February 5th marks the celebration of the Lunar New Year, an important holiday for many Asian communities across the country and around the globe. In honor of this holiday, we’ve assembled an astonishing collection of fiction and memoirs celebrating the most recent works of new, emerging, and renowned Asian American authors.
Celebrate the new year: discover fresh new voices, and immerse yourself in these dazzling stories.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See
The bestselling, critically acclaimed author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Shanghai Girls, and China Dolls, See is beloved by readers for her depictions of female friendships and family relationships as seen through a Chinese-American lens. Her latest novel is about an Akha ethnic-minority girl, Li-yan, who lives in a small mountain village where tea is grown and harvested. She has a daughter out of wedlock whom she is pressured to abandon. The child is adopted by a Southern California family, but the bond between birth mother and daughter is never completely severed. Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the richly rendered characters, who must navigate different cultures and customs—not just east and west, but city life and rural life.
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
When free-spirited artist and single mother Mia gives up her wanderlust and puts down roots in the affluent, tight-knit Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, she quickly befriends her landlord Elena’s family. Mia’s dismissal of the town’s social norms causes friction, however, and when she opposes another family’s well-meaning but controversial custody battle for a Chinese American baby, Elena turns against her, determined to dig up Mia’s closely guarded secrets. Fans of Anne Tyler’s Digging to America and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies will devour Ng’s compelling new drama.
The Leavers, by Lisa Ko
Lisa Ko’s debut novel The Leavers already has earned an impressive seal of approval: Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. One day, 11-year-old Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, heads to her job at a nail salon in the Bronx and never comes back. Two white college professors eventually adopt Deming, move him to upstate New York, and rename him Daniel Wilkinson. But Deming never forgets his heritage or his mother as he searches for answers about the mystery of her disappearance.
The Poppy War, by R.F. Kuang
In a world inspired by the recent history and culture of China, the Nikan Empire defeated the Federation of Mugen in the Second Poppy War, and the two countries have since coexisted in a fragile state of peace. Orphaned peasant girl Rin lives a life of misery in Nikan, but when she sits for the Keju, the empire-wide examination designed to find talented youth, she scores in the highest percentile. She is shocked to be assigned to the prestigious Sinegard military school, home to the children of the Empire’s elite. Kuang is Chinese-American, and the book’s worldbuilding is informed by her study of twentieth century Chinese history, but this is no mere academic exercise—the characters are flawed and true, and the choices they face are impossibly compelling. The “year’s best debut” buzz around this one was warranted; it really is that good.
All You Can Ever Know, by Nicole Chung
What happens when you stop believing your own family mythology? This unforgettable memoir starts with one woman’s search for her birth parents and becomes a universal story of identity, family, and home. Like Discover alums Leah Carroll, author of Down City, and Sarah Perry, author of After the Eclipse, Nicole Chung turns a painful past into powerful art. Bestselling author Celeste Ng (Little Fires Everywhere) is a fan, too.
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
The follow-up to Lee’s captivating debut, Free Food For Millionaires, depicts four generations of a Korean family from 1910 to 1989. When teenaged Sunja becomes pregnant by her married lover, she accepts a proposal from an older boarder at her parents’ boardinghouse who kindly offers her stability as his wife in Japan. Acclimating to a new country proves challenging, and the aftereffects of the move reverberate through the lives of Sunja’s children. A finalist for the National Book Award, this is a fantastic, sprawling epic you can really sink your teeth into.
The Refugees, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
This collection of short stories, centered on themes of immigration and displacement (specifically of Vietnamese people after “the American War”), is by the critically acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sympathizer. The nine short stories are heartbreaking, but also wide-ranging, humorous, and beautifully depicted. Ghosts from the Vietnam War show up, as do families living in San Francisco, San Jose, and Ho Chi Minh City, who are struggling not to merely survive but to live their best lives.
