Category Archives: Miscellaneous

[Blog Tour] Touring Taipei with The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

I’m so excited to present this special post for the Tour the World in 30 Books blog tour hosted by Sammie @ The Bookwyrm’s Den.

Tour the World in 30 Books is a blog tour focused on introducing readers to our favorite diverse books. It’s in conjunction with a Diverse Book Drive hosted by the CCPL—a small, rural library in an area with a high poverty rate and a very homogeneous population, where people rarely have the means to travel or experience new perspectives. However, the library doesn’t believe that should stop people from learning more about the world around them, so they’re running a Diverse Book Drive through the month of September in an attempt to bring the rest of the world to the county instead. With a focus on MG and YA books, the CCPL aims to expose especially its young patrons to new and diverse perspectives and cultures.


The CCPL is accepting monetary donations sent via PayPal to

For donations of new or gently used books, send them to:

Sammie Betler
Casey County Public Library
238 Middleburg St.
Liberty, KY 42539

I’ve also put together a wish list of all the books that will be featured on this blog tour. Hardbacks are preferred but not required.

(If you order something from the Book Shop wishlist, please DM @srbetler on Twitter or email, because I don’t believe that site automatically removes books from the wish list.)

Need more ideas? The library has a general Amazon wish list with suggestions, too.

Donations are used at the discretion of the library.

If you can’t donate, that’s fine. You can still join me for a little virtual visit to Taipei, Taiwan via one of my favorite books, The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan. This book is the first young adult contemporary book I ever read that is set in Taiwan, so it was very special to me. I interviewed Emily about the book back in 2017 as part of my Taiwanese American Heritage Week series but never reviewed the book after, so I’ve decided to make up for that with this post, which isn’t actually a review but rather a post discussing the Taiwanese elements to the story and its setting, complete with pictures. For some, it will be an introduction to a few aspects of Taiwanese culture, and if you are Taiwanese/have been to Taiwan, hopefully it hits the nostalgia buttons.


Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

Note: All photos are taken by me unless otherwise specified. Please do not repost without permission or credit.

Daily Life

Store Signs

Vertical signs hang on both sides of the streets–lit-up stripes in yellows and blues and pinks and greens, bearing logos and Chinese characters.

(Page 223)

Taiwan is a small country that’s densely populated, so buildings tend to be small in width and length while extending up many floors. Stores usually occupy the first floor of buildings while the remaining floors are residential compounds. Chinese is traditionally read from top to bottom, and many stores have a vertical sign extending perpendicularly out above their storefront that reads from top to bottom so you can see the signs from a distance before you actually reach the store.

A view of a street in Tainan with a stationery store bearing a vertical sign.


“There’s a Seven-Eleven on every corner–people just call them Seven.”

(Page 44)

Although 7-Eleven originated in the United States, they are more ubiquitous in Taiwan, where they constitute the largest convenience store chain and have the second highest per capita store count (second after Japan). The “convenience” in convenience store goes beyond what you would find in the U.S., as you can pay your credit card bill, receive packages, print and scan documents, and more at a 7-Eleven in Taiwan. I associate 7-Eleven with grabbing a quick bite to eat or a drink to quench your thirst.

Here’s a video from a Filipino YouTuber showing what’s inside of a nicer, bigger 7-Eleven in Taipei:

Garbage Trucks

“Their garbage trucks play music; it’s so random.”

(Page 44)

Taiwan has a reputation for being relatively eco-friendly. Trash collection and recycling is taken very seriously, and you can be fined for not sorting your trash properly between recyclable and non-recyclable items. On set days of the week, at the same time each of those days, garbage and recycling trucks stop at designated places on the streets where the people living nearby can come out to dispose of their trash bags. The most interesting aspect of the trash collection ritual is that the trucks play adaptations of classical music as an alert that they have arrived. Some play Beethoven’s Fur Elise while others play Badarzewska-Baranowska’s The Maiden’s Prayer.

Objects and Symbolism

Jade Cicada Necklace

“She makes a beeline toward the nightstand and picks up my mother’s necklace, holding the cicada pendant up to a sliver of sun peeking out from behind the curtain. The light catches on the jade.”

(Page 65)

An important object that Leigh holds onto is her mother’s jade cicada necklace. Jade is a semiprecious stone that has a lot of significance in Taiwanese culture. Jade jewelry is very common, and I own a few jade accessories myself, including several jade roosters (my zodiac animal). Taiwanese American figure skater Karen Chen wears a jade necklace shaped like a rabbit (her zodiac animal) for good luck. My name in Chinese contains a character with the radical for jade.

