Five modern classics by Canadian authors

It’s July! When I think of July, I think of two things, Canada Day (because I’m Canadian) and Disability Pride Month.

For this month, I’ll be sharing a book lists both about Canada and about Disability Justice.


Canada has a decent history of supporting local artists.

As far back as the 1930’s, the regulators placed a limit on the amount of foreign programs allowed to be broadcasted. Currently all broadcasters (i.e., radio and TV) must produce and broadcast a certain percentage of Canadian content.

Canada also has many Canadian-specific awards, such as the Junos for music and the Giller Prize and Governor General’s Literary Award for Canadian books.

Also, the Canadian Council for the Arts provides opportunities, funding, and other initiatives to support artists across Canada.

I’m sure that the funding and opportunities haven’t always been so inclusive and inviting. But I love to see our government supporting artists, especially artists from all walks of life and all ethnicities.

Living next to the USA, Canadians often get grouped together with Americans. Sometimes it can feel like we get overshadowed by Americans, that’s why we like to specifically focus on Canadians.

In honour of Canada Day, I wanted to share some modern classics from Canadian authors.

Photo by Ali Tawfiq on Unsplash

Five modern classics by Canadian authors

Here’s a list of five books considered modern classics from Canadian authors.

  1. Fifth Business by Robertson Davies (1970)
  2. The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields (1993)
  3. Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King (1993)
  4. Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen (2006)
  5. Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese (2012)

Keep reading to find out more about each one. I’ve listed them in order of when they were published.

Fifth Business (1970)

by Robertson Davies

  • Year Published: 1970
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, classics, historical, reflective, slow-paced
  • First installment of the Deptford Trilogy

Ramsay is a man twice born, a man who has returned from the hell of the battle-grave at Passchendaele in World War I decorated with the Victoria Cross and destined to be caught in a no man’s land where memory, history, and myth collide. As Ramsay tells his story, it begins to seem that from boyhood, he has exerted a perhaps mystical, perhaps pernicious, influence on those around him. His apparently innocent involvement in such innocuous events as the throwing of a snowball or the teaching of card tricks to a small boy in the end prove neither innocent nor innocuous. Fifth Business stands alone as a remarkable story told by a rational man who discovers that the marvelous is only another aspect of the real.

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The Stone Diaries (1993)

by Carol Shields

  • Year Published: 1993
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, historical, literary, reflective, slow-paced
  • Won the 1993 Governor General’s Award for English language fiction in Canada and the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in the United States (Shields is an American-born Canadian, this is the only novel to ever win both awards)
  • Also received the National Book Critics Circle Award and was nominated for the Booker Prize

The Stone Diaries is one ordinary woman’s story of her journey through life. Born in 1905, Daisy Stone Goodwill drifts through the roles of child, wife, widow, and mother, and finally into her old age. Bewildered by her inability to understand her place in her own life, Daisy attempts to find a way to tell her story within a novel that is itself about the limitations of autobiography. Her life is vivid with incident, and yet she feels a sense of powerlessness. She listens, she observes, and through sheer force of imagination she becomes a witness of her own life: her birth, her death, and the troubling missed connections she discovers between. Daisy’s struggle to find a place for herself in her own life is a paradigm of the unsettled decades of our era. A witty and compassionate anatomist of the human heart, Carol Shields has made distinctively her own that place where the domestic collides with the elemental. With irony and humor she weaves the strands of The Stone Diaries together in this, her richest and most poignant novel to date.

Links:

Green Grass, Running Water (1993)

by Thomas King

  • Year Published: 1993
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, fantasy, magical realism, adventurous, funny, reflective, medium-paced
  • Finalist for the 1993 Governor General’s Award in Fiction

Strong, Sassy women and hard-luck hardheaded men, all searching for the middle ground between Native American tradition and the modern world, perform an elaborate dance of approach and avoidance in this magical, rollicking tale by Cherokee author Thomas King. Alberta is a university professor who would like to trade her two boyfriends for a baby but no husband; Lionel is forty and still sells televisions for a patronizing boss; Eli and his log cabin stand in the way of a profitable dam project. These three–and others–are coming to the Blackfoot reservation for the Sun Dance and there they will encounter four Indian elders and their companion, the trickster Coyote–and nothing in the small town of Blossom will be the same again…

Links:

Book of Longing (2006)

by Leonard Cohen

  • Year Published: 2006
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, music, poetry, emotional, reflective, slow-paced

A limited edition, one-time printing of Leonard Cohen’s best and most iconic book of poems

Book of Longing has exceptional range. It is clear yet steamy, cosmic yet private, both playful and profound.” —New York Times

Leonard Cohen wrote the poems in Book of Longing—his first book of poetry in more than twenty years after 1984’s Book of Mercy—during his five-year stay at a Zen monastery on Southern California’s Mount Baldy, and in Los Angeles, Montreal, and Mumbai. This dazzling collection is enhanced by the author’s playful and provocative drawings, which interact in exciting, unexpected ways on the page with poetry that is timeless, meditative, and often darkly humorous.

An international sensation, Book of Longing contains all the elements that have brought Cohen’s artistry with language worldwide recognition.

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Indian Horse (2012)

by Richard Wagamese

  • Year Published: 2012
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, historical, challenging, emotional, sad, medium-paced
  • Won the 2013 Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature
  • A film adaptation premiered at the 2017 TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival)

Saul Indian Horse has hit bottom. His last binge almost killed him, and now he’s a reluctant resident in a treatment centre for alcoholics, surrounded by people he’s sure will never understand him. But Saul wants peace, and he grudgingly comes to see that he’ll find it only through telling his story. With him, readers embark on a journey back through the life he’s led as a northern Ojibway, with all its joys and sorrows.

With compassion and insight, author Richard Wagamese traces through his fictional characters the decline of a culture and a cultural way. For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he’s sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement. Indian Horse unfolds against the bleak loveliness of northern Ontario, all rock, marsh, bog and cedar. Wagamese writes with a spare beauty, penetrating the heart of a remarkable Ojibway man.

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Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which books you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

Five nonfiction books about Canada

It’s July! When I think of July, I think of two things, Canada Day (because I’m Canadian) and Disability Pride Month.

For this month, I’ll be sharing a book lists both about Canada and about Disability Justice.


July 1st is Canada Day. It celebrates the passing of the British North America Act, which unified the United Canadas, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick as a single dominion within the British Empire. Canada didn’t become fully independent from the British Empire until 1982!

In late June of 2021, unmarked graves of Indigenous children were found at a residential school in BC. This sparked outrage across the country and led to many Canada Day celebrations to be canceled or changed into gatherings of remembrance/protests.

These unmarked graves were a reminder of how much still needs to be done for reconciliation and how recent this history really is. The last residential school was shut down in 1996 (Gordon Reserve Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan). That’s within my lifetime!

In recent years, it’s become more common to use July 1st as a time to protest or organize peaceful rallies.

Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash

Learning about Canada

No matter how you choose to spend July 1st, I think Canada Day is a great day to learn more about Canada.

It’s important to understand how this country was formed, what influenced the creation of all our systems, and most of all, what we’ve done wrong as a country, to ensure that we have changed and continue to change for the better.

Our history informs our present. The past has lead to the present, and continues to influence it.

There are many laws formed long ago that still play a role in our governance. For instance, the Indian Act (from 1876!) is still active and plays a vital role in the federal government’s relationship with Indigenous nations. I should note, it has been amended over the years, but that doesn’t mean all the issues have been fixed.

Like most things in life, context is key. History is just the context for where we are at now, which is why it’s important to better understand how we got to this point.

The nonfiction books about Canada below showcase a range of information about Canada, starting with a personal memoir of a settler, along with a handful of nonfiction from Indigenous authors and perspectives.

Indigenous voices have often been ignored and silenced throughout Canadian history, so it’s even more vital to listen to their voices now.

