May Hopefuls: Asian Heritage Month

Happy May, bibliophiles! I have been soooo excited because it is AAPI heritage month! I was born in India and spent my formative years in Thailand, so Asian culture and literature are near and dear to my heart. In light of all the anti-Asian rhetoric and rise in hate crimes, I think it’s more important than ever to broaden our understanding of cultures that may be different to our own. Reading is, of course, only one way to begin this process, but how lucky are we that we have a way to do so from the comfort of our own homes?

With finals over the next two weeks and an internship (!!!) starting shortly after, I have a feeling my reading is about to slow down. But that’s okay! Life happens, and we’re just going to have to see how far I get. Here are the ones I chose (after a lot of back and forth) in the hopes of reading different genres as well as supporting authors from different backgrounds (not limited to American authors!). Note that you can access the book’s Goodreads page by clicking on the image!

P.s. I’m playing around with graphics for my posts – I’m woefully inadequate at any sort of visual creative design so please bear with me while I experiment ☺️

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

A marvelous new novel from the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Lowland and Interpreter of Maladies–her first in nearly a decade.

Exuberance and dread, attachment and estrangement: in this novel, Jhumpa Lahiri stretches her themes to the limit. The woman at the center wavers between stasis and movement, between the need to belong and the refusal to form lasting ties. The city she calls home, an engaging backdrop to her days, acts as a confidant: the sidewalks around her house, parks, bridges, piazzas, streets, stores, coffee bars. We follow her to the pool she frequents and to the train station that sometimes leads her to her mother, mired in a desperate solitude after her father’s untimely death. In addition to colleagues at work, where she never quite feels at ease, she has girl friends, guy friends, and “him,” a shadow who both consoles and unsettles her. But in the arc of a year, as one season gives way to the next, transformation awaits. One day at the sea, both overwhelmed and replenished by the sun’s vital heat, her perspective will change. This is the first novel she has written in Italian and translated into English. It brims with the impulse to cross barriers. By grafting herself onto a new literary language, Lahiri has pushed herself to a new level of artistic achievement.

My thoughts: Jhumpa Lahiri is a name I have heard since I was a kid. My mother has always spoken about her with so much awe, and it’s not too difficult to understand where that comes from. She wrote this novel in Italian back in 2018 and then translated it to English herself! Isn’t that wild? I’m so excited to pick up Whereabouts once it’s out on May 4th.

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…

My thoughts: I have been seeing this book everywhere and it sounds like just what I need. It’s been a rough year, and it’s been really important for me to balance out my heavy, depressing reads with something lighter. What better than a cozy mystery? This one is also out on May 4th, and I can’t wait to sink into it.

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi

Jayne Baek is barely getting by. She shuffles through fashion school, saddled with a deadbeat boyfriend, clout-chasing friends, and a wretched eating disorder that she’s not fully ready to confront. But that’s New York City, right? At least she isn’t in Texas anymore, and is finally living in a city that feels right for her.

On the other hand, her sister June is dazzlingly rich with a high-flying finance job and a massive apartment. Unlike Jayne, June has never struggled a day in her life. Until she’s diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Suddenly, these estranged sisters who have nothing in common are living together. Because sisterly obligations are kind of important when one of you is dying.

My thoughts: Honestly, this is one of those books where the cover just drew me in. Then I read the synopsis and was invested at “two estranged sisters switching places and committing insurance fraud to save one of their lives”. It seems that the book also deals with other important themes that I’m interested in so I’m excited to delve into all the layers.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Acclaimed author of Ash Malinda Lo returns with her most personal and ambitious novel yet, a gripping story of love and duty set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Red Scare.

“That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: “Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

My thoughts: I won’t lie, I think I’m most excited for this book. San Fransisco will always have a special place in my heart because it’s where I began my career, and I still live just half an hour away! I have spent so much time wandering through Chinatown, often wondering about its history, so this synopsis immediately caught my eye.

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

1 (accidental) murder
2 thousand wedding guests
3 (maybe) cursed generations
4 meddling Asian aunties to the rescue!

When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is accidentally shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working, at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for their family wedding business—“Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream cake flowers.

But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?

My thoughts: One cozy mystery is obviously not enough, especially with a synopsis like this! Nosy, meddling aunties are something I am quite familiar with so the title alone was enough for Dial A for Aunties to make it on my TBR.

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He

One of the most twisty, surprising, engaging page-turner YAs you’ll read this year—We Were Liars meets Black Mirror, with a dash of Studio Ghibli.

Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay. Determined to find her, Cee devotes her days to building a boat from junk parts scavenged inland, doing everything in her power to survive until the day she gets off the island and reunites with her sister.

In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara is also living a life of isolation. The eco-city she calls home is one of eight levitating around the world, built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.

Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But as the public decries her stance, she starts to second guess herself and decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.

My thoughts: This sounds like an intriguing mix of sci-fi, mystery, and family drama – and has been continuously cited as a highly anticipated release on many wonderful blogs that I follow. I enjoyed We Were Liars, so the comparisons being drawn there were also a huge plus for this book making it to my May TBR.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

My thoughts: Look, for all the hate that Romeo and Juliet gets, I still love it. I can quote parts of it without being asked, it’s a problem. I think I actually might have quoted a bit during my Cambridge interview but that’s a time I’d like to forget about. Anyways, when I heard of Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights, I knew without a doubt that it would have to be on my May TBR. Her sequel is also out later this year so I’ll have something to look forward to once I’m done!

The Parted Earth by Anjali Enjeti

In August 1947, 16-year-old Deepa’s life in New Delhi begins to unravel in the days leading up to the birth of the Muslim minority nation of Pakistan, and the Hindu majority nation of India. Her secret Muslim boyfriend Amir, who sends her origami love notes, must now flee with his sister Layla and their parents to Lahore, Pakistan. Amir promises to return to Delhi to marry Deepa after the violence of Partition has ended. Soon after Amir’s departure, Deepa’s parents are killed. Her God-parents, fearful that Deepa is in grave danger, force her to move with them to London. Nine months later, Deepa gives birth to Vijay. She never sees or hears from Amir again.

After a devastating miscarriage in Atlanta in the present day, 40-year-old newly unemployed Shanthi (“Shan”) Johnson must confront her husband Max about his reckless spending. While grieving both her pregnancy loss and her marriage’s subsequent implosion, she finds clues that lead her to believe that the real reason her deceased father Vijay had abandoned her and her mother 30 years earlier to move to New Delhi was because he was in search of his father, a man he’d never known. To kickstart her life again, Shan moves out of her marital home, searches for a new job, and resumes her father’s search for her grandfather, whose name, she later learns, is Amir. To find Amir, Shan must first track down her estranged 86-year-old grandmother Deepa, a prickly woman who never wanted to have anything to do with Shan. During Shan’s search, which eventually takes her to Amsterdam and New Delhi, she comes to realize that the origami love notes Amir once sent to Deepa may be the clue to their reunion.

My thoughts: This choice was a personal one. Like I mentioned up top, I am Indian and the India-Pakistan partition is a piece of history that I have been continually exposed to through casual dialogue, movies, shows, etc. As a result, I’ve sort of avoided books on the topic? Not because I didn’t care or wasn’t interested, but I felt a little oversaturated. The premise of The Parted Earth, however, sounds very different to anything else that I have consumed around this topic so I knew I had to add it to my list.

And that’s a wrap on my May TBR! Do any of these books stand out to you? What are you planning on reading in May? Let me know in the comments below!

12 thoughts on “May Hopefuls: Asian Heritage Month

  1. The cover of last night at the telegraph club is killing it!!!!!! I loved these violent delights!! And so glad that you added it on the list! Being an indian, I am soo excited for this month!! And to see so many people talk about asian books!! Or books by asian authors ❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahaha YES! I totally understand! I researched and posted a WHOLE LIST of diverse cosy mysteries because I wanted to keep the vibe going 😂 I was like, more of this needs to exist!!!!!! hahah I hope you’re having fun! 🥰🥰

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The current anti-Asian abuse brings to my mind the 2007-08 financial crisis, which resulted in the biggest, and perhaps the most culpably corrupt, mainstream U.S. bankers not being criminally indicted but rather given their multi-million-dollar performance bonuses via taxpayer-funded bailout. Yet, the feds, in a classical cowardly move, only charged some high-level staff with a relatively small-potatoes Chinese-American community bank as a figurative sacrificial lamb that couldn’t really fight back and who looked different from most other Americans.

    Some people will always find an excuse to despise the ‘other’ or ‘them’.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed. … What humankind may need to suffer in order to survive the long term from ourselves is an even greater nemesis (perhaps a multi-tentacled ET?) than our own politics and perceptions of differences, against which we could all unite, attack and defeat — all during which we’d be forced to work closely side-by-side together and witness just how humanly similar we are to each other. (Albeit, I’ve been told that one or more human parties might actually attempt to forge an allegiance with the ETs to better their own chances for survival, thus indicating that our wanting human condition may be even worse than I had thought.)

        Still, maybe some five or more decades later when all traces of the nightmarish ET invasion are gone, we’ll inevitably revert to the same typical politics of scale to which we humans seem so collectively hopelessly prone; including that of the intercontinental, international, national, provincial or state, regional and municipal.
        Hypothetically, reduce our species to just a few city blocks of residents who are superficially similar in every way, and there will be some form of bitter inter-neighborhood quarreling, before long.

        Like

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