Asian Themed Books by Caucasian Authors

I thought this might be an interesting question. Does anyone have a list of reading material covering books set in or around Asian culture? Seeing as how I’m not Asian at all, but have an interest, I’m fascinated by those western authors who, like me, chose an Asian setting for their novels.

There are a few I can think of off hand:

  • Alma Alexander – Secrets of Jin-Shei and The Embers of Heaven (“Jin-Shei” is great. I haven’t read “Embers” yet, but I love that title!)
  • Daniel Fox – Dragon in Chains (I haven’t finished reading this, but the beginning is incredible.)
  • Adrienne Kress – Timothy and the Dragon’s Gate (I have to confess, it’s still waiting to be read.)
  • Lian Hearn – Tales of the Otori (I’ve also not yet read these. So much to do, so little time!)

Feel free to list any good Asian-themed books! These just fascinate me because of where the authors have come from.




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14 Responses to “Asian Themed Books by Caucasian Authors”

  1. Jeannie Lin says:

    Hello Victoria!
    I'm also very interested in Asian fiction. You can add Albert Dalia to the mix. He has an academic background in ancient Chinese culture and history.

    I haven't read his book "Dream of the Dragon Pool", but it is on my TBR pile.

  2. Christine Taylor-Butler says:

    Hi Victoria!

    Nice topic. My book SACRED MOUNTAIN: EVEREST is coming out to good reviews. It's about the Sherpa people who live on the Nepali side of the mountain and how their culture has endured for more than 500 years. It's getting good reviews so far.

    I found a few other authors at Lee and Low that might fit your description although these are picture books. Does show that some publishers are not adverse to working with authors who aren't of the cultures. Might also be interesting choices for your daughter to read:

    Michelle Lord:
    Her bio sounds similar to your journey – fell in love with area after traveling there to adopt her daughter. Both are picture books I think.

    Jeannine Atkins: AANI AND THE TREE HUGGERS

    Anne Sibley O'Brien: A SPECIAL DAY

    Lynne Barasch: HIROMI'S HANDS

    If I stumble on to more, I'll post more comments. Good luck!

  3. Victoria Dixon says:

    These are really from my friend Lisa, but I'll just post them here for her:

    Of course, the classic Pearl Buck, James Clavell, Amy Tan. Tan at least has done some children's (picture books, I think) as well as the adult fare she's primarily known for.
    Some other adult novels that I've either read or that seemed to have some traction in the book group world:
    Snowflower and the Secret Fan; Peony in Love–Lisa See (American, I'm pretty sure. Snowflower was huge with book groups.)
    The Piano Tuner by Daniel (?) Mason–set in Burma
    Coroner's Lunch (and other mystery novels)–Eliot Pattison. The first one (don't know about the others) set in China-occupied Tibet
    The Beach by Alex Garland (I liked the novel–movie pretty lousy–but can't remember now if it was set in Thailand or exactly which country.)
    The Binding Chair by Kathryn Harrison (China)

    A couple of juveniles:
    Of Nightingales That Weep–Katherine Paterson (I think I have the title right–it was one of her first novels, maybe the first?)
    Bound by Donna Jo Napoli (on my to-read list, haven't gotten to it, but have liked other books by her.)
    A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

    Of course, for Japanese books by Japanese authors, you already know I loved Silence! Also really liked a contemporary mystery called Out (can't remember
    the Japanese author's name), but it had lots of chopping up bodies and the sexual stuff got pretty grisly and weird so if you put it on a list, you may have someone
    complain about your taste…when the fault would really lie with me!

  4. S.F. says:

    I don't have a list, but a couple more are:

    M.M. Kaye, a wonderfulwriter who was the daughter of a foreign diplomat, and wrote books about the countries she lived in. One of her best is The Far Pavilions, about India. It's one of my favorite books.

    James Clavell, well-known best-selling writer, who wrote an Asian saga consisting of 6 books, which include Shogun, Tai-Pan, Gai Jin, and Noble House, among them. Both Shogun and Noble House were turned into mini-series, too.

  5. Dara says:

    I was going to mention most of the books that have already been listed by you and others.

    However, I know Memoirs of a Geisha is one written by Arthur Golden is another one. It may not be entirely accurate to the geisha culture but seeing as it was made into a movie, I thought it needed mentioned.

    Thanks for commenting on my blog and I'm glad there's others out there like me!

  6. Victoria Dixon says:

    Jane True sent in "Wild Swans", which she thinks is by June Chang.

  7. Victoria Dixon says:

    Lisa Cindrich's friend wrote in to add that Colin Cotterill wrote "Coroner's Lunch". It's set in Laos and for a mystery, it apparently has a sense of humor. Eliot Patison did some mysteries set in Tibet. Since I'm not a mystery hound, I'm unlikely to read them, but it's nice to know they're out there!
    Lisa' friend, Karen Dewitt, also mentioned:
    Other than that, there's not many that I can think of. I guess I usuallyread Asian books by Asian authors; I really liked Out as well, it's byNatsuo Kirino. And Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse is excellent. I'm still reading Confessions by Kang Zhengguo but it's autobiography, although it's quite good too. I also read Haruki Murakami's Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche, which is non-fiction and very good. China Ghosts by Jeff Gammage is very good; it's non-fiction, it's about acouple from Philadelphia adopting two girls from China. I also read Life and Death in Shanghai, by Nien Cheng, about living in Shanghai during thecultural revolution; that's also autobiography and quite good.

    Many Thanks to you both and, Karen, I will be sure to check out China Ghosts. It has a double meaning for me. 🙂

  8. Victoria Dixon says:

    I think I'm commenting more on my post than anyone else, but I've found more if you're interested in YA: In Darkness, Death by Dorothy Hoobler is the first in a Samurai mystery series, Franklin Dixon (No relation to me that I know of), Hightman and Kimmel has also got Japanese-related titles. Keep in mind, I'm not recommending any of these books as I've not read them. I researching something I saw today and these names and titles keep coming up.

    Also, Lisa mentioned "Silence" before. The author's name is Endo Shusaku.

  9. Mrs. Rabbit says:

    "Out" was mentioned earlier. The author is Natsuo Kirino.

  10. John Horner says:

    Definitely James Clavell. I've read Shogun at least 4 times.

    Jessica Amanda Salmonson has written fantasies set in Japan, at least some of which deal with a female samuri.

    Amy Tan, though, is Chinese-American.

  11. Victoria Dixon says:

    Yeah, but we've gone in and out of the whole Caucasian author of Asian setting-books, so Amy's ok to be here, I figure. 🙂 Thanks for the input!

    I was just informed there's a YA series coming out about Hannah West, a Chinese adoptee who solves mysteries.

    Of course, my good friend, Laura Manivong, has a book titled "Escaping the Tiger", due to be released in 2010. It's based on her husband's flight from Laos.

  12. lauramanivong says:

    I'm going to have to get my hands on CORONER'S LUNCH. (And thanks for the plug!)

  13. Elaine 'still writing' Smith says:

    I've read 'The Nightingale Floor' – Book 1 of the Tales of Otori series
    Boys in my class (after laughing about its size) really enjoyed the read.
    The fact that the author isn't Japanese explains why he included so much detail that the children have TOTALLY no interest in first.

  14. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks to Alma Alexander, I just found Catherynne Valente. Many thanks to Alma – I fast approach the point of owing her more than I can repay. Catherynne's books, including "The Grass-Cutting Sword" and "Yume No Hon: The Book of Dreams" are both within an Asian setting. I've got them on my request list and I look forward to the read!

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