Five nonfiction books about Canada

Here’s a list of five nonfiction books about Canada.

  1. Roughing It in the Bush by Susanna Moodie (1852)
  2. The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King (2012)
  3. Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga (2017)
  4. 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality by Bob Joseph (2018)
  5. Peace and Good Order: The Case for Indigenous Justice in Canada by Harold R. Johnson (2019)

Keep reading to find out more about each one. I’ve listed them in order of when they were published.

Roughing It in the Bush (1852)

by Susanna Moodie

  • Year Published: 1852
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, history, memoir, challenging, emotional, informative, slow-paced
  • A canonical work of Canadian literature, with historic and cultural value, as well as literary merit

Roughing It in the Bush, first published in 1852, helped to destroy British illusions about life in Upper Canada. Susanna Moodie described a life of backbreaking labour, poverty, and hardship on a pioneer farm in the colonial wilderness. Her sharp observations, satirical character sketches, and moments of despair and terror were a startling contrast to the widely circulated optimistic accounts of life in British North America, written to entice readers across the Atlantic.

The spontaneity, wit, and candour of Moodie’s account of life on a backwoods farm give Roughing It in the Bush enduring appeal.

Links:

The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (2012)

by Thomas King

  • Year Published: 2012
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, history, challenging, informative, reflective, slow-paced
  • Won the 2014 RBC Taylor Prize and was a finalist for the 2013 Trillium Book Award and the 2014 Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature
  • Adapted into a documentary titled Inconvenient Indian

The Inconvenient Indian is at once a “history” and the complete subversion of a history—in short, a critical and personal meditation that the remarkable Thomas King has conducted over the past 50 years about what it means to be “Indian” in North America.

Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, this book distills the insights gleaned from that meditation, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands.

This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope—a sometimes inconvenient, but nonetheless indispensable account for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future.

Links:

Seven Fallen Feathers**: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City (2017)

by Tanya Talaga

  • Year Published: 2017
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, history, politics, challenging, informative, sad, medium-paced
  • Won the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing in 2017, the RBC Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction and PMC Indigenous Literature Awards in 2018

In 1966, twelve-year-old Chanie Wenjack froze to death on the railway tracks after running away from residential school. An inquest was called and four recommendations were made to prevent another tragedy. None of those recommendations were applied.

More than a quarter of a century later, from 2000 to 2011, seven Indigenous high school students died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The seven were hundreds of miles away from their families, forced to leave home and live in a foreign and unwelcoming city. Five were found dead in the rivers surrounding Lake Superior, below a sacred Indigenous site. Jordan Wabasse, a gentle boy and star hockey player, disappeared into the minus twenty degrees Celsius night. The body of celebrated artist Norval Morrisseau’s grandson, Kyle, was pulled from a river, as was Curran Strang’s. Robyn Harper died in her boarding-house hallway and Paul Panacheese inexplicably collapsed on his kitchen floor. Reggie Bushie’s death finally prompted an inquest, seven years after the discovery of Jethro Anderson, the first boy whose body was found in the water.

Using a sweeping narrative focusing on the lives of the students, award-winning investigative journalist Tanya Talaga delves into the history of this small northern city that has come to manifest Canada’s long struggle with human rights violations against Indigenous communities.

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21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality (2018)

by Bob Joseph

  • Year Published: 2018
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, history, politics, race, challenging, informative, reflective, slow-paced
  • Winner of the 2019 Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award

Based on a viral article (on CBC), 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act is the essential guide to understanding the legal document and its repercussion on generations of Indigenous Peoples, written by a leading cultural sensitivity trainer.

Since its creation in 1876, the Indian Act has shaped, controlled, and constrained the lives and opportunities of Indigenous Peoples, and is at the root of many enduring stereotypes. Bob Joseph’s book comes at a key time in the reconciliation process, when awareness from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities is at a crescendo. Joseph explains how Indigenous Peoples can step out from under the Indian Act and return to self-government, self-determination, and self-reliance—and why doing so would result in a better country for every Canadian. He dissects the complex issues around truth and reconciliation, and clearly demonstrates why learning about the Indian Act’s cruel, enduring legacy is essential for the country to move toward true reconciliation.

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Peace and Good Order: The Case for Indigenous Justice in Canada (2019)

by Harold R. Johnson

  • Year Published: 2019
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, history, memoir, politics, emotional, informative, reflective, slow-paced

An urgent, informed, intimate condemnation of the Canadian state and its failure to deliver justice to Indigenous people by national bestselling author and former Crown prosecutor Harold R. Johnson.

In early 2018, the failures of Canada’s justice system were sharply and painfully revealed in the verdicts issued in the deaths of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine. The outrage and confusion that followed those verdicts inspired former Crown prosecutor and bestselling author Harold R. Johnson to make the case against Canada for its failure to fulfill its duty under Treaty to effectively deliver justice to Indigenous people, worsening the situation and ensuring long-term damage to Indigenous communities.

In this direct, concise, and essential volume, Harold R. Johnson examines the justice system’s failures to deliver “peace and good order” to Indigenous people. He explores the part that he understands himself to have played in that mismanagement, drawing on insights he has gained from the experience; insights into the roots and immediate effects of how the justice system has failed Indigenous people, in all the communities in which they live; and insights into the struggle for peace and good order for Indigenous people now.

Links:

Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which books you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

Five landmark LGBTQIA2S+ books

It’s Pride Month! In honour of celebrating Pride Month, I’ll be sharing some LGBTQIA2S+ book recommendations. Keep checking in each week for more recommendations.

LGBTQIA2S+ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit, and plus (anyone who doesn’t fit into one specific category)


Landmarks are things that stand out to us and help us understand the progress we’re making on our journey.

I believe landmark books are ones that made a significant impact, that caught peoples’ attention and was able to challenge their perspective. These are the books that mark changes in our society’s literary journey, maybe as turning points or cultural flash points.

They always challenge some status quo, but also deeply connect with people, and (hopefully) help others move past some preconceived notions.

For this week, I wanted to highlight some landmark LGBTQIA2S+ books. Each of these caused a commotion, made people uncomfortable, but also helped so many people feel seen and opened doors for conversations.

These books are historically important and yet still relevant today.

I believe it’s important to recognize the impact these books had both at the time they were published and on the literary community afterwards. I want to give them their flowers.

These are also great books to gain a better insight into the context and development of LGBTQIA2S+ literature. These had a huge impact on how the literature evolved and changed, and how these themes were perceived by the cis-hetero side of the literary world.

Just remember, this is a list of only five books, it’s not exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start.

Photo by Viviana Couto Sayalero on Unsplash

Five landmark LGBTQIA2S+ books

Here’s a list of five landmark LGBTQIA2S+ books.

  1. Another Country by James Baldwin (1962)
  2. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown (1973)
  3. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde (1982)
  4. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg (1993)
  5. Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters (1998)

Keep reading to find out more about each one. I’ve listed them in order of when they were published

Another Country (1962)

by James Baldwin

  • Year Published: 1962
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, classics, lgbtqia+, literary, challenging, emotional, reflective, slow-paced

From one of the most important American novelists of the twentieth century—a novel of sexual, racial, political, artistic passions, set in Greenwich Village, Harlem, and France.

Stunning for its emotional intensity and haunting sensuality, this book depicts men and women, blacks and whites, stripped of their masks of gender and race by love and hatred at the most elemental and sublime.

Links:

Rubyfruit Jungle (1973)

by Rita Mae Brown

  • Year Published: 1973
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, classics, lgbtqia+, emotional, reflective, medium-paced
  • Winner of the Lambda Literary Pioneer Award and the Lee Lynch Classic Book Award

A landmark coming-of-age novel that launched the career of one of this country’s most distinctive voices, Rubyfruit Jungle remains a transformative work more than forty years after its original publication. In bawdy, moving prose, Rita Mae Brown tells the story of Molly Bolt, the adoptive daughter of a dirt-poor Southern couple who boldly forges her own path in America. With her startling beauty and crackling wit, Molly finds that women are drawn to her wherever she goes—and she refuses to apologize for loving them back. This literary milestone continues to resonate with its message about being true to yourself and, against the odds, living happily ever after.

