Growing up Chinese-American, I had few options when it came to reading books about myself and my culture. Most of the works I could find that featured Chinese characters were by authors without Chinese heritage, which meant you got awful, cringe-worthy scenes detailing almond eyes, lotus-bud lips, qipao slits riding over dainty hips, and nainais speaking in stereotypically broken English.
But in the past decade, mainstream publishing has inched closer towards better representation, even if we’re still not quite there. Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings proved that an epic based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms could be just as popular as Game of Thrones; JY Yang’s Tensorate Series novellas have been racking up the awards nominations this year; and the anthology A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, a collection of reimagined Asian folklore and myths that has already garnered critical acclaim, comes out this year in June.
So here are five more recently published books about East Asian culture and history, by East Asian (diaspora) authors, that I wish I’d been able to find on shelves when I was younger. I’ve tried to pick books across genres and age groups (adult and YA) so that there’s something here that might appeal to everyone. Enjoy!