Crazy Rich Asians has made a big splash both in Hollywood and locally, and now more than ever, the spotlight is on Asian fiction. If you’re looking to find other titles similar to CRA, here are some alternative titles to dig into, with a special focus on characters who have a shifting sense of what they call “home.”
If you like the Singaporean content, these should be on your reading list:
Annabelle Thong by Imran Hashim (2016)
Annabelle Thong, an ex teacher, is tired of being single in Singapore, so she enrolls in a school in Paris to find l’amour. But the suave Patrick Dudoigt is one temptation she MUST resist, as her naïveté leads to guilt and confusion in a city that’s foreign to her. Billed as a Singaporean Bridget Jones, her idealistic fantasies create a hilarious look into the relations between East and West. It’s a solid chick-lit with a Singaporean flavour.
Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (2016)
Set in Singapore, Jazzy is on a bid to find wealthy expat husbands for herself and her close friends. Old traditions collide with heady materialism as this bombastic yet vulnerable gold-digger reveals the contentious gender stereotypes and class tensions beneath the shiny exterior of Singapore, from glamorous nightclubs to grubby wet markets, and seedy hawker centres. Adding to this over-the-top romp is its heavy use of Singlish.
Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kristin Chen (2014)
Thirty-year-old Gretchen moves from San Francisco back to her childhood home in Singapore where she’s forced – again – to confront her mother’s drinking problem and her father’s soy sauce business. She has to choose between marriage and study in the US, or being a soy sauce artisan in Singapore. It’s a novel about trying to figure life out, peppered with generous food descriptions that are bound to leave you hungry while reading.
Tanamera by Noel Barber (1981)
It’s a story of two lovers and two great dynasties – one British, the other Chinese – set in 1930s Singapore. John and Julie are in love, but interracial marriage is not the done thing. Things get pretty complicated with the arrival of the Japanese, and the sticky issue of the Chinese communists. It’s an epic novel that weaves in the history, culture, and the development of Singapore through the interconnected lives of the two lovers. (This has been adapted into a mini series.)
If you like the glitzy aspect, with Asian immigrants, here are some must-reads:
What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan (2018)
Set in glittering modern Shanghai, the book tells the story of the wealthy Zhen family who returns home to Shanghai after living the American dream in the States. They’re welcomed into an elite community of people who’ve done the same, but this complex drama questions family bonds, class differences, and loyalties. It’s a thought-provoking and deeply moving, Oscar-worthy novel about meaning and belonging.
Five Star Billionaire by Tasha Aw (2013)
Through alternating narrators, the book explores the disparate paths of Malaysian migrants – including a factory girl, a left-wing activist and a pop star – trying to make it in the city of Shanghai. Some are rich, some are poor, and others are in between, but they’re all just trying to follow their dreams. It has a self-help book vibe that makes you reconsider some of your life choices, and it even has a twist at the end of the story.