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Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982)

by Audre Lorde

  • Year Published: 1982
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, feminism, lgbtqia+, memoir, emotional, inspiring, reflective, medium-paced
  • Created a new genre of literature called biomythography, which combines history, biography, and myth

If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.

A little black girl opens her eyes in 1930s Harlem. Around her, a heady swirl of passers-by, car horns, kerosene lamps, the stock market falling, fried bananas, tales of her parents’ native Grenada. She trudges to public school along snowy sidewalks, and finds she is tongue-tied, legally blind, left behind by her older sisters. On she stumbles through teenage hardships — suicide, abortion, hunger, a Christmas spent alone — until she emerges into happiness: an oasis of friendship in Washington Heights, an affair in a dirty factory in Connecticut, and, finally, a journey down to the heat of Mexico, discovering sex, tenderness, and suppers of hot tamales and cold milk. This is Audre Lorde’s story. It is a rapturous, life-affirming tale of independence, love, work, strength, sexuality and change, rich with poetry and fierce emotional power.

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Stone Butch Blues (1993)

by Leslie Feinberg (she/her/zie/hir)

  • Year Published: 1993
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, lgbtqia+, literary, emotional, reflective, sad, medium-paced
  • Considered a cult classic in LGBTQIA2S+ communities
  • Won the 1994 American Library Association Gay & Lesbian Book Award (now the Stonewall Book Award), and finalist for the 1994 Lambda LIterary Award for Lesbian Fiction

Woman or man? This internationally acclaimed novel looks at the world through the eyes of Jess Goldberg, a masculine girl growing up in the “Ozzie and Harriet” McCarthy era and coming out as a young butch lesbian in the pre-Stonewall gay drag bars of a blue-collar town. Stone Butch Blues traces a propulsive journey, powerfully evoking history and politics while portraying an extraordinary protagonist full of longing, vulnerability, and working-class grit. This once-underground classic takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride of gender transformation and exploration and ultimately speaks to the heart of anyone who has ever suffered or gloried in being different.

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Tipping the Velvet (1998)

by Sarah Waters

  • Year Published: 1998
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, historical, lgbtqia+, adventurous, emotional, medium-paced
  • Won the Lambda Literary Award for lesbian fiction in 2000 and the Betty Trask Award (for Commonwealth citizens’ first novel published before the age of 35)

Nan King, an oyster girl, is captivated by the music hall phenomenon Kitty Butler, a male impersonator extraordinaire treading the boards in Canterbury. Through a friend at the box office, Nan manages to visit all her shows and finally meet her heroine. Soon after, she becomes Kitty’s dresser and the two head for the bright lights of Leicester Square where they begin a glittering career as music-hall stars in an all-singing and dancing double act. At the same time, behind closed doors, they admit their attraction to each other and their affair begins.

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Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which books you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

Five nonfiction books about LGBTQIA2S+ themes

It’s Pride Month! In honour of celebrating Pride Month, I’ll be sharing some LGBTQIA2S+ book recommendations. Keep checking in each week for more recommendations.

LGBTQIA2S+ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit, and plus (anyone who doesn’t fit into one specific category)


I believe reading is a great way to learn about the world and understand people better.

There are two key ways to better understand peoples’ experiences through reading. One is to read fiction to experience a similar life through the characters’ eyes and perspectives. The other key way is to read nonfiction about the topic, such as memoirs, for retellings of lived experiences, or a researched deep-dive on a specific topic.

I think memoirs and fiction can provide a similar reading experience by being able to “live a day in their lives”, and to place yourself in their shoes. Memoirs are especially powerful because you know it all really happened, the experiences aren’t part of the character or plot development.

Researched nonfiction is a very different kind of learning experience, but equally important because it’s able to provide context, show the big picture, and provide a better understanding of the depth and breadth of the topic.

I believe reading researched nonfiction together with memoirs/fiction provides the best way of understanding any topic. The combination allows you to understand it at a personal level (through direct story telling), as well as at a communal or societal level by learning about how the systems in place have contributed to the personal experience.

Nothing happens in isolation, and understanding any topic requires seeing how all levels interact.

Even if you have lived experience in any given topic, that doesn’t mean you fully understand how the systems around you worked together to contribute to your experience. It also doesn’t mean you understand how many other people may have experienced the same thing.

Personally, I think everyone should read more nonfiction books. There’s so much we can learn about each other and about the world we live in.

For this week, I wanted to share some nonfiction books around LGBTQIA2S+ themes in honour of Pride Month.

Photo by Jiroe (Matia Rengel) on Unsplash

Tip to read more nonfiction

Here’s a tip! If you struggle to read nonfiction, maybe you find it slow or difficult to get immersed in the book, I would recommend listening to the book as an audiobook. It helps you get through it much faster, so that you can understand the main ideas more quickly.

I know reading a book is a huge time commitment, and sometimes nonfiction books can seem like an even bigger time commitment. An audiobook is a great way to either try out a book or get the key concepts more quickly.

You may not catch every detail, but you can always go back and listen to it again, or even look at the physical book for sections that really interest you. Plus the more you repeat and review the book, the more information you’ll likely remember.

Five nonfiction books about LGBTQIA2S+ themes

Here’s a list of five nonfiction books about LGBTQIA2S+ themes.

  1. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts (1987)
  2. Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us by Kate Bornstein (1994)
  3. Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano (2007)
  4. Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen (2020)
  5. The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice by Shon Faye (2021)

Keep reading to find out more about each one.

And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (1987)

by Randy Shilts

  • Year Published: 1987
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, health, lgbtqia+, politics, emotional, informative, sad, medium-paced
  • An extensive timeline of the discovery and spread of HIV and AIDS
  • Won the Stonewall Book Award

By the time Rock Hudson’s death in 1985 alerted all America to the danger of the AIDS epidemic, the disease had spread across the nation, killing thousands of people and emerging as the greatest health crisis of the 20th century. America faced a troubling question: What happened? How was this epidemic allowed to spread so far before it was taken seriously? In answering these questions, Shilts weaves the disparate threads into a coherent story, pinning down every evasion and contradiction at the highest levels of the medical, political, and media establishments.

Shilts shows that the epidemic spread wildly because the federal government put budget ahead of the nation’s welfare; health authorities placed political expediency before the public health; and scientists were often more concerned with international prestige than saving lives. Against this backdrop, Shilts tells the heroic stories of individuals in science and politics, public health and the gay community, who struggled to alert the nation to the enormity of the danger it faced.

And the Band Played On is both a tribute to these heroic people and a stinging indictment of the institutions that failed the nation so badly.

Links:

Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us (1994)

by Kate Bornstein

  • Year Published: 1994
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, gender, lgbtqia+, memoir, challenging, reflective, medium-paced

“I know I’m not a man… and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m probably not a woman, either… The trouble is, we’re living in a world that insists we be one or the other.”

With these words, Kate Bornstein ushers readers on a funny, fearless, and wonderfully scenic journey across the terrains of gender and identity. On one level, Gender Outlaw details Bornstein’s transformation from heterosexual male to lesbian woman, from a one-time IBM salesperson to a playwright and performance artist. But this particular coming-of-age story is also a provocative investigation into our notions of male and female, from a self-described nonbinary transfeminine diesel femme dyke who never stops questioning our cultural assumptions.

Gender Outlaw was decades ahead of its time when it was first published in 1994. Now, some twenty-odd years later, this book stands as both a classic and a still-revolutionary work—one that continues to push us gently but profoundly to the furthest borders of the gender frontier.

