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Great East Asian Books

Updated on May 22, 2012
dohn121 profile image

Dohn121 is a freelance writer who currently resides in the foothills of the Shawangunk Mountains of New York's famed Hudson Valley.

Read What You Want to Write

In the fall of 2000, I made up my mind to sit down and write a novel based on my family's immigration from Laos to the United States in March of 1980...By the Spring of 2001, I was sputtering and doubtful as to whether or not I could finish. My writing sounded nothing like a real novel. I didn't like what I'd written thus far and was searching for answers.

That was when i met with a professor at my college who showed me the way. One of the things that I was doing wrong was not engaging or exposing myself to similar works to my genre. How could I possibly write subject matter that I wasn't familiar with? I mean, how could you expect to succeed in writing a mystery novel if you have not once read a mystery novel? It made sense to me then as to what I needed to do: READ EVERYTHING I COULD GET MY HANDS ON!

It wasn't until my third rewrite that I felt right about my novel and that was not until March of 2008. Perhaps I would've been able to finish a little earlier in 2004 were it not for my being tied down in a job that leeched all of my spare time after having graduated from college, but that's life for you. Upon completion of my novel, I felt like a member of some exclusive and unnamed fraternity: A writer who had once set out to write a novel and actually finished.

With that said, I've read several books pertaining to the immigration experience, namely from Asia and the post-Vietnam War era. I'm sure that there are some notable works that I've left out, yet some I've read and enjoyed and if anything else, have helped me on my road to completing my novel. Hopefully, you'll agree. One should read what he or she plans to write and one should write what he or she enjoys reading. In case you're wondering what the picture below is, it's Laos, the country of my birth.

Part of Oliver Stone's Vietnam Trilogy

When Heaven and Earth Changed Places By Le Ly Hayslip with Jay Wurts
When Heaven and Earth Changed Places By Le Ly Hayslip with Jay Wurts

Both the book and the movie are incredible and should not be missed

Absolutely unforgettable. Hayslip recalls from memory powerful, surreal images of the devastating effects of the Vietnam War during which time she fought for survival by every means necessary. In addition to the stark and desperate realism are the underlying currents of Buddhism and the tension created by both love and war and the desparity that follows.  I highly recommend watching the movie just as soon as you finish reading the book.

The Classic Immigration Novel

America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan
America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan

The immigration novel which all others are measured against

 My professor once told me that Bulosan's America is in the Heart is "the immigration novel which all others are measured against."  I am hard pressed to argue with him.  It's difficult for me to believe that this novel was written over a half a century ago.  Bulosan's story is heartwrenching and ever resilient, beginning in his native Philippines in which he begins his novel with the following paradox: "I learned that it was a crime to be a filipino in America." 

Filled with humor and pure heart

China Boy by Gus Lee
China Boy by Gus Lee

A Story About Overcoming Obstacles

Kai Ting is a boy whose family escaped from China during the outbreak of the second World War. He and his family then settles in downtown San Francisco where he is bullied by his stepmom at home and then bullied some more while outside on the streets. At his most desperate hour, Ting discovers the local YMCA. It is there that he finally feels like he belongs within a community of misfits, finding solace and perhaps a friend or two. It is also there that Ting learns how to box and is able to stand up for himself on any battlefield. Although Ting's character is indeed hilarious, you can't help but to feel sympathetic; you grow to care about his character so much. A great read and not to be missed.


Memories of My Ghost Brother by Heinz Insu Fenkl
Memories of My Ghost Brother by Heinz Insu Fenkl

Beautifully Told

An autobiographical novel, Memories of My Ghost Brother is haunting look into the world of an Amerasian boy (half korean, half american) whose father is an American GI who is station at the DMZ. Harsh realities and atrocities of seem ever present in the realm of the entire story. One very important theme to pay attention to is the importance of "borders" as the story moves and shifts with unrelenting force. The boundaries in which one will and will cross is incredibly vital. The majority of the novel takes place in Seoul, Korea during the Vietnam War era. Fenkl's narrative is strong and poingnant and his story is seen through the eyes of a boy whose confusion is excusable and makes perfect sense from a reader's point of view. Beautifully told, this story is one of a kind.

