#APICelebrAsian – top API-authored books

This month is Asian American Pacific Islander (API) Heritage Month and on Instagram I am featuring API-authored books as part of #APICelebrAsian. This weekend, the topic is favourite API-authored books.

Here are the books that are in the photo which I first posted on Instagram

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki (Japanese/Fiction)

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (Malaysian/Speculative fiction )

Mãn by Kim Thuy (Vietnamese/Fiction)

The Housekeeper and the Professor
The Diving Pool
by Yoko Ogawa
(Japanese/Fiction)

Inheritance
Sugarbread
by Balli Kaur Jaswal (Sikh-Singaporean/Fiction)

Half a Lifelong Romance
Love in a Fallen City
by Eileen Chang
(Chinese/Fiction)

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Korean/Historical fiction)

The Song Poet by Kao Kaila Yang  (Hmong/Memoir)

Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo (Chinese-Malaysian/Historical fiction)

Shelter by Jung Yun (Korean/Fiction)

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (Chinese/Graphic novel)

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka (Japanese/ Historical fiction)

The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy (Indian/Speculative fiction)

Kinder than Solitude by Yiyun Li (Chinese/Fiction)

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (Japanese/Middle Grade)

向左走向右走 (Turn Left, Turn Right) by Jimmy Liao (Taiwanese/Graphic novel)

The Year She Left Us by Kathryn Ma (Chinese/Fiction)

Are some of these among your favourites too?

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Family Trust by Kathy Wang

This book appealed to me for several reasons.

– it’s set in the San Francisco Bay Area and perhaps more importantly, not just the city itself but also the rest of the Bay Area. Don’t get me wrong, I like the city (well parts of it at least), the husband works there and all, but we live in the East Bay and it’s nice to see other parts of the area talked about.

– it’s a story about East Asian immigrants. They are originally from Taiwan, as are many of those in the Bay Area and I’m always interested in stories about immigration, particularly from Asia.

Also it opens with a whopper of a first sentence.

“Stanley Huang sat, naked but for the thing cotton dressing gown crumpled against the sterile white paper in the hospital room, and listened to the young doctor describe how he would die.”

He’s been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and this is the story of how he and his family deal with it.

He has a son, Fred, Harvard Business School grad, who’s been trying to make it big in the fintech industry but hasn’t quite yet. His daughter Kate is doing well at a well-known Silicon Valley company but is struggling with the balance of home and work. Also something seems to be up with her husband who is trying to get his start-up going.

Then there is their mother, Stanley’s ex-wife, Linda, perhaps a less-than-usual Asian woman of her time, one who continued working for decades, and yes, even divorced her husband. She’s even been thinking of dating again!

“What was one supposed to say, when one’s now-ex-husband of thirty-four years was struck with such a diagnosis?”

Stanley’s current wife Mary is 28 years younger than him. She’s a former waitress and has devoted her new life to caring for Stanley but now with Stanley dying, his family is suspicious of her motives.

For Stanley has often hinted at his riches – in the millions! Who deserves it more, the one who’s been caring for him in recent years? His children? Linda is determined to make sure her kids get their fair share.

Family Trust is a Silicon Valley story. It is also an Asian family story. It is also an American story. It’s a story about the pursuit of success, about money, about family obligation. There probably will be Crazy Rich Asians comparisons but as someone not a fan of that series, let me just say that Family Trust is better. Its characters are complex yet relatable, its observations of Silicon Valley life and family relationships are astute and witty. A great debut!

Honestly, Linda has some of the best lines.

“The woman likely didn’t even think she spoke English, regarding her as just another sexless Asian dotting her periphery – someone who could be ignored at will, like a houseplant.”

 

And here’s another – apparently there are differences according to where you landed up as an immigrant.

“Everyone knew that the best Chinese immigrants of their generation were settled in California, and mostly in the Bay Area. There were some in Los Angeles, but then you ran the risk of ending up with some sleazy import/exporter. And Linda had no intention of being matched with some grocery store operator in, say, Reno.”

 

“She knew exactly how Americans saw women like the Mercedes driver – as indistinguishable from herself. An Asian lady consumed with the creation and consumption of money, who neglected to hug her children. Why did white people like to pick and choose from cultures with such zealous judgment? Of course they just loved Szechuan cuisine served by a young waitress in a cheap cheongsam, but as soon as you proved yourself just as adept at the form of capitalism they had invented? Then you were obsessed. Money crazed. Unworthy of sympathy.”

#AsianLitBingo – The Land of Forgotten Girls

Ever since Erin Entrada Kelly’s third book, Hello, Universe, won the 2018 Newbery award, I’ve been curious about her books. And now that I’ve read one, how I wish I could have read it when I was a kid!

It’s a bit of a sad story really, two young girls move to the US from the Philippines not long after their sister and mother die and their father remarries this woman Vea, who really falls into the “evil stepmother” category. Life isn’t easy but then three years ago, their father returns to the Philippines for a funeral and never returns to America.

“Unfortunately, we still have Vea.”

Vea, who complains a lot, smokes a lot, and locks Sol in the closet when she misbehaves.

12-year-old Sol is defiant but her younger sister Ming is young and doesn’t know any better.

“I’m not a disobedient girl, even though Papa and Vea say I am. Vea thinks it’s because I’m being raised in America, but that’s not it. I just don’t think it’s right to obey orders that you know are wrong – and calling Vea “Mother” was as bad as cursing God.”

They live in lower-income housing. Thin walls, the kind you can hear all kinds of sounds through, and rats. It’s a bleak and depressing place, but Sol tries to make it a better one for her sister by telling her fairytales and stories she makes up or remembers from what their mother told her, including stories about their made-up Auntie Jove, a beautiful adventurer who travels the world and was blessed by fairies.  Ming holds on to the hope of being found by Auntie Jove.

Sol wants to make Ming a treehouse, a place for her to escape, and she breaks into a junkyard to get materials but gets caught by the junkyard owner, who has a change of heart and showcases his artistic side. Similarly, she finds a friend in neighbour Mrs Yeung, a silent Chinese woman. Perhaps there is hope after all for the two girls.

Sol is a great character – spunky, driven, and independent. She’s also a fierce defender of her younger sister. And while she does some silly things like stealing popsicles from the store and breaking into the junkyard, she knows right from wrong, and knows that their living situation isn’t ideal but that as a child, she can hardly do anything about it.

I really liked this story about a young, lower-income, immigrant girl struggling to fit in. As an adult reader, I think I wanted the book to touch more on race and class issues. But if I had been reading this as a 10-year-old I would have enjoyed this a lot, the way it brings in a bit of fantasy into reality.

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Asian Immigrant MC.

See the rest of my TBR list here

Find out more details about the challenge here.

Books I’m Looking Forward To in 2017 (the diverse version)

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Books I’m Looking Forward To For The First Half Of 2017

(links are to Goodreads)

The Refugees – Viet Thanh Nguyen (Feb. 7)

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Feb. 7)

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag, trans. by Srinath Perur (Feb. 7)

Exit West – Mohsin Hamid. Riverhead, Mar. 7

Tender – Sofia Samatar (April 11)

Notes of a Crocodile – Qiu Miaojin, trans. by Bonnie Huie (May 2)

Men Without Women – Haruki Murakami, trans. by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen (May 9)

The Nakano Thrift Shop – Hiromi Kawakami, trans. by Allison Markin Powell (June 6)

Boundless – Jillian Tamaki (June 6)

Sorcerer Royal – Zen Cho (July 4) – I realize this isn’t the first half of 2017 but I’m too excited to care.