Books·Reading List

25 books to celebrate Asian Heritage Month in Canada

May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada. To celebrate, here’s a list of 25 works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and comics by Canadians of Asian descent.

May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada. To celebrate, here's a list of 25 works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and comics by Canadians of Asian descent.

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu

Kim Fu is the author of Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century. (L D’Alessandro, Coach House Books)

In this collection of stories, Kim Fu turns the familiar on its head to weave tales of new worlds where strange happenings, like a girl growing wings on her legs or toy boxes that control the passage of time, are the ordinary trappings of everyday life. The stories deal with themes of death, technological consequence, guilt and sexuality and unmask the contradictions within humanity. 

Kim Fu is a Washington-based, Canadian-born fiction writer and poet. She has published two other works of fiction, For Today I Am a Boy and The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, and a book of poetry called How Festive the Ambulance.

Kim Fu talks to Shelagh Rogers about her short story collection, Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century.

Help! I'm Alive by Gurjinder Basran

Help! I’m Alive is a book by Gurjinder Basran. (ECW Press, Karolina Turek)

When video footage of Jay's death is shared on social media, a Vancouver community tries to make sense of what happened. The four people closest to Jay — his girlfriend, mother, brother and former best friend — begin to question who they have been and how they should deal with the loss, as feelings of guilt, loneliness and anxiety surface. 

Help! I'm Alive explores what happens in the aftermath of a death and how moments can bring us together and drive us apart. 

Gurjinder Basran is a writer living in Delta, B.C. Her debut novel, Everything Was Goodbye, was the winner of the BC Book Prize and the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize in 2011.

A Convergence of Solitudes by Anita Anand

A Convergence of Solitudes is a book by Anita Anand. (Book*Hug Press, Alexis LaFlamme)

A Convergence of Solitudes follows the lives of two families across the Partition of India, Operation Babylift in Vietnam and two referendums in Quebec. At the centre of the story are Sunil and Hima who leave India to raise a family in Montreal. Their lives become intertwined with Serge Giglio, the nationalistic frontman of Quebecois supergroup Sensibilité, when Sunil and Hima's daughter connects with Serge's adopted daughter. 

A Convergence of Solitudes is a story about identity and belonging.

When you can read it: May 17, 2022

Anita Anand is a writer, translator and language teacher from Montreal. She is the author of Swing in the House and Other Stories, which won the 2015 QWF Concordia University First Book Prize and was shortlisted for the 2016 Relit Award for Fiction. 

We Were Dreamers by Simu Liu

We Were Dreamers is a book by Simu Liu. (HarperCollins Publishers)

Simu Liu details his journey from China to Canada to Hollywood, where he becomes the star of Marvel's first Asian superhero film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Born in China, Liu's parents brought him to Canada when he was just four years old. As he grows up, he gets top marks in school, participates in national math competitions and makes his parents proud. But less than a year out of college and disillusioned with the life laid out for him, Liu is determined to carve out his own path.

Liu is an actor and writer best known for his work on Marvel's Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and the CBC sitcom Kim's Convenience. He lives in Los Angeles and Toronto.

Canada’s Simu Liu has leapt from the small screen to the big screen with a life-changing role in Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. He sat down with Tom Power in the Q studio to talk about being the first Asian superhero to lead a Marvel film and how he felt saying goodbye to Kim’s Convenience.

You Still Look the Same by Farzana Doctor

You Still Look the Same is a poetry collection by Farzana Doctor. (Freehand Books)

In her debut poetry collection, Farzana Doctor dives into the tumultuous decade of her forties. She explores mid-life breakups and dating, female genital cutting, racism, misogyny, sex, love and the ways in which human relationships are never how we expect them to be.

Farzana Doctor is an author and social worker. Her books include the novels SevenAll InclusiveSix Metres of Pavement and Stealing Nasreen. She won the 2011 Dayne Ogilvie Prize from the Writers' Trust of Canada for an emerging lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender writer.

Farzana Doctor tackles taboo subjects in her new novel Seven.

Where the Silver River Ends by Anna Quon

Where the Silver River Ends is a book by Anna Quon. (Invisible Publishing, Julie Wilson)

When Joan, a half Chinese English teacher, flees to Budapest for a fresh start, she meets a proud Roma teenager named Milan. Milan helps Joan settle into the city and Joan introduces him to Adriana, who is on a journey to lay the memory of her dead mother to rest. The trio form an unlikely friendship, bound by love and luck. 

Where the Silver River Ends is a novel about mixed-race identity, systemic oppression and family reconciliation.

Anna Quon is a poet, novelist and writing workshop facilitator. Her first novel, Migration Songs, was shortlisted for the Dartmouth Book Award. Quon lives in Dartmouth.