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Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity (2007)

by Julia Serano

  • Year Published: 2007
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, feminism, gender, lgbtqia+, challenging, informative, reflective, slow-paced
  • An updated second edition was published in 2016

A provocative manifesto, Whipping Girl tells the powerful story of Julia Serano, a transsexual woman whose supremely intelligent writing reflects her diverse background as a lesbian transgender activist and professional biologist. Serano shares her experiences and observations—both pre- and post-transition—to reveal the ways in which fear, suspicion, and dismissiveness toward femininity shape our societal attitudes toward trans women, as well as gender and sexuality as a whole.

Serano’s well-honed arguments stem from her ability to bridge the gap between the often-disparate biological and social perspectives on gender. She exposes how deep-rooted the cultural belief is that femininity is frivolous, weak, and passive, and how this “feminine” weakness exists only to attract and appease male desire.

In addition to debunking popular misconceptions about transsexuality, Serano makes the case that today’s feminists and transgender activist must work to embrace and empower femininity—in all of its wondrous forms.

Links:

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex (2020)

by Angela Chen

  • Year Published: 2020
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, lgbtqia+, sociology, informative, reflective, medium-paced

An engaging exploration of what it means to be asexual in a world that’s obsessed with sexual attraction, and what we can all learn about desire and identity by using an ace lens to see the world

What exactly is sexual attraction and what is it like to go through the world not experiencing it? What does asexuality reveal about consent, about compromise, about the structures of society? This exceedingly accessible guide to asexuality shows that the issues that aces face—confusion around sexual activity, the intersection of sexuality and identity, navigating different needs in relationships—are conflicts that all of us need to address as we move through the world.

Through interviews, cultural criticism, and memoir, ACE invites all readers to consider big-picture issues through the lens of asexuality, because every place that sexuality touches our world, asexuality does too.

Links:

The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice (2021)

by Shon Faye

  • Year Published: 2021
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, gender, lgbtqia+, politics, challenging, informative, reflective, medium-paced

Trans people in Britain today have become a culture war ‘issue’. Despite making up less than 1% of the country’s population, they are the subjects of a toxic and increasingly polarised ‘debate’, which generates reliable controversy for newspapers and talk shows. This media frenzy conceals a simple fact: that we are having the wrong conversation, a conversation in which trans people themselves are reduced to a talking point and denied a meaningful voice.

In this powerful new book, Shon Faye reclaims the idea of the ‘transgender issue’ to uncover the reality of what it means to be trans in a transphobic society. In doing so, she provides a compelling, wide-ranging analysis of trans lives from youth to old age, exploring work, family, housing, healthcare, the prison system, and trans participation in the LGBTQ+ and feminist communities, in contemporary Britain and beyond.

The Transgender Issue is a landmark work that signals the beginning of a new, healthier conversation about trans life. It is a manifesto for change, and a call for justice and solidarity between all marginalised people and minorities. Trans liberation, as Faye sees it, goes to the root of what our society is and what it could be; it offers the possibility of a more just, free and joyful world for all of us.

Links:

Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which books you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

Five recent prize winning LGBTQIA2S+ books

It’s Pride Month! In honour of celebrating Pride Month, I’ll be sharing some LGBTQIA2S+ book recommendations. Keep checking in each week for more recommendations.

LGBTQIA2S+ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit, and plus (anyone who doesn’t fit into one specific category)


For Pride Month, I wanted to share some award winning / nominated books that feature LGBTQIA2S+ characters or themes.

I know there are awards specifically centred on LGBTQIA2S+ themes, such as the Stonewall Book Award and Lambda Literary Awards. These are wonderful awards and are important for highlighting the literary success of LGBTQIA2S+ authors.

Awards focused on specific topics or types of authors, are incredibly important for acknowledging literary work that the publishing industry doesn’t give enough credit to. It’s one way to help increase their power within the publishing industry.

For this list, I specifically looked for books that won awards outside of the LGBTQIA2S+ category. I wanted to show that books with LGBTQIA2S+ characters and authors are winning awards in all areas of the literary world.

I think it’s important to recognize when themes or topics are becoming more accepted into the mainstream. One way to see their acceptance is when they start winning “mainstream” awards, aka awards without that specific theme or topic.

I believe both types of awards are important. Topic specific themes help highlight individuals pushing boundaries, and broader awards can help expose people to a wide range of books that they might not otherwise look for.

I specifically focused on broader awards to show that these books are gaining recognition more broadly, as well as to show that representation in these big awards is slowly changing.

This list is obviously not extensive, but below you will find five LGBTQIA2S+ books that were either long-listed or won a recent prize.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Five recent prize winning or nominated LGBTQIA2S+ books

Here’s a list of five recent prize winning (or long-listed for a prize) LGBTQIA2S+ books.

  1. Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011)
  2. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo (2019)
  3. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (2019)
  4. Loveless by Alice Oseman (2020)
  5. Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (2021)

Keep reading to find out more about each one. I’ve listed them in order of when they were published.

Song of Achilles (2011)

by Madeline Miller

  • Year Published: 2011
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, fantasy, lgbtqia+, literary, adventurous, emotional, sad, medium-paced
  • Winner of the 2012 Orange Prize (now The Women’s Prize for Fiction)

Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful, irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Links:

Girl, Woman, Other (2019)

by Bernadine Evaristo

  • Year Published: 2019
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, contemporary, lgbtqia+, literary, emotional, reflective, medium-paced
  • Co-winner of the 2019 Booker Prize

Teeming with life and crackling with energy — a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.

Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.

Links:

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (2019)

by Ocean Vuong

  • Year Published: 2019
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, contemporary, lgbtqia+, literary, emotional, reflective, sad, slow-paced
  • Finalist for the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and was longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness,

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.

With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.

Links:

Loveless (2020)

by Alice Oseman

  • Year Published: 2020
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, contemporary, lgbtqia+, young adult, emotional, hopeful, reflective, medium-paced
  • Depicts an individual who is asexual and aromantic
  • Won the YA Book Prize in 2021

It was all sinking in. I’d never had a crush on anyone. No boys, no girls, not a single person I’d ever met. What did that mean?

Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush – but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic she’s sure she’ll find her person one day.

As she starts university, Georgia makes a plan to find love. But when her actions wreak havoc among her friends she questions why romance seems so easy for other people yet not for her. With new terms thrown at her – asexual, aromantic – Georgia is more uncertain about her feelings than ever.

Is she destined to remain loveless? Or has she been looking for the wrong thing all along?

Links:

Detransition, Baby (2021)

by Torrey Peters

  • Year Published: 2021
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, contemporary, gender, lgbtqia+, literary, challenging, emotional, reflective, medium-paced
  • Praised for crafting a tender exploration of gender, parenthood, love, and trans life
  • Nominated for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction (controversial as Peters was the first openly trans woman nominated for the award)

A whipsmart debut about three women—transgender and cisgender—whose lives collide after an unexpected pregnancy forces them to confront their deepest desires around gender, motherhood, and sex.

Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese—and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby—and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it—Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family—and raise the baby together?

This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can’t reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.

Links:

Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which books you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

Five translated books for Pride Month

Photo by Carlos de Toro @carlosdetoro on Unsplash

It’s Pride Month! In honour of celebrating Pride Month, I’ll be sharing some LGBTQIA2S+ book recommendations. Keep checking in each week for more recommendations.

LGBTQIA2S+ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit, and plus (anyone who doesn’t fit into one specific category)


Can you believe it’s already June?!

Well here we are, almost halfway through the year. That means it’s time for Pride Month!

I know in the past few years there’s been a heavy focus on “rainbow capitalism” and how corporations put on such a display for Pride Month. It’s obvious that most corporations are only participating in Pride Month as a marketing strategy. But that doesn’t negate the importance of this month.

Pride is an annual recognition of the Stonewall Riots, which marked a significant turning point in LGBTQIA2S+ rights in North America.

Pride started out as a riot and an act of resistance. We don’t want to lose that part of its history.