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, by Alexander Chee
After his award-winning debut novel Edinburgh and the bestselling The Queen of the Night—a dazzling epic of opera and espionage in 19th-century France—readers of Alexander Chee knew him as an writer of fiction who crosses boundaries of subject and genre as easily as most of us cross a street. Now, his collection of sublime reflections on everything from writing to rose gardening has garnered accolades just as admiring—and demonstrated that there’s no more compelling, witty, and surprising essayist writing today.
Paperback $14.41 | $16.95
China Rich Girlfriend, by Kevin Kwan
Last year, the film Crazy Rich Asians broke box office records and broke barriers: with a cast made up almost entirely of Asian actors, it became one of the most successful romantic comedies of all time. Much of the credit for that, of course, goes to the deliriously entertaining novel the movie is based on. Kevin Kwan’s trilogy—which continues in Crazy Rich Asians and Rich People Problems—makes for addictive reading, telling a story of pure wish fulfillment (girl meets boy, finds out boy is very rich—like, very, very rich) set amid the upper echelon of Singapore’s wealthy elite.
Where the Past Begins: Memory and Imagination, by Amy Tan
In following the lives of Chinese-American immigrants stumbling over cultural and generational divides, Amy Tan’s acclaimed novel The Joy Luck Club spoke to family struggles both specific and universal, and became a boundary breaking runaway bestseller. In this memoir, Tan considers the way she has used storytelling and the plights of fictional characters as a way to help her make sense of her own life’s journey. It’s as much a reflection on her childhood and her experiences finding herself in her craft as it is an instruction manual for anyone interesting in writing their own fictional, emotionally true stories.
P.S. I Still Love You, by Jenny Han
In this second book in Han’s Love series, which inspired the breakout film on Netflix, Lara Jean is actually dating Pete, but she’s also dealing with some social media fallout after a (relatively tame) hot tub hookup is leaked to the web. And, of course, Pete’s ex-girlfriend (and Lara Jean’s former BFF) Genevieve is trying to steal him back. The letters-never-meant-to-be-sent pop up again here, as does another old crush. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Han’s series is how it skews younger in voice—at times, Lara feels decidedly naïve—but tackles big issues like bullying, loss, and family.
Paperback $15.29 | $16.99
Monstress, Vol. 3 (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
In the shadow of war, teenager Maika Halfwolf shares a psychic connection with a powerful monster. The latest chapter in this acclaimed epic fantasy series sees Maika forced to find allies as invasion looms (no easy feat for a woman so accustomed to standing on her own). Confronting trauma and racism with a cast of powerful and nuanced women, the series remains among the most visually stunning books on the stands, and continues to evolve its story and its world, inspired by East Asian history and aesthetics. The B&N edition of the latest volume of this Eisner Award-winning series features a variant cover and a two-sided poster filled with more of Takeda’s beautiful, detailed, character-rich work.
The Samurai’s Garden, by Gail Tsukiyama
Just before World War II, a young Chinese painter named Stephen leaves Hong Kong to recuperate from tuberculosis at his family’s summer home in a coastal Japanese village. During Stephen’s recovery, a quiet housekeeper and gardener named Matsu cares for him. As he grows stronger, Stephen comes to understand and respect Matsu’s gentle wisdom and devotion to finding beauty in the world, and an unlikely friendship blossoms. With lyrical prose and deep insight, Tsukiyama explores themes of loyalty, honor, and loss.
Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir, by Eddie Huang
This funny, provocative memoir by foodie kingpin Eddie Huang, of Baohaus fame, tracks his coming of age as the hip-hop–obsessed, American-born son of Taiwanese parents. Raw, funny, and real, Huang’s memoir shares what it’s like to be an ABC (American-Born Chinese) trying to kick it in mainstream America. It even inspired a sitcom adaptation, starring an 11-year-old Eddie, which brought the book’s subversive stance to the small screen, in a comedy exploring culture shock, stereotypes, and peer pressure.