In her latest novel, Halifax-based writer Anna Quon explores themes of belonging and disability through complex and flawed characters. Hear about the virtual launch of Anna's new book Where the Silver River Ends.

Celia, Misoka, I by Xue Yiwei, translated by Stephen Nashef

Celia, Misoka, I is a book by Xue Yiwei, pictured, which was translated by Stephen Nashef. (Dundurn Press)

Celia, Misoka, I tells the story of a middle-aged Chinese man, who finds himself living in modern-day Montreal all alone after his wife dies. Eventually, the man meets two women by Beaver Lake on Montreal's Mount Royal and their own stories of personal plight connect past to present and West to East.

After coming together, the three begin to examine who they are, where they belong and how to navigate otherness and identity in a globalized world.

Xue Yiwei is a bestselling novelist, short story writer and academic. He has published four novels, five collections of short stories plus several works of nonfiction. Shenzheners is his first book to be translated into English. Xue Yiwei lives in Montreal.

Stephen Nashef is a Chinese to English translator. He was awarded a Henry Luce Foundation Fellowship for Chinese poetry translation in 2018. Nashef lives in Beijing.

Such Big Dreams by Reema Patel

Such Big Dreams is a book by Reema Patel. (McClelland & Stewart, Jenna Wakani)

Such Big Dreams tells the story of Rakhi, a former street child haunted by the memory of a grisly incident that led her to lose her best friend. Rakhi is fiercely intelligent, living and working in a Mumbai slum as an office assistant for Justice for All, a struggling human rights law office. When a fading Bollywood starlet becomes a celebrity ambassador for Justice For All, Rakhi's world expands as she comes face to face with difficult choices and moral compromises.

Reema Patel is a writer and lawyer. She has worked in human rights advocacy and in provincial and municipal government. Such Big Dreams is her first novel. Patel lives in Toronto.

Ezra's Ghosts by Darcy Tamayose

Ezra's Ghosts is a book by Darcy Tamayose. (NeWest Press)

In this collection of fantastical stories, Darcy Tamayose introduces a cast of characters whose lives intersect in a quiet prairie town called Ezra. From a seeker of truth trapped in Ezra after her violent death, to the oldest man in town who came to Canada to escape imperial hardships, the stories in Ezra's Ghosts are linked by language, culture and grief.

Darcy Tamayose is a writer and graphic designer from southern Alberta. Her work includes the novel, Odori, which received the Canada-Japan Literary Award, and the YA book, Katie Be Quiet. Tamayose lives in Lethbridge, Alta.

Taobao by Dan K. Woo

Taobao is a book by Dan K. Woo. (Wolsak & Wynn, Gong Shoupeng/Mengsha Studio)

In this collection of short stories, Dan K. Woo introduces a fascinating cast of characters from different regions of China, from rural villages to bustling cities. These are stories of young people looking for love, meaning and happiness in a country that is often misunderstood by North America. 

Dan K. Woo is the author of Learning How to Love China, which won the 2018 Ken Klonsky Award. His writing has appeared in publications such as the South China Morning Post, Quill & Quire, China Daily USA and elsewhere. Woo lives in Toronto. 

Parasitic Oscillations by Madhur Anand

Parasitic Oscillations is a book by Madhur Anand. (Ian Willms, McClelland & Stewart)

Parasitic Oscillations examines a variety of philosophical and ethical dilemmas to inform and question. Set against the backdrop of ecological collapse, these poems draw on Madhur Anand's work in the arts and sciences and experience living between North American and Indian culture.

Madhur Anand is a poet and professor of ecology at the University of Guelph. She is the author of the A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes and This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart, which won the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction.

My Grief, the Sun by Sanna Wani

My Grief, the Sun is a book by Sanna Wani. (House of Anansi Press)

My Grief, the Sun is a collection of magical poems filled with love and grief. They touch on everything from filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke to German Orientalist scholarship on early Islam. Moving from the Missinnihe River in Canada to the Zabarwan Mountains in Kashmir, Sanna Wani explores the world from a poet's perspective.

Sanna Wani is a poet who lives in Mississauga, Ontario and Srinagar, Kashmir. Her work has appeared in Brick, Poem-a-Day and Best Canadian Poetry 2020My Grief, the Sun is her first collection of poetry.

Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron

Kamila Knows Best is a book by Farah Heron. (Forever, farahheron.com)

Kamila has a nearly perfect life. While she keeps herself busy by throwing Bollywood movie parties, hanging out with her endless array of friends and running her dog's wildly successful Instagram account, her love life is lagging behind. So Kamila decides to start flirting with a handsome family friend named Rohan and eventually develops a crush. When Kamila's secret nemesis returns to town with an eye for Rohan, things start to unravel and Kamila's life gets turned upside down.

