books · features · lists · shanti

Year of the Asian!

Hi Virtually Readers! The lovely CW @ Read Think Ponder has, along with several other wonderful people, created a reading challenge called Year of the Asian, where you basically try to read more books written by Asians. I’m signing up for the Indian Cobra level, where you have to read 20 books, but hopefully I’ll manage to read more. I actually already did a tweet about this; if you follow me on twitter, that’s great, I do not spend enough time there (because it stresses me out) and it is mostly sporadic inanity so super fun, basically. Anyway, why am I participating in this? (all images created by CW, who is a phenomenally talented human)

Text: YEAR OF THE ASIAN, A 2019 READING CHALLENGE. Hosted by C.W., Lily, Shealea, and Vicky. Image is of Xiaolong the pink axolotl wearing an upside down purple flower hat eating a bowl of rice.

The main reason I’m doing this is that I do not read enough Asian books. I guess I read a fair few with Asian American protagonists and writers, but I really want to read more Indian and South Asian writers, as well as more people who actually live in Asia. I’d also like to read more Asian Australian and Australian New Zealander writers

The problem with this is that a lot of the books about Asia which I have sort of earmarked to read are written by non Asians, usually journalists. This has something to do with language, and a lot to do with colonialism, capitalism, and power, and how these manifest in publishing houses. But of course the goal is just aspirational, so I can always read more books about my favourite continent  at other times.

I have a few specific books in mind which I plan to read; mostly Soth Asian books, because I am far away from India and miss it painfully, and I also want to know more about India’s neighbours. I’m particularly fascinated by Indian politics; with an election this year, I’d love to find some fun and informative books, written by Indians, about the Indian political landscape.

Green and blue award badge with a Indian Cobra in the center, and with two gold stars above the award.

I also want to practice Hindi, and I siphoned a Hindi dictionary from my parent’s house when I was visiting, so I may check the foreign language section of my city library to see if they have any Hindi picture books that are at my level. To be honest, I find reading books in Hindi quite trying because the books that I can read are not the books that I’m interested in…but if I get to count picture books for this challenge, then I’ll do it!

I am super open to recommendations, and delighted that there are going to be lots of recomendations released as part of Year of the Asian. I’d love to find more interesting or indigenous YA as part of this story, and especially books that might not have been published by major Western publishers. For the meantime though, these are some of the authors on my TBR.

I’ve read some of her short stories but not her novels. To be honest, it seems like she writes a lot of disilusioned second generation immigrant books. But it’s still cool to read such a classic diaspora author.

He curated The Good Immigrant, which is a bunch of essays about race, but I’ve also seen his YA and novels at the bookshop, which could be interesting.

  • Amitav Ghosh

I did an Indian Literature class in high school and we read part of Sea of Poppies. After visiting Hong Kong recently, I’m even more interested in opium (that sounds super dodgy but like…not to use. as history!) and my dad read the whole book and said it was slightly unrealistic but a great examintion of colonial relationships, so I think that would be good to read (especially because I am doing and ACTUAL ENGLISH DEGREE which features very little postcolonial analysis, which upsets me)

  • Roshani Choksi

I have The Star Touched Queen! Which is technically Shar’s but I have custody of it for now, sorry Shar, claim it when you see me next. But I never read the companion, A Crown of Wishes, and apparently The Gilded Wolves is excellent (so saith Marie, whom I trust) and I really need to get in on the Indian action.

  • Tasha Suri

I was very obsessed with the Mughals as a child, and for a delirious period of my life lived in Delhi where I wrote like secret Mughal diaries (which if I ever review Tasha Suri’s books, will definitely be part of the post haha). Empire of Sand is Mughal inspired fantasy, and having written at least one short story in a similar vein, I could not be MORE here for it.

  • Jade Chang

Lighter books are good too! I’d love to read some Asian romance authors this year (I’m currently reading a book by Courney Milan, who is hapa) and Jade Chang’s The Wangs vs. The World sounds extremely fun.

okay, so I’m so pumped for this challenge! do you have any recommendations for me! are there any authors who you’re going to make an effort to read this year?


3 thoughts on “Year of the Asian!

  1. Any collection of short stories by Naiyer Masud, who is basically the Urdu Haruki Murakami only even more etheral

    The Man-Eater of Malgudi by R.K. Narayan is the most Indian book I have ever read

    Games Indians Play by V. Raghunathan, which explains why the traffic is so bad

    The Essential Ghandi, a highly abridged collection of Gandhi’s writings, led me to think even more highly of him than I already did

    Silence by Shūsaku Endō is the most debatable book I’ve ever read

    The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, who is basically the Japanese Haruki Murakami

    First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung is her heart-wrenching memoir of the Khmer Rouge rule

    Bou Meng: A Survivor from Khmer Rouge Prison S-21 by Bou Meng is his memoir of what it was like to be in the Khmer Rouge itself, until he was labeled a traitor and imprisoned in one of the most notorious prisons in history

    Brother Enemy: The War After the War by Nayan Chanda is a journalistic account of what happened in Southeast Asia, particularly Cambodia, after the Second IndoChinese War ended

    Enemy Combatant by Moazzam Begg is about growing up Pakistani in the UK, then how he got mistakenly identified as a terrorist and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay

    I didn’t include any Khaled Hosseini or Malala Yousafzai as I figured you already had read whatever you wanted from them. I think you’ve read a few of the above too but wasn’t 100% sure enough to leave them out.


  2. YAY YAY I AM SO PUMPED you are doing this challenge, Shanti! I can’t wait to read your thoughts about ALL of the books. I hope you’ll enjoy The Gilded Wolves, I loved this cast of characters so, so much. I really want to read A Crown of Wishes as well 😀


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