January is such a fun time of the year for book lovers because of all the most-anticipated titles of the year and releases to keep an eye on lists. While February may seem a little late to put one of these lists together for ye olde Gregorian year of 2019, it’s just the right time to make one for Chinese New Year!
Chinese New Year, also called the Lunar New Year and Spring Festival, is celebrated in many Asian and non-Asian countries around the world, including the United States. (To learn more about Chinese New Year, click here.)
Last year was the Year of the Dog and I think it was an important one for Asian Americans, or at least a move in the right direction. The movie adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians was crazy successful, as was the Netflix adaptation of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I Loved Before. Asian and Asian American actors finally started receiving the attention and representation they’ve been missing out on for years.
Since it seems like most movies are based on books these days, the more we can read and promote books by Asian American authors about Asian and Asian American characters, the more we’ll see these characters in American media. So, let’s get reading and make the Year of the Pig the best one yet!
There are already lots of lists on Book Riot with great recommendations—6 Great Novels by Asian American Authors, A Round-Up of Awesome Asian American Protagonists in YA Lit, to name a few—and here are eight (because it’s lucky!) new releases by Asian American authors being published during the Year of the Pig.
There are so many amazing Asian American authors to call attention to, but for the purposes of this post, I’ve focused on authors who come from Asian backgrounds that celebrate Lunar New Year.
The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo (February 12 from Flatiron Books)
It’s 1930s Malaya and a severed finger is at the center of a mystery that draws together 11-year-old houseboy Ren, who is trying to save the soul of his master, and young dressmaker’s apprentice Ji Lin, who was gifted the finger by a recently deceased salesman. More suspicious deaths follow and Choo takes readers through a story steeped in folklore and superstition that will have readers questioning: what is magic and what is real? Is there a murderer in the village? Or is it a were-tiger (humans who can transform into tigers) on the loose?
Descendant of the Crane by Joan He (April 2 from Albert Whitman and Co.)
Princess Hesina of Yan never wanted to be queen, but when her father is murdered, she has no choice but to accept her role. She is determined to find her father’s killer and turns to a soothsayer for help, a decision that could get her killed since using magic is forbidden in Yan. The fortune teller reveals that Hesina might not even be able to trust her own family in her search. With the future of Yan in her hands and very few people to rely on, will she ever be able to find out the truth of her father’s death?
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi (April 9 from Henry Holt and Co.)
David and Sarah are freshmen at a performing arts high school in the suburbs of an unnamed Southern town, and drama is their thing. Yes, acting, but also their love lives. They fall crazy in love with each other, but they aren’t the only ones involved in their relationship. Their acting teacher, Mr. Kingsley, plays a part as master manipulator in their romance. Sounds like an interesting teenage romance, but nothing too crazy. Then, buckle your seat belts because you’re blasted into the future. Get ready to question everything you thought was true in the first part of the book!
The Unpassing: A Novel by Chia-Chia Lin (May 7 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Life in Alaska is already difficult for the Taiwanese immigrant family of six that Chia-Chia Lin introduces to us in The Unpassing, but the situation becomes dire when 10-year-old Gavin becomes infected with meningitis, falls into a coma, and almost dies. Matters only escalate when he wakes up a week later and he comes to find that his little sister Ruby contracted the diseases too.…but didn’t make it. How can a family survive such a blow, especially in such a cold, unforgiving place that doesn’t really feel like home?
Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang (May 7 from Random House)
Ted Chiang is probably most well known for his short story “Story of Your Life,” which the movie Arrival was based on, and his second collection of science fiction short stories makes excellent material for future sci-fi films. Tackling age-old questions on the nature of the universe and what it means to be alive, Chiang takes us on fantastic rides through space and time in both previously published pieces and two brand-new stories.
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok (June 4 from William Morrow)
When the Lee family had just emigrated to the United States from China, Sylvie’s parents couldn’t afford for her to live with them, so they sent her to a distant relative far, far away. She came back seven years later and grew up to be a beautiful, successful young woman the whole family loved and depended on. But now Sylvie is missing and her younger sister Amy is on a mission to find her. She flies to the last place Sylvie was seen and starts down a rabbit hole of discoveries that reveal many difficult secrets and truths about her complex family.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim (June 11 from Berkley)
When chef Natalie Tan returns home after her mom’s death, she isn’t met with the San Francisco Chinatown of her childhood. Previously bustling and full of energy, her neighborhood is a shadow of its former self. Natalie has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant and the neighborhood fortune teller informs her that she must help the local business owners by cooking three of recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook. Until she does, her restaurant will not see success. At first Natalie’s hesitant—the neighbors hadn’t always seemed to be there for her as she was growing up—but with some unexpected support and heaps of mouth-watering Chinese food, good things start to happen.
This book doesn’t fit the list exactly because Roselle Lim is Canadian, but Canada is awesome and this book is yummy, so I had to include it!
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee (August 13 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)
Set in 1890s Atlanta, The Downstairs Girl tells the story of 17-year-old Jo Kuan. Jo’s day job is as a lowly lady’s maid, but her real work starts when she sits down to write her newspaper advice column, “Dear Miss Sweetie,” for the ladies of upper crust Southern society. Under the Miss Sweetie pseudonym, her column becomes incredibly popular and Jo begins to throw in her thoughts challenging society’s views on race and gender. This doesn’t go well to say the least, and her secret identity is at stake. On top of all that, Jo has received a letter that has her trying to solve the mystery of the family who abandoned her as a baby, plus she’s in trouble with one of Atlanta’s worst criminals. History, mystery, social commentary, adventure—this book’s got it all!
There are also a bunch of fantastic books by Asian American authors on the Book Riot’s Most Anticipated Books of 2019 list, so definitely check it out. And please share any titles by Asian American authors being published during the Year of the Pig that you’re excited about in the comments!