I don’t think anyone is surprised to know that I read a ton of books by Asian authors on regular days, no prompt needed, but there is something about the challenge to read ONLY these types of books for an entire month that makes me stupidly giddy because I am a simple, simple person. And with May being Asian American Pacific Islander month, it’s the perfect time to broaden your horizons, learn about other cultures, and open your eyes to the FUCKING MADDENING RACISM AND MICROAGGRESSIONS that other people live through every day.
There are various readathons out there with an array of prompts, but I honestly just like to try and jam in books from as many different Asian countries as possible, translated works, memoirs, graphic novels, horror, thriller, romance. Gimme it all.
I went hard this year, reaching 18 books by the end, but not as hard as last year which had me finishing something like 26 or 28 books by the end!? HOW!? SRSLY HOW DID I DO THAT.
Anyway, here are the first nine books I read in May!
Um, what a wild start to the readathon. So, this is a thriller but it’s a slow motherfucking burn. There was so much build-up and tension, the kind that gives you a kink in your neck because you were sitting in a weirdly contorted, bracing-for-things-to-take-a-turn position.
I can’t really say if I liked it as a whole but the way it ended really satisfied my literary side but I bet Rumaan Alam would think I was an uncultured dumbo if we ever sat down for a conversation, that’s for dam sure.
2. No One Can Pronounce My Name – Rakesh Satyal
I LOVED THIS BOOK. I LOVED EVERY FUCKING CHARACTER. We follow two leads: Harit and Ranjana, two unrelated Indian Americans whose lives eventually cross paths and their friendship is everything. I LAUGHED, I CRIED, ETC ETC. But honestly – white people need to get a fucking grip when it comes to pronouncing names, honestly. People of different ethnicities should not have to change their real name to fucking BOBBY or JOHNNY in order to make it easier for dumb white people. We need to put in the fucking effort.
3. Rent a Boyfriend – Gloria Chao
This was very predictable but really charming, and all the food references made me so hungry. But basically, our main girl is going home to visit her Taiwanese parents and hires a fake boyfriend through a legit service called Rent for your ‘Rents, in an effort to get them off her back in regards to the REALLY SHITTY GUY they want her to marry. But evidently, renting a boyfriend is a very real thing in some Asian countries to alleviate the pressure put upon women by their parents to marry.
4. The Way of the Househusband Vol. 1
I’m not a big manga person, but this one was so fucking cute and I loved the illustrations. It’s about a former Yakuza (Japanese gangster) who is now a househusband and it was just so pure. Again, I’m not a big manga person but I could see myself continuing on with this series!
5. Know My Name – Chanel Miller
Hi. I started crying just by typing out the title of this fucking powerful, strong, beautiful, sad, maddening, depressing, empowering, fierce, inspiring memoir. Good lord, if you haven’t already read this, please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.
In case you don’t know who Chanel Miller is, she is the “Emily Doe” read out loud in court a letter she wrote to the motherfucking Stanford swimmer who sexually assaulted her and left her next to a dumpster. Chanel Miller is a hell of a writer and she will be your tour guide into the depths of hell she experienced during the trial. The way she was dragged and pushed around was nearly as bad as the crime itself. Just so infuriating to read and you know I’m not a hugger, but I wanted to hug Chanel a million different times while reading this. If you pick it up, be prepared to want to set men on fire, to openly weep, and to march up to your teenager’s room and scream reminders at his face about how you will not have his back if he EVER DOES ANYTHING LIKE THIS TO ANOTHER PERSON REGARDLESS OF GENDER, CONSENT CONSENT CONSENT.
Also, I listened to this on audio because Chanel narrates it herself and Henry listened to parts of it too when we were in the car and even Henry, milquetoast white man, was like WTF IS THIS INJUSTICE and I was like WELCOME TO BEING A WOMAN, HENRY.
Alsox2, do not read the one star reviews. Just, if you have even a sliver of feminism & girl power in your being, avoid the negative reviews because it is VICTIMEBLAMEVILLE up in there.
6. Interior Chinatown – Charles Yu
Seriously one of the most creative books I’ve read. It’s written as a screenplay for a procedural cop show called Black and White, where the two main cops are, you know, Black and white, and our protagonist Willis is desperate to become a character greater than Generic Asian Guy. It plays on Hollywood tropes and Asian stereotypes to illustrate what it really feels like to be Asian American, in a super inventive way. Definitely will be picking up more by Charles Yu.
7. Days of Distraction – Alexandra Chang
Not to be stupidly punny here but while I enjoyed this book overall, I did oftentimes find myself distracted/losing interest. It’s about a woman in her early 20s, working in the tech field (her job sounded so fucking stressful and terrible and I have actually been more grateful to be working at a law firm TBH) and then deciding to dump her job and move cross country with her boyfriend. I think I would have found this extremely relatable if I were younger and less settled in my life, but I did enjoy the way this book was written – almost in LiveJournal-esque vignettes. There is also some exploration on biracial dating (the boyfriend is a white guy) that was really interesting from an outsiders viewpoint, how he just wasn’t able to see the racism where it was so obvious to her.
But yeah, if you’re looking for a book full of action, this is not it. If you like reading lots of internal monologues while you’re living through your own quarterlife crisis, you gon’ like this one.
Man, I’m so mad that I didn’t like this as much as I thought I would and I spent more time thinking about all the ways it could have been better instead of actually enjoying the story. Also, it’s a romance and I’m not a big romance reader and can be super picky about that shit. But the gist of this is that our main lady owns a bakery in a small town in California, and then, by way of a SWITCHEROO, some very famous food critic passes through town and eats a disgusting cake from said bakery and eviscerates the baker in whatever famous magazine he writes for and now the bakery is losing business and even though the critic has since realized there was a mistake, he refuses to renege his review because he has never before done that and has to KEEP HIS INTREGITY, PEOPLE. It’s such a weak storyline. Anyway he finds a different way to make it up to her by getting her a spot on his famous friend’s cooking show that is about to start production but oh yeah did I tell you that he had a one-night stand with the baker before he wrote the review (they didn’t know who each other were at the time) and so now they have to FIGHT THEIR FEELINGS for each other because HIS CAREER WILL BE RUINED if the public finds out he SLEPT WITH HER and then gave her a spot on the show.
It was pretty….lame.
Weirdly though, they go to some place called Moonstone Beach which apparently is a real place that I had never heard of and then I recently read another book that also mentioned it so now I guess I need to go to Moonstone Beach, let’s go.
9. Last Night at the Telegraph Club – Malinda Lo
How beautiful is this cover, tho. And also a historical fiction that’s actually interesting and informative with a Sapphic coming-of-age romance? Bro, put my name on that sign-up sheet behind Todd’s desk, which is where the sign-up sheets always were when we worked in an office and had food parties.
Anyway, this is set in SF’s Chinatown during the Red Scare and centers around a lesbian club called the Telegraph Club, and it was fucking wonderful.
OK there’s the first 9. I’m tired of typing and I really suck at book reviews, but I liked all of these except for A Sweet Mess and if I had to recommend one it would be Know My Name – support Chanel Miller. She is really making an impact, so fuck you, Brock Turner, you piece of shit.