Asian and American LGBTQ + reading books

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by Hannah Dy

(This article originally appeared on What we are going through and was reprinted by agreement.)


Nothing like the recognition and validation taken from the pages of a book, especially when representation seems so rare to members of the BIPOC and LGBTQ + community. As the entertainment industry attempts to change toxic stereotypes and diversify narratives beyond the norm, it is essential to elevate minority narratives that might otherwise be overlooked.

Although the United States is home to more than 23 million Asian Americans, the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism has found that only one in twenty speaking roles in films goes to Asians and only 1% of the leading roles. . Misrepresentation in the media was found to promote negative emotions and invoke “a psychological toll on the groups represented”. To elevate these narratives, the following recommendations and reviewed books feature Asian-American LGBTQ + protagonists of the YA genre, starting with a passionate fangirl and social wallflower, Jessica Tran.

Book cover for Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee (Image via cb-lee.com)

Not your sidekick, by CB Lee, follows Jess as she tries to live up to her family’s superhero legacy, get her high school crush to notice her, and manifest superpowers. But without any exceptional gift, she resigns herself to local internships in order to polish her dull CV. Between discovering heartbreaking secrets about the superhero society hidden in her small desert town and confronting her personal demons, Jess navigates a first relationship, expectations and what it means to be a hero.

At first, with its hidden identities, romances, and blurry lines between wickedness and heroism, the premise doesn’t seem completely unique among other young adult superhero fictions. However, Not your sidekick is above all a high school love story between Jess and Abby Jones, the brilliant and popular volleyball captain. Modern fantasy and action serves more as a backdrop for a narrative about the pursuit of self-identity, whether in Jess’s family, at school, or in a crumbling and stressed society.

The tale is relatively straightforward, and while its twists and turns may seem cliché, the story still clearly delivers its message of self-worth and bravery. It’s a light, casual read despite its dystopian setting and also offers an LGBTQ + portrayal of a bisexual author. Lee’s perspective enriches her narrative and her characters with an authenticity that is all too rare in the YA genre and American media in general. Jess is also a second-generation Chinese-Vietnamese American who struggles with conflicts that many Asian-American readers will sympathize with, including a limited understanding of the language and a sense of isolation from both cultures. LGBTQ + and Asian American readers may find solace in the relativity of Lee’s truthfulness, and the book also simultaneously provides an opportunity for out-of-group readers to develop sympathy. Overall, CB Lee inscribing his own personal experiences into the novel by grounding his own identity around the protagonist provides a refreshing and true portrayal.

There’s something for everyone to resonate with, whether it’s a friendship drama or Jess’ creative, overblown reverie of confessing to her crush. His struggle to be “… overtaken by [her] ridiculous and impossible ideas because that meant she never had to try anything real ”(Lee, chapter 7) is a universal feeling that anyone who has ever loved someone can relate to.

Globally, Not your sidekick is the X Men meets Aliénor & Parc. It merges superheroes and combat-packed action with crushes, high school projects, and first kisses. When dark dystopias and high fantasy complexes seemingly reign over the shelves, CB Lee’s work almost serves as a palate cleaner with its simple yet satisfying story about a high school fantasy romance with a side to save the world and everyone. rest. CB Lee also wrote another fantastic romance, Seven tears at high tide, featuring another Asian American bisexual protagonist and his slightly mythological summer romance with a boy named Morgan.

But if contemporary romance with a touch of whimsy isn’t your style, or if you’ve already devoured the works of CB Lee, these are a few books with an LGBTQ + portrayal of Asian American descent written by authors who identify with two communities.

Cover of Neon Yang’s book Black Tides of Heaven (image via Tor Edition)

The Tensorate The novels by award-winning, Asian-American, non-binary author Neon Yang offer LGBTQ + representation in a unique and fantasy sci-fi universe. This series begins with Black tides from the sky, where two twins with different gifts struggle to find their place in a simmering war.

Gear breaker is the first novel by Korean-American author Zoe Hana Mikuta. This rediscovered family story follows two half-white, half-Asian soldiers tangled in a conflict between mechanical deities with ulterior motives and an enemy-to-lover romance as the world burns down.

As the demand for precise and meaningful representations increases, these books can only lead readers to wonder with hope about a future and what children of all genders, ethnicities and sexualities will be able to immerse themselves in the pages. of a novel, to smile broadly and announce, “The hero is like me!”


Hannah Dy is a writer for What we are going through.

?? Featured Image: Cropped cover of the book for Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta, illustration by Taj Francis.

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