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When we think of contemporary queer literature, we often exclude Asian authors, mistakenly thinking that these writers will not have much to offer. While being queer and Asian can be a double-edged sword, it would be unfair of us to ignore the intellectual and literary value of the queer narratives that have been voiced by Asian writers in recent years. These books have not only positively contributed to the ongoing conversations centered on the LGBTQ + community, but have also helped bring about a shift in the socio-political consciousness of the hoi polloi. Thanks to the monumental power of literature, queer mutinies, large and small, overtake mega-cities and reach small towns as well. The experience of individuals living in a peri-urban space is very different from that of those living in metropolitan France. The existence of queer Asian literature has made their otherwise silenced voices forcefully into the mainstream. The popularization of these books has been a powerful tool in supporting the rights of pro-queers. So if you’re looking to diversify your reading list and expand your literary horizons, my list of contemporary queer books by Asian authors is just what you need. From mild to severe, take your pick from this long list below!
This road to sugar by Hieu Minh Nguyen
Nguyen’s first collection of poetry explores themes of identity and introspection. Her poems explore nostalgia, ethnicity, family dynamics, sexuality and childhood trauma. Its format is as experimental as its content. He is also not afraid to venture into uncomfortable territories like pedophilia. Partly denominational and part a very nuanced portrait of his queer consciousness, this book makes the beauty and the love of the ugly.
Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar
An electrifying representation of sexuality and Indian society, this wonderful family saga will keep you going. Translated from Marathi to English by Jerry Pinto, it is the story of siblings, Tanay and Anuja, who fall in love with the same man who is also an artist. Even if he seems to be the ideal tenant at the start, he will play a major role in disrupting their family dynamic. Written with piercing clarity, this book is fascinating to say the least.
The year of blue water by Yanyi
Yanyi’s intoxicating collection of poems explores the concept of gender and mental health from a queer and trans perspective. This disruptive work also delves deeply into the experience of immigration. Blending lofty lyrics and straightforward prose, Yanyi asks readers to recognize the multiple identities that make them who they are. Very meditative and dynamic, this collection is engaging, raw and deeply personal.
Soft Sciences by Franny Choi
A beautiful representation of queer and Asian American femininity, this collection delves deeply into human consciousness. These Turing-inspired poems urge readers to always be in touch with their tender and emotional sides, especially in a world dominated by artificial intelligence. From loneliness to the erasure of identity, Choi’s book is introspective and overwhelming!
Don’t let it know by Sandip Roy
Shy bride Romola opens a letter that turns out to be life changing. Decades later, when his son discovers this letter, he suddenly realizes his mother’s secret. His father, Avinash, does not know what his wife had to sacrifice to become his wife. But doesn’t he himself have his share of secrets? What will his son think if he finds out that he frequents gay discussion forums frequently? Literary fiction at its best, this book needs more hype.
It’s not like it’s a secret by Misa Sugiura
A vibrant romance novel about learning to love and the free life, this book is a must read for all YA fiction lovers. Sana moves to California with her family and falls in love with the beautiful and intelligent Jamie. But Jamie’s friends don’t want Sana around, and vice versa. Meanwhile, Sana’s father has an affair, leaving her on edge. She doesn’t know how to solve all the problems that plague her life. Airy but complicated, this book explores young love in all its glory.
Tell me how you really feel by Aminah Mae Safi
Sana is the typical stereotype of a gifted person who is also a cheerleader on the side. Rachel is an aspiring director and awaits her big breakthrough. She thinks Sana will be the perfect lead for her senior film project, but the only catch is that she hates Sana. Now, how long will these two continue to deny their feelings for each other for the sake of appearances? A cute story of two dogged women falling head over heels for each other, this book has all the elements of an iconic romance.
Light lines: a novel by Tanwi Nandini Islam
A magnificent debut novel with Bangladesh and Brooklyn as a backdrop, it is the story of a family trying to come to terms with the secrets of its past. Ella travels to Brooklyn to live with her uncle’s family. During her stay in the United States, she is welcomed into a world of adventures and sexual awakenings. But very quickly, tragedy befalls the family of her uncle, and with it begins a new journey of recounting with the past. Islam’s charming writing style and fabulous character arcs show off his prowess as a seasoned writer.