Asian-themed novels for the big screen

Crazy Rich Asians stars Constance Wu.
What We Were Promised by Lucy
What We Were Promised by Lucy
The Windfall by Diksha Basu
The Windfall by Diksha Basu
The Gangster We Are All Looking For by Le Thi Diem Thuy
The Gangster We Are All Looking For by Le Thi Diem Thuy
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Bury What We Cannot Take by Kirstin Chen
Bury What We Cannot Take by Kirstin Chen
Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon
Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon

NEW YORK • When Korean-American author Crystal Hana Kim heard that Hollywood was turning Singapore-born, United States-based Kevin Kwan's novel, Crazy Rich Asians, into a movie, she nearly cried.

"That may sound overly dramatic, but it's important to consider what this movie means to the more than 17 million Asian-Americans living in the US.

"We hope that this movie will be our Black Panther, announcing to Hollywood that we are here, we belong and we are ready for more."

Kim, who recently released her novel, If You Leave Me, has a list of six books Hollywood can also adapt for the screen.

What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan:

This recently published debut novel is set in modern Shanghai, where the Zhen family lives in a luxury hotel-and-apartment complex.

Wei, Lina and their daughter are China-born and Western-educated. When Wei's brother returns after years on the run, questions about family, loyalty and past love threaten to tear the family apart.

Woven into this narrative is the Zhens' housekeeper, whose friendship with the family's driver provides a stark contrast to their wealthy bosses' lives.

The Windfall by Diksha Basu:

Kwan describes this novel as a "sharply observed satire" and "a delicious, addictive treat".

In this comedy of manners, Basu brings the reader to modern India, where Mr and Mrs Jha's newfound money propels them from a cramped housing complex in east Delhi to the rich side of town.

What follows is a hilarious and charming story about social status, pride and reputation as Mr Jha becomes involved in a competitive display of wealth with his neighbours.

The Gangster We Are All Looking For by Le Thi Diem Thuy:

This fragmented, lyrical novel is told from the perspective of a young Vietnamese girl whose family moves to California after the Vietnam War.

As she waits for her mother to join the family in San Diego and watches her former gangster father fall into drunken rages, the narrator also grieves for a drowned brother. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: This bestseller is a nearly 500-page novel about four generations of a Korean family living in Japan.

Pachinko begins in South Korea with Sunja, who falls in love with an older man. When she gets pregnant, a Christian minister offers to take her as his wife to Japan.

The decision to forge a new life in a country that does not consider them citizens sparks a story about family, love and survival.

Apple recently secured the rights to Pachinko, so a television series could be in the works.

Bury What We Cannot Take by Kirstin Chen:

In 1950s communist China, nine-year-old San San and her older brother, Ah Liam, experience a terrible chain of events after their grandmother destroys a portrait of Mao Zedong.

The family must flee their home, but when their mother tries to secure visas to Hong Kong, she is told she must leave one of her children behind to prove that the family will return.

Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon:

Yohan is a North Korean refugee who flees his country at the end of the Korean War, settling in Brazil.

He is traumatised by a war that has made him a stranger in a strange land.

But he creates a new life, befriending a Japanese tailor who hires him, two vagabond children and a kindly church groundskeeper.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2018, with the headline 'Asian-themed novels for the big screen'. Print Edition | Subscribe