Farah Heron is a writer from Toronto. She is also the author of the romantic comedies The Chai Factor and Accidentally Engaged and the YA novel Tahira in Bloom.

Farah Heron on what inspired her latest romantic comedy, Tahira in Bloom.

Dandelion by Jamie Chai Yun Liew

Dandelion is a book by Jamie Chai Yun Liew. (Kenya-Jade Pinto, Arsenal Pulp Press)

When Lily was a child, her mother, Swee Hua, walked away from the family and was never heard from again. After becoming a new mother herself, Lily is obsessed with discovering what happened to Swee Hua. She recalls growing up in a British Columbia mining town where there were only a handful of Asian families and how Swee Hua longed to return to Brunei. Eventually, a clue leads Lily to southeast Asia to find out the truth about her mother.

Dandelion is a novel about family secrets, migration, isolation, motherhood and mental illness. 

Jamie Chai Yun Liew is a lawyer and law professor based in Ottawa. Dandelion is her first novel and won her the Jim Wong-Chu Emerging Writers Award from the Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop. 

Sari, Not Sari by Sonya Singh

Sari, Not Sari is a book by Sonya Singh. (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Sari, Not Sari is a romcom novel. Manny Dogra is the CEO of a highly successful company that helps people manage their breakups. She's planning her wedding to a handsome architect, while in the midst of grieving the deaths of her parents. Her parents, who were both born in India, wanted Manny to become an "All-American girl," so that's what she did. Knowing next to nothing about her South Asian heritage, Manny meets an irritating client who agrees to give her a crash course in being Indian at his brother's wedding.

Sonya Singh is a writer, producer and former entertainment reporter. Sari, Not Sari is her first novel. Singh lives in Toronto.

Sonya Singh on her debut romcom novel Sari, Not Sari.

Beast at Every Threshold by Natalie Wee

Beast at Every Threshold is a book by Natalie Wee. (May Truong Photography, Arsenal Pulp Press)

In Beast at Every Threshold, Natalie Wee unravels the constructs of otherness and reflects on the intersection of queerness, diaspora and loss. These poems explore thresholds of marginality, immigration, nationhood and reinvention of the self through myth. 

Natalie Wee is a queer author who was born in Singapore to Malaysian parents and currently lives in Toronto (Tkaronto). Her other work includes the chapbook Our Bodies & Other Fine Machines. Her work was named first runner-up for the 2020 Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize, winner of the 2019 Blue Mesa Review Summer Contest for poetry and a Best of the Net finalist.

Face by Jaspreet Singh

Face is a book by Jaspreet Singh. (Touchwood Editions, Jaspreet Singh)

When Lila, an Indian-born science journalist, meets a writer named Lucia at a creative writing workshop in Calgary, the two women find their paths entangled. As they work through Lila's story, the women follow the links between a fossil fraud in India, an ice core archive in Canada, the Burgess Shale quarry and a climate change laboratory in Germany. Through their detective work, Lila and Lucia come face to face with ecological grief and today's most fascinating science.

Jaspreet Singh is the author of the novels Chef and Helium, the story collection Seventeen Tomatoes and the poetry collection November. His nonfiction has been published in Granta, Brick: A Literary Journal and the New York Times. Singh lives in Calgary.

Waking Occupations by Phoebe Wang

Waking Occupations is a book by Phoebe Wang. (Guillaume Morissette, McClelland & Stewart)

Waking Occupations is a four-part mediation on what it means to live on occupied land. These poems reflect on what we carry from previous generations, the difficult truths we often forget and the art that holds us accountable. 

Phoebe Wang is an Ottawa-born poet and author. Her debut poetry collection Admission Requirementswhich explores stories of the land and searches for a secure sense of belonging, was shortlisted for the 2018 League of Canadian Poets Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Wang also made the CBC Poetry Prize longlist in 2016.

Grappling Hook by Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang

Grappling Hook is a poetry collection by Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang. (Palimpsest Press)

In Grappling Hook, Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang explores identity, desire and the everyday struggles of motherhood. From the joys and perils of marriage to the evolving fight for social justice in a world divided by inequity, these poems are dedicated to those making meaningful change in unprecedented times.

Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang is a poet and children's book author. Her poetry collections include Sweet Devilry, which won the 2012 Gerald Lampert award, and Status Update, which was nominated for the Pat Lowther Award. Tsiang was shortlisted for the 2019 CBC Poetry Prize.