They were fighting for their human rights, and for others to better understand their humanity.

Around the world

Around the world, LGBTQIA2S+ individuals are still fighting for their rights. Each country has their own history and political climate around LGBTQIA2S+ rights, but all of our rights (and the fights for those rights) are interconnected and dependent on each other.

I believe one of the greatest ways we can improve the world is by having empathy and understanding each others’ experiences. The more we can accept others in all their humanity, the better we are able to listen and support them.

One of the easiest ways to learn about other people’s experiences is to listen to them talk about it. This can be through any kind of media; books, movies, social media, etc. or of course, in person.

Books are a great way to experience the world from a different perspective. Every time you read a book you are seeing the world from the characters’ perspective and getting immersed in their lives. What a great way to see the full spectrum of their humanity; all their feelings, their mistakes, their triumphs, their relationships, and everything else.

These five books are a great way to experience different perspectives of gender, of sexuality, of language, and of culture.

Each of these books are unique and come with an opportunity to learn something new from each.

Five translated books for Pride Month

Here’s a list of five books that have been translated to English and are great to read during Pride Month.

  1. Sphinx by Anne Garréta (1986)
    translated from the French by Emma Ramadan
  2. Notes of a Crocodile / 鱷魚手記 by Qiu Miaojin / 邱妙津 (1994)
    translated from the Chinese (Taiwan) by Bonnie Huie
  3. The Membranes / 膜 by Chi Ta-Wei / 紀大偉 (1995)
    translated from the Chinese (Taiwan) by Ari Larissa Heinrich
  4. A Country for Dying / Un pays pour mourir by Abdellah Taïa (2015)
    translated from the French by Emma Ramadan
  5. Tentacle / La mucama de Omicunlé by Rita Indiana (2015)
    translated from the Spanish (Dominican) by Achy Obejas

Keep reading to find out more about each one. I’ve listed them in order of when they were published

Sphinx (1986)

by Anne Garréta, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan

  • Year Published: 1986
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, lgbtqia+, literary, challenging, informative, reflective, slow-paced
  • Written without any gender markers or pronouns

A landmark literary event: the first novel by a female member of Oulipo in English, a sexy genderless love story.

Sphinx is the remarkable debut novel, originally published in 1986, by the incredibly talented and inventive French author Anne Garréta, one of the few female members of Oulipo, the influential and exclusive French experimental literary group whose mission is to create literature based on mathematical and linguistic restraints, and whose ranks include Georges Perec and Italo Calvino, among others.

A beautiful and complex love story between two characters, the narrator, “I,” and their lover, A***, written without using any gender markers to refer to the main characters, Sphinx is a remarkable linguistic feat and paragon of experimental literature that has never been accomplished before or since in the strictly-gendered French language.

Sphinx is a landmark text in the feminist, LGBT, and experimental literary canons appearing in English for the first time.

Links:

Notes of a Crocodile / 鱷魚手記 (1994)

by Qiu Miaojin (邱妙津), translated from the Chinese (Taiwan) by Bonnie Huie

  • Year Published: 1994 (English version in 2017)
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, classics, lgbtqia+, literary, dark, emotional, reflective, medium-paced
  • Qiu Miaojin was posthumously awarded the China Times Literature Award in 1995 for this book

Set in the post-martial-law era of late 1980s Taipei, Notes of a Crocodile depicts the coming-of-age of a group of queer misfits discovering love, friendship, and artistic affinity while hardly studying at Taiwan’s most prestigious university. Told through the eyes of an anonymous lesbian narrator nicknamed Lazi, Qiu Miaojin’s cult classic novel is a postmodern pastiche of diaries, vignettes, mash notes, aphorisms, exegesis, and satire by an incisive prose stylist and countercultural icon.

Links:

The Membranes / 膜 (1995)

by Chi Ta-Wei (紀大偉), translated from the Chinese (Taiwan) by Ari Larissa Heinrich

  • Year Published: 1995
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, lgbtqia+, science fiction, speculative fiction, dark, mysterious, reflective, medium-paced
  • Classic of queer speculative fiction in Chinese

It is the late twenty-first century, and Momo is the most celebrated dermal care technician in all of T City. Humanity has migrated to domes at the bottom of the sea to escape devastating climate change. The world is dominated by powerful media conglomerates and runs on exploited cyborg labor. Momo prefers to keep to herself, and anyway she’s too busy for other relationships: her clients include some of the city’s best-known media personalities. But after meeting her estranged mother, she begins to explore her true identity, a journey that leads to questioning the bounds of gender, memory, self, and reality.

First published in Taiwan in 1995, The Membranes is a classic of queer speculative fiction in Chinese. Chi Ta-wei weaves dystopian tropes–heirloom animals, radiation-proof combat drones, sinister surveillance technologies–into a sensitive portrait of one young woman’s quest for self-understanding. Predicting everything from fitness tracking to social media saturation, this visionary and sublime novel stands out for its queer and trans themes. The Membranes reveals the diversity and originality of contemporary speculative fiction in Chinese, exploring gender and sexuality, technological domination, and regimes of capital, all while applying an unflinching self-reflexivity to the reader’s own role. Ari Larissa Heinrich’s translation brings Chi’s hybrid punk sensibility to all readers interested in books that test the limits of where speculative fiction can go.

Links:

A Country for Dying / Un pays pour mourir (2015)

by Abdellah Taïa, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan

  • Year Published: 2015
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction. lgbtqia+, emotional, reflective, slow-paced
  • Written by Morocco’s first openly gay writer

An exquisite novel of North Africans in Paris by one of the most original and necessary voices in world literature

Paris, Summer 2010.

Zahira is 40 years old, Moroccan, a prostitute, traumatized by her father’s suicide decades prior, and in love with a man who no longer loves her.

Zannouba, Zahira’s friend and protege, formerly known as Aziz, prepares for gender confirmation surgery and reflects on the reoccuring trauma of loss, including the loss of her pre-transition male persona.

Mojtaba is a gay Iranian revolutionary who, having fled to Paris, seeks refuge with Zahira for the month of Ramadan.

Meanwhile, Allal, Zahira’s first love back in Morocco, travels to Paris to find Zahira.

Through swirling, perpendicular narratives,

A Country for Dying follows the inner lives of emigrants as they contend with the space between their dreams and their realities, a schism of a postcolonial world where, as Ta a writes, So many people find themselves in the same situation. It is our destiny: To pay with our bodies for other people’s future.

Links:

Tentacle / La mucama de Omicunlé (2015)

by Rita Indiana, translated from the Spanish (Dominican) by Achy Obejas

  • Year Published: 2015
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, lgbtqia+, science fiction, adventurous, challenging, medium-paced
  • Experimental science fiction that deals with questions of race, gender, and environmental change

Plucked from her life on the streets of post-apocalyptic Santo Domingo, young maid Acilde Figueroa finds herself at the heart of a Santería prophecy: only she can travel back in time and save the ocean – and humanity – from disaster. But first she must become the man she always was – with the help of a sacred anemone. Tentacle is an electric novel with a big appetite and a brave vision, plunging headfirst into questions of climate change, technology, Yoruba ritual, queer politics, poverty, sex, colonialism and contemporary art. Bursting with punk energy and lyricism, it’s a restless, addictive trip: The Tempest meets the telenovela.

Links:

Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which books you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

Five sci-fi/fantasy books inspired by Chinese history

May is Asian and Pacific Islander heritage month! So for this month I’m going to share reading recommendations from across Asia and the Pacific Islands.

I love this part of the world and I’m excited to be sharing books from here. I think books are a great way to gain insight into peoples’ lives and their culture. You may not be able to travel or live everywhere you’re interested in, but you can definitely read books from anywhere in the world.


China has a long history, specifically a long written history. The oldest written records are about 3,500 years old!

