17 Canadian books to read for Asian Heritage Month

May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada. To celebrate, CBC Books has curated a list of novels, nonfiction, comics and children's literature by Canadian writers with Asian ancestry.

May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada. To celebrate, CBC Books has curated a list of novels, nonfiction, comics and children's literature by Canadian writers with Asian ancestry.

Leaving Richard's Valley by Michael DeForge

Leaving Richard's Valley is a comic by Michael DeForge. (Matthew James-Wilson, Drawn & Quarterly)

Toronto artist Michael DeForge collects his Instagram comic Leaving Richard's Valley in book form, following the fates of Omar the Spider, Neville the Dog and Ellie Squirrel as they risk the wrath of a beloved but tyrannical leader in order to save their friend, Lyle the Raccoon. When exposed, the three friends are kicked out of the only home they've ever known and make their way to the big city for a fresh start. Leaving Richard's Valley won the Slate Book Review and Vermont's Center for Cartoon Studies's Cartoonist Studio Prize for best web comic in 2018. 

Ocean Meets Sky by Eric Fan & Terry Fan

Eric Fan (left) and Terry Fan are award-winning illustrators based in Toronto. (

In the picture book Ocean Meets Sky — the follow-up to their stunningly illustrated The Night GardenerTerry Fan and Eric Fan tell the story of a young boy named Finn who sets out on an adventure to find the mythical place where the ocean meets the sky. 

Chop Suey Nation by Ann Hui

Ann Hui is a Toronto-based author and journalist. (CBC)

In the nonfiction book Chop Suey Nation Ann Hui drives to small towns across Canada and visits the family-run Chinese restaurants that dot the country. She also discovers her own family's secrets of working in the industry. Hui, a journalist with the Globe and Mail, begins her journey as an authenticity snob, but comes to appreciate the determination and enterprise of families across the nation.

SKY WRI TEI NGS by Nasser Hussain

SKY WRI TEI NGS is a poetry collection by Nasser Hussain. (Coach House Books)

Every airport in the world has a three-letter code. SKY WRI TEI NGS is an attempt to write a complete collection of poetry using only these codes and while doing so explores the relationship between place and language. The title is composed of SKY — Griffing Sandusky Airport in Ohio, WRI — McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, TEI — Tezu Airport in India and NGS — Nagasaki Airport in Japan.

The Forbidden Purple City by Philip Huynh

The Forbidden Purple City is a short story collection by Philip Huynh. (Goose Lane)

Philip Huynh's short fiction collection dives into the Vietnamese diaspora, following the burgeoning bond of private school outcasts, the discovery of a father's terrible secret and the isolation of a young bride on a distant island, among other stories. The Forbidden Purple City is B.C.-based lawyer Philip Huynh's debut collection.

The Walking Boy by Lydia Kwa

The Walking Boy is a novel by Lydia Kwa. (, Arsenal Pulp Press)

In 8th-century China, a dying hermit named Harelip sends his disciple Baoshi on a quest to find his former lover Ardhanari. Burdened with a secret only his Master knows about, Baoshi sets off on a long pilgrimage and encounters a series of characters that help ease pains of the past. Lydia Kwa's previous books include the novel Oracle Bone and the poetry collection sinuous.

The Matchmaker's List by Sonya Lalli

The Matchmaker's List is a novel by Sonya Lalli. (Penguin Random House Canada, Ning Joanis)

In his romantic comedy, Raina Anand has reluctantly consented to let her grandmother play matchmaker. Anand endures a series of terrible blind dates with "suitable" bachelors, all the while hatching a plan to thwart her tight-knit family's plans. The Matchmaker's List is Sonya Lalli's first book.

I Am Small by Qin Leng

Qin Leng is the author of the illustrated children's book I Am Small. (Courtesy of Kids Can Press)

Mimi hates being small, even though her friends tell her she's the best at finding hiding places because of her size. One day, Mimi hears that a tiny surprise is waiting for her at home and she's about to learn something unexpected about being little. I Am Small marks acclaimed children's book illustrator Qin Leng's debut as a writer.

