By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
Christmas may be over but the gift of books and reading (at least, in my opinion) is forever.
To help get you started, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 books that I’ve read in 2016.
“The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra”
By Vaseem Khan
“Inheritance” introduces readers to the newly retired Inspector Ashwin Chopra of the Mumbai police, who has inherited two things on his last day on the force — a case of a boy drowned under suspicious circumstances and a baby elephant. This is the first in a promising series starring an unlikely duo as they work to find their footing together as partners and solve crimes. Khan balances the seriousness of the crime with the lighter moments that come with raising a baby elephant in a small apartment building, in the middle of a crowded city that will have readers laughing out loud.
“The Family Law”
By Benjamin Law
Black Inc., 2015
Benjamin Law loves his family. But it’s also clear in “The Family Law” that there are times that they get on his nerves. In his memoir, Law shares the ups and downs of his Chinese Australian family — from his parents’ divorce, to the everyday needling and pestering that comes with having siblings. In addition to the dysfunctions of family life, we also get a glimpse of what it is like to grow up in an immigrant family in Australia, whether that’s surviving the school system or celebrating Christmas in 100-plus degree weather.
“Realm of the Goddess”
By Sabina Khan
Sabina Khan, 2014
Shortly after she turns 17, Callie Hansen learns she is an avatar for the Hindu Goddess Kali and the nightmares she’s been having off and on since she was 7 are actually visions from her past life.
If that wasn’t bad enough, she also learns that she must fight and defeat Mahisha, the King of Demons, who has captured her parents.
“Realm” is an interesting take on the fantasy adventure story, as Khan expertly weaves the present-day world with the myths and legends surrounding the gods and goddesses of Hinduism. She also strikes a good balance between Callie’s Indian and American heritage, showing the teen’s pride in both sides of her family.
By Marissa Meyer
Feiwel & Friends, 2016
This collection of short stories brings us back to Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles universe for more adventures of Cinder and her ragtag gang of Lunars, Earthlings, and nonhumans. The stories all work as standalone tales, but for longtime fans of the series, it’s also a chance to delve deeper into Meyer’s world and learn more about the characters. From the circumstances of Cinder’s arrival in New Beijing, to the beginning of Princess Winter, and palace guard Jacin Clay’s relationship, we gain a better understanding of what makes these characters tick and how they become who they are by the time they’ve joined the fight against Queen Levana.
“Raining Men and Corpses: A Chinese Cozy Mystery”
By Anne R. Tan
Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2014
Things are not going well for Raina Sun. From financial to familial issues, the last thing she needs is to be named a suspect in a murder investigation. But that’s exactly what happens and now the 27-year-old graduate student has to work to clear her name. I love a good cozy mystery and “Raining Men” does not disappoint. Tan includes all the staples, from the amateur sleuth, to the good-looking cop investigating the aforementioned sleuth, to the elder who doesn’t even hesitate to meddle in the investigation. What makes this story stand out is the fact that many of the main characters are Asian American and their heritage has very little to do with the plot, a rarity in stories featuring characters of color.
“For Today I am a Boy”
By Kim Fu
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
While his Chinese name, Juan Chaun, may mean “powerful king,” Peter Huang knows there is no hope for him living up to his father’s dreams of Western masculinity. This is because Peter knows he is really a girl. Growing up, and even once he’s an adult, he struggles with his gender identity, not knowing what’s “wrong” with him. And in the midst of all this are Peter’s sisters, who are there for him and accept him for who he is — no matter how their relationship may be or how far apart they may live. Fu gives readers a glimpse of how it could be for a transgender person and captures some of the issues they might face while trying to figure out their identity.
Written and illustrated by Liz Wong
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016
Quackers is a duck. Don’t let the paws and whiskers fool you. Quackers lives in a duck pond with all the other ducks. So that makes him a duck. Then he meets Mittens, another duck that looks like him. But Mittens calls himself a cat and introduces Quackers to other cats, who also look like him. Written and illustrated by Liz Wong, “Quackers” is a fun and adorable story about accepting yourself and embracing who you are, no matter what others think. It’s also about accepting others and overlooking any differences there may be between you.
“China Rich Girlfriend”
By Kevin Kwan
Knopf Doubleday, 2015
Rachel Chu and Nick Young’s wedding is just around the corner. As happy as she may be about it, Rachel can’t help but feel a little disappointed that her birth father won’t be there to witness it. A chance car accident changes all of this and reveals his identity, throwing the couple into the world of Shanghai splendor. If you thought Nick’s family in Singapore was rich (see “Crazy Rich Asians”), you haven’t met this side of Rachel’s family. They’re China rich. And just as in Kwan’s debut novel, we see once again how more money just means more problems, and often on a much larger scale.
By Sarah Kuhn
DAW Books Inc., 2016
When it comes to her job as the personal assistant to her best friend and diva superheroine Aveda Jupiter, Evie Tanaka is a rockstar. But when it comes to the rest of her life, she’s a hot mess — struggling to stand up for herself and raise her teenaged sister. This all changes when Aveda is sidelined and Evie has to take her place. “Heroine” is the story of a sidekick who becomes, as the title implies, the heroine of her own story. In addition to Evie, Kuhn has created strong Asian American female characters, from Aveda, who has no problem going after what she wants, to Bea, Evie’s 16-year-old sister who is strong and wise beyond her years.
“Something in Between”
By Melissa de la Cruz
Harlequin Teen, 2016
Jasmine de los Santos has worked hard to get good grades, with the hopes of getting scholarships to help pay for college. And while it works and she receives a prestigious government scholarship that would pay for all four years at the school of her choice, she learns that her Filipino immigrant family is actually undocumented and they could soon be facing deportation. “Something” tells just one story of what it means to be American and how the American Dream is not always possible. De la Cruz also shows the importance of community support and what it can mean to people in Jasmine’s family’s position to have people standing behind them and rooting for them.
Samantha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.