This is by no means unique, there are other countries with thousands of years of history (i.e., Egypt and Mesopotamia).

But with such a long, recorded history, there is plenty of inspiration for authors to pull from.

These new books inspired by Chinese history are similar to the resurgence of Greek myth retellings, which allow for a fresh take by telling the story from the women’s point of view or highlighting characters previously seen as peripheral. I’m currently loving the fresh perspectives of stories inspired by Chinese history.

I love how women and nonbinary authors are finally being offered publishing deals to tell these diverse stories that draw inspiration from China, but are centering women, nonbinary, gender non-conforming individuals, and various types of relationships.

I find it fascinating to see how modern day issues, like gender, can be explored through a historical setting. For instance, in She Who Becomes the Sun the main character takes on her brother’s name and poses as a boy to seek refuge at a monastery. I think it shows that these ideas are nothing new, that the concepts are rarely black and white, and they’ve always played a role in our lives.

Personally, I love seeing diverse authors finding their voice and being recognized for their creativity. I love that different cultures and histories are becoming more widely recognized, accepted, and seen as valuable.

I find that being able to read from a variety of perspectives opens us up to more interesting stories. I sometimes struggle to read classics by old white men because their women characters often lack depth and I get tired of only reading about men.

I think classics have value in that they reflect the era they came from. But it makes me wonder how many fascinating stories we no longer have because they were not deemed valuable at the time or the storyteller had no means to write/publish the stories.

At least now more diverse voices are being offered a platform, and for everyone else there’s always the opportunity to self-publish online.

Photo by Kayla Kozlowski on Unsplash

Five sci-fi/fantasy books inspired by Chinese history

Here’s a list of five books with authors inspired by Chinese history or cultural stories.

  1. Strange Beasts of China/异兽志 (2006)
  2. The Poppy War (2018)
  3. The Empress of Salt and Fortune (2020)
  4. Iron Widow (2021)
  5. She Who Became the Sun (2021)

Keep reading to find out more about each one. I’ve listed them in order of when they were published.

Strange Beasts of China/异兽志 (2006)

by Yan Ge (颜歌), translated from the Mandarin Chinese by Jeremy Tiang

  • Year Published: 2006
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, contemporary, fantasy, literary, dark, mysterious, reflective, medium-paced
  • Translated version published in 2021 through Tilted Axis press

From one of the most exciting voices in contemporary Chinese literature, an uncanny and playful novel that blurs the line between human and beast …

In the fictional Chinese city of Yong’an, an amateur cryptozoologist is commissioned to uncover the stories of its fabled beasts. These creatures live alongside humans in near-inconspicuousness—save their greenish skin, serrated earlobes, and strange birthmarks.

Aided by her elusive former professor and his enigmatic assistant, our narrator sets off to document each beast, and is slowly drawn deeper into a mystery that threatens her very sense of self.

Part detective story, part metaphysical enquiry, Strange Beasts of China engages existential questions of identity, humanity, love and morality with whimsy and stylistic verve.

Links:

The Poppy War (2018)

by R.F. Kuang

  • Year Published: 2018
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, fantasy, historical, adventurous, dark, tense, medium-paced
  • R.F. Kuang’s first novel

An epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic.

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Links:

The Empress of Salt and Fortune (2020)

by Nghi Vo

  • Year Published: 2020
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, fantasy, lgbtqia+, emotional, mysterious, reflective, medium-paced
  • First book published in the Singing Hills Cycle – but the books can be read in any order

A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully.

Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for.

At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the rise of the empress In-yo, who has few resources and fewer friends. She’s a northern daughter in a mage-made summer exile, but she will bend history to her will and bring down her enemies, piece by piece.

Links:

Iron Widow (2021)

by Xiran Jay Zhao (they/them)

  • Year Published: 2021
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, fantasy, lgbtqia+, science fiction, young adult, adventurous, dark, tense, fast-paced
  • New York Times Bet Seller and Hugo-award-disqualified (due to political censorship) author

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But it doesn’t go quite as she expects.

Links:

She Who Became the Sun (2021)

by Shelley Parker-Chan (they/them)

  • Year Published: 2021
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, fantasy, historical, lgbtqia+, adventurous, dark, tense, medium-paced
  • Won both the Best Novel and Best Newcomer awards at the British Fantasy Awards

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu uses the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.

Mulan meets The Song of Achilles; an accomplished, poetic debut of war and destiny, sweeping across an epic alternate China.

Links:

Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which books you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

Five books from across the Pacific Islands – Part two: Polynesia

May is Asian and Pacific Islander heritage month! So for this month I’m going to share reading recommendations from across Asia and the Pacific Islands.

I love this part of the world and I’m excited to be sharing books from here. I think books are a great way to gain insight into peoples’ lives and their culture. You may not be able to travel or live everywhere you’re interested in, but you can definitely read books from anywhere in the world.


The Pacific Islands is a huge umbrella term for all the island nations that exist within the Pacific Ocean. Technically, this also includes the larger nations with islands in the pacific like New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan.

For the sake of this post, I’m focusing more on the smaller island nations. These nations (and modern day colonies) are typically separated into three groups; Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia (you can see the areas outlined below).

Map of Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia

Despite these groupings, the individual nations, and even the individual islands within nations, are very distinct. Most have their own culture, identity and often times their own language/dialect too.

These areas are rich in culture and most have a strong history of oral storytelling. However, there seems to be a limited amount of published work from these areas. Usually, the works are published independently or locally, rather than getting access to the international markets.

However, there are some books that have been published internationally and that are available in English for the rest of the world to enjoy.

For this post, I will be focusing more on authors from Polynesia. If you’re interested, you can check out the post here about authors from Melanesia and Micronesia.

As you can see from the map, Polynesia is a huge area with many different nations, from Hawai’i to New Zealand. Each island and area is distinct, with their own rich cultural and historical understanding of the world.

In this list of book recommendations, I’ve tried to include some diversity, both regional and historical. But five books can only show so many perspectives. Consider this a jumping off point to learn about the region.

While you may never get a chance to visit all the islands across the Pacific Ocean, you can try reading across the region. Here are a few books recommendations to get you started.

Photo by Braden Jarvis on Unsplash

Five books from Polynesia (Pacific Islands)

Here’s a list of five books with authors from Polynesia (Pacific Islands).

  1. Hawai’i’s Story by Hawai’i’s Queen – Hawai’i (1898)
  2. Island of Shattered Dreams / l’Île des rêves écrasés – Tahiti (1991)
  3. Where We Once Belonged – Samoa (1997)
  4. Frangipani – Tahiti (2004)
  5. Black Marks on the White Page – Regional (2017)

Keep reading to find out more about each one. I’ve listed them in order of when they were published.

Hawai’i’s Story by Hawai’i’s Queen – Hawai’i (1898)

by Queen Lili’uokalani
Note: the local spelling of Hawai’i has an okina (an apostrophe is used here) between the two i’s to reflect the proper pronounciation, but when searching for details on this book you may need to use the anglicized spelling (Hawaii).

  • Year Published: 1898
  • Author’s Country:
    Hawai’i
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, autobiography, history, emotional, informative, reflective, slow-paced
  • The Queen’s account of her time as the reigning monarch, how pro-American forces overthrew her government, and the aftermath of the American intervention.

Hawai’i’s Story by Hawai’i’s Queen is an account of those difficult years at the end of the nineteenth century, when native Hawaiian historian David Malo’s 1837 prophecy concerning “the small ones” being “gobbled up” came true for the Hawaiian Islands.

When this book was first published in 1898, it was an international plea for justice. Just as Admiral Thomas had restored Hawaiian sovereignty in 1843 following an illegal action by Lord Paulet, Queen Lili’uokalani prayed that the American nation would similarly reestablish the Hawaiian throne. Queen Lili’uokalani died on November 11, 1917, her poignant plea for justice unanswered.

