Discover our guide with famous Asian authors who have created inspiring works of fiction and non-fiction that keen readers will love!
Asian literature is an integral part of the literary world, weaving tales of culture, personal experience, and fiction writing that has a unique voice. From India to China to the Philippines, Asian writers have created powerful novels that are best-sellers worldwide. Writing about their own experiences, many Asian writers have landed a spot on the New York Times bestselling lists as well as winning numerous literary prizes. If you’re interested in this, read our round-up of the best 21st-century authors.
- 1. Haruki Murakami, 1949 –
- 2. Tan Twan Eng, 1972 –
- 3. Kiran Desai, 1971 –
- 4. Viet Thanh Nguyen, 1971 –
- 5. Chang-Rae Lee, 1965 –
- 6. Cathy Park Hong, 1976 –
- 7. Michelle Zauner, 1989 –
- 8. Jesse Q. Sutanto
- 9. R.O. Kwon
- 10. Sara Desai
- 11. Emiko Jean
- 12. Ly Tran
- 13. Charles Yu, 1976 –
- 14. Amy Tan, 1952 –
- 15. Alexandra Chang
- 16. Ling Ma
- 17. Chanel Miller
1. Haruki Murakami, 1949 –
Haruki Murakami has gained an immense following in the literary world due to his incredible novels with thought-provoking narratives. Murakami grew up in Kobe before moving to Tokyo to attend Waseda University. After working as a small jazz bar owner, He published his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing.
He succeeded with his first novel and continued to write, often touching on loneliness, loss, and the search for identity. His most famous works include Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore, and 1Q84. Check out 1Q84 on Amazon; click here.
“If you can love someone with your whole heart, even one person, then there’s salvation in life. Even if you can’t get together with that person.”Haruki Murakami, 1Q84
2. Tan Twan Eng, 1972 –
Tan Twan Eng is a famous author who won the Man Asian Literary Prize for his 20212 book The Garden of Evening Mists. The Garden of Evening Mists is a hauntingly beautiful story set in post-World War II Malaysia. The novel explores themes of memory, forgiveness, and the power of nature. Check out The Garden of Evening Mists on Amazon; click here.
“For what is a person without memories? A ghost, trapped between worlds, without an identity, with no future, no past.”Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists
3. Kiran Desai, 1971 –
Kiran Desai is an Indian author who won the Booker Prize for her novel The Inheritance of Loss. The novel is set in the Himalayas and explores themes of identity, culture clash, and the impact of colonialism. Desai’s writing is known for its vivid imagery, complex characters, and poetic language. Check out The Inheritance of Loss on Amazon; click here.
“The present changes the past. Looking back you do not find what you left behind.”Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss
4. Viet Thanh Nguyen, 1971 –
Viet Thanh Nguyen won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Sympathizer. The novel explores the Vietnam War from the perspective of a double agent and tackles themes of identity, loyalty, and betrayal. Nguyen’s writing is known for its sharp wit, political commentary, and nuanced characters. Check out The Sympathizer on Amazon; click here.
“A person’s strength was always his weakness, and vice versa.”Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer
5. Chang-Rae Lee, 1965 –
Chang-Rae Lee has won numerous awards for his works, including the PEN/Hemingway Award for his debut novel Native Speaker. His most recent novel, On Such a Full Sea, is a dystopian tale set in a future America where workers are treated as commodities. Lee’s writing is known for its lyrical prose, complex characters, and social commentary. Check out On Such a Full Sea on Amazon; click here.
“For if there is ever a moment when we are most vulnerable, it’s when we’re closest to the idea of the attained desire, and thus farthest from ourselves, which is when we’ll tread through any flame.”Chang-Rae Lee, On Such a Full Sea
6. Cathy Park Hong, 1976 –
Cathy Park Hong has consistently captivated readers with her incisive works. Her most recent novel, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, is an insightful collection of essays that delve deep into the multifaceted nature of Asian American identity.
Through her profound observations, Hong paints a vivid picture of the Asian American experience in the U.S., with her writing noted for its unflinching honesty, sharp humor, and illuminating insights. Check out Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning on Amazon; click here.
“Innocence is both a privilege and a cognitive handicap, a sheltered unknowingness that, once protracted into adulthood, hardens into entitlement.”Cathy Park Hong, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning
7. Michelle Zauner, 1989 –
Michelle Zauner gained fame as the lead singer of the band Japanese Breakfast. Her memoir, Crying in H Mart, explores her relationship with her mother and her Korean heritage. Zauner’s writing is known for its vulnerability, humor, and evocative descriptions of food. Check out Crying in H Mart on Amazon; click here.
