Year of the Asian Reading Challenge – Book Recommendations for September’s Prompt: Mental Illness Awareness!

book recommendations: asian books about mental illness

Hello friends, and welcome back to the Pond! It is the beginning of September, which means that we are now in our ninth month of the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge! (Where does time go?)

In case you haven’t heard, myself and three brilliant book bloggers (Lily, Shealea, and Vicky) are hosting the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge (or YARC!), a year-long reading challenge dedicated to reading Asian literature by Asian authors.

Our September prompt is one that is both exciting and important: mental health awareness.

This is a prompt that hits very close to home for me, especially because of the prevalence of mental health issues within the wider Asian community and the challenges we Asians face, whether it be a cultural, societal or familial context, with grappling with mental illness and its multitude of complex realities. Thankfully, there are Asian books out there that can help us navigate these challenges, and also do amazing at raising awareness and confronting these issues.

Also, why isn’t Varian in costume, you may ask? The truth is: mental illnesses are invisible. It’s not something that is visible like some physical illnesses. Rather, it can be a daily or frequent struggle with something that is invisible and unseen by everyone else, where you may feel like you’re the only one fighting the war. It didn’t feel quite right to have a costume – so I wanted Varian to be themself, plain and vulnerable and not hiding behind anything for today’s book recommendations.

YARC’s Official September Featured Books

Every month, your co-hosts of YARC will feature three books! You don’t have to read the prompts, but it can be a good way to connect with other readers who are also participating in YARC and you might discover some books you might have never heard of!

Here are YARC’s official featured books of September 2019:

september feat.png

Ghost of a Feeling by Celestine Trinidad is a little bit of a hidden gem, and is a book I’ll be adding to my to-read list this September, and is a book that my co-host, Shealea, speaks highly of! This adult medical romance is an empathetic story that explores the struggles associated with mental illness, the importance of support, and how positive relationships spring from mutual trust and empathy.

The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan made waves last year – and with good reason. About biracial Taiwanese-American teen Leigh, the story follows her journey to Taiwan as she follows a bird who she believes to be her recently deceased mother. It’s a frank exploration of mental illness within the family and how it is understood in Asian communities.

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim is my new favourite book, and one that I think about often. This empathetic and vulnerable story follows Anna, a Chinese-Australian teen as she grapples with the complex and challenging situations of her mother’s mental illness and its impact on the family, their relationships, and her role as a daughter, sister, student, and teenager.

Are you going to be reading these books? 👀 If yes, be sure to add these to your progress trackers, TBRs, or talk about these featured books using the #YARC2019 Twitter and Instagram hashtag!

Varian’s Recommendations!

Varian has done a good job at recommending reads so far. They recommended you books with tropes in February, books about power in April, and books about pride in June! Varian is super excited to recommend some Asian books that explore mental illness for you all to read this month.

1. Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Darius the Great Is Not Okay was one of my favourite books of 2018; a profound, poignant, and yet quirky story about a Persian teen who visits Iran to see his ailing grandfather. Not only is this story about biracial and diasporic identity, Darius the Great Is Not Okay also has a hard-hitting and emotional exploration of depression, how it is understood in some societies, and how it can impact families – particularly parents and their relationship with us. This is a fantastic read, and an excellent book to add to your September TBR!

Add this book to your Goodreads!

2. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf

The Weight of Our Sky is a book that means a lot to me. It’s one of the few books that I have read that is set in Malaysia, about a Malay teen, and portrays mental illness in such a descriptive way that articulates its pervasiveness and its effect on someone. Set in 1969 during the racial riots in Kuala Lumpur, the story follows Melati, a Malay teen with OCD who navigates the conflict and chaos to find her mother. Though this is a challenging read, the story is incredible and I’m forever grateful to Hanna for depicting such a crucial, heartbreaking, and pivotal event in Malaysian history.

Add this book to your Goodreads!

3. Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T Lee

When looking for books to feature, I stumbled upon Everything Here Is Beautiful – and am kicking myself that I haven’t read this book yet. Not only does this book explore mental illness, it’s also a book that explores the powerful and tested relationship between two Chinese-American sisters. In particular, one of the sisters has schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and it’s not often that we see characters with these mental illnesses. I’m excited to read this book soon, and I hope you all can join me and add this to your to-read lists soon!

Add this book to your Goodreads!

Don’t forget to add your links to our monthly link-up!

In case you’ve missed our previous recommendation posts, you can find them here:

I hope you all these Year of the Asian Reading Challenge recommendations, and I hope that you discovered a book that you want to add to your YARC reading list. As always, it’s an honour and privilege to be able to share some great books by Asian authors with you all. 💛

  • What are you planning to read in September for YARC2019?
  • Are there any books here that pique your interest? What do you think you’ll be adding?
  • Have you read any of the books recommended here? What did you think?

9 thoughts on “Year of the Asian Reading Challenge – Book Recommendations for September’s Prompt: Mental Illness Awareness!

  1. CW, this is an absolutely BRILLIANT list! I’m so excited to check out all the books I haven’t read yet, because they all sound so amazing. Darius, The Weight of Our Sky & Astonishing are books I love deeply and I’m so glad they are here! Brb, forever boosting this post ❤


  2. Excellent list! The Astonishing Colour of After and Darius the Great are both perfect books for this month’s theme. While I thought The Astonishing Colour of After was beautifully written, I didn’t connect with it like I wanted to. I definitely think it was me and not the book. I really enjoyed Darius the Great on the other hand.

    I am currently reading The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang for #YARC2019.


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