If You Want to Spend Some Time in the Pan-Asian Diaspora: Read This
by Alex Laughlin
I spent all of 2017 reading books by Asian authors, as an Asian American, in an attempt to learn a little more about the culture that we've created. I wrote about it each month in a newsletter called #aznbooks2017. Now that it's 2018, I'm rolling the newsletter into a semi-regular journal on books and reading called "what i read." You can subscribe here!
My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki
I went on a deep dive into Ruth Ozeki’s work earlier this year, and My Year of Meats was my favorite. Ruth Ozeki is a master of marrying opposing forms and of doing that uncomfortable thing of holding contradictory truths in your head at once. It’s a novel that is deeply reported, parsing cultural differences between Japan and the United States through the lens of its biracial protagonist.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
After waiting patiently all year for this to publish, I tore through this book in two days. I bought it at The Strand on a Friday afternoon when I left work early to take myself on a dinner date (sometimes necessary when you're in a long distance relationship). I stayed up late that night reading and finished it by the end of the weekend. I'm not a fast reader, y'all know this. So it's pretty big that I managed to get through ~350 pages in just two days.
After I finished Little Fires, I walked around the city for days in a daze thinking about creative destruction. Sometimes running away is an act of cowardice, but sometimes burning something down is the only way to start fresh.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
I do believe this is my favorite book of the year. I thought about it for days after I finished it. The last few scenes are just haunting and heartbreaking. Also, parallelism is one of my favorite thing to experience in literature ever, and this had a ton of it.
Home Fire is a retelling of Antigone, so like, you have been warned. It’s set in modern day England and the protagonists are British-Pakistani. Sometimes when a novel adapts classics into the present day, it just feels like the same characters are dressed up in contemporary costumes. The shift in time doesn’t actually work in conversation with the original work (Looking at you, Re Jane). Home Fire does not do that. Its adaptation is so well done, so delicate, so empathetic, so heartbreaking. Read this.
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
Liu is a science fiction and fantasy writer, and though I haven't read a ton of the genre, I was so, so into this. So many of the short stories could have easily been Black Mirror episodes.
Each of Liu's stories involves humans merging with machines in some way — either physically, or mentally. There's also usually an Asian character tossed into a story, but it's often not the point of the story, which I appreciate. It didn't feel like Liu's stories were burdened with the responsibility of ~~representation~~.
It was delicious and fascinating and horrifying, and I recommend it in every possible way.