My jade rooster collection plus a jade necklace that has “longevity” carved on one side and “prosperity” on the other.

Number Puns

Feng’s apartment is in a residential alley, tucked deep inside a tangle of narrow roads. I march us right up to the wide concrete step and double dooors of shiny steel, and buzz number 1314.

(Page 286)

Chinese has a lot of number homophones, so there are a ton of puns and coded messages that can be made using numbers. 1314 sounds like the Chinese phrase that means “for a lifetime.” As a result, this number is a romantic symbol.


Taipei 101

The eighty-ninth floor of the Taipei 101 tower is the observatory deck, where you can look out at the entire city through walls of glass. Buildings in miniature. Mountains layered in the distance like gentle strokes of watercolor, the farthest ones fogged and fading into the clouds. It’s a strange juxtaposition: the city so tightly packed, everything build so closely together–and beyond that, the sprawling greens and blues of lush forests.

Feng won’t shut up. She’s going on and on with all sorts of tourist facts. “So it’s the only wind damper in the entire world that’s on exhibit for people to see.”

(Page 108)

Taipei 101 was, at the time of its completion in 2004, the tallest building in the world. As its name suggests, it’s 101 stories tall. Elements of traditional Chinese architecture and symbolism are incorporated into the design, which evokes a pagoda. The indoor observation deck is on the 88th and 89th floors (88 is an auspicious number representing prosperity).

The wind damper inside Taipei 101 is the largest and heaviest mass damper in the world. It’s become such an iconic tourist attraction that there is an official mass damper mascot called Damper Baby.


Light rain pricks its way down into the narrow alley between the little shops and stands. It’s impossible to take two steps without running into someone, but the crown thins as the rain picks up. Red lanterns swing overhead in long lines. The sound of rhythmic drumming winds its way down to the street. Outside a shop selling carved stamps, a little dog with floppy ears and caramel fur sleeps snugly curled, oblivious to the bustling around him.

In the teahouse, we sit all the way up on the third floor against the windows, peering out over the town and the water.

(Page 327)

Leigh visits Jiufen with her grandmother and takes shelter at a tea house that is probably A-Mei Tea House. Jiufen is a seaside town located in the mountains in New Taipei City. It’s a very scenic place and has become a popular tourist attraction over the years, fueled in part by the acclaimed historical film A City of Sadness by renowned Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien, as well as its resemblance to the setting of Studio Ghibli’s feature film Spirited Away.


The next morning, we hire a car that drives the four of us to Danshui, to the sea.

(Page 436)

Leigh goes with her family to scatter ashes in Danshui, officially romanized as Tamsui. It’s a port district that was historically a key holding for various colonial powers controlling parts of Taiwan, including the Spanish, the Dutch, and the Qing Dynasty. Today it’s a popular tourist destination due to its rich cultural heritage and scenic seaside view.

The view across the Tamsui Harbor.


Taiwanese Breakfast

Waigong is already seated, his wooden cane leaning against the table by his elbow. He picks up one of the sesame-dotted flatbreads, digs his finger into the side, and opens the two layers like butterfly wings. He stuffs it with a section of cruller, and dunks the whole thing in his soy milk–just the way Mom would have eaten it.

(Page 66)

Breakfast shops that serve fresh, hot food in Taiwan are usually a short walk away from home. Some of the most common and iconic items on the menu that are mentioned in The Astonishing Color of After include shaobing, youtiao, doujiang, luobogao, danbing, and fantuan. My personal favorite is danbing, which is an omelette of sorts made of a scrambled egg rolled up inside a savory crepe-like wrapper made of dough with scallions mixed in.

Bubble Tea

Waipo bought us bubble tea, and we sat on a park bench people-watching as we sucked the tapioca up through fat straws.

(Page 67)

Although bubble tea has only been around for a few decades (it’s a Millennial!), it’s become extremely popular across Asia and beyond. While milk tea has existed for a while, the tapioca pearls were first added to the drink in Taiwan in Taichung during the 1980s. There are competing claims to which tea shop invented bubble tea from Chun Shui Tang and Hanlin Tea House, and in 2019, the Taiwanese courts ruled that neither side won the claim. I visited a Chun Shui Tang location in Taichung back in 2016.

