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5 Books With Strong Asian Female Heroines

Showcasing strong, female lead characters from around the world to celebrate World Book Day and Woman’s History Month. We hope you find a book here that intrigues you.

How diverse is your TBR (to be read) pile? I am not just talking about genre, but culture too. Books allow us to live hundreds of lives and learn more about the world, and ourselves, throughout the journey. Growing up as a mixed Chinese/White British woman, I never felt represented in the books or magazines I read, the films and TV shows I watched, or the beauty and fashion adverts I saw. I still don’t, but the West seems to be slowly wakening up to the talents of Eastern authors. 

I want to showcase some strong female lead characters from around the world, to celebrate World Book Day and Woman’s History Month. I hope you find a book here that intrigues you! 

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Life is not easy for Chinese people living in the West, especially at the turn of the 20th century where, for white Americans, Chinatown was a decadent place rife with opium addiction and gambling and other immoral behaviour. Teenage Mercy, a Chinese migrant, is all too aware of the Sinophobia and relentless stereotypes that white Americans have of East Asians. Mercy uses her position as an “exotic” foreigner to bribe her way into the prestigious San Francisco school, St Clare’s, by pretending to be a Chinese heiress. Mercy is a strong, witty, feisty girl who is not afraid to take risks. She is a joy to follow and she is determined, despite devastating tragedy. 

Inferno by Catherine Cho

Cho’s brave memoir of her experiences with postpartum psychosis is raw, beautiful, and compelling. Following the birth of her son, Cho struggles with not only losing her sense of reality, but also losing her son and coming to terms with her conflicting Korean-American-British identity as she finds herself in an involuntary psych ward in America. Cho interweaves Korean traditions and stories to provide readers with a snapshot into her life growing up as a Korean in America. A fascinating read, with a strong, brave writer and mother. 

The Farm by Joanne Ramos (Philippines and USA)

If you are looking for another dystopian (but scarily realistic) novel to fill the Never Let Me Go void, then check out The Farm by Joanne Ramos, a Filipino-American author. The novel examines motherhood, linking it to themes of class, gender, race, and the dark side of the American Dream. The characters debate surrogacy and the commodification of financially weak working-class women, with many being Asian migrants. The Farm is filled with strong women doing their best to survive in a world of inequalities and injustice. 

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

If you are looking for an upbeat, light-hearted read, then I would recommend Crazy Rich Asians. It is ridiculous and dreamlike, but it is addictive and very fun. The story kind of reminds me of some of F Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories and novels on extravagant wealth and classism. Do not take it seriously. It is satire, a parody on parody. However, the very start of the novel showcases racial prejudice in England, especially against East Asians, and I loved how the Young family resolved the racist remarks. Crazy Rich Asians is full of Chinese and Singaporean women with strong opinions and strong attitudes. 

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

This is a heart wrenching, compelling novel that provides outsiders with an insight into the suffering of Afghanistan women amid political turmoil. Initially it seems that the two female leads are very different, but their bond is strong in the plight to survive the wrath of the patriarchy and Taliban. This novel deals with themes of female oppression, sexual inequalities, domestic abuse, self-sacrifice… and love. Hosseini is an Afghan-American and a brilliant storyteller. 


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