“It felt like the world had divided into two different types of people, those who had felt pain and those who had yet to.”Michelle Zauner, Crying in H Mart
8. Jesse Q. Sutanto
Jesse Q. Sutanto gained popularity for her witty and engaging novels. Her most recent book, Dial A for Aunties, is a romantic comedy about a wedding photographer who accidentally kills her blind date and enlists her mother and aunts to help her cover it up. Sutanto’s writing is known for its humor, relatable characters, and unique plot twists. Check out The New Girl on Amazon; click here.
“There’s sugar in my mouth, and carbs in my belly, and a cute boy at my side. This night is pure magic.”Jesse Q. Sutanto, The New Girl
9. R.O. Kwon
R.O. Kwon gained critical acclaim for her debut novel, The Incendiaries. The book explores themes of faith, love, and extremism and is known for its lyrical prose and complex characters. Kwon’s writing is often described as haunting and thought-provoking. Check out The Incendiaries on Amazon; click here.
“I ate pain. I swilled tears. If I could take enough in, I’d have no space left to fit my own.”R.O. Kwon, The Incendiaries
10. Sara Desai
Sara Desai gained popularity for her romantic comedies. Her most recent novel, The Dating Plan, is about a woman who hires a fake fiancé to impress her family and falls for him. Desai’s writing is known for its humor, relatable characters, and steamy romance. Check out To Have and To Heist on Amazon; click here.
“Love doesn’t always hit like a thunderbolt. Sometimes it can grow quietly in the background until one day you realize it is there.”Sara Desai, The Marriage Game
11. Emiko Jean
Emiko Jean gained popularity for her young adult novels. Her most recent book, Tokyo Ever After, is about a Japanese-American girl who discovers she is a princess and travels to Japan to meet her father. Jean’s writing is known for its relatable characters, diverse representation, and engaging plot. Check out Tokyo Ever After on Amazon; click here.
“I used to think the world belonged to me. But I was wrong. I belong to the world. And sometimes … I guess sometimes, our choices have to reflect that.”Emiko Jean, Tokyo Ever After
12. Ly Tran
Ly Tran gained critical acclaim for her memoir House of Sticks. The memoir explores her experiences growing up as a refugee in America and tackles themes of identity, trauma, and resilience. Tran’s writing is known for its honesty, vulnerability, and poetic language. Check out House of Sticks on Amazon; click here.
“So I joined the robotics team, which was the only team that accepted members regardless of their level of skill. Though I knew nothing about electronics or the construction of robots, the community was welcoming. It was full of charming misfits and geeks, an acceptable and even cool thing to be at the Bronx High School of Science.”Ly Tran, House of Sticks
13. Charles Yu, 1976 –
Charles Yu writes novels with wit and profound introspection. His narratives challenge traditional storytelling, as seen in his award-winning Interior Chinatown, which addresses themes of race and self-discovery. Another notable work, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, masterfully fuses science fiction with a quest for connection.
As an Asian American author, Yu’s innovative and genre-blending works offer insights into modern life’s complexities, leaving a lasting mark on the literary world. Check out Interior Chinatown on Amazon; click here.
“There are a few years when you make almost all of your important memories. And then you spend the next few decades reliving them.”Charles Yu, Interior Chinatown
14. Amy Tan, 1952 –
Amy Tan is recognized for her evocative tales that bridge generational and cultural divides. The Joy Luck Club is a classic novel that explores the relationships between Chinese-American mothers and their daughters. The book is a poignant and insightful portrayal of the immigrant experience and Asian-American families’ challenges.
It has been widely praised for its vivid characters and beautiful prose. Check out The Joy Luck Club on Amazon; click here.
“Isn’t hate merely the result of wounded love?”Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club
15. Alexandra Chang
Alexandra Chang is a talented writer who writes about love and the diasporic experience. Her novel, Days of Distraction explores the experiences of a young Asian-American woman as she navigates the challenges of work, love, and identity in a rapidly changing world. The book has been praised for its nuanced portrayal of Asian-American experiences and beautiful writing. Check out Days of Distraction on Amazon; click here.
“A natural response to chaos is the desire for control.”Alexandra Chang, Days of Distraction
16. Ling Ma
Ling Ma weaves tales that resonate with today’s generation. Severance tells the story of a young Chinese-American woman navigating a world devastated by a pandemic. The book has been praised for its unique immigrant experience perspective and powerful commentary on contemporary society. Check out Severance on Amazon; click here.
“The past is a black hole, cut into the present day like a wound, and if you come too close, you can get sucked in. You have to keep moving.”Ling Ma, Severance
17. Chanel Miller
Chanel Miller writes about personal experiences that inform her potent narratives. Know My Name is a personal memoir that tells the story of the author’s experience as a survivor of sexual assault. The book has been praised for its powerful and emotional writing and its important commentary on the justice system and the experiences of survivors of sexual assault. Check out Know My Name on Amazon; click here.
“This book does not have a happy ending. The happy part is there is no ending because I’ll always find a way to keep going.”Chanel Miller, Know My Name
Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best authors of historical fiction!