Bubble tea shops are everywhere in Taiwan and a large cup usually goes for 40 to 60 NTD, which is between a little more than $1 and not quite $2 (USD). The big chains have expanded outside of Taiwan and can be found in some cities in the United States.

Taiwanese Bakeries

All around us are shelves bearing trays of baked goods. Which of these would my mother have picked out for herself? The cheery yellow tarts? The fat buns? Or the strangely shaped rolls, embedded with corn and scallions?

(Page 106)

East Asia is known for its bakeries that have remixed European baked goods with an Asian twist. The word for bread in Taiwanese Hokkien is “pháng,” which comes from the Japanese “pan” (パン), which in turn came from the Portuguese “pão.” Taiwan boasts a baker named Wu Pao-chun who won the international baking competition Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in 2010. He has his own bakery chain and a movie based on his life story starring Taiwanese actor Lego Lee called 27°C – Loaf Rock (available on YouTube but not with English subtitles, unfortunately).


“Baozi,” says Waipo, pushing the basket toward the center where we can both reach. A little white napkin unsticks itself from undereneath the bamboo structure.

(Page 329)

Baozi are fluffy steamed buns usually stuffed with pork and/or vegetables. It is one of many foods that are steamed in bamboo or metal baskets. Taiwan is known for its gourmet dumpling restaurant chain Din Tai Fung that specializes in xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings. There is one located inside Taipei 101 and several locations have opened in the United States (but not near me, sadly).

Night Markets

The night market feels like a special sort of festival, except Feng tells me it comes alive every night. People walk by holding sweets like shaved ice and red bean ice cream. I see some things I’ve never tried but Dad’s told me about, like stinky tofu, and yellow wheel cakes filled with custard. One stand sells skewers of tiny brown eggs, and other kebabs that look dark and marinated. On the other wise of the crowd, there are stalls lined up in no particular order, some of them peddling trinkets and clothing accessories, others smoky with freshly cooking foods–

“The snacks here are called xiaochi,” says Feng. “That translates to little eats, literally.”

(Pages 223-224)

In most towns or cities in Taiwan, on designated nights (or sometimes every night) of the week, certain streets will close to vehicle traffic (minus motorcycles) and street vendors will set up stalls and carts to sell food, electronics, clothing, accessories and more. You can buy a lot of random things for very cheap at the night market. I usually don’t do anything besides eat the xiaochi, which is sometimes likened to tapas. Scallion pancakes are a must for me, and I also eat jidangao (small cakes usually shaped like cartoon characters), and popcorn chicken (which is nothing like American popcorn chicken and a thousand times better).

Pop Culture

Hello Kitty

Waipo hands me a scrap of paper that was in the box–a pink piece of Hello Kitty stationery.

(Page 82)

Hello Kitty hails from Japan, but she enjoys immense popularity in Taiwan as well. You can find Hello Kitty themed merchandise and decor in many places. Famously, Taiwanese airline Eva Air has a special flight where the entire plane, interior and exterior, is decorated with Hello Kitty. My dad rode one of those flights by chance, but I sadly have not the chance to do so yet. Every time I visit Taiwan, McDonald’s seems to have Hello Kitty toys with their Happy Meal.

Teresa Teng

The name of the singer is Teresa Teng,” says Feng. “Deng Lijun. Have you heard of her?”

“Ni mama zui xihuan,” Waipo says. Your mother’s favorite. She brings over the CD case. The album cover shows a rosy-cheeked woman, her black hair curled and fluffed, the expression on her face soft and demure.

(Page 183)

Teresa Teng is a Taiwanese singer who was immensely popular in Asia in the 70s, 80s, and up until her death in 1995. She sang in multiple languages, including Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese, Japanese, Indonesian, and English. Her most famous song is “The Moon Represents My Heart” (月亮代表我的心). Google honored her with a Google Doodle celebrating what would have been her 65th birthday on January 29th, 2018.

The Google Doodle of Teresa Teng by Taiwanese American artist Cynthia Yuan Cheng.

Boy Bands

Back at the apartment, Waigong’s lounging on the couch, hogging all the cushions under his back and elbows. He stares into the television, watching a music video with the volume all the way down. A dozen Asian men are dancing in a hexagonal tunnel filled with flashing lights.

