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Reading Southeast Asia

January 24, 2022 - - No comments

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I’ve probably mentioned the word “community” on this website a zillion times, because I think about it a lot. We’re often told that our stories are for a community; the idea of it permeates every part of the writing and publishing and marketing/distribution process. Over time I notice that certain books are “for communities,” other books are “for everyone.” Oh–so I have to take yours, but you will only take mine under certain conditions? Wait a second. That is a deep and uncomfortable thought for another time (haha sorry) but I only bring it up because I like to adapt, and now and then think about what communities mean really.

And I’m reminded yet again that I said I’d read more contemporary books by Southeast Asian authors, set in Southeast Asia. Ideally I want to read romance genre, because if I’m thinking of the writing community that could really learn from and support each other, that would be the genre group I can help the most.

It hasn’t been easy! Not because people are not writing it. I only read in English and Filipino, and that narrows what I can read from the region. I’ve also refused to read the English language fiction and non-fiction of white men about marrying a Southeast Asian woman, and those books are so much of what you find if you do a simple search of “[Southeast Asian country] + romance.” I’ve previously referred to this as “gross” but this is what I meant.

If I want to read more of my peers from the region, I realize I have to find the books wherever they happen to be, and it might not be on Amazon or the usual retailers. I might also have to be open to reading fanfic that is written like romance novels, if that’s what they’re doing. So I’ve been exploring on Wattpad, doing regular searches for completed stories (and checking the last chapter for romance HEA/HFN).

As of today, this is what I’ve read on Wattpad:

4-Eyes: An Online Malaysian Love Story by haiyatothesky
The Ballad of Citra Sidek and Her Terrible Taste in Men by Ellie Purnama

Someone who has done really interesting work in romance (and probably closest to what we do in #RomanceClass) is Aisha Malik in Brunei. I was in a session with her at the Tiny Lit Festival in 2019, and blogged about it here.

Anyone interested in reading more, but of the “chick lit” variety (romance adjacent but HEA not guaranteed) can check out the Asian Chic books published in Singapore in 2008 (and had local Philippine print editions shortly thereafter). While set in Singapore, the authors are all Filipino.

Recent reads that are not romance:

I’ll be looking for more to read. Open to recommendations! I will prioritize indie contemporary romance or online serial fiction, set in Southeast Asia, author is Southeast Asian.

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About Mina



Mina V. Esguerra writes and publishes romance novels. She founded #RomanceClass, a community of Filipino authors of romance in English.
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