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November & December Bookmarks: 24 New Books by Asian Writers

The art of queer diaspora, surreal stories of contemporary China, journeys into the history of the Philippine-American War, and the story of the subcontinent through bodies of water.

By Johanna Dong

Across Oceans of Law by Renisa Mawani

In 1914 the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru carried 376 passengers from Punjab to Vancouver, where 352 were denied entry, deported back to Calcutta, and fired upon by British police, ending with 20 dead. Sociologist Renisa Mawani recounts this incident and dives into the deeper politics and social structures behind it, all the while tracing the history of oceanic law. (Duke University Press, August)






Sticky Rice by Cynthia Wu

In queer Asian American culture, the term ‘sticky rice’ refers to Asian American men who desire other Asian American men. In her nonfiction book Sticky Rice: A Politics of Intraracial Desire, gender studies scholar Cynthia Wu analyzes popular Asian American literature through their portrayals of homosexual and intraracial desire. Wu then posits that this trope can be more widely applied to understand the internal conflicts of the overall Asian American diaspora. (Temple University Press, Sep 18)





Sharky Malarkey by Megan Nicole Dong

Sharky Malarkey collects Megan Nicole Dong’s popular webcomic Sketchshark, following a dysfunctional shark actor named Bruce and his accompanying assortment of similarly dysfunctional humans and animals. Hilarious and extremely relatable, this collection of comics highlights the absurdity of daily life. You can watch Megan read from the book alongside Aminder Dhaliwal at our Comics & Friendship event. (Andrews McMeel Publishing, Sep 18)






ESL or You Weren’t Here by Aldrin Valdez

This unique debut collection of poems from queer Pinoy writer Aldrin Valdez explores themes of immigration, post-imperialism and -colonialism, and fractured childhoods. ESL is tender yet unflinching, telling a cohesive story throughout. Writes Maggie Nelson, “ESL is that rare book of poems that unfurls a story while also offering lovely, satisfying poems page by page. Valdez has written one long song I’m honored to hear.” (Nightboat Books, Oct 2)






City of Pearls by Sham-e-Ali Nayeem

Poet and visual artist Sham-e-Ali Nayeem delivers a debut collection about the essence of story. Inspired by Nayeem’s birthplace of Hyderabad and her upbringing in the UK and the US, these poems recall vivid imagery of place and weave together a saga of family through the themes of memory and love. (UpSet Press, Oct 15)






Amreekiya: A Novel by Lena Mahmoud

Lena Mahmoud’s debut novel follows a young Palestinian-American woman named Isra, weaving together two timelines of Isra’s childhood as well as her present-day married life. Isra must navigate cultural expectations, language disparities, and the complications of love. (University Press of Kentucky, Oct 22)






Obits by Tess Liem

Tess Liem’s prose poetry collection takes the form of elegies, mourning and memorializing those who have been forgotten or marginalized by history. Subjects of these poems include figures from Liem’s own family background and Indonesian heritage, as well as victims of historical atrocities. (Coach House Books, October)






Blame This on The Boogie by Rina Ayuyang

Rina Ayuyang lays out her personal experiences as a young Filipino American girl in this vibrant comic, showcasing her lifelong love of Hollywood musicals and how they were her method of coping with depression, cultural identity, and later, parenthood. Though the stories are introspective in nature, they are presented alongside dazzling depictions of music and dance and Hollywood magic, a tribute to the power of joy in escapism. (Drawn & Quarterly, Nov 6)






The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim

Two sisters are separated at the onset of the Korean War, one brought to America by their parents and growing up in suburban idyll, the other left with extended family in South Korea just as the war begins. Throughout the course of the novel, told in alternating perspectives between the two sisters, the Cho family grapples with long-buried secrets and the desperation of wartime. Says Min Jin Lee, “The Kinship of Secrets is a beautiful allegory of loss and recovery … a gorgeous achievement.” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Nov 6)






The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family by Lindsay Wong

Lindsay Wong recounts her experience being raised in a family prone to blaming misfortunes on Chinese ghosts called the woo-woo, with a grandmother who is paranoid and schizophrenic and an aunt who is driven to a psychotic episode. In turns dark and dryly humorous, this memoir is a shocking yet honest portrayal of family dysfunction and mental illness. (Arsenal Pulp Press, Nov 6)






The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories by Yukiko Motoya, translated by Asa Yoneda

In her English debut, Japanese writer Yukiko Motoya delivers an endlessly inventive collection of bizarre, surrealist short stories. Combined with uncanny characters, from face-shifting spouses to inhuman customers, Motoya’s unique magical realism settings make these stories unforgettable. (Soft Skull Press, Nov 6)






Farewell, My Orange by Iwaki Kei, translated by Meredith McKinney

In Iwaki Kei’s debut novel, two immigrant women, Salimah from Nigeria and Sayuri from Japan, arrive in Australia and form an unlikely friendship after the death of Sayuri’s infant daughter. In the face of tragic loss, they bond to face down challenges of learning a new language, staying afloat amid financial troubles, and navigating their own personal relationships. (Europa Editions, Nov 13)