(Page 80)

I strongly suspect this is an nod to the popular Korean-Chinese boy band EXO, which formerly had twelve members and whose logo is shaped like a hexagon. Boy bands have a few decades of history in East Asia, and kpop/cpop bands like EXO are popular in Taiwan. Their music videos can be seen on the MTV channel. One of the most famous Taiwanese boy bands is F4, which was formed by the four male stars in Meteor Garden, the Taiwanese drama adaptation of the bestselling Japanese manga Boys Over Flowers. Asian boy band members can often be seen endorsing various lifestyle product brands.

Religion and Spiritual Practices


Waipo points to the magnificent temple. Sweeping red roofs curve up at their square corners. Stone dragons guard the highest points with open mouths and hooked claws. Fire-bright lanterns hang down from the eaves, strung together like lines of planets, their tassels angling in the wind.

(Page 135)

The majority of Taiwanese people of Han descent practice a blend of Taoist and Buddhist traditions. Temples are found everywhere, with over 20,000 across the island. Most temples follow traditional Chinese architecture and are elaborate structures.

Ghost Month

The book takes place during Ghost Month. According to folk beliefs, the ghosts of the dead are able to cross into the human realm during Ghost Month, which is the seventh month of the lunar calendar used in various parts of Asia, including Taiwan (between August and September of the Gregorian in 2020). Food offerings are left out for the ghosts to satiate their hunger, and incense and joss paper are burned for the dead.

Ghost Weddings

While digging into her family history, Leigh finds out that one of her relatives had a ghost wedding.

The custom of ghost weddings originates in China but is practiced by people in diaspora in Taiwan and throughout Southeast Asia. Such marriages can occur between a living person and a dead person or between two dead people. It’s generally more common for these unions to be between a living man and a deceased woman due to patriarchal and heteronormative practices surrounding ancestor worship. Traditionally, daughters are not worshiped by their birth families after they pass away; instead, their spirit tablets are kept with their husband’s family.

In keeping with this tradition, my late mother’s spirit tablet is in the ancestral shrine of my paternal grandfather’s house. Last year, I learned that my paternal grandfather took a ghost bride, who appeared to him in a dream asking him to marry her. He asked around the village and found her family and agreed to the wedding.

Typically, a match is found for a deceased woman by placing a red envelope on the street for an unsuspecting stranger to pick up, as is the case with Fred in The Astonishing Color of After. This practice is also depicted in the Taiwanese drama The Teenage Psychic. I also recommend the Netflix show The Ghost Bride, which takes place in 1890s Malaysia and is based on the novel of the same name by Yangsze Choo.

Burning Items for the Dead

“Your grandparents put this package together, planning to send it. But they changed their minds. Instead, they burned it. The photos and the letters. The necklace, which I mailed to them. They burned all of it.”

(Page 54)

Leigh is given a box that contained items relating to her mother by the mysterious bird. After people die, it’s customary to burn items for the dead to use in the afterlife. Paper money is the most common, but small paper houses with furniture and even cars are also burned at funerals, and in the past decade smart phones have joined the list of amenities for the afterlife.

The 49 Days Between Death and Rebirth

“They’re chanting sutras for the ones who have passed. Especially those still within the forty-nine days. After a person’s death, they have forty-nine days to process their karma and let go of the things that make them feel tied to this life–things like people and promises and memories. Then they make their transition. So the temple will keep each yellow tablet for forty-nine days. After that, they’re burned.”

(Page 143)

This custom of waiting forty-nine days comes from the Bardo Thödol, the Tibetan Book of the Dead. It’s a period that also gives loved ones time to mourn.


✦ September 1 ✦
Sammie @ The Bookwyrm’s Den – Introduction, Paola Santiago and the River of Tears
Leelynn @ Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Dating Makes Perfect

✦ September 2 ✦
Lauren @ Always Me – The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

✦ September 3 ✦
Toya @ The Reading Chemist – Felix Ever After

✦ September 4 ✦
Michelle @ Carry A Big Book – Sharks in the Time of Saviors

✦ September 5 ✦
Shenwei @ READING (AS)(I)AN (AM)ERICA – The Astonishing Color of After

✦ September 6 ✦
Maria @ A Daughter of Parchment and Paper – Patron Saints of Nothing

✦ September 7 ✦
Bri @ Bri’s Book Nook – True Friends (Carmen Browne)

✦ September 8 ✦
Bec @ bec&books – Lobizona
Jorie @ Jorie Loves A Story – diverse TTT

