I admire people who can pick up a book and finish the book. Growing up, I found little joy in reading books. My go-to was to watch television; it’s how I learned English.
At school, I read the same few pages of my school’s day planner over and over again during our mandatory silent reading break. And as for the books assigned as classwork, I never felt the urge to keep reading because I never really connected with the books I read.
My perspective shifted when I started reading memoirs. First, it was Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, then Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat, then Jung Chang’s Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China.
All three books appealed to me in how much I was able to relate to the authors’ struggles: Trevor Noah’s respect and admiration for his mother, Eddie Huang’s decision to follow his own path, and Jung Chang’s reveal and account of intergenerational trauma.
And all three books were about people who don’t fit into the stereotypes or the norms of society. They represented those of us who, perhaps, didn’t know we were craving representation.
I realized, especially with memoirs, that the themes that the narratives spoke for the mental and psychological wellbeing of outsiders and minorities. Mainstream books didn’t appeal to me because I couldn’t relate to the character’s struggles or the connection was too broad.
After my epiphany, I sought out a community to share my newfound excitement but an internet search of resources turned up next to nothing. Puzzled, I turned to a long-time bibliophile friend for insight, who said in response, “If you can’t find one, why don’t you start one?”
And thus, Cold Tea Reads was born.
Cold Tea launched Cold Tea Reads in November and the common purpose that brought people to the offline meetup in Vancouver, BC was a sense of belonging — to connect over stories that we relate to on a deeper level.
At the first meeting, we discussed books like Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao, Insurrecto by Gina Apostol, and Chemistry by Weike Wang. Though all books are fiction, they highlighted themes that each of us identified with.
Ultimately, we voted to read Ali Wong’s Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, and Advice for Living Your Best Life for our first book.
As third-culture kids, we can often feel culturally isolated. Perhaps the reason why identity sits on the roof of our collective consciousness speaks to our desire to belong somewhere as humans. In light of our Health and Wellness editorial theme, Cold Tea Reads also recommend these books that take us on heart-gripping searches for our identities.
- The Last Illusion – Porochista Khakpour: a story with touches of magical realism. Though not directly about mental health, the story of the protagonist parallels those who were raised ‘oddly’ elsewhere .
- The Astonishing Color of After – Emily XR Pan: a mix-raced protagonist travels to Taiwan in the aftermath of coping with her mother’s suicide, amongst other internal battles like identity, family, grief, and love.
- A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki: the life of a suicidal Japanese-American teenager named Nao, who is bullied for being an outsider in a country of her ethnic origin, is intertwined with a Japanese-American novelist across the Pacific, creating a magical story that dives into finding identity and belonging.
- The Namesake – Jhumpa Lahiri: the life of a first-generation immigrant family from Calcutta, India to Cambridge, Massachusetts and the nuances of balancing two conflicting cultures.
- The Reeducation of Cherry Truong – Aimee Phan: three generations, two related families, their escape from the Vietnam war, and generational gaps exacerbated by decades of trauma.
- The Weight of Our Sky – Hanna Alkaf: a protagonist with OCD during the race riots between the Chinese and Malay in Kuala Lumpur in 1969, offering a view into the often unspoken about history of interracial tensions in Asia.
As the Asian movement for cultural importance in the West pushes our community’s stories to the forefront, the more books that represent our stories and voices increase. After all, as author Katie Zhao put it, “It’s not just one Asian American story.”
We hope that you will join us in our pursuit of reading more this year and beating digital procrastination. If there is a book you believe should be read by our community but is not listed here, please send your suggestions to [email protected].
For any questions, to offer a discount to our community, or have your book featured, email us at [email protected].
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