Did you know that Asian Pacific American Heritage month is traditionally celebrated in May? This year, we might not be able to throw a big party, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get our Asian Pacific American read on.
In 2018, Crazy Rich Asians took Hollywood by storm, earning almost $240 million dollars at the box office. Crazy Rich Asians is the first major motion picture with a predominantly Asian cast since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan – also a good read). Author Kevin Kwan expanded his blockbuster novel into a trilogy, however, the plans for a second movie have been put on hold while they work on getting the screenplay finished. Sigh. What’s a girl to do until then? Luckily, in my literary travels I have come across a handful of other Asian-inspired books that are similar, and in some cases maybe even better, than Crazy Rich Asians.
In 2018 (the same year as Crazy Rich Asians – coincidence?), Huang released her book called The Kiss Quotient. It wasn’t bad, but it was just a little too Pretty Woman for me. The Bride Test is the sequel to the The Kiss Quotient, and I liked it ever so much better. Also, I think you could read The Bride Test by itself – I honestly had a hard time linking the two of them together. Vietnamese hotel maid, Esme, is discovered by a wealthy hotel patron who convinces her to travel to America to meet her son, Khai. Khai is autistic and very intelligent, but he’s never had a girlfriend and his mother is trying to help him with this. I liked both of these main characters and it was fun to see their growth over the course of the novel. Also, I checked out the audio book, which was helpful since some of the dialogue was in Vietnamese – which I do not speak.
Natalie is forced to return home to San Francisco on the death of her mother. Unexpectedly, she finds herself the owner of her grandmother’s prized Chinese restaurant in the middle of a decaying and gentrifying Chinatown. At first she struggles with anger at her neighbors for abandoning her mother, but as she immerses herself back in the old neighborhood, she starts to see the glimmer of life that hasn’t not quite been snuffed out yet. I also enjoyed the little bits of magic inserted into the story here and there. At first I thought it was weird, but it grew on me. I would say this one is better than Kwan’s novel.
Stanley Huang has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and author Kathy Wang explores how his family – wife, ex-wife, daughter & son deal with the revelation. This one was harder to read because it was a little darker and a little heavier, but it is the most like Crazy Rich Asians. If you are a CRA fan, you definitely need to check this one out.
I have two other books from Asian authors that warrant mention here, although I will caution, these are nothing like Crazy Rich Asians.
This one is more of a thriller, along the lines of Rush Hour or a Jason Bourne movie. Victor Li’s father is murdered and when going through his father’s papers, Victor discovers it might not be the simple home intrusion that the police claim. Victor travels to Beijing to finish the work his father started, no matter what dangers await. The beginning of this one was a little slow, but once it got cranking, I didn’t want to put it down.
This book is like nothing I’ve ever read before. It twisted and turned so many times. Some of them I saw coming, but most of the big ones I didn’t. Alexa Wu is a brilliant photographer who has just landed the job of her dreams as an assistant to her idol. But Alexa’s not normal. She suffers from multiple personality disorder and finds herself losing time as events occur around her. Usually I don’t read books that are so psychological, but I found this one fascinating. It’s dark, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it after I finished. Read it. We’ll chat.
Ok friends. I hope you are staying safe and I hope that our NPL digital collections are keeping you entertained and out of trouble.
Happy Asian Pacific American month!