Jun 232021

Hello. Here you will find the last half of the books I read for Asian Read-a-Thon. I hope that you will look at this and find a book or 8 to read. OK I’m out. Cook on, mothercheffers.

10. The Last Story of Mina Lee – Nancy Jooyoun Kim

The Last Story of Mina Lee

Holy shit is this book depressing. Girl finds mom dead in her apartment. From there, the chapters alternate between the daughter trying to figure out what happened to her mom, to the mom in a past timeline where we see her journey & transition from Korea to America in the 80s. It’s your classic “children can’t see their parents as people with their own lives and history until it’s too late” type of storyline, and it hits hard. I liked the mom’s chapters better because she was such an interesting character and the daughter was just kind of like, “Oh darn, mom was a person I had no idea and now she’s dead oops.”

11. Yolk – Mary H.K. Choi 

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This is the third book I’ve read by Mary H.K. Choi now and dare I say she has become one of my favorite authors? The voices she feeds into her characters feel so real and effortless that they are real people you know, and you can HEAR their voices. The dialogue is punchy and realistic, and even when the characters show shittier, darker sides of themselves, you still can’t help but root for them. You have probably not watched the Korean drama Reply 1988, but two sisters in that show reminded me SO MUCH of our main characters in Yolk. To say they’re estranged is maybe a bit too drastic, but they definitely, as two young women in their early 20s, are not regular fixtures in each other’s lives. Until one finds out she may or may not have cancer. But even with subject matter that heavy, Choi manages to bring levity and humor into the situation and you can’t help but fall hard for these people. Or maybe you can, Henry probably could. But he’s heartless and not easily moved by much.

12. All You Can Ever Know – Nicole Chung

All You Can Ever Know

This is a memoir about a Korean woman who was adopted as an infant by a white American couple. One of the Goodread reviews said something along the lines of “this was good but should have just been an essay” and I agree with this because it did feel very repetitive at times, though it’s so very important for us to read about and try to gain more of an understanding of how difficult it is for minorities to grow up in America, let alone ADOPTED minorities. These children essentially have their culture and heritage robbed from them and, as an American bystander, it might seem like “the prospect of a ‘better’ life” is all that matters here but imagine how lonely it is to be the only one in a family who looks different, to the point where you feel like you don’t fit in there but then you’re also not “x”-enough to fit in with people of your own ethnicity.

13. American Betiya – Anuradha D. Rajurkar

American Betiya

Oh the anger I felt while reading this (not because the book was bad). Basically this cool Indian girl starts clandestinely dating some cringey, clingy, super problematic white kid because her traditional family has a strict no-dating policy while she’s in school, but she’s like eff that this creepy toxic asshole is totally into me and who cares if his friends are mildly racist and they all call me Princess Jasmine and then he makes me wear traditional Indian wedding garments before fucking me what he’s so not fetishizing my culture AT ALL.

You guys, I was screaming. Fuck that guy. This girl had the sweetest, most caring family and her grandma is visiting from India and all her mom wants is for her betiya to set up a goddamn Zoom call so they can talk to the grandfather in India but she’s too busy trying to make her emotionally abuse boyfriend happy and ew, just ew. I hated him so much.

This book is meant to make you burn up inside and it did its job.

14. A Very Large Expanse of Sea – Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Another book to get the blood boiling! This one takes place shortly after 911 and our main character here is a Muslim girl – Shirin – starting a new high school, but same ol’ racism and microaggressions. Oh and not just from the students – hoo boy no no no.

There is also a romance in this one but the love interest, Ocean, is actually not a fetishizer and his feelings for her are fucking pure.

Oh, this book pumped up my heart to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon proportions.

15. The Hole – Hye-Young Pyun

The Hole

This was a quietly creepy psychological thriller about a Korean man, Ogi, who is recovering from a car accident in which his wife was killed, and now her mom is acting as his caregiver. He’s basically confined to his room and left to ruminate upon his marriage while the mother-in-law neglects him and starts digging holes in the garden.

I don’t really know what else to say about it. It was OK! But I think I was expecting it to be more scary.

16. Goodbye, Vitamin – Rachel Khong 

Goodbye, Vitamin

OK not only was this one of the best books I read for Asian Read-a-Thon, it was also one of the best books I read all year and is a new instant favorite. As someone who reads a lot of different voices and genres, it’s sometimes hard for me to pinpoint exactly what KIND of book I like, and this is it. This writing. This is my JAM.

(LOL shit here I am the day after I posted this, realizing that I never even explained why I like this book or what it’s even about. Oh well, click the link I guess?! According to Goodreads, I updated twice during the reading process to say “This book is 100% my style” and “My soul had left my body.” So, there you go!)

17. Year of the Rabbit – Tian Veasna

Year of the Rabbit

This graphic novel is HEAVY AF. Just looking at the cover of it is making my eyes well up. It’s horrifying and actually scarier than any horror novel I’ve read because this was TRUE. REAL LIFE. HISTORY. I didn’t know much about the genocide in Cambodia in the 70s, but now I do. This graphic novel did not hold back. It follows various members of the author’s family and the unreal horrors they endured (and not all overcame) in their efforts to escape Phnom Penh and start a new life as refugees. Totally sobering and heartbreaking, and especially infuriating to find out that only recently – nearly 5 decades later – have the people involved in the Khmer Rouge takeover been convicted and sentenced to life in prison—most of them are already dead and the ones who are still alive are already in their 80s.

I guess justice is justice, but damn.

This was definitely the heaviest, saddest graphic novel I have ever read.

18. Anna K: Away – Jenny Lee

Anna K: Away (Anna K, #2)

I needed to end the read-a-thon with something light and luckily my copy of the Anna K sequel came in just in time. Anna K is a modern retelling of Anna Karenina mashed up with some Gossip Girl vibes. I mean,  it’s OK, but I don’t really think it’s AS GREAT as the hype claims. However, I did like this one because Anna K is, well, away. And not just away anywhere – she’s in Seoul! So I really enjoyed those chapters but I gotta admit, the side characters are so vapid and I know, I know – that’s the point, but they can be vapid while still being interesting. As it stands, I just really don’t “love” anyone in this series except for Vronsky, but well, if you know you know.

My other issue with this book isn’t with the book itself but the narrator of the audiobook, Jenna Ushkowitz (of “Glee” fame). Because the main character Anna is Korean American, there are some basic Korean words tossed around, ESPECIALLY when she is in Seoul. Jenna’s pronunciations are extremely jarring and took me out of the story every time. Now, I understand that Jenna is Korean, but adopted when she was a baby by an American couple, so I don’t hold this against her but I’m kind of wondering how this was allowed to pass. Am I being nitpicky? I promise you, I fucking PINKY SWEAR, that I am not trying to be all know-it-all-y about this, I mean, my knowledge of the Korean language is BASE LEVEL. But!!!! I watch A LOT of Korean programming to the point where I know what it sounds like when someone is saying an extremely basic word like “halmeoni” which means grandma, and I have never heard it pronounced the way this narrator says it and it bothered me so much. It was like listening to Henry try to say “gochujang” on repeat. Am I being dramatic? Probably! But this really kind of brought the book down a coupla stars for me.

Jun 102021

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!

  1. Leave the World Behind – Rumaan Alam


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

Rent a Boyfriend

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

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

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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 

Interior Chinatown

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 

Days of Distraction

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.

8. A Sweet Mess – Jayci Lee

A Sweet Mess

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

Last Night at the Telegraph Club

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.