An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim

Thea Lim is the author of An Ocean of Minutes. (Elisha Lim, Viking Canada)

Thea Lim's An Ocean of Minutes is a novel set in an alternative timeline: one where a deadly flu ripped through America, forever changing the country. When Polly Nader's partner Frank becomes infected, she makes a drastic decision in order to save him. A company called TimeRaiser agrees to pay for life-saving treatment if Polly time travels 12 years into the future, where she can be reunited with Frank and work as a bonded labourer. But Polly is accidentally sent 17 years into a future where Frank is nowhere to be found. Lim grew up in Singapore and now lives in Toronto. An Ocean of Minutes was shortlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Fatboy Fall Down by Rabindranath Maharaj

Fatboy Fall Down is a novel by Rabindranath Maharaj. (ECW Press)

Fatboy Fall Down follows an man named Orbit, who seems only to be a source of disappointment to those he loves: his parents, his brother, his wife and children. Though haunted by past traumas, Orbit seeks his place in a world that has shown him cruelty. Rabindranath Maharaj is an award-winning novelist from Ajax, Ont., whose books include The Amazing Absorbing Boy and Adjacentland.

Flow by Roy Miki

Flow is an anthology of celebrated writer Roy Miki's poetry. (Slavia Miki, Talonbooks)

Flow collects celebrated poet Roy Miki's published body of work, as well as new poetry, photographs and photo collages. Miki's reputation is that of an innovator whose work explores themes of race, class, politics and history. He won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry in 2002 for the collection Surrender.

Divided Loyalties by Nilofar Shidmehr

Divided Loyalties is a short story collection by Nilofar Shidmehr. (House of Anansi Press)

Divided Loyalties is a collection of stories about the diverse lives of Iranian women through the past several decades and across Iran and Canada. Shidmehr's stories follow young girls and women as they look beyond their designated roles as mothers, daughters, sisters and wives in times of war, refuge and reflection. Divided Loyalties is poet and essayist Nilofar Shidmehr's debut collection of short fiction.

Death Threat by Vivek Shraya & Ness Lee

Death Threat is a comic by Vivek Shraya (right) and Ness Lee. (Arsenal Pulp Press, Tanja Tiziana)

In Death Threat, poet and musician Vivek Shraya collects the transphobic hate mail she received from a stranger in the fall of 2017. These disturbing letters, along with her responses, are accompanied by illustrations from Toronto artist Ness Lee, culminating in a surreal and satirical comic book about the spread of hatred, violence and dangers of the internet. Shraya is also the author of the essay I'm Afraid of Men and the poetry collection even this page is white.

Cluster by Souvankham Thammavongsa

Souvankham Thammavongsa is an award-winning poet based in Toronto. (Jennifer Rowsom, McClelland & Stewart)

Toronto-based poet Souvankham Thammavongsa's fourth poetry collection examines the nature of meaning and the ways in which it arrives, resonates and dissipates. This wide-ranging collection includes ruminations on nature, family and politics written in Thammavongsa's celebrated minimalist style. Thammavongsa previously won the Trillium Book Award for the book Light and the ReLit Award for Small Arguments.

Mistakes to Run With by Yasuko Thanh

Mistakes to Run With is a memoir by Yasuko Thanh. (Don Denton, Hamish Hamilton)

Yasuko Thanh opens up about her tumultuous life in Mistakes to Run With, from rebelling against her evangelical parents, living on the streets of Vancouver and becoming a sex worker to falling in love and writing an award-winning novel. Thanh writes that, despite her success, she still struggles with events of the past. Mistakes to Run With is Thanh's first nonfiction book, following the short story collection Floating Like the Dead and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize-winning novel Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains.

The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong

The Woo-Woo is a memoir by Lindsay Wong. (Shimon/Arsenal Pulp Press)

This dark, witty and touching memoir by Vancouver-based writer Lindsay Wong takes a look at the impact of mental illness on families. Wong delivers an honest and emotional look at whispered secrets, dysfunctional relationships — and how her grandmother, mother, aunt and even herself initially blamed the mythical "woo-woo," Chinese spirits that plague the living, for their mental health issues. The memoir is equal parts blunt, honest and hilarious. It was defended by Joe Zee on Canada Reads 2019.

Dear Scarlet by Teresa Wong

Dear Scarlet is a graphic memoir by Teresa Wong. (Arsenal Pulp Press, Ken Hurd)

Teresa Wong pens an honest and emotional letter to her daughter in the graphic memoir Dear Scarlet. The Calgary writer describes her experience with postpartum depression — how feelings of sadness, loss and guilt consumed her — and her many attempts at healing. Dear Scarlet is Wong's first book.


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