Book List

11 Rad Books Featuring Asian Protagonists

May 4, 2020
Jasmine Hodge
Riveted Editorial Board

It’s Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month so I thought I would share some of my favorite books that feature amazing Asian protagonists! So sit back, relax, and read about some fantastic books that you’ll definitely want to add to your TBR.

11 Rad Books Featuring Asian Protagonists

1. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

I couldn’t make this list and not include Jenny and Lara Jean! I especially love this series because of Lara Jean’s identity as a half-Korean, half-Caucasian young woman and how she introduces others to her culture (Korean yogurt, anyone?)

 

2. Want by Cindy Pon

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths.

 

3. Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Penny’s awkwardness is deeply relatable, as is her trouble figuring out an IRL relationship when it’s so much easier to keep in touch with her new friend, Sam, over text. It’s great being able to see her grow, though, not only into a good friend, but into her own person as the story progresses.

 

4. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandya Menon

Dimple struggles with following her parents’ traditions while paving her own path as an aspiring web developer in this hilarious and romantic book. Both Dimple and Rishi figure out how to follow their dreams while also embracing a connection that their family can see, even if they don’t.

 

5. Ruse by Cindy Pon

Jason Zhou, his friends, and Daiyu are back in the sequel to Cindy Pon’s sci-fi thriller Want.

After the events of the last book, Jin, the ruthless billionaire and Daiyu’s father, is out for blood and has Jany, a childhood friend of Linyi, murdered and steals the tech that Jany refused to sell him. Lingyi is now the only one who has access to the encrypted info, putting her own life is now in jeopardy.

 

6. American Panda by Gloria Chao

Mei has a master plan, at least according to her parents: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, and have kids. When she meets Darren Takahashi (and accepts that she hates germs), she decides she has to forge her own path towards a future that’s more her own.

 

7. Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Summer Bird Blue is a beautiful and lyrical novel about Rumi, who must come to terms with the death of her sister. Feeling lost and abandoned by her family, Rumi fearlessly dives into the things she once loved, along with the help of a surfer named Kai, to find her way back from loss.

 

8. Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

When Kieko suffers a hard rejection from her dream art school and her abusive uncle moves back in with her family, she must overcome her anxiety to go on an adventure of a lifetime that will teach her about family, her art, and herself.

 

9. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf

The Weight of Our Sky is a beautiful and heart wrenching story that takes place during the 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Beatles-loving Melati Ahmad is just like any other teenager at the movies when violence erupts between the Chinese and the Malay. Her entire world shifts as tensions escalate in this heart-pounding debut.

 

10. A Place to Belong by Cythia Kadohata

A Japanese-American family, reeling from their ill treatment in the Japanese internment camps, gives up their American citizenship to move back to Hiroshima, unaware of the devastation wreaked by the atomic bomb in this piercing look at the aftermath of World War II by Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata.

 

11. Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi

Pablo Rind is a half-Korean, half-Pakistani young man living in Brooklyn when he meets pop star Leanna Smart. One of the best things about Pablo’s character is that he works in a bodega and runs a fairly popular junk food Instagram account. His own heritage inspires many of the food choices he describes in the book and, let me tell you, they are mouthwatering.

Looking for more? Check out these #OwnVoices books you need to read right now.

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