Links:

Island of Shattered Dreams / l’Île des rêves écrasés – Tahiti (1991)

by Chantal T. Spitz, translated from the French by Jean Anderson

  • Year Published: 1991
  • Author’s Country:
    Tahiti
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, historical, emotional, reflective, slow-paced
  • First novel by an indigenous French Polynesian writer

Finally in English, Island of Shattered Dreams is the first ever novel by an indigenous Tahitian writer. In a lyrical and immensely moving style, this book combines a family saga and a doomed love story, set against the background of French Polynesia in the period leading up to the first nuclear tests. The text is highly critical of the French government, and as a result its publication in Tahiti was polarising.

Links:

Where We Once Belonged – Samoa (1997)

by Sia Figiel

  • Year Published: 1997
  • Author’s Country:
    Samoa
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, poetry, informative, slow-paced
  • First novel published by a Samoan woman in the USA
  • Won the 1997 Best First Book award in the South East Asia/South Pacific Region of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

A bestseller in New Zealand and winner of the prestigious Commonwealth Prize, Sia Figiel’s debut marks the first time a novel by a Samoan woman has been published in the United States.

Figiel uses the traditional Samoan storytelling form of su’ifefiloi to talk back to Western anthropological studies on Samoan women and culture. Told in a series of linked episodes, this powerful and highly original narrative follows thirteen-year-old Alofa Filiga as she navigates the mores and restrictions of her village and comes to terms with her own search for identity.

Links:

Frangipani – Tahiti (2004)

by Célestine Hitiura Vaite

  • Year Published: 2004
  • Author’s Country:
    Tahiti
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, contemporary, emotional, reflective, slow-paced

In Tahiti, it’s a well-known fact that women are wisest, mothers know best, and Materena Mahi knows best of all — or so everyone except for her own daughter thinks. Soon enough, mother and daughter are engaged in a tug-of-war that tests the bonds of their love.

Links:

Black Marks on the White Page – Regional (2017)

Edited by Witi Ihimaera and Tina Makereti

  • Year Published: 2017
  • Author’s Country:
    Across the Oceanic region, editors are both from New Zealand
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, short stories, challenging, reflective, medium-paced

A stunning collection of Oceanic stories for the 21st century.

Stones move, whale bones rise out of the ground like cities, a man figures out how to raise seven daughters alone. Sometimes gods speak or we find ourselves in a not-too-distant future. Here are the glorious, painful, sharp and funny 21st century stories of Maori and Pasifika writers from all over the world. Vibrant, provocative and aesthetically exciting, these stories expand our sense of what is possible in Indigenous Oceanic writing.

Witi Ihimaera and Tina Makereti present the very best new and uncollected stories and novel excerpts, creating a talanoa, a conversation, where the stories do the talking. And because our commonalities are more stimulating than our differences, the anthology also includes guest work from an Aboriginal Australian writer, and several visual artists whose work speaks to similar kaupapa.

Join us as we deconstruct old theoretical maps and allow these fresh Black Marks on the White Page to expand our perception of the Pacific world.

Links:

Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which books you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

Five books from across the Pacific Islands – Part one: Melanesia and Micronesia

May is Asian and Pacific Islander heritage month! So for this month I’m going to share reading recommendations from across Asia and the Pacific Islands.

I love this part of the world and I’m excited to be sharing books from here. I think books are a great way to gain insight into peoples’ lives and their culture. You may not be able to travel or live everywhere you’re interested in, but you can definitely read books from anywhere in the world.


The Pacific Islands is a huge umbrella term for all the island nations that exist within the Pacific Ocean. Technically, this also includes the larger nations with islands in the pacific like New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan.

For the sake of this post, I’m focusing more on the smaller island nations. These nations (and modern day colonies) are typically separated into three groups; Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia (you can see the areas outlined below).

Map of Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia

Despite these groupings, the individual nations, and even the individual islands within nations, are very distinct. Most have their own culture, identity and often times their own language/dialect too.

These areas are rich in culture and most have a strong history of oral storytelling. However, there seems to be a limited amount of published work from these areas. Usually, the works are published independently or locally, rather than getting access to the international markets.

However, there are some books that have been published internationally and that are available in English for the rest of the world to enjoy.

For this post, I will be focusing more on authors from Melanesia and Micronesia. Come back next week for another set of book recommendations with authors from Polynesia!

Micronesia has a special place in my heart because I was lucky enough to spend a semester abroad in Fiji. It was probably one of the best experiences of my life, and opened my eyes to a whole new part of the world.

Being from the East coast of Canada, I hadn’t met many Pacific Islanders. But being able to live in Fiji, on a university campus that serves 12 member countries, I felt that I got learn about the region and not just Fiji. I’m so thankful for that experience.

While you may never get a chance to visit all the islands across the Pacific Ocean, you can try reading across the region. Here are a few books recommendations to get you started.

Photo by Alex Bunday on Unsplash

Five books from Melanesia and Micronesia (Pacific Islands)

Here’s a list of five books with authors from Melanesia and Micronesia (Pacific Islands).

  1. Tales of the Tikongs – Tonga* & Fiji (1988)
  2. Kava in the Blood – Fiji (1999)
  3. My Urohs – Pohnpei (2008)
  4. Black Ice Matter – Fiji (2016)
  5. Iep Jaltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter – Marshall Islands (2017)

Keep reading to find out more about each one. I’ve listed them simply in order of when they were published.

*Note, Tonga is actually apart of Polynesia, but I thought it would be best to keep all the books from Fiji together in one list.

Tales of the Tikongs – Tonga & Fiji (1988)

by Epeli Hau’ofa

  • Year Published: 1988
  • Author’s Country:
    Tongan heritage and Fijian citizenship
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, short stories, adventurous, funny, slow-paced

Tiko, a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean, faces a tidal wave of D-E-V-E-L-O-P-M-E-N-T, which threatens to demolish ancestral ways and the human spirit. From Sione, who prefers to play cards with his secretary during work hours, to Ole Pasifikiwei, who masters the twists and turns of international funding games, all of the characters in these pages are seasoned surfers, capable of riding the biggest wave to shore. These are not stories of fatal impact so much as upbeat tales of indigenous responses to cultural and economic imperialism. Epeli Hauofa uses devices derived from oral storytelling to create a South Pacific voice that is lucid, hilarious, and compassionate in a work that has long been regarded as a milestone in Pacific literature.

Links:

Kava in the Blood – Fiji (1999)

by Peter Thomson (a fifth generation Fijian)

  • Year Published: 1999
  • Author’s Country:
    Fiji
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, memoir, travel, emotional, reflective, medium-paced
  • Winner of the EH McCormick Prize
  • About the 1987 coup in Fiji

“The literary device of juxtaposing the story of the Fiji coup against autobiographical reminiscences of a Fiji background works very well. This is an excellent story, beautifully written and skilfully mixing the personal with the political .. The EH McCormick Award for the Best First Book of Non Fiction, sponsored by the New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN Inc) and Creative New Zealand, goes to Kava in the Blood by Peter Thomson.”
– Judges Report, Montana New Zealand Book Awards, 2000.

Entwined through the author’s reportage of the 1987 coups is an evocative picture of life in the islands. Thus, Kava in the Blood is also an intriguing story of hurricanes, haunted houses and copious kava consumption, set within the dramatic landscapes and vibrant cultures of the Fiji Islands.

Links:

My Urohs – Pohnpei (2008)

by Emelihter Kihleng

  • Year Published: 2008
  • Author’s Country:
    Pohnpei (Part of Micronesia)
  • Storygraph Categories:
    poetry, challenging, reflective, slow-paced
  • First published collection of poetry by a Pohnpeian poet

The first collection of poetry by a Pohnpeian poet, Emelihter Kihleng’s My Urohs is described by distinguished Samoan writer and artist Albert Wendt as “refreshingly innovative and compelling, a new way of seeing ourselves in our islands, an important and influential addition to our [Pacific] literature.”

