17 Books by Queer Asian American Writers
We are here. We are queer. We are many.
To be queer and Asian is both a singular and collective experience. Our bodies become a reclamation in reconciling self-identity with communities that can, oftentimes, feel like they are against us. It’s a liminal space between celebration and danger; inside, we question the multiplicity of our consciousness. How do we exist? How do we generate love?
In a moment where the Supreme Court issued that it would oversee three court cases on LGBTQ+ protections, these questions seem more and more pertinent. There are no simple answers to understanding the self, but there are definitive actions that help the process and give greater access to these dialogues: Having the openness to listen. Being an ally. Creating and sustaining pro-queer rights in and out of the home. Being generous and kind to yourself. For me, creating this reading list.
With the existence of queer Asian American narratives, we are visible. These books represent the space each voice had to forge within their own cultural histories and normative society. They say we’re here, we’re with you. To write anything with a queer Asian identity is an assertion—in this long-term battle to gain community and safety and acceptance—that we will remain unafraid, even in difficult times. This is a fight we’ll win.
Marriage of a Thousand Lies by S.J. Sindu
Marriage of a Thousand Lies follows Lucky and her husband, Krishna, both of whom are gay and lying to their Sri Lankan families about it. When circumstances cause Lucky to return back to her childhood home, Lucky asks herself what she is willing to walk away from when she rekindles love for her first friend.
The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang
Starting with her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, Esmé Weijun Wang provides a powerful look into what it’s like to have mental and chronic illness in this essay collection. The book examines everything, from institutionalization to the medical community, and comes back to the self.
Quarantine by Rahul Mehta
With humor and tenderness, Rahul Mehta’s short story collection moves through the lives of queer Indian American men, reconciling identity with cultural tradition in the larger scape of societal separation.
This Way to the Sugar by Hieu Minh Nguyen
Hieu Minh Nguyen’s debut poetry collection captures what it is like to be a queer Vietnamese American in the Midwest. The book manifests as written slam poetry, speaking truth to trauma, desire, sexuality, and identity.
Edinburgh by Alexander Chee
Edinburgh portrays twelve-year-old Fee, a Korean American soprano in the local boys’ choir. When he learns about how the director sexually abuses the choir’s section leaders, Fee must contend with his hurt, his silence, and what it means to forgive oneself after his friend’s death.
Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
In this collection of essays, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha examines the politics of disability justice. This book is a celebration to sick or disabled queer people of color, and a call to arms toward giving greater access to the community.
Gutted by Justin Chin
In this book of poetry, Justin Chin renders his experiences with mental and physical health and looming death as he returns to Southeast Asia to care for his father, who was diagnosed with cancer, while dealing with his own illness. Chin passed away at the age of 46 from a stroke.
The Exilesby Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla
The Exiles, otherwise known as The Two Krishnas, evokes love and loss when a woman, Pooja Kapoor, discovers her husband has fallen in love with another man. The novel takes Hindu mythology and Sufi poetry to ask what it means to know someone.
Seasonal Velocities by Ryka Aoki
Ryka Aoki creates an intimate multi-genre collection of poems, stories, and essays with Seasonal Velocities. The book journeys through love and abuse in the trans experience—and more importantly, what it is to be human.
The Year of Blue Water by Yanyi
The Year of Blue Water is a book of poetry that moves through lyric and prose to explore the self. These poems converse with what it means to have multiple identities in this meditative search for self-knowledge.
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
The Incendiaries follows Phoebe, a university student who gets further and further drawn into a cult whose leader has North Korean ties, and Will, the guy who loves her. Love, violence, and danger are collapsed in this powerful novel.
When the Chant Comes by Kay Ulanday Barrett
Kay Ulanday Barrett speaks to their experience with gender, race, disability, sickness, and politics in this poetry collection. These poems are unapologetic, embodying love for the body and spirit.
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
No One Can Pronounce My Name is a generational novel set in an Indian American community outside of Cleveland. The book explores what it means to be an outsider and find one’s place, through the lives of two people: Harit, a man who dresses in a sari at night to keep himself sane after his sister’s death, and Ranjana, a woman who has sent her child off to college and worries about her marriage.
Soft Science by Franny Choi
In this series of Turing Test–inspired poetry, Soft Science looks at queer, Asian American femininity. These poems move from cyborgs to slugs, erasure and agency, to explore the tangle of identity and consciousness.
After by Fatimah Asghar
After winds magic realism with the experience of living as a Pakistani, Kashmiri, Muslim woman in America. This book of poetry dips into the strange and disjointed, as it frames life through a body that has felt unbelonging.
recombinant by Ching-In Chen
recombinant is a hybrid collection of prose and poetry that experiments with how poetry can be used to examine erasure and the reconstruction of community and lineage. Set in a speculative future, this book gives space to communal memory.
Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden
T Kira Madden’s debut memoir chronicles her coming-of-age life as a queer, mixed-race teenager in Boca Raton, Florida, to the present-day mourning over her father’s death. This novel is an unflinching, loving journey of a young woman.