these young women. One of the most disturbing books I’ve read.

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Poor or working class MC