Novels by Asian & Asian American Authors to Celebrate the Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year is a celebration of the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar. It is the most important holiday in China, and it is also widely celebrated in Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and countries with a significant overseas Chinese population. The celebration usually lasts 15 days, from New Year’s day to the 15th day of the New Year – the Lantern Festival. 

During the Lunar New Year celebration, let’s read one or more of these novels by Asian and Asian-American Authors, from Nobel Prize-winning author Mo Yan, to newer releases like Counterfeit, Love in the Big City, Evening Hero, and Things We Lost to the Water.

(Note: All descriptions are taken from the publishers)

The Wandering Earth by Liu, Cixin

From New York Times bestselling author Cixin Liu, The Wandering Earth is a science fiction short story collection featuring the title tale–the basis for the blockbuster international film, now streaming on Netflix. These eleven stories, including five Chinese Galaxy Award-winners, are a blazingly original ode to planet Earth, its pasts, and its futures. Liu’s fiction takes the reader to the edge of the universe and the end of time, to meet stranger fates than we could have ever imagined.

The Seventh Day by Yu, Hua

Yang Fei was born on a train as it raced across the Chinese countryside. Lost by his mother, adopted by a young switchman, raised with simplicity and love, he is utterly unprepared for the changes that await him and his country. As a young man, he searches for a place to belong in a nation ceaselessly reinventing itself, but he remains on the edges of society.

Frog by Mo, Yan (Available as a book or e-audiobook)

In 2012, the Nobel committee confirmed Mo Yan’s position as one of the greatest and most important writers of our time. In his much-anticipated new novel, Mo Yan chronicles the sweeping history of modern China through the lens of the nation’s controversial one-child policy. Frog opens with a playwright nicknamed Tadpole who plans to write about his aunt. In her youth, Gugu – the beautiful daughter of a famous doctor and staunch Communist – is revered for her skill as a midwife. 

The Day the Sun Died : A Novel by Yan, Lianke

Yan Lianke has secured his place as contemporary China’s most essential and daring novelist, “with his superlative gifts for storytelling and penetrating eye for truth” (New York Times Book Review). His newest novel, The Day the Sun Died–winner of the Dream of the Red Chamber Award, one of the most prestigious honors for Chinese-language novels–is a haunting story of a town caught in a waking nightmare. In a little village nestled in the Balou mountains, fourteen-year-old Li Niannian and his parents run a funeral parlor.

Counterfeit : A Novel by Chen, Kirstin (Available as a book,  audio book on CD,  ebook, or  e-audiobook  )

Ava Wong has always played it safe. As a strait-laced, rule-abiding Chinese American lawyer with a successful surgeon as a husband, a young son, and a beautiful home, she’s built the perfect life. But beneath this faȧde, Ava’s world is crumbling: her marriage is falling apart, her expensive law degree hasn’t been used in years, and her toddler’s tantrums are pushing her to the breaking point. Enter Winnie Fang, Ava’s enigmatic college roommate from Mainland China, who abruptly dropped out under mysterious circumstances. Now, twenty years later, Winnie is looking to reconnect with her old friend. 

The Secret Talker : A Novel  by Yan, Geling

Hongmei is the perfect Asian wife: beautiful, diligent, and passive. She lives a quiet life in Northern California with her husband, Glen, an intelligent and caring college professor. But when a mysterious person begins to email her, Hongmei can’t resist and soon finds herself enthralled in a psychological cat-and-mouse game. Who is stalking her? And why does s/he know her deepest, darkest secrets? As Hongmei is forced to confront her own dark past in China, her perfect life begins to fall apart.

A Song Everlasting by Jin, Ha

From the universally admired, award-winning author of Waiting and The Boat Rocker, an urgent, timely novel that follows a famous Chinese singer severed from his country as he works to find his way in the United States. After popular singer Yao Tian takes a private gig in New York at the end of a tour with his state-supported choir, expecting to pick up some extra cash for his daughter’s tuition fund, the consequences of his choice spiral out of control. On his return to China, he is informed that the sponsors of the event were in support of Taiwan’s secession and that he must deliver a formal self-criticism.

Land of Big Numbers by Chen, Te-Ping

Cutting between clear-eyed realism and tongue-in-cheek magical realism, Chen’s stories coalesce into a portrait of a people striving for openings where mobility is limited. Twins take radically different paths: one becomes a professional gamer, the other a political activist. A woman moves to the city to work at a government call center and is followed by her violent ex-boyfriend. A man is swept into the high-risk, high-reward temptations of China’s volatile stock exchange. And a group of people sit, trapped for no reason, on a subway platform for months, waiting for official permission to leave.