Quiet Night Think by Gillian Sze

Quiet Night Think is a book by Gillian Sze. (ECW Press, Nadia Zheng)

Composed of personal essays and poems, Gillian Sze reflects on her familial and artistic origins in Quiet Night Think. This collection takes its name from a direct translation of an eighth-century Chinese poem by Li Bai, the subject of the opening essay. As Sze moves between poetry and prose, mother and writer, she meditates on ideas of emergence and transformation.

Gillian Sze is a poet from Winnipeg. She is the author of multiple poetry collections, as well as the 2021 children's book The Night is Deep and Wide. Sze lives in Montreal. 

Jameela Green Ruins Everything by Zarqa Nawaz

Jameela Green Ruins Everything is the debut novel by Little Mosque on the Prairie creator Zarqa Nawaz. (Simon & Shuster, Peter Scoular)

Jameela Green Ruins Everything is a satirical novel about a young woman named Jameela Green, whose biggest dream is to see her novel become a bestseller. When that dream doesn't come true, she becomes involved in her local mosque, which inadvertently leads her to infiltrating an international terrorist organization. Jameela Green Ruins Everything explores success, searching for meaning and community, and the failures of American foreign policy.

Zarqa Nawaz is a film and TV producer, writer and former broadcaster based in Regina. She is best known for being the creator of the hit CBC comedy series Little Mosque on the Prairie. She is also the author of the memoir Laughing All the Way to the Mosquewhich was shortlisted for the 2015 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Nawaz is also working on a new CBC TV series called Zarqa, which is set to premiere in 2022.

Zarqa Nawaz talks to Shelagh Rogers about her first novel, Jameela Green Ruins Everything

The Circus Train by ​​Amita Parikh

The Circus Train is a book by Amita Parikh. (amitaparikh.com, HarperCollins Canada)

Although the daughter of an extraordinary illusionist, Lena Papadopoulos has never quite found her place within the circus. Her father, Theo, is overprotective and limits her world because she is disabled. When Lena rescues Alexandre, an orphan with a mysterious past, their friendship flourishes over the years and Alexandre trains to join the circus. Eventually, Alexandre and Theo are contracted to perform in a model town for Jews set up by the Nazis and Lena becomes separated from everything she knows, forced to make her own way.

Amita Parikh is a writer from Toronto. She works in the tech industry and produces and hosts a podcast dedicated to women in sports. The Circus Train is her first novel. 

Hsin by Nanci Lee

Hsin is a book by Nanci Lee. (Brick Books)

Born to a Syrian father and a Chinese mother who gave her up for adoption, Nanci Lee reflects on her origins. Hsin arises from an ancient Chinese ethical philosophy and explores fourth-century poet Su Hui's palindrome of longing.

Nanci Lee is a Chinese Syrian poet based in Nova Scotia. Her writing has appeared in publications like The Malahat Review, Matrix Magazine, The Antigonish Review and The Literary Review of Canada. Hsin is her first book.

Mansions of the Moon by Shyam Selvadurai

Shyam Selvadurai is the author of Mansions of the Moon. (Kevin Kelly, Knopf Canada)

Mansions of the Moon traces the life of Siddhartha Gautama, otherwise known as the Buddha, and his marriage to the intelligent and spirited Yasodhara. From their early life together to their crumbling partnership as Siddhartha's spiritual calling takes over, Mansions of the Moon paints a rich portrait of a marriage and illuminates a woman who has remained in the shadows of history.

Shyam Selvadurai is an award-winning Sri Lankan Canadian novelist. His books include Funny Boywhich won the 1995 Books in Canada First Novel Award, now known as the Amazon Canada First Novel Award. It was also adapted into a film by Indian Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, which is available on CBC Gem. His other books include The Hungry Ghosts and Swimming in the Monsoon Sea.

In his new book, Sri Lankan-Canadian novelist Shyam Selvadurai reimagines ancient India through the life of Yasodhara, the wife of the man who became the Buddha. He talks about the book and the role of Buddhism in his own life.

Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto, illustrated by Ann Xu

Shadow Life is a comic by Hiromi Goto. (First Second Press)

In the graphic novel, Shadow Life76-year-old Kumiko is placed in a long-term care home by her daughters. It's not what Kumiko wants and she breaks out and takes refuge in an apartment she keeps secret from her children. She finds pleasure in simple, daily life, but Death's shadow haunts her. Kumiko is ready to fight for the life she's built herself, but how long can she fight back?

Hiromi Goto is a writer and editor from British Columbia. Her novels include Chorus of Mushrooms, Half World and Darkest Light. Goto made the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist for alley/bird/allyShadow Life is her first graphic novel.

Ann Xu is an American illustrator.

Hiromi Goto on her graphic novel Shadow Life, illustrated by Ann Xu, about an elderly Japanese Canadian woman who goes on the lam from her seniors home and has the adventure of her life.

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