With more and more Asian authors publishing their stories, I guess we can say that these books are… on the rice. Wink wink, nudge nudge. 😏
But terrible puns aside, I’ve always had a soft spot for Asian authors and their work. Partly because it had been an Asian-inspired fantasy book — The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (if that’s still not clear to everyone) — that motivated me to diversify my reading. And partly because I’m a Filipino reader and seeing Asian characters on-page or on-screen never fails to feel like a tremendous gift.
Either way, the fundamental laws of supply and demand tell us that supporting Asian authors is crucial in ensuring that their books continue to grow in number. In other words, growing demand for their stories will pressure publishers to supply us with more. 📈 And on that note, I am extremely thrilled to revive one of my dearest blog series:
✨🍚 Books on the Rice 🍚✨
Books on the Rice was originally a series intended to provide curated recommendations of Asian-authored books, such as Asian-inspired fantasy written by actual Asian authors. But in this exciting resurrection, this series is now a (hopefully) monthly endeavor that’s dedicated to upcoming Asian books and spotlighting them!
With that said, for the first month of 2021, I have 10 amazing January releases from Asian authors to share with you. Happy browsing! 🥰
Clues to the Universe by Christina Li
[ 12 January 2021 from Quill Tree Books ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A middle grade debut about losing and finding family, forging unlikely friendships, and searching for answers to big questions.
Although Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners, they become unlikely friends: Benji helps Ro finish her rocket, and Ro figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad.
If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur
[ 19 January 2021 from HarperCollins ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Told in prose and poetry, this sophomore novel explores trauma, fear, courage, community, and the healing power of love in its many forms.
It follows Kiran, who flees her home in Punjab for a fresh start in Canada after a sexual assault leaves her pregnant.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
[ 19 January 2021 from Dutton Books ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A YA historical novel that offers a gripping story of love and duty set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Red Scare.
America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father, Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.
Rise of the Red Hand by Olivia Chadha
[ 19 January 2021 from Erewhon Books ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A YA sci-fi novel that portrays the future of climate change in South Asia.
Set in a futuristic dystopia, a streetrat turned revolutionary and a disillusioned hacker son of a politician team up to take down a ruthlessly technocratic government that sacrifices its poorest citizens to maintain elite rule.
The Comeback by E.L. Shen
[ 19 January 2021 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A middle grade contemporary debut that examines racism, female rivalry and friendship, and the universal necessity of love and support.
Twelve-year-old Maxine Chen is just trying to nail that perfect landing: on the ice, in middle school, and at home, where her parents worry that competitive skating is too much pressure for a budding tween.
We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal
[ 19 January 2021 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: We Free the Stars is the masterful conclusion to the Sands of Arawiya duology.
The battle on Sharr is over. The dark forest has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan he set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of Old to the minarets of each caliphate, and finally returning magic to all of Arawiya.
The Knockout by Sajni Patel
[ 26 January 2021 from Flux ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A YA contemporary debut that follows a rising star in Muay Thai as she figures out what (and who) is worth fighting for.
Despite pleasing her parents, exceling at school, and making plans to get her family out of debt, Kareena’s never felt quite Indian enough, and her Muay Thai training is only making it worse. Which is inconvenient, since she’s starting to fall for Amit Patel, who just might be the world’s most perfect Indian.
Then There Was You by Mona Shroff
[ 26 January 2021 from Harlequin Romance ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: An adult romance novel about dealing with loss, learning to live life, and letting love grow.
It follows Daniel Bliant, a helicopter medic who thinks he’s damaged goods, and Annika Mehta, a kindergarten teacher reeling from a bad breakup and the terrible event that caused it.
We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen
[ 26 January 2021 from MIRA Books ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A sci-fi novel that offers an extraordinary and emotional adventure about unlikely friends and the power of choosing who you want to be.
When archrivals Jamie and Zoe meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize the only way to reveal their hidden pasts might be through each other. As they uncover an ongoing threat, suddenly much more is at stake than their fragile friendship.
When Tara Met Farah by Tara Pammi
[ 26 January 2021 from self-published ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A contemporary romance novel where Sunshine Girl needs math lessons while Grumpy Girl gets life lessons.
Tara Muvvala lives a double life as a popular food vlogger and terrible math student. Enter her mother’s research intern and resident math genius Farah Ahmed. Tara makes a deal with Farah – help her pass the math course and she’ll welcome Farah into the local Bollywood Drama & Dance Society.
More 2021 Asian book releases?
I got you! I’ve compiled more than 150 upcoming Asian book releases in one color-coded, lovingly organized database. This can help you look through titles not only by release date, but also by genre, age group, publisher/imprint, and what-have-you.
If you find the database helpful, please consider supporting me by leaving a one-time tip (via ko-fi). Thank you very much! I hope you find a book that sparks joy in you.
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I’d love to hear from you!
🌻 Which upcoming releases in January are you most excited about? Did any of them appear on this list?
🌻 I know that everyone and their mom make blog posts about upcoming releases, be it on a weekly or monthly basis. Do you enjoy reading them? Are they helpful to you?
🌻 And finally, the most important question: are you sick and tired of my puns yet?