It’s winter here in the Northern Hemisphere (actually, Texas is not very wintery right now, it’s been as high as 85 degrees F, ~29 degrees C, in the past week), so I’m doing a short list of Asian lit with wintery themes. I’ve included 2 middle grade novels, 2 young adult novels, and 2 YA short stories (in that order).
- When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin- This companion and sequel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky begins with the line “When the sea turned to silver and the cold chilled the light of the sun, Pinmei knew the Black Tortoise of Winter had arrived with his usual calmness.” Like its predecessors, it’s a fantasy story embedded with mini-tales that are all intertwined with the primary narrative in some way. It was one of my favorite books of 2016 (you can read what I said gushing about it at the link). You can watch the book trailer here.
- Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas by Pauline A. Chen – Although fifth grader Peiling Wang has lived in the U.S. since she was small, her Taiwanese family has never celebrated Christmas the all-American way, with the tree, stockings, carols, and presents. This year, Peiling is determined to make her family celebrate the holiday. Unfortunately, her parents have something a little less American and a little more Taiwanese in mind.
- Girl Overboard by Justina Chen – Syrah Cheng seems to have a lot going for her; her father is a billionaire, and she has a mansion, personal jet, and more. Under this gilded surface is a troubled teenage girl. Her parents barely notice her, her half-siblings hate her, her best friend’s girlfriend is ruining her friendship with him, and her boyfriend is a gold-digger. The only time she feels free is when she snowboards in the mountains. Unfortunately, an accident results in an injury that keeps her away from that beloved place. Now, aside from healing her knee, she must also heal her heart.
- Huntress by Malinda Lo – Something is wrong with the world. Spring should have arrived, but it has not; the sun hasn’t shone for months, and crops are dying. The oracles cast their stones and select two seventeen-year-old girls, Taisin and Kaede, to embark on a dangerous mission to the city of the Fairy Queen. Despite their differences, the two girls come to depend on each other and even fall in love. However, fate may not have a happy ending in store for them…(This book is a prequel to Ash, but it can stand alone and reading the two in any order doesn’t spoil anything one way or another.)
- “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me” by Jenny Han, included in the anthology My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins – Fifteen Christmases ago, Santa was delivering presents in Seoul, South Korea, when he found an abandoned baby with a note that said, “내 딸을 부탁해,” meaning “Please take care of my daughter.” Santa adopted her, and ever since then, Natalie has lived at the North Pole, the sole human among a bunch of elves. Her life is a lonely one, but her handsome elf friend and secret crush Flynn brightens her days. This year, she may just tell him her feelings and get the kiss she’s hoping for…
- “Double Time” by John Chu, included in the anthology Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories edited by Julia Rios and Alisa Krasnostein, also republished online for free here at Lightspeed Magazine – This short story features Shelly (Chinese name: 何穎珊, pinyin: He Yingshan), a Chinese American figure skater who is trying to live up to her mother’s expectations and the legacy of her idol and namesake, Michelle Kwan(!). Skating has changed a bit since the time of Michelle Kwan: there is now the technology and option to skate “double time,” running through a skating routine a second time by jumping backward in time to skate with one’s past-self. Shelly hopes to place in the Nationals, but the thing she truly covets is her mother’s approval.
I didn’t intend to make this list all East Asian authors, but that’s how it turned out based on the books/stories I knew of, oops. I’m not sure if this result reflects a bias in my reading or a bias in publishing in general, or both. I combed through all of the books I’ve read and on my TBR, which includes Asian authors of non-East-Asian backgrounds, and this is what I found. If you know of any other Asian or otherwise diverse winter-related books, feel free to rec them. 🙂