✦ September 9 ✦
Sienna @ Daydreaming Book Lover – Loveless

✦ September 10 ✦
Kerri @ Kerri McBookNerd – Raybearer

✦ September 11 ✦
Noly @ The Artsy Reader – The Name Jar

✦ September 12 ✦
Jacob @ The Writer’s Alley – Forest of Souls

 September 13 ✦
Keri @ Are You My Book – The Tea Dragon Society

✦ September 14 ✦
Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight – The Space Between Worlds

✦ September 15 ✦
Melissa @ Ramblings of a Jedi Librarian – Girl in Translation

✦ September 16 ✦
Livy @ Shelves of Starlight – Clap When You Land

✦ September 17 ✦
Crystal @ Lost in Storyland – American Born Chinese

✦ September 18 ✦
Lili @ Lili’s Blissful Pages – A Wish in the Dark

✦ September 19 ✦
Leslie @ Books Are The New Black – The Poppy War

✦ September 20 ✦
Noura @ The Perks of Being Noura – Love From A to Z

✦ September 21 ✦
Crini @ Crini’s – A Pale Light in the Black

✦ September 22 ✦
Rachelle @ Rae’s Reads and Reviews – Dear Haiti, Love Alaine

✦ September 23 ✦
Dini @ DiniPandaReads – Wicked As You Wish

✦ September 24 ✦
Madeline @ Mad’s Books – Spin the Dawn

✦ September 25 ✦
Tessa @ Narratess – Brace Yourself

✦ September 26 ✦
Kimberly @ My Bookish Bliss – Truly Madly Royally

✦ September 27 ✦
Rena @ Bookflirting 101 – Anna K: A Love Story

✦ September 28 ✦
Susan @ Novel Lives – Burn the Dark

✦ September 29 ✦
Arina @ The Bookwyrm’s Guide to the Galaxy – A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

✦ September 30 ✦
Maya @ Awesome Reads – Jackpot

Series Suspense!: 5 Sequels I Need to Read

Not everyone is a fan of book series, but I personally love them because I’m always hungry for more worldbuilding and character development and glimpses into the lives of the secondary characters (if they aren’t taking center stage themselves). Earlier this year, I did a book list featuring my most anticipated sequels releasing in 2017, and now I’m making a list of sequels to books I’ve read that are already out but I haven’t read yet. Hopefully, this will also be an introduction to a book series that you didn’t know about already. 🙂

Dove Exiled

Dove Exiled (The Dove Chronicles #2) by Karen Bao – YA, Science Fiction

I read Dove Arising, the first book in the series, as part of a readathon back in January. I first found the book at a secondhand bookstore, where the author’s last Chinese name caught my attention. The book doesn’t have very high ratings on Goodreads or Amazon, so I went in wondering if and how much I would like it. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit for a number of reasons, including the diversity (Chinese American lead and POC supporting characters!), the integration of real science from the author’s degree/background into the story, and the intense high-stakes conflict. For those who are interested, you can read my full review here.

The Disappearance of Ember Crow

The Disappearance of Ember Crow (The Tribe #2) by Ambelin Kwamullina – YA, Dystopian/SFF

If you missed my Tweet, I just got this and the third book in the series in the mail. Book 1, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, was one of the books I read for the #DiversityDecemberBingo reading challenge and I believe it’s the first book by an Indigenous author that I’ve read, sadly (I’ve since expanded my collection though!). Ashala Wolf is a very interesting and distinctive take on dystopian fiction because of the way it frames the dysfunctional society and centers environmental consciousness and spirituality. The author’s Indigenous background (she comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia) definitely influenced the portrayal of oppression, giving it the nuance that comes from lived experience. The story is also a bit of a mindfuck because of the unreliable narration. If you’re not a big dystopian fan, I’d still suggest giving this series a try. 🙂 I reviewed the first book here.

The Edge of the Abyss

The Edge of the Abyss (The Abyss Surrounds Us #2) by Emily Skrutskie – YA, Science Fiction

I totally requested this on NetGalley, got approved back in like January, and yet here I am…oops. Book 1 totally caught my attention because of the pirates and giant sea monsters and Chinese American protagonist (oh my!). I was a bit wary because the author is white, and while I didn’t feel like the rep was done super well, it wasn’t horrible either, and overall I still enjoyed the book for the plot and character dynamics. I’m hoping book 2 gives me more of the substance I wanted when I finished book 1 because I had a lot of questions about the worldbuilding and the characters’ backgrounds. You can read my review for The Abyss Surrounds Us here.

