June is Pride Month, which celebrates inclusivity, equality, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. And what better way to indulge in this month-long celebration than by reading works written by authors—or that feature characters—from this diverse community? Not only does this uplift their voices, but it also helps to show your support to the queer community and create an understanding from different perspectives. Join us in reading some of the best literature by Asian authors celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community!
Filled with imaginative storytelling, it is no surprise that this murder mystery won the 2022 Booker Prize. Written by Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka, Seven Moons is about Maali Almeida, a dead photographer, gambler, and closeted gay man who is given a week to solve the mystery of his own death. Being able to travel between the afterlife and the real world, he is determined to persuade the man and woman he loves most to share his photographs that expose the brutalities of war. Expect a rollercoaster of emotions through grief, loss, humour, and acceptance while unfolding this mystery.
Known for his much-loved poetry, Ocean Vuong blends fiction and memoir in his debut novel. On Earth deals with distressing and explicit topics that readers may find sensitive, so discretion is definitely advised. Written as a set of letters from the protagonist, Little Dog, to his illiterate mother, the book recounts his childhood experiences, from bullying and abuse to having a romantic relationship with a man while working on a tobacco farm one summer. This book highlights and shows the discrimination faced by the queer community in modern times by exploring one’s sexuality as they growing up.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Mary Jean Chan won the Lambda Literary Awards in 2021 with this poetry collection. An autobiographical recount of her childhood, Fléche explores the relationship between mother and daughter while exploring one’s cultural heritage, queerness, and journey to self-acceptance. Written by a queer local writer, this is all the more reason to read this extraordinary and honest collection of poetry.
Based on China’s first and only female emperor, Xiran Jay Zhou’s YA novel follows Wu Zetian in the fictional land of Huaxia, where it is being attacked by aliens. Male soldiers piloting war robots called Chrysalises are powered by women who often die due to mental strain. Following the death of Zetian’s sister, this book follows her quest for vengeance. Featuring bisexual main characters and a polyamorous relationship written by a non-binary writer, this book is perfect for people who enjoy folklore combined with historical sci-fi.
Written by Japanese author Sayaka Murata, this book explores the life of Keiko, a 36-year-old woman who works at a convenience store and struggles to fit into society. She later meets Shiraha, who does not conform to society’s expectations and struggles holding down a job. Despite having no affection for each other, they move in together to avoid family pressure and meet societal expectations by pretending to be a couple. Although not explicitly mentioned, the main character is interpreted as an aromantic, asexual woman who is possibly autistically coded. For those who are interested in reading about a female character being on both spectrums, this book is highly recommended.
If you are a fan of The Great Gatsby, then this book is for you. A reinvention of the American classic, this debut novel by Nghi Vo is a coming-of-age story set in the Roaring Twenties. Being queer, Asian, and a Vietnamese adoptee, Jordan Baker is treated as an exotic attraction by her peers despite being of the same social class and economic standing. Written by a queer author, this book features a cast of LGBTQIA+ characters and explores the struggles of being queer and Asian in a society dashed with magic and fantasy.
Banana Yoshimoto’s work of fiction focuses on Mikage, who, after the death of her grandparents, meets Yuichi and his mother, sparking a romance between the two. While Kitchen portrays a heterosexual relationship, this book also features a transgender woman who is given the spotlight and has her personal arc within the story, which is both heartwarming and tragic. Originally written in the 1980s, Kitchen includes wonderfully written trans representation, making the novel truly ahead of its time and a worthy read.
Set in post-martial-law Taipei, this is a coming-of-age story by Qiu Miaojin. Told from the perspective of a lesbian narrator, Lazi, she turns to her friends for support after realising her attraction to an older woman. This queer cast of misfits includes a rich-kid-turned-criminal and his troubled gay lover, and an overachiever with her artistic girlfriend. Embarking on a journey discovering friendship and love while studying at university, Notes of a Crocodile is truly a tale of the defiance of social norms in contemporary Chinese literature.
If you are a fan of classical music and sci-fi, check out this novel by Ryka Aoki. Shizuka Satomi makes a Faustian deal with the devil, sacrificing the souls of seven violin prodigies to escape eternal damnation. After learning of her last victim, a young transgender runaway, she embarks on a journey to find her. Later, Shizuka meets retired starship captain, Lan Tran, in a doughnut shop and falls in love. In this queer love story with trans representation, three women’s fates are entangled in a futuristic world filled with magic and music.
Where Mulan meets The Song of Achilles, this historical fiction by Shelly Parker-Chan is a queer reimagining of the ascension of Zhu Yuanzhuang, the first emperor of the Ming dynasty. The story follows Zhu Chongba’s nameless sister, who takes up his identity after he dies for a chance to fulfil Zhu’s greatness despite her being destined for nothing. A story of reclamation and empowerment, this novel is written by a non-binary author and features a cast of queer characters, showcasing a rich representation of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Written by a trans, non-binary author, this novel features various non-binary characters, including the lead. Gyen Jebi is an artist who gets recruited by the Ministry of Armour to paint mystical sigils that animate the government’s robot soldiers. As Jebi dives deeper into the government’s activities and realises the origin of their magical pigments, they decide to steal the ministry’s dragon robot and find a way to fight back. Set in a queer-friendly world, this novel also features characters in lesbian and polyamorous relationships.
Chen Chen’s debut poetry collection, When I Grow Up I Want To Be A List of Further Possibilities, explores the strained relationship between a mother and son from a queer, immigrant, and Asian-American perspective. As a gay man, Chen’s collection contains fragments of Emily Dickinson’s and Langston Hughes’s style of poetry as he explores the loss, grief, and eventual love of one’s identity and life.