Samoan writer Sia Figiel described her poetry as “disturbing and haunting, illuminating and tender”, “woven from the violent threads of postcolonialism, laced with patches of Island humour”, “a powerful addition to Pacific Literature”.

Links:

Black Ice Matter – Fiji (2016)

by Gina Cole

  • Year Published: 2016
  • Author’s Country:
    Fiji
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, short stories, emotional, reflective, medium-paced
  • Won the 2017 award for best first book of fiction from Ockham New Zealand Book Awards

This collection of short stories explores connections between extremes of heat and cold. Sometimes this is spatial or geographical; sometimes it is metaphorical. Sometimes it involves juxtapositions of time; sometimes heat appears where only ice is expected.

In the stories, a woman is caught between traditional Fijian ways and the brutality of the military dictatorship; a glaciology researcher falls into a crevasse and confronts the unexpected; two women lose children in freak shooting accidents; a young child in a Barbie Doll sweatshop dreams of a different life; secondary school girls struggle with secrets about an addicted janitor; and two women take a deathly trip through a glacier melt stream. These are some of the unpredictable stories in this collection that follow themes of ice and glaciers in the heat of the South Pacific and take us into unusual lives and explorations.

Links:

Iep Jaltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter – Marshall Islands (2017)

by Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner

  • Year Published: 2017
  • Author’s Country:
    Marshall Islands heritage and raised in Hawaii
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, poetry, challenging, emotional, reflective, slow-paced
  • First poetry book published by a Marshallese author

As the seas rise, the fight intensifies to save the Pacific Ocean’s Marshall Islands from being devoured by the waters around them. At the same time, activists are raising their poetic voices against decades of colonialism, environmental destruction, and social injustice.

Marshallese poet and activist Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s writing highlights the traumas of colonialism, racism, forced migration, the legacy of American nuclear testing, and the impending threats of climate change. Bearing witness at the front lines of various activist movements inspires her work and has propelled her poetry onto international stages, where she has performed in front of audiences ranging from elementary school students to more than a hundred world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit.

The poet connects us to Marshallese daily life and tradition, likening her poetry to a basket and its essential materials. Her cultural roots and her family provides the thick fiber, the structure of the basket. Her diasporic upbringing is the material which wraps around the fiber, an essential layer to the structure of her experiences. And her passion for justice and change, the passion which brings her to the front lines of activist movements—is the stitching that binds these two experiences together.

Iep Jaltok will make history as the first published book of poetry written by a Marshallese author, and it ushers in an important new voice for justice.

Links:

Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which books you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

Five books about the American War in Vietnam

May is Asian and Pacific Islander heritage month! So for this month I’m going to share reading recommendations from across Asia and the Pacific Islands.

I love this part of the world and I’m excited to be sharing books from here. I think books are a great way to gain insight into peoples’ lives and their culture. You may not be able to travel or live everywhere you’re interested in, but you can definitely read books from anywhere in the world.


One world altering event, I’ve been enjoying learning more about is the American War in Vietnam (as called by those in Vietnam).

The more that I read from different perspectives the more nuance I gain in understanding complex events. I think most world altering events deserve as much nuance as possible. There are always good and bad decisions, but the individuals involved in carrying out those decisions are rarely purely good or bad.

Personally, I’ve been interested in learning about the Vietnamese perspective of the war. I grew up in the Western world and so the little I understood about the war was shaped by the societies’ perspective of the war. I know most North Americans are used to hearing about the “Vietnam War”, but even just what we call it shows different perspectives.

Importance of different perspectives

Books written by Vietnamese authors are a great way to gain some insight into the diverse opinions and experiences of the Vietnamese. Just like any event, no two perspectives or experiences are going to be the same.

I think it’s important to read from multiple perspectives, such as from survivors of the war, refugees of the war (and their descendants), and the generations that grew up in the aftermath of the war. The more perspectives you read about, the more pieces of the puzzle you gain, and slowly a larger picture or understanding will form.

For context, it’s important to understand that the Vietnamese government still has influence over the publishing industry in Vietnam, meaning all media has to be reviewed/approved by the government. This influence has been exerted over all media in Vietnam since the war ended (1975), with many writers either being arrested or having to leave the country.

Due to the government censorship, some books (like The Mountains Sing) are actually written in English to avoid being altered or affected by the government. Interestingly English might allow them a bit more freedom of expression, because it helps them get published outside of Vietnam (aka outside of the government’s influence).

I’ve included a range of books to help showcase a range of perspectives.

Photo by Thijs Degenkamp on Unsplash

Five books about the American War in Vietnam

Here’s a list of five books that explore the American War in Vietnam.

  1. The Sorrow of War / Thân Phận Của Tình Yêu (The Fate of Love) (1987)
  2. Novel Without a Name (1991)
  3. The Sympathizer (2015)
  4. The Mountains Sing (2020)
  5. Wandering Souls (2023)

Keep reading to find out more about each one. I’ve listed them in order of when they were published.

The Sorrow of War / Thân Phận Của Tình Yêu (The Fate of Love) (1987)

by Bảo Ninh, translated from the Vietnamese by Phan Thanh Hảo and edited by Frank Palmos

  • Year Published: 1987
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, historical, literary, dark, reflective, sad, slow-paced
  • Won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

Bao Ninh, a former North Vietnamese soldier, provides a strikingly honest look at how the Vietnam War forever changed his life, his country, and the people who live there. Originally published against government wishes in Vietnam because of its non-heroic, non-ideological tone, The Sorrow of War has won worldwide acclaim and become an international bestseller.

Links:

Novel Without a Name (1991)

by Dương Thu Hương, translated from the Vietnamese by Phan Huy Duong & Nina McPherson

  • Year Published: 1991
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, historical, dark, slow-paced
  • Hương was labeled a “dissident writer” by the Vietnamese Communist party for her criticism of the party and its members.

Twenty-eight-year-old Quan has been fighting for the Communist cause in North Vietnam for a decade. Filled with idealism and hope when he first left his village, he now spends his days and nights dodging stray bullets and bombs, foraging scraps of food to feed himself and his men. Quan seeks comfort in childhood memories as he tries to sort out his conflicting feelings of patriotism and disillusionment. Then, given the chance to return to his home, Quan undertakes a physical and mental journey that brings him face to face with figures from his past—his angry father, his childhood sweetheart, his boyhood friends now maimed or dead—and ultimately to the shattering reality that his innocence has been irretrievably lost in the wake of the war. In a voice both lyrical and stark, Duong Thu Huong, one of Vietnam’s most beloved writers, powerfully conveys the conflict that spiritually destroyed her generation.

Links:

The Sympathizer (2015)

by Viet Thanh Nguyen / Nguyễn Thanh Việt

  • Year Published: 2015
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, historical, literary, thriller, challenging, dark, tense, slow-paced
  • Won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong.

The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.

Links:

The Mountains Sing (2020)

by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai (written in English)

  • Year Published: 2015
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, historical, literary, thriller, challenging, dark, tense, slow-paced
  • Won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trần Diệu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore apart not just her beloved country, but also her family.

Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Việt Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.

Links:

Wandering Souls (2023)

by Cecile Pin

  • Year Published: 2023
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, historical, literary, emotional, reflective, sad, medium-paced
  • Finalist for the 2023 Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize

A luminous, boldly imagined debut novel about three Vietnamese siblings who seek refuge in the UK, expanding into a sweeping meditation on love, ancestry, and the power of storytelling.

There are the goodbyes and then the fishing out of the bodies—everything in between is speculation.

After the last American troops leave Vietnam, siblings Anh, Thanh, and Minh begin a perilous journey to Hong Kong with the promise that their parents and younger siblings will soon follow. But when tragedy strikes, the three children are left orphaned, and sixteen-year-old Anh becomes the caretaker for her two younger brothers overnight.

Links:

Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which books you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.