8 Gorgeous Generational Family Fiction By Asian Authors
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Asia is the largest continent, in terms of premise its landmass and its population density. It is full of vibrant and diverse cultures; there are around 2,300 languages spoken in Asia. Let that sink in. But despite that, there’s far too many Asian stereotypes. We don’t all look the same, we’re not all bad drivers, and not all of us are great at math. Our shared joy, identity, trauma and celebration within each country and region spans generations. The stories about our lived experience get layered and interesting when told through the lens of our families.
So here’s a list of books written by Asian authors that try to capture a tiny part of how culturally rich Asia truly is. It is by no means a comprehensive list. The continent is too vast and alive to be contained in one. But these books portray how traditional and non-traditional family structures shape our lives. Some of them talk about the very real consequences of colonization and war. Some others are fluffy romances that can warm your heart. If you haven’t delved into Asian literature yet, I hope you find something on this list that paves the way.
The Astonishing Color Of After By Emily X.R. Pan
Emily X.R. Pan is an author of Taiwanese origin. Our protagonist Leigh is certain that when her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird. Leigh travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents and find her mother. The elements of magical realism as Leigh navigates loss, adolescence, and heritage are stunning. She explores her language and culture, tries to understand her mother’s mental illness, and experiences romance along the way. The way she deals with her grief feels raw and devastating, and yet comforting. I cannot recommend it enough.
The House on Calle Sombra by Marga Ortigas
Marga Ortigas has written a stunning novel set in Philippines. This layered story follows the esteemed Castillo de Montijo family over three generations. We find out that none of the Castillos is quite as perceived. Iko, a penniless Spaniard and Fatimah, a Muslim fugitive meet during the war and fall in love. They manage to survive and build a successful empire. But their privileged descendants are struggling to live up to the legacy they’ve built. As readers, we explore their fate as they navigate their generational greed, love and trauma.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Min Jin Lee has penned a historical family saga that follows four generations of a Korean family. They find their way through the political turmoil of Japanese colonization, a devastating war, an attempt to build a new and better life in Japan, and witnessing their home being divided into two countries they hardly recognize. Pachinko is a Japanese arcade game, and working in a pachinko parlour was considered a typical job for a Korean looking to make a living in Japan. This is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty.
Em and The Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto
I cannot believe this book isn’t more popular. Jerry Pinto is Indian English poet, novelist, and journalist based in Mumbai. This book is set in Mumbai, too. It is told from the perspective of a son whose mother is bipolar and is one of the most realistic portrayals of how a family’s life is shaped by and around the person with a mental illness. It is written with care, kindness, humour, and heartbreaking honesty. Pinto brings to the page the tiny and unnoticed yet significant glimpses into our days, and consequently, our lives.
Love & Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura
This title of this book delivers what it promises. We witness a messy sapphic quadrangle, and it’s delightfully chaotic. Nozomi, our protagonist, is gay and has to hide this from her grandma. She starts to have feelings for Willow, who works with her at the museum. Willow, however, just got out of a relationship. They decide to fake date to make Willow’s ex jealous, while Nozomi hopes that Willow will fall for her in the process. This novel captures the absolute angst and confusion of dating in your late teens.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
The title alone made me pick this book up, and it did not disappoint. It is written in letters from a son to her mother as he recounts their story. We get to see over three generations of a Vietnamese family through the Vietnam war and its far-reaching consequences. It is written with the utmost tenderness as he tries to make sense of his fragile and sometimes abusive relationship with his mother. We alternate between the perspective of a child, a teenager, and a man as he talks about his childhood, sexuality, and identity as a Vietnamese child who grows up in America.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
This book is set in Shaker Heights where everyone seems to play by the rules. Elena Richardson embodies this. Mia Warren, an artist, moves here with her daughter Pearl. They are tenants at the Richardson house and everyone in the family is drawn to them. As they continue getting closer to the family, the cracks in their perfectly maintained front start to appear. This book is an absolute ride as we explore different family structures, different methods of parenting, and even who gets to call themselves a parent. There’s a custody battle over a Chinese American baby, while secrets unfold with Mia and the Richardson Family. This gripping tale has also been adapted as a drama airing on Hulu.
I Love You So Mochi By Sarah Kuhn
Kimi gets into an explosive fight with her mother over the bold outfits she chooses to wear. Soon after, she receives a letter from her estranged grandparents inviting her to Kyoto for spring break. She arrives in Japan to meet a culture that feels both familiar and foreign. Here she learns to understand her mother and even find her own self. She also meets Akira, a cute med student who she starts to like almost immediately. When all elements come together, we get a warm, fuzzy coming-of-age romance with the back drop of cherry blossoms! It is the perfect book to welcome spring.
For more recommendations, check out our article 100 Must-Read Generational and Family Novels and our Asian Authors archive.
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