The Asian-American experience, particularly for women, is unlike any other in the United States. And, as a Black man, I’d have no concept what that’s like because I’m not Asian. Or a lady. Reading works written by Asian-American women, on the other hand, allows me to gain a feel of what that experience may be like. Now, as a voracious reader, I’ve read multiple works by Asian-American women without even realising it over the course of a few years, because I always pick up whatever sounds interesting. Some of those books might also make excellent films or television shows. I though I’d highlight a handful for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Susie Yang’s novel White Ivy
Oh, my goodness. Ivy in white. I’ve suggested this book so many times this year that I should probably join Susie Yang’s public relations team. The book is about a young Asian girl who steals and was published in 2020. Almost all of the time. Her grandma, who was born in China, taught her. But, as a result of her theft and failing the majority of her studies, she is sent to China, where she remains until her parents believe she has calmed down. If only they were aware.
What happens next is…complicated. Ivy matures and experiences ups and downs in her relationships until she reconnects with an old flame from middle school. But I’m going to stop there because there are so many twists and turns here that saying any more would be giving too much away. But let’s just say that at one point in the story, my mouth literally dropped and I had to sit down. True story. It’s not a thriller, but it reads like one, and it’s also rich in Asian culture, so it’s a novel I’d like to see made into a film someday. Please, read this book.
Ling Ma’s – Severance
Not to be mistaken with the original Apple+ TV series Severance (or similar shows), Ling Ma’s debut novel, Severance, published in 2018, is a sophisticated zombie narrative akin to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead films. A disease spreads over the world from China, causing people to blindly repeat actions until they are killed. So it isn’t World War Z (which isn’t the same as the book).
Some people, like our protagonist Candace Chen, are resistant to the virus, and she uses photography to capture the deterioration. However, she begins to ponder what the goal of existence is now along the way, and thus her quest for knowledge begins. However, it is a satire rather than a serious drama. In that vein, I’d love to see a Severance TV series following Candace and the others she meets on her journey of self-discovery.
Tae Keller’s When You Catch A Tiger
When You Trap a Tiger, winner of the Newbery Medal and the Asian Pacific American Literature Award in 2021, is not a book for adults, but it is one that adults will love. The narrative follows Lily, a multiracial child who sees (or believes she sees) a tiger in the road while driving to her Korean grandmother’s house. However, while living under her highly stylish grandmother’s roof, Lily learns a lot about her family (and her own identity). This one is actually a tearjerker, despite its appearance.
This is why I hope to see it made into a film someday. This Middle Grade novel deals with ethnicity in a unique way that few others do, in that you get to experience the protagonist’s awareness of her own identity alongside her. On the page, all of the characters, particularly Lily’s mother, sister, and grandmother, are vibrant and alive, and it would be incredible to see them on the big (or small) screen one day.
Ellen Oh’s Spirit Hunters Series
Ellen, a co-founder of We Need Diverse Books, wrote this piece. Oh, Spirit Hunters is a trilogy of Middle Grade books that includes the self-titled first book, as well as the sequels The Island of Monsters and Something Wicked, which will be released in July. The first book follows Harper Raine, a seventh-grader who moves to a new house and is forced to assist her younger brother, who is now seeing ghosts. Think Insidious meets Ghostbusters (but for kids!) and you’ll be close to the mark.
And doesn’t that sound like a fantastic premise? Spirit Hunters would be an excellent TV show that is safe enough for kids to watch, and I could see it on Disney+, though it would work well on any of the streaming sites. Harper Raine and her pal Dayo are fantastic characters, and I can imagine kids getting into their eerie adventures with them.
Tif Marcelo’s Journey To The Heart
Now, full disclosure, I am acquainted with Tif Marcelo, the author of the Journey to the Heart series. Her Journey to the Heart series, which includes the novels North to You, East in Paradise, and West Coast Love, are all cosy, heart-warming romantic stories with food as a prominent theme. They’re also clearly Filipino, which is something we don’t see nearly enough on television.
I believe these would work nicely in a television format. Each season could tell a separate story, although there could be some common threads, such as actors or locales. I’m not a huge fan of romance as a genre, but the author builds such endearing characters that it’s enjoyable to follow along.