Insurrecto by Gina Apostol

From the award-winning author of Gun Dealers’ Daughter comes a clashing tale of a Filipino translator and an American filmmaker who travel together through the Philippines, each writing their own version of a 1901 massacre in Samar during the Philippine-American War. Insurrecto tells the stories of a multitude of women against a backdrop of dramatic history, never backing down from the brutal truth. (Soho Press, Nov 13)






The April 3rd Incident by Yu Hua, translated by Allan H. Barr

The April 3rd Incident is a short story collection comprised of acclaimed Chinese author Yu Hua’s best early works. These stories, written in a period of great cultural change in contemporary China, portray a multitude of characters in surrealist settings—from absurdist conspiracies to people who dream in parallel. (Pantheon, Nov 13)






Seventeen by Hideo Yokoyama, trans. Louise Heal Kawai
Based on the events of one of the deadliest airplane crashes in aviation history, Hideo Yokoyama’s latest thriller follows one journalist covering the story of Japan Airlines Flight 123’s crash on Mount Osaka—from getting the scoop on the story in 1985 to the haunting promise that follows him later in life, seventeen years later in 2003. (MCD x FSG, Nov 13)



Unruly Visions: The Aesthetic Practices of Queer Diaspora by Gayatri Gopinath

Gayatri Gopinath, a professor of gender and sexuality studies, examines the visual culture of the queer diaspora in this nonfiction book. Through the lens of photography, film, poetry, and more, Gopinath investigates the diaspora’s contemporary history, providing a unique perspective on colonialism, dislocation, and institutionalized violence. (Duke UP, Nov 16)






All the Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy

At the time of World War II, a young artist in India named Gayatri abandons her family in pursuit of her own freedom after running into a German artist she once knew. Told in the present-day from the point of view of her son, Myshkin, Gayatri’s life story unfolds as he travels across the world in an attempt to define and piece together his own roots. Says author Kamila Shamsie, “[All the Lives We Never Lived] is a beautifully written and compelling story of how families fall apart and of what remains in the aftermath.” (Atria Books, Nov 20)







The Bird Catcher and Other Stories by Fayeza Hasanat

Central to this collection of eight short stories are themes of family relationships and the intersection of gender and diasporic identity. The characters in these stories hail from Bangladesh and its diaspora, including a wife who wants to walk into the sea, a college professor struggling with language stereotypes, and a bird and a recluse who debate philosophy in a surrealist setting. (Jaded Ibis Press, Nov 27)







The Autobiography of Death by Kim Hyesoon, translated by Don Mee Choi

Each of the forty-nine poems in The Autobiography of Death reflects one day of a soul roaming after death until it is reincarnated, a core belief in Buddhism. In this collection acclaimed Korean poet Kim Hyesoon explores trauma, history and erasure, and the cyclical nature of death in this unique and haunting collection. (New Directions, Nov 27)






Aliasing by Mara Coson

Manila-based author Mara Coson weaves together a multitude of narratives in her novel Aliasing, combining both traditional tales and stories centered around figures from contemporary Filipino history. (Book Works, November)







At the End of the Century: The Stories of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

This collection of short stories, featuring works chosen by Jhabvala’s remaining family members and an introduction by Anita Desai, centers on characters from the Indian and European/American middle classes. With honest and profound observations, these stories tap into the interior mechanics of everyday life. (Counterpoint Press, Dec 4)






The Day the Sun Died by Yan Lianke, translated by Carlos Rojas

One night in a small Chinese village, young Li Niannian notices his neighbors beginning to dreamwalk, working the fields and going about their business as if the sun had never set. Chaos sets in as the villagers carry out their suppressed desires in the depths of night, and Li Niannian and his parents must find a way to end the madness before the sun rises once more. (Grove Atlantic, Dec 11)






Unruly Waters: How Rains, Rivers, Coasts, and Seas Have Shaped Asia’s History by Sunil Amrith

Historian Sunil Amrith recounts the history of a continent through the history of its water and the people who control it. Water as a resource has served as a vital factor in economic development, shaped social/political structures both within and between countries, and impacted the minutiae of everyday life. Amrith then looks to the present day and the future, where climate change and other human-made environmental disasters are changing the landscape of Asia. (Basic Books, Dec 11)






Unsustainable Empire: Alternative Histories of Hawai’i Statehood by Dean Itsuji Saranillio

Historian and cultural studies professor Dean Itsuji Saranillio investigates the truth of Hawai’i’s path to U.S. statehood, focusing on the largely erased perspective of Native Hawaiian opposition. By exploring multiple accounts of the complex history, Saranillio reveals that statehood was in fact the result of America’s unsustainable empire, held together through Western imperialism. (Duke University Press, Dec 23)