May is Asian Heritage Month, and we're showing some love with this top 10 list of books by Asian-Canadians that have made an impact on us.
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10. Paper Teeth by Lauralyn Chow (NeWest Press) is a collection of interconnected short stories you'll want to sink your teeth into: there's fashion, pop culture, family feuds, road trips, and the Lees, a Canadian-Chinese family who bring it all together. The stories span all the way from the '60s to the present, and there's a ton of food talk so we recommend that you don't consume on an empty stomach.
9. Joy Kogawa's memoir Gently to Nagasaki (Caitlin Press) will have you reaching for tissues as Joy recounts her experience as a child during WWII when she was interned with her family and thousands of other Japanese Canadians. The story has you in the grips of Joy's personal story, and larger catastrophes like the bombing of Nagasaki, painting a very real picture of tragedy and resilience.
8. Vivek Shraya's children's book The Boy & the Bindi (Arsenal Pulp) is a touching story of a young boy exploring his cultural roots when he becomes fascinated by his mom's bindi. And gorgeous illustrations by Rajni Perera only make us love this book just a little more.
7. Kilt Pins by Catherine Hernandez (Playwrights Canada Press) couldn't be more dramatically charged. Featuring teens in a Catholic high school, the play explores race relations, poverty, sexual identity, and unwanted pregnancies.
6. Yaya Yao's flesh, tongue (Mawenzi House) is a first collection of poetry that draws on scraps of personal and communal memory to explore language and identity, and the yearning for home. There are translated bits of Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, and Shanghainese that give this collection a distinctive voice.
5. We're calling all mystery readers to Jen Sookfong Lee's The Conjoined (ECW Press). When the protagonist discovers the bodies of the two young Chinese foster kids in her mom's freezer, she begins to uncover a series of dark twists.
4. Michael Kaan's The Water Beetles (Goose Lane Editions) is another one that you'll want tissues on hand for. Based loosely on the stories and diaries of Kaan's father, the novel captures the Battle of Hong Kong through a child's eyes.
3. We have a soft spot for coming-of-age novels like Carrianne Leung's The Wondrous Woo (Inanna Publications) that feature kick-butt protagonists like Miramar Woo who learns to come out of her shell to be the sassy, Kung Fu heroine she feels like on the inside.
2. We'd be remiss to not include SKY Lee's classic novel Disappearing Moon Cafe (NeWest Press) in our roundup. This is a multi-generational portrait of a Chinese-Canadian family that has in the midst of nineteenth-century British Columbia to late twentieth-century Hong Kong to Vancouver's Chinatown.
1. It's no wonder Xue Yiwei's novel Shenzheners (Linda Leith Publishing) was named one of the Most Influential Chinese Books of the Year in 2013, and an obvious choice for this list. And since it's translated into English by Darryl Sterk we get to read for ourselves all about Shenzhen, a market town near Hong Kong in the '80s that was used to introduce capitalism to Communist China.
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