You know, when you have a brilliant haul from the library, the most difficult decision lies in which book you’re going to want to read first! At least that is the problem I am currently faced with!
Recently, I have been struggling with my reading. My ADHD has been very rambunctious, which when coupled with my holiday-time anxiety and depression, makes it rather difficult for me to focus on reading. Thus, it takes me forever to finish books. I’m already a pretty slow reader (I read as much as I do because I can marathon read when my brain behaves properly), so all of these things just sort of exasperate that. Sometimes it can make me feel inadequate as a bibliophile, but then I remind myself how much joy I get from books and that it’s a form of self-care, and it tends to make me feel immensely better! When I go to the library riding those awesome feelings… I come home with an entire tote-bag of new reads. Which is precisely what happened recently.
I am super proud of this haul because it is entirely packed with #OwnVoices Asian literature novels, and more than a few that aren’t specifically Chinese or Japanese narratives (my most common finds usually). I do have a couple Chinese titles, but the rest are from South Asia and South East Asia. How amazing is that? The genres themselves vary from fantasy to contemporary to historical fiction, for adults and middle-grade audiences alike, which helps keep the intensity and focus requirements balanced, and I appreciate that so much as a mood reader. Anyhoo, check them out below!
The Poppy War by R. Kuang
This is a #OwnVoices Chinese epic fantasy novel that I have seen going around the bookish community, whether in the blogsphere or over on BookTube. Normally, I don’t go for hyped books, but the comparisons of it to other fabulous fantasy novels—such as Grace of Kings by Ken Liu—had me intrigued enough to where I had to snag it, especially since I magically discovered it sitting on a library shelf. At it’s the core, the novel is a military fantasy that is inspired by Chinese history—1900s era—filled with tons of magic and duplicity. Really, what else can a person ask for?
The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa
This is a #OwnVoices Chinese historical fiction novel that sounded sensuously and scandalously wicked to me. Seeing that it’s authored by someone who writes wonderfully, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to resist it. Taking place in 1930s Manchuria after a Japanese invasion, the story is about a young girl who reaches her own sexual coming-of-age. She gets swept away in an intricate web between two boys and avoids the complications of that situation by playing Go with strangers in a public square. Unbeknownst to the girl, her most frequent and worthy opponent is a Japanese soldier in disguise. Captivated by her beauty and her bold, head-strong personality, the soldier begins to find his loyalties in question.
Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu
This is an #OwnVoices Sri-Lankan, LGBTQIA+ novel (HOW CAN I NOT BE EXCITED FOR THIS?!) that has one of the most original premises I’ve ever come across. The book is also described as being filled with contemplative intersection of race, sexuality, and nationality. Can you see me drooling yet?
Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They concoct this illusions of marital bliss for their conservative Sri-Lankan-American families, while dating other people on the side. Then Lucky’s grandmother has a terrible fall, and she returns to her childhood home, where she connects with her first lover, Nisha, who is preparing to get married to a guy. As their connection deepens, Lucky tries to save Nisha from doing something that goes against what she believes in. But can Nisha be saved? Does Lucky have the right to help Nisha when she’s in her own sticky situation, one filled to the brim with lies?
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshni Chokshi
This is an #OwnVoices Indian-American middle-grade fantasy novel that my Indian soul just could not put off any longer! I actually had the library put this book—along with the next two titles—on hold for me. It’s about a 12-year-old girl named Aru Shah, who tends to lie a tiny bit at school so she can fit in. While her friends are going off on fancy vacations, she’s stuck at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to get back from her latest archaeological gig. One day, a few schoolmates visit Aru to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, so they dare her to prove otherwise. Unwilling to back down, Aru makes a decision that will have dire consequences, one that shall free an ancient demon whose sole duty is to awaken the God of Destruction.
The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta
This is an #OwnVoices Indian-American, middle-grade fantasy about a 12-year-old girl named Kiranmala who’s never placed much faith in her parents’ stories about her being an Indian princess. Until one day her parents vanish and a rakkhosh demon busts into her kitchen, desperate to eat her alive. One thing leads to another, and suddenly Kiran is pulled into another dimension filled with magic, winged horses, demons, and annoying, talking birds. She must navigate through riddles and avoid a murderous Queen, all so she can get her parents back.
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
This #OwnVoices Indian-American, middle-grade historical fiction story has a much more serious tone to it than the previous two. It takes place in 1947 India, with its newly acquired independence from British rule, except now it has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. This divide creates severe tensions between Muslims and Hindus alike, where hundred of thousands are killing one another at the borders. Half-Muslim, half-Hindu Nisha, who is only 12-years-old, doesn’t have a clue where she belongs, or which country is hers. Her father decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, so her family becomes refugees and they flee, taking the train on a very long and arduous journey to their new home. After losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can’t imagine losing her homeland as well. The story is told via letters that Nisha writes to her mother.
These six books are all quite unlike anything else that I currently have checked out, and I love that they are also vastly different from one another. If I had to pick one or two that I’m most ecstatic for, it’d have to be The Night Diary and Marriage of a Thousand Lies. Which one of these books sound good to you? Please, come chat with me in the comments!