When thinking about contemporary queer literature, many a time, we exclude Asian authors, mistakenly thinking that these writers won’t have much to offer. While being queer and Asian can be a double-edged sword, it would be unfair on our part to ignore the intellectual and literary value of queer narratives that have been voiced by Asian authors in the past few years. These books have not only positively contributed to the ongoing conversations centered around the LGBTQ+ community but also have helped bring a change in the sociopolitical consciousness of the hoi polloi. Thanks to the monumental power of literature, queer mutinies, both big and small, are going beyond the megalopolises and reaching the small towns as well. The experience of individuals occupying a suburban space is vastly different from that of those who live in the metropolis. The existence of Asian queer literature has made their otherwise forcefully silenced voices mainstream. The popularization of these books has been a potent tool in sustaining pro-queer rights. So, if you’re looking to diversify your reading list and expand your literary horizons, my list of contemporary queer books by Asian authors is just what you need. From light-hearted to grave, take your pick from this extensive list below!
This Way to the Sugar By Hieu Minh Nguyen
Nguyen’s debut collection of poetry delves into themes of identity and introspection. His poems explore nostalgia, ethnicity, family dynamics, sexuality, and childhood trauma. His format is as experimental as his content. He is also not afraid to tread into uncomfortable territories like pedophilia. Partly confessional and partly a highly nuanced portrait of his queer consciousness, this book makes beauty and love out of the ugly.
Cobalt Blue By Sachin Kundalkar
An electrifying depiction of sexuality and Indian society, this wonderful family saga will keep you on the edge of your seat. Translated from Marathi to English by Jerry Pinto, it’s a tale of siblings, Tanay and Anuja, falling for the same man who also happens to be an artist. Even though he seems like the perfect tenant initially, he will play a major part in upending their family dynamics. Written with piercing clarity, this book is mesmerizing, to say the least.
The Year of Blue Water by Yanyi
Yanyi’s intoxicating collection of poems investigates the concept of gender and mental health from a queer and trans point of view. This groundbreaking work also plunges deep into the experience of immigration. Blending high lyric with direct prose, Yanyi asks the readers to acknowledge the multiple identities that make them who they are. Highly meditative and dynamic, this collection is engaging, raw, and deeply personal.
Soft Science by Franny Choi
A lovely depiction of queer, Asian American femininity, this collection digs deep into human consciousness. These Turing test–inspired poems urge the readers to always be in touch with their tender, emotional sides, especially in the world dominated by artificial intelligence. From solitude to the erasure of identity, Choi’s book is introspective and astounding!
Don’t Let Him Know By Sandip Roy
Shy young bride Romola opens a letter that turns out to be life-changing. Decades later when his son comes across this letter, he unexpectedly becomes aware of his mother’s secret. His father, Avinash, doesn’t know what his wife had to sacrifice to become his bride. But doesn’t he himself have his fair share of secrets? What will his son think if he comes to know of his frequent visiting of gay chat rooms? Literary fiction at its best, this book needs more hype.
It’s Not Like It’s a Secret By Misa Sugiura
A vibrant romance novel on learning how to love and live freely, this book is a must-read for every lover of YA fiction. Sana moves to California with her family and finds herself falling for beautiful and smart Jamie. But Jamie’s friends doesn’t want Sana around, and vice versa. Meanwhile, Sana’s dad is having an affair, leaving her at her wit’s end. She doesn’t know how to solve all the issues plaguing her life. Breezy yet complicated, this book explores young love in all its glory.
Tell Me How You Really Feel By Aminah Mae Safi
Sana is the typical stereotype of an overachiever who is also a cheerleader on the side. Rachel is a wannabe movie director and is waiting for her big breakthrough. She thinks Sana will be the perfect lead for her senior film project, but the only catch is, she detests Sana. Now how long will these two keep denying their feelings for each other for appearances’ sake? A cute story of two opinionated women falling head over heels for each other, this book has every element of an iconic romance.
Bright Lines: A Novel By Tanwi Nandini Islam
A gorgeous debut novel with Bangladesh and Brooklyn as its backdrop, it’s the story of a family trying to come to terms with the secrets their past holds. Ella travels to Brooklyn to live with her uncle’s family. During her stay in the U.S., she is welcomed into a world of adventures and sexual awakenings. But very soon, tragedy befalls her uncle’s family, and with it commences a new journey of reckoning with the past. Islam’s charming writing style and fabulous character arcs exhibit her prowess as a seasoned writer.