Celebrating Asian-Canadian authors: 10 essential reads
Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world, and according to StatisticsCanada, almost half of the immigrant population was born in Asia.
With Asian culture so much a part of this country, I wanted to highlight some fantastic authors and the books they have written.
With backgrounds from Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand, these are our 10 essential reads to celebrate Asian-Canadian authors.
Satellite Love by Genki Ferguson
Genki Ferguson was born in New Brunswick and grew up in Calgary. He was the recipient of the 2017 Helen Pitt Award for visual arts, and recently completed a degree in Film Production while working part-time at Book Warehouse, an indie bookstore in Vancouver.
Satellite Love takes place in 1999 in Japan and tells the story of 16-year-old Anna Obata, an outcast at school, and a young girl left to fend for herself and care for her increasingly senile grandfather at home. Anna copes with her loneliness by searching the night sky for answers. With themes of loneliness, faith, and connection, Satellite Love is a gorgeous and deeply moving story.
Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung
Pik-Shuen Fung is a Canadian writer and artist living in New York City. She’s the recipient of fellowships and residencies from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Kundiman, the Millay Colony, and Storyknife.
Fung’s debut novel, Ghost Forest, is about an unnamed protagonist revisiting memories of her dead father. She turns to her mother and grandmother for answers to the unresolved questions and misunderstandings that she has after his death, and in the process discovers her own life refracted brightly in theirs.
Swimming Back to Trout River by Linda Rui Feng
Linda Rui Feng is a writer, scholar, and a practitioner and researcher of imaginative storytelling. She has been awarded a MacDowell Fellowship, a Toronto Arts Council Grand, and residencies at Willapa Bay AiR and The Marble House Project. She currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the history of cartography, the cultural history of food in East Asia, and travel literature at the University of Toronto.
Her debut novel, Swimming Back to Trout River, is set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution that follows a father’s quest to reunite his family before his precocious daughter’s momentous birthday.
Made in Korea by Sarah Suk
Vancouver-based writer Sarah Suk graduated from UBC with a major in English Literature and a minor in Creative Writing. Her debut book, Made in Korea, was published by Simon & Schuster earlier this year.
Made in Korea centres around Valerie Kwon and Wes Jung, two entrepreneurial Korean American teens. Stakes are high among the two, who are trying to outdo one another with their competing Korean beauty businesses at their school. The two butt heads, and maybe also fall in love along the way. This is a fantastic feel good romantic comedy for young readers.
Render by Sachiko Murakami
Sachiko Murakami is the Toronto-based author of four poetry collections, including The Invisibility Exhibit, which was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award.
Her latest book, Render, is a collection of intimate poems that explore themes of addiction, recovery, and trauma. I highly recommend this deeply moving and insightful collection of poems, which were also shortlisted for the 2021 Governor General’s Literary Award.
EM by Kim Thúy
Forthcoming in September and available for preorder now, EM by Kim Thúy is a mesmerizing novel of profound power and tenderness, and an affirmation of the greatest act of resistance: love.
Kim Thúy left Vietnam with the boat people at the age of 10 and settled with her family in Quebec. A graduate in translation and law, she has worked as a seamstress, interpreter, lawyer, restaurant owner, and commentator on radio and television. She now lives in Montreal and devotes herself to writing. Her books have sold more than 850,000 copies around the world and have been translated into 29 languages and distributed across 40 countries and territories.
Kimiko Does Cancer by Kimiko Tobimatsu
Kimiko Tobimatsu is an employment and human rights lawyer born and raised in Toronto. The graphics for Kimiko Does Cancer are by Keet Geniza, an illustrator and comic artist born and raised in Manila. Tobimatsu moved to Toronto in 2006 and immersed herself in comics and zines as a way to cope and document her struggles as a queer, immigrant, woman of colour.
Kimiko Does Cancer is about Tobimatsu’s personal battle with breast cancer. A graphic memoir that upends the traditional cancer narrative from a young woman’s perspective, this book is gorgeously drawn and engaging throughout.
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
Xiran Jay Zhao is a Chinese-Canadian author and recent graduate of Simon Fraser University, based in Vancouver. Their first novel Iron Widow, forthcoming in September, is a YA Pacific Rim combined with The Handmaid’s Tale, with a wealth of Chinese history for sci-fi lovers everywhere.
Chop Suey Nation by Ann Hui
One of my favourite reads this year, Chop Suey Nation tells the story of Ann Hui and her cross country roadtrip, from Victoria to Fogo Island, to write about small-town Chinese restaurants and the families who run them.
Toronto-based Ann Hui is The Globe and Mail’s National Food Reporter. Before she joined The Globe, her writing was published in the Walrus, the National Post, Toronto Star and the Victoria Times Colonist.
How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa
How to Pronounce Knife is centred around the lives of Lao immigrants as they struggle to make it in a new country while facing the backlash of extreme racism, and moments of elitism, power, and privilege. The stories are all so unique and individual, with each one taking no longer than 20 minutes to read, but much longer to digest.
Author Souvankham Thammavongsa was born in Nong Khai in Thailand and raised in Toronto. She has established herself as one of Canada’s essential new voices in literature with this book, which has been named one of Time Magazine‘s must reads of 2020.