Love in the Big City : A Novel by Park, Sang Young

Love in the Big City is the English-language debut of Sang Young Park, one of Korea’s most exciting young writers. A runaway bestseller, the novel hit the top five lists of all the major bookstores and went into nine printings. Love in the Big City is an energetic, joyful, and moving novel that depicts both the glittering nighttime world of Seoul and the bleary-eyed morning-after. Young is a cynical yet fun-loving Korean student who pinballs from home to class to the beds of recent Tinder matches. He and Jaehee, his female best friend and roommate, frequent nearby bars where they push away their anxieties about their love lives, families, and money with rounds of soju and ice-cold Marlboro Reds that they keep in their freezer.

Pachinko by Lee, Min Jin (available as a book,  audio book on CD,  ebook, or  e-audiobook )

In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant-and that her lover is married-she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.

The Court Dancer by Shin, Kyŏng-sook

Based on a remarkable true story, the New York Times bestselling author of Please Look After Mom brilliantly images the life of Yi Jin, an orphan who would fall under the affections of the Empress and become a jewel in the late Joseon Court. When a novice French diplomat arrives for an audience with the Emperor, he is enraptured by the Joseon Dynasty’s magnificent culture, then at its zenith. But all fades away when he sees Yi Jin perform the delicate traditional Dance of the Spring Oriole. Though well aware that women of the court belong to the palace, the young diplomat confesses his love to the Emperor, and gains permission for Yi Jin to accompany him back to France.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho, Nam-joo

The runaway bestseller that helped launch Korea’s new feminist movement, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 follows one woman’s psychic deterioration in the face of rigid misogyny. In a small, tidy apartment on the outskirts of the frenzied metropolis of Seoul, Kim Jiyoung-a millennial “everywoman”-spends her days caring for her infant daughter. Her husband, however, worries over a strange symptom that has recently appeared: Jiyoung has begun to impersonate the voices of other women-dead and alive, both known and unknown to her.

Evening Hero by Lee, Marie Myung-Ok (available as a book or  ebook ) 

Dr. Yungman Kwak is in the twilight of his life. Every day for the last fifty years, he has brushed his teeth, slipped on his shoes, and headed to Horse Breath’s General Hospital, where, as an obstetrician, he treats the women and babies … Yungman’s life is thrown into chaos–the hospital abruptly closes, his wife refuses to spend time with him, and his son is busy investing in a struggling health start-up.

My Brilliant Life by Kim, Ae-ran

My Brilliant Life interweaves the past and present of a tight-knit family, finding joy and happiness in even the most difficult times. Areum lives life to its fullest, vicariously through the stories of his parents, conversations with Little Grandpa Jang-his sixty-year-old neighbor and best friend-and through the books he reads to visit the places he would otherwise never see. For several months, Areum has been working on a manuscript, piecing together his parents’ often embellished stories about his family and childhood. He hopes to present it on his birthday, as a final gift to his mom and dad; their own falling-in-love story. 

The Plotters : A Novel by Kim, Ŏn-su

In an alternate-reality Seoul, South Korea, where assassination guilds compete for dominance, Reseng uncovers a scheme set into motion by a trio of young women, forcing him to decide if he will remain a pawn of the plotters who control the city’s criminals.

The Book of Salt by Truong, Monique

A novel of Paris in the 1930s from the eyes of the Vietnamese cook employed by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, by the author of The Sweetest Fruits. Viewing his famous mesdames and their entourage from the kitchen of their rue de Fleurus home, Binh observes their domestic entanglements while seeking his own place in the world. In a mesmerizing tale of yearning and betrayal, Monique Truong explores Paris from the salons of its artists to the dark nightlife of its outsiders and exiles.

Things We Lost to the Water : A Novel by Nguyen, Eric (available as a book oebook )

When Huong arrives in New Orleans with her two young sons, she is jobless, homeless, and worried about her husband, Cong, who remains in Vietnam. As she and her boys begin to settle into life in America, she continues to send letters and tapes back to Cong, hopeful that they will be reunited and her children will grow up with a father. Over time, Huong realizes she will never see Cong again. 

The Sorrow of War : A Novel of North Vietnam by B̉ao Ninh

Heart-wrenching, fragmented, raw, former North Vietnamese solder Bao Ninh’s The Sorrow of War provides a strikingly honest look at how the Vietnam War forever changed his life, his country, and the people who live there. Kien, a lone survivor from the Glorious 27th Youth brigade of the Vietcong, revisits the haunting sites of battles and relives a parade of horrors, as he grapples with his ghosts, his alcoholism and attempts to arrange his life in writing.

An Ocean of Minutes by Lim, Thea

In the vein of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Station Eleven, a sweeping literary love story about two people who are at once mere weeks and many years apart. America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him, even if it means risking everything. She agrees to a radical plan–time travel has been invented in the future to thwart the virus. 

Lucie Yi Is Not a Romantic : A Novel by Ho, Lauren

Management consultant Lucie Yi is done waiting for Mr. Right. After a harrowing breakup foiled her plans for children—and drove her to a meltdown in a Tribeca baby store—she’s ready to take matters into her own hands. She signs up for an elective co-parenting website to find a suitable partner with whom to procreate—as platonic as family planning can be.

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