Look at your reading list lately and realize you need to diversify the perspectives you’re reading? We got you covered. Asian-American women have been producing high-quality work for years, although many have not received the spotlight they deserve. For the purposes of this post, I am including SWANA women as a part of the Asian-American label out of respect to the community I grew up in, one who checks off “Asian” on the census.
To keep an eye on upcoming Asian-American writers, watch nonprofit organizations like the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and Kundiman. Both feature active figures in the industry, as well as offering spaces, events, workshops, and dialogue for Asian-American writers and creatives.
K-Ming Chang’s Bestiary (Novel)
K-Ming Chang is under 25, but she’s been a much-needed storm into the literary world. Best known for her knife-life, precision short stories, and flash fiction work, as well as gripping poetry, her debut novel Bestiary made quite the splash in a similar vein to her previous work. In Bestiary, we explore classic Taiwanese mythology from a contemporary queer twist. We follow three generations of Taiwanese-American women in tales of resilience, survival, and exploration, weaving in LGBTQ+ romance and a classic coming-of-age story.
This one is technically just dropped, but if you’ve read the viral New Yorker essay “Crying in H-Mart” by Michelle Zauner, you’ll know this memoir is going to be special. Michelle Zauner, known for her indie music recorded under Japanese Breakfast, channels her grief after her mother’s passing in this memoir. As a half-white, half-Korean woman in the United States, when her Korean mother passed, the memoir follows her journey of learning how to cook and uncovering the Korean part of her Zauner had lost with her mother’s death.
Fatimah Asghar’s If They Come for Us (Poetry)
Fatimah Asghar is known for her searing poems, and this shows in her debut full-length If They Come for Us. Asghar, a queer Kashmiri-Pakistani-American woman who was orphaned as a child, demonstrates what compassion, anguish, and kindness truly is from her perspective. These poems are unforgettable–read the title poem of the collection here.
Mary H.K. Choi’s Yolk (YA Novel)
Mary H.K. Choi is a New York Times bestselling author, so when she dropped Yolk in March of 2021, the world was ready. In this novel, we follow the rebellious Korean-American Jayne, who goes to a fashion school in Manhattan, as she navigates life in New York City. Her older sister, June, who works at a hedge fund as a banker, has just been diagnosed with cancer. The novel is about their frayed relationship slowly coming back together, as well as navigating life in a big city as a woman, Korean-American, and youth.
Shobha Rao’s Girls Burn Brighter (Novel)
Rao’s debut novel, Girls Burn Brighter, is set in southeastern India and the United States. This novel deals with sensitive topics, such as the rape of one of the narrators, and the treatment of women from a traditional Indian context. Poornima, the daughter of a poor family of weavers, becomes friends with the girl her father hired, Savitha. When Poornima’s father is unable to pay her dowry, a series of tragic events occur, setting the plot forward.
Diana Khoi Nguyen’s Ghost Of (Poetry)
Nguyen is a multimedia artist, and that shows in her collection Ghost Of. After her brother’s suicide, the poems in the collection began to take form, and she utilizes family photographs with her brother’s face cut out and poems inserted in that space instead. A sort of memoir in verse, Nguyen manages to take us on a journey of grief, delirium, and generational trauma.
Solmaz Sharif’s Look (Poetry)
It is no surprise that Solmaz Sharif’s Look won her great acclaim. Published in 2016 by the well-known Graywolf Press, it was also a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry. In Look, Sharif reclaims the use of military language, where simple words such as LOOK can mean something completely different in a war setting. Because of her experience as an Iranian-American woman, the collection offers an insight into the global conflict of war in a Middle Eastern context.
Susan Muaddi Darraj’s Inheritance of Exile (Short Stories)
Inheritance of Exile, Darraj interweaves the stories and narratives of four Arab-American women living in Philadelphia. Each woman is struggling with the identity of being both Arab and American in a contemporary setting, as well as the prejudices that come with the territory. This is an interesting collection to explore, as it has themes of exile, feeling like one doesn’t belong, as well as the religious diversity present in the Middle Eastern region.