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Although we’re already into August, we officially have until September 22 to be in summer mode. Here at Mochi, that means celebrating new summer reads by Asian women. So whether you’re packing up beach gear, camping in the mountains, hopping on a flight, or enjoying a quiet summer at home, grab these new summer releases that we’re enjoying.

“The Silence That Binds Us” by Joanna Ho (June 14, 2022)

Review by Jessica Liu

New York Times bestselling children’s book author Joanna Ho’s YA debut “The Silence that Binds Us” is an emotionally compelling and empowering novel that follows Chinese Taiwanese American high schooler, Maybelline Chen. Maybelline’s life is completely flipped upside down when her older brother Danny, the golden child of the family headed to Princeton, takes his own life. When racist accusations start to arise — such as criticisms that May’s parents, and Asian families in general, put too much pressure on their kids and cause them to become depressed — May turns to writing. Through her writing, she speaks for more than just her brother and her parents, but becomes the voice of so many people who have been hushed for too long. This time, they will refuse to be silenced.

Joanna Ho adds pieces of authenticity that make the story that much more enjoyable and #relatable for Chinese American readers. Just a few chapters in, I could feel May’s frustration over the comparison her mother makes between May and her seemingly perfect cousin Celeste. 

Despite focusing primarily on the Chen family, the book also manages to touch on a very important, and not nearly talked about enough topic: the ways in which Asian and Black people come together to fight the systems in place that uphold white supremacy. May asks herself questions that are hard to acknowledge, much less answer: “Why do Asians drink the ‘white Kool-Aid’? Why do we — is it all of us or just some of us — buy into the ‘model minority’ myth? We know anti-Asian discrimination is real; why are so many people satisfied with white-adjacency?” For many Asian Americans, we choose to stay quiet about issues that affect us because it’s easier and it’s just the way it’s always been. Not anymore. This book’s message is a powerful one.

“Lucie Yi is Not a Romantic” by Lauren Ho (June 21, 2022)

Review by Carole Kau

If you like romantic comedies, Lauren Ho’s “Lucie Yi Not a Romantic” is a great pick for you. The titular protagonist, a Singaporean management consultant hustling in New York, realizes she is not getting any younger. Dismissing her original desires for marriage, she takes life by the reins and signs herself up on an elective co-parenting website in the hopes of finding a partner to platonically procreate a child with before it’s too late. 

She ends up finding a match in part-Malaysian software engineer Collin Read. After successfully getting pregnant and moving back to Singapore, Lucie finds herself less prepared than she thought for the backlash she receives from her parents, work, and society for being a single pregnant woman in Singapore’s workforce. To add to the chaos, she also runs into her ex-fiance upon her return. Filled with new realizations and unanswered questions, Lucie struggles to figure out the right thing to do for her child, her family, and for herself.

Asian Americans who often feel caught up in familial and societal pressures will find solace and camaraderie in the stories of Lucie and her badass female friends. The mentions of Singapore’s sights and foods, hilarious characters, and plot twists and turns had me holding on till the end — and ultimately, Lucie’s decisions may surprise you. 

“Kaleidoscope” by Cecily Wong (July 5, 2022)

Review by Giannina Ong

Cecily Wong’s sophomore debut “Kaleidoscope” contracts and stretches the rubber band bond of two biracial Chinese American sisters. Younger sister Riley Brighton lives in her sister’s shadow: Her perfect sister, Morgan, is always the star of the show, the show being the Brighton family. The Brightons are the newest New York elite family with wealth generated from their department store Kaleidoscope, which sells imported Indian goods to the white upper class, injecting “some ethnicity into their houses,” so to speak. Like all younger sisters, Riley hopes to be her own person, independent of not only her family name but also her sister. One day, when her wish comes true, Riley finds herself in a tailspin trying to understand who she really is without the signpost that her sister was to her and her family.

“Kaleidoscope” is an introspective portrait of sisterhood rarely told and of a family weathering yet another storm. Wong is a master of metaphors and of nonlinear time, and a voice for those little unspoken thoughts in passing. While in my biased opinion, the novel is probably best suited for younger sisters who always think they are getting the shorter end of the stick, my unbiased review is that “Kaleidoscope” is heartfelt, devastating, and just long enough to satisfy a reader who thirsts for modern, emotional family dramas. 

“The Bronze Drum” by Phong Nguyen (August 9, 2022)

Review by Giannina Ong

Another tome about sisters, this time of those of legends, “Bronze Drum” aims to be a lyrical retelling of the historical rebellion led by the Trung sisters against the Han in 40 CE. Phong Nguyen’s novel follows Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, the daughters of a Vietnamese lord, as they grow up in the kingdom of Âu Lạc. These two sisters will later lead a revolution of women that overthrows the Chinese occupation, but at the beginning of the book, they struggle to retain their traditional culture, which includes women leaders and unions of love rather than obedient marriage in light of the Confucian dictates that rule their lands. 

“Bronze Drum” is fiction — though conveniently written based on the historical figures Trung Trac and Trung Nhi. A little-known tale in the Western world, these sisters finally get their due in Nguyen’s novel. The Trung sisters throughout the novel are a bit clunky in their expressions, but that might be owed to the fact that Nguyen is grasping beyond the veil of history trying to revive these women of legend. The story itself starts slowly then quickly, like battle sizzles and sparks. Nevertheless, “Bronze Drum” is a perfect read for those who love mythology and want to see powerful women centered in these tales. 

“Diary of A Void” by Emi Yagi (August 9, 2022)

Review by Dorilyn Toledo

After fleeing sexual harassment at her previous job, Ms. Shibata’s new unexciting job in Tokyo is a welcome change until she discovers, as the only woman in the workplace, the expectation that she handle all the menial tasks. As if no one else can make coffee or throw away their trash. To shuffle the cards, Ms. Shibata tells the men in her office that she can’t clean up the dirty coffee cups because the smell triggers her morning sickness — but she’s not actually pregnant.

This thrillingly absurd translated work in literary fiction documents the single woman’s pregnancy journal entries after the coffee cup inception. If you love a morally gray character, then Ms. Shibata in “Diary of Void” will be your new problematic favorite. Defiant under the ruse of pregnancy, Ms. Shibata can finally take up space, but is now under new types of scrutiny. As the lie becomes all-absorbing, her relationships with her colleagues, other women, and herself change in the name of what’s best for her baby. The author provides timely commentary on what it means to exist as someone with child. Emi Yagi’s facetious and subversive debut explores weaponized femininity while critiquing the modern working landscape in its division of gendered labor. 

Cover image: Dan Dumitriu/Unsplash

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