Fantastic storytelling

Fourth Uncle in the Mountain by Quang Van Nguyen and Marjorie Pivar
Fourth Uncle in the Mountain by Quang Van Nguyen and Marjorie Pivar

Get ready to believe in the impossible

 Imagine a world where you could leave your body and navigate from place to place without being seen.  What if you could learn martial arts from a master, or learn to heal the sick and elude death?  What if you could simply walk into any forest and use its resources to create herbs or become a Buddhist master?  Well, Quang Van Nguyen, an orphan during the outbreak of the Vietnam War could relate to any and all of these things.  His story is so fantastic, it's almost fictional.  The story of such orphan is told by author Quang Van Nguyen (of the same name) an itinerant doctor presently living in Vermont.  You'll have to read the story to believe it.

Heartbreaking yet beautiful

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung

You won't want to put this one down

The people of Cambodia under the rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge political party endured a violent storm of injustice. Between the year 1975-1979, over two million people were killed in Cambodia alone in act of genocide. Loung Ung bravely tells of a story in which her father is killed senselessly and right in front of her eyes during the atrocious undertaking of what is now Kampuchea. First They Killed My Father is a story of love and survival in the face of insurmountable odds and is just as powerful as the academy award-winning movie The Killing Fields directed by Roland Joffe and starring Sam Waterston and Haing S. Ngor.

© Copyright 2009, O. Dohn Paditsone. All Rights Reserved.

The Tinderbox of South East Asia

The Last Shangri-La?
The Last Shangri-La?


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    • dohn121 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Sorry for the slow-as-a-snail response, Pamela. I've not heard one bad review for Gus Lee's book. I hope you browsed a few of the other books here as I'm sure you'll enjoy them. Thanks!

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 

      10 years ago from Oklahoma

      I have China Boy and enjoyed it. It is a good story. Thanks for these additional books to look for.

    • dohn121 profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Hello, kartika damon. Thank you so much for the compliment! I too am a bookworm and try to get my greedy hands on everything that fascinates me in print. My first novel was very difficult to write, but the others that I'm working on are a bit easier now. Thanks! I will look forward to hearing from you!

    • kartika damon profile image

      kartika damon 

      11 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

      I love this hub! As an avid reader and writer I will check out your recommended books in these fascinating subjects - you did a wonderful job presenting them. Congratulations on completing a novel - that is an awesome accomplishment! What is it and is it for sale? Best, Kartika

    • Mrvoodoo profile image


      11 years ago from ?

      Great hub dohn121, I have a love of East Asian literature and cinema, well to be honest a love of East Asia in general (although occasionally more the idea than the reality). I believed that all Americans were immigrants at one time or another, as were most of us elsewhere as we spread out from where-ever we came from (Africa?)

      But of course those older immigrants made things very hard for those newer. I only usually buy books at thrift/charity shops, it's cheaper and adds to the random nature of what you might be reading next, but I'll keep my eyes open for these. =)

    • dohn121 profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Thank you, chaiyot. I'm so happy you've finally joined me. Please stop in anytime. You're always welcome.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      This is the greatest website ever and it is the great site to shop on !!!!!

    • dohn121 profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Thanks for the reply, Philent. He's one of my favorite authors I cherish and respect and that is why I pay to tribute to him. I hope that awareness will continue to spread about him and hope that others will follow suit and read his book. America is built by immigrants and I hope no American ever forgets that.

    • Philent profile image


      11 years ago

      Regarding your question, I'm afraid not. I've known Carlos Bulosan when I was in college in my Philippine Literature class. But I might have forgotten about it completely if you haven't asked about it. Thanks for including him in this hub.


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