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10 Books By Asians That Should be Adapted for the Big Screen

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Adiba Jaigirdar

Staff Writer

Adiba Jaigirdar is an Irish-Bangladeshi writer, poet, and teacher. She resides in Dublin, Ireland and has an MA in postcolonial studies. She is currently working on her own postcolonial novel and hopes that someday it will see the light of day outside of her computer screen. Twitter: @adiba_j

Last year, we had some pretty fantastic book-to-movie adaptations by Asians, starring Asian characters. Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I Loved Before stole our hearts with its swoony romance and adorable main character, Lara Jean, played by Lana Condor. And Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians left us wanting more with its Singaporean setting, diverse cast of Asian characters, and themes of diaspora.

Asia is the largest continent in the world, and as such is filled with cultural diversity! In the last few years, we’ve had some amazing books by authors who can trace their lineage to various parts of Asia. Here are a few of these books that I think will make amazing adaptations:

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

In a lot of ways, When Dimple Met Rishi feels like the natural follow-up to To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. Both brilliant romcoms featuring Asian American characters! Dimple follows Indian American Dimple, who loves coding and wants to attend a code camp, along with Rishi, a traditionalist Indian American who is caught between his family’s wishes and his own love for art. Unbeknownst to Dimple, her parents have secretly set her up with Rishi at this code camp, so when the two of them meet, a lot of shenanigans ensue! Filled with laugh-out-loud comedy, and two compelling protagonists, Dimple would translate into the big screen perfectly for teen (and adult) audiences.

The Weight of Our Sky cover imageThe Weight Of Our Sky by Hana Alkaf

Set during the Kuala Lumpur riots in 1969*, The Weight Of Our Sky is a complex and thoughtful novel about racial tensions, conflict, and just general humanity. It follows teen Melati, who is plagued by a djinn that threatens to hurt her mother if she doesn’t adhere to its ritual of counting and tapping. But when racial tensions lead to a violent conflict in her home city, Mel is separated from her mother. With danger in the streets and all lines of communication down, Melati must find a way to reunite with her mother. A tense and compelling book, The Weight Of Our Sky could definitely make for a brilliant film.

Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged is a hilarious and heartwarming romance featuring Pakistani British Sofia. After breaking off her engagement, Sofia swears off marriage and men. But when her boss asks her to write a book about Muslim dating, Sofia has to start collecting some stories—both from experience, and from family and friends. Filled with absolute hilarity and such a diverse and brilliant cast of characters, Sofia Khan has been compared to Bridget Jones. So of course it would make a fantastic movie!

Like A Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

Abdi Nazemian’s upcoming book is not quite a love story. It follows three different teens who have their own unique experience of the world around them. First, there is Art, the only open gay kid in his school. As the gay men around him are dying of AIDS, Art decides that he’s going to use his photographs to tell their story. Second, there’s his best friend Judy, an aspiring fashion designer who admires her uncle, a gay man with AIDS. Lastly, there’s Reza, an Iranian boy who has just moved to America. He knows that he is gay but he is terrified of what that means, when all he sees is media images of men dying of AIDS.

As their lives converge, their friendships are tested, and their worlds slowly begin to change. The world definitely needs a movie like this—an honest and beautiful story about people who have been deeply affected by the AIDS crisis.

Patron Saints Of Nothing by Randy Ribay (June 18)

After Jay’s Filipino cousin, Jun, was killed as a result of Duterte’s war on drugs, his family doesn’t want to speak about it. But Jay is determined to find out exactly what happened. He decides to travel to the Philippines in order to find out the truth about his cousin. Patron Saints Of Nothing is a fierce coming-of-age story that centers the slow unravelling of the truth about Jun, along with the political tensions of the Philippines. As a result, it’s sure to make a tense and heartbreaking movie! 

Love from A to Z book coverLove From A To Z by S. K. Ali

Zayneb just got suspended from school because of a misunderstanding with her Islamophobic teacher. Adam just dropped out of university because of his MS diagnosis. As the two of them travel to Doha—Zayneb to visit her aunt, Adam to see his family—their paths cross. Love From A To Z is an amazing love story about two Muslims from two very different backgrounds, with two very different experiences of the world. A movie adaptation of this book would not only be absolutely adorable, but it also be timely in the way that it tackles Islamophobia head-on.

A Very Large Expanse Of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse Of Sea is another book that deals with Islamophobia head-on! Set immediately after 9/11, it follows Shirin, a fierce hijabi Muslim teen who has been facing serious Islamophobia and racism from those around her. As a result, she has put walls up around her. But when she meets Ocean, he seems to get to know Shirin for who she is. Is she willing to risk her heart for the possibility of a relationship with Ocean?

Not Your Sidekick by C. B. Lee

Superhero movies are all the rage these days, so Not Your Sidekick would absolutely kill it as a movie. In a world where superheroes are common, Jess is the odd one out in her family for not having superpowers. What she does have is an internship with the town’s worst super villain. As she works at her internship and gets to work with her longtime crush Abby—along with the mysterious intern M—Jess discovers a plot that might be bigger than superheroes and villains.

the serpent's secret cover imageThe Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

The Serpent’s Secret would honestly make a hilarious and fun fantasy movie. The book follows Kiranmala, who has been told by her parents that she is an Indian princess. But she only believes them when she comes home on her 12th birthday to find her parents missing and a rakkosh demon in her house. Then, two Indian princes in winged horses whisk her away to another dimension filled with magic, where she has to defeat her evil Serpent King father and rescue her parents!

Want by Cindy Pon

With climate change looming over the world, Want could not be a more timely book to show us the results of this. Set in society where the rich can buy themselves protection against the pollution that plagues the world, Want followed Jason Zhou, whose mother died as a result of this society. With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in order to destroy a corrupt international corporation.

So, movie producers. What are you waiting for?


*Editor’s Note: Corrected from 1916