Swati Teerdhala’s debut is one of our must-read books of the season. Inspired by Hindu mythology, The Tiger at Midnight transports readers to ancient India and follows an assassin and a soldier caught in a game of cat and mouse. Here, in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Teerdhala shares the Asian-American YA novels that she thinks should be on every reader’s TBR list.
May isn’t just the month of warmth and flowers, it’s also Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM). In the past year, Asian-American representation has increased by leaps and bounds. From last August’s Crazy Rich Asians to Mindy Kaling’s upcoming Netflix series about an Indian-American teenager, we’re getting more Asian-American stories on the screen than ever before. We’ve also seen some great strides in the literary world, from Roshani Chokshi’s middle grade foray into Hindu mythology with Aru Shah and the End of Time to Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient, a romance that captured tons of hearts.
In honor of APAHM, I wanted to highlight five Asian-American YA books releasing this year that I’m thrilled to see on the shelves. You’ll definitely want to get your hands on these books!
This book is everything I would’ve wanted as a teenager—a smart, kick-ass heroine, a sweet romance, and tons of drama (with a dash of comedy and heart). Charaipotra’s solo novel follows sixteen-year-old medical prodigy Saira as she graduates med school and starts working in the same hospital as her mother. Life gets particularly complicated when Saira falls in love with a cute teen boy who’s been diagnosed with cancer and also happens to be her patient.
I’m a huge fan of historical novels set in time periods that are less commonly written about and 1890s Atlanta is definitely one of those periods. Lee’s story follows Jo Kuan, a teenage maid who works for one of the wealthiest families in the city. Torn between the moneyed world of her employers and the working-class home of her Chinese immigrant father, she ends up writing Atlanta’s most popular advice column under the name “Miss Sweetie.”
If you’re looking for a romance inspired by K-dramas with a heavy dash of Korean mythology, this is your book. Wicked Fox follows Miyoung, a girl with a secret—she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, and they began a tentative friendship that develops into more. But when disaster strikes, Miyoung has to make a choice between Jihoon’s life and her immortal one.
One of my most-anticipated romances of the summer, Love from A to Z explores what happens when two teens, Zayneb and Adam, accidentally meet in Doha, Qatar. They both have their own small tragedies that have pushed them there—Zayneb’s suspension after confronting a racist teacher and Adam’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. But together, they might be able to find some happiness in their new status quo.
This has been heralded as a “powerful coming-of-age novel” and has been on the top of my to-read list for awhile. The book centers on Jay, who travels to the Philippines when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered during President Duterte’s war on drugs. No one in the family wants to discuss it, but Jay is determined to figure out the truth.
Swati Teerdhala is a storyteller at heart. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a BS in finance and BA in history, she tumbled into the marketing side of the technology industry. She’s passionate about many things, including how to make a proper cup of tea, the right ratio of curd to crust in a lemon tart, and diverse representation in the stories we tell. The Tiger at Midnight is her debut novel. She currently lives in New York City.