The First Annual Asian-Canadian Literature Challenge

There always seem to be a myriad of reading challenges to participate in in the book blogging and reading world. And while I often enjoy following along with the journeys of other book bloggers as they seek to fulfill these reading challenges, I’m not often drawn to participate in them myself. Primarily because I feel like I have so many books I want to read, I don’t need the pressure of trying to fit in a challenge!

However, when Claire over at Claire’s Life announced her First Annual Asian-Canadian Literature Challenge, it felt like something right up my alley and I decided to participate. I’m not Asian but I was born in Hong Kong and I did grow up in Vancouver, which is a city filled with Asian influence. I would never claim this heritage as my own but it is one I deeply appreciate and that has affected many aspects of my own life and history.

Check out Claire’s post here to read about it in her own words but the challenge is basically to read books by Asian-Canadian writers. Claire has created five prompts (see above) to fulfill (seems doable, right?) throughout the year while overall working to prioritize reading Asian-Canadians in 2021.

Here are some of the books I’m hoping to read. Some were already on my TBR and others I searched out to fulfill the prompts.

A Book About Food:

There Has to be a Knife by Adnan Khan

Chef by Jaspreet Singh

Neither of these were on my TBR previously but Chef in particular sounds really fascinating to me and Khan’s book got some good buzz from the CBC when it came out in 2019. Food is a huge part of culture and Asian cultures especially. A Filipina friend once told me that she thought food should be the sixth love language!

A Short Story or Essay Collection

How to Pronounce Knife, the most recent Giller Prize winner was an obvious choice for this prompt and already on my TBR.

Published Before You Were Born

I had the hardest time finding a book to fit this prompt. At first this made me feel old but the harder I looked the more I realized that it was a sign of how much Asian-Canadians have struggled to be recognized and respected in Canada. I was born in 1985 and there are so few Asian-Canadian books published before then. Even classics like Michael Ondaatje and Wayson Choy are only from the 80s and 90s. (Claire has some great suggestions in her post but she’s younger than me!) In the end, I have settled on Obasan by Joy Kogawa which is a classic work I definitely should read and whatever poetry by Fred Wah I can get my hands on.

Historical Fiction

There’s lots for this prompt thankfully! Some of my choices are The Water Beetles by Michael Kaan and Floating City by Kerri Sakamoto and What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin.

Set in an Asian Country

Some of my choices for this prompt are Seven by Farzana Doctor, Chef by Jaspreet Sing, or What the Body Remembers. Hopefully some overlap between prompts is okay!

A few other titles on my TBR that didn’t obviously fit into any of the prompts but I hope to read this year are:

Forgiveness – Mark Sakamoto

26 Knots – Bindu Suresh

That Time I Loved You – Carianne Leung

18 thoughts on “The First Annual Asian-Canadian Literature Challenge”

  1. Thanks for sharing, Karissa! I read Obasan in high school actually and didn’t realize it was written so long ago! Also, That Time I Loved You is a collection of short stories, so it’ll work for the second prompt! I can’t wait to see what you read!

    1. Looking at the description for That Time it is clearly short stories but somehow I totally missed that the first time I heard about it! I would have placed Obasan sometime in the early 90s too but it looks like it was actually published in 1981.

  2. I may sound dumb asking this, but is the book supposed to be by an Asian-Canadian, or an Asian and published in Canada, or is it that you guys are Canadian and you’re reading Asian lit? I also have How to Pronounce Knife on my TBR, but every time I redouble my efforts to read my own books, it slides back. For a food book, if it were me, I’d read a cookbook. There’s a new Korean cookbook at my library that I want to try!

    1. Books written by Asian-Canadians! I just borrowed How to Pronounce Knife from my mother-in-law so I think that will be my next read when I finish my current short story collection. If I can find a good Asian cookbook at the library, that might be a great option for the food category.

  3. Sounds like a great challenge, and I’ve been curious about How to Pronounce Knife so I’ll look forward to your thoughts if/when you get to that one!

    1. I will hopefully get to that one soon as my mother-in-law recently loaned me her copy! It won the Giller Prize which is THE major Canadian literary award so that speaks well of it!

  4. Lots of knives in your picks! Isn’t it odd – to me “Asian” means the Indian sub-continent. I know geographically that Eastern countries are also Asian, but as you can see I think of them as Eastern – Far Eastern, to be precise! Of course, it’s to do with our position on the map relative to Asian countries and also the immigration patterns to the UK – our Asian community is overwhelmingly from India and Pakistan.

    1. That’s so interesting because I have the opposite instinct! Even as I was putting my list together, I was hesitating over whether or not to include India! When I think “Asia” I always think China first! You’re probably right that it has to do with proximity and immigration.

  5. Ooo… I love this! So many good books to choose from. You are going to love How to Pronounce Knife. I also loved Obasan and That Time I Loved You.
    Now I’m curious to know if there’s anything to choose from for something published before my birthdate – 1974! I might have to go looking, just to find out…

    1. That’s great to hear! I am eager to get started on How to Pronounce Knife, just have to finish one or two current reads.

      I think Fred Wah has a couple of books from the early 70s but the pickings are definitely slim. It was really eye-opening.

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