Shadowcaster (Shattered Realms #2) by Cinda Williams Chima – YA, Fantasy

This is a doubly sequel-ish sequel because it’s the second book in a sequel series, lol. Though I haven’t talked it about it a ton because I’ve been focusing on books by nonwhite authors on my blog and Twitter, the Seven Realm series is one of my favorite fantasy series for a lot of reasons: heart-stopping action, forbidden romance, good worldbuilding (also the main setting is a matrilineal queendom!), complex character dynamics, and as a bonus, nonwhite people in a high fantasy setting who aren’t just props or foils to white characters! The Shattered Realms series picks up 25 years after the end of Seven Realms, so it’s a pretty big time jump, but familiar characters from the first series show up, and the next generation of heroes is coming of age. Although you can technically read Shattered Realms without reading Seven Realms, if you don’t want to be spoiled for the ending of the Seven Realm series, read them in order! Shattered Realm builds on the first series by taking you deeper into neighboring nations to the Fells and beyond, so the scope is broader, and I’m really excited to explore these new places and characters. (Side note: I am still a bit salty about the mid-series cover change and prefer the original look because it’s iconic/in keeping with the previous series. Also the new covers are by the same artist who did the Throne of Glass covers, and they look too similar, in my opinion. But anyway, moving on…)

Shadowplay (Micah Grey #2) by Laura Lam – YA, Fantasy

I recently featured this series on my bookstagram, as I own both the original editions of the 1st and 2nd book from a publisher that went defunct, and the new editions of the complete trilogy released by Pan Macmillan. I read the first edition of book 1, Pantomime, back in December 2016 and was going to wait until I read the new edition to write a review to account for any changes/edits that have been made since. The Micah Grey series features an intersex, genderfluid, and bisexual protagonist who runs away to join a circus as an aerialist (flying trapeze!). The setting is a place called Elladia (located in a secondary universe) that has some English vibes too it but isn’t quite England, and it has its own mythology that is a part of the broader storyline of the series. If you want escapist fantasy, this is a book to check out. (Note: the original cover for Shadowplay is a bit misleading as the main character isn’t Asian, and I’m not even sure there is a major character who’s Asian in the series… Nor is the author Asian, for that matter.)

I realized after completing this post that all of these are SFF, which is rather predictable of me. Though that bias might also have to do with contemporary YA not being as series-oriented in general. For those who aren’t big SFF fans, I promise do blog about non-SFF books, so stay tuned for future book lists and reviews.

Also, if you want to share, please tell me about some of your favorites series in the comments! ^o^

Supporting Characters Who Need Their Own Book(s)

A common phenomenon that happens in a publishing industry that is skewed toward cis straight white people is that so often the representation marginalized folks get is table scraps in the form of side characters. Not only are they marginalized by society, they’re often marginalized by the fictional narratives they exist in. For this reason, I wanted to round up some side/supporting characters who I wished had books/stories of their own where they take center stage. For most, I’ve included either fanart or a picture I’ve picked as a fancast representing how I’d imagine the character. If you click on the fanart/fancasts you’ll see a description of the model’s background or artist credits where applicable.

Note: I couldn’t think of any side characters with disabilities that I could include in this, but if I think of any later on, I’ll add them.


Hannah from The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne – YA, contemporary

I definitely bought this book because of the queer Asian girl on the cover. The story is told from the perspective of a cishet white girl who’s Hannah’s best friend, and it does explore a lot of the common pitfalls of allyship, but unfortunately Hannah took a backseat to the main character’s Good Intentions. Because of that, I want a book about Hannah’s side of things, about her experience as a biracial, Vietnamese American lesbian.

Risha from Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee – YA, science fiction, thriller

The main character of Zeroboxer is Carr, who’s a professional zero-gravity prizefighter and ethnically mixed/ambiguous as is common for scifi protagonists since they’re supposed to represent the end result of the “melting pot.” Risha is his brandhelm, or marketing and public relations manager, and girlfriend. She is half-Martian and of Asian descent (in an interview, the author mentioned that much of the Martian colonies was populated by descendants of people from Asian countries affected by overpopulation, so I imagine her as being a mix of Indian and Chinese) and feels like she doesn’t belong with either Terrans or Martians. Unfortunately, she comes off as kind of an accessory to Carr’s character and is largely seen through the male gaze. She’s intelligent and graceful and I wish I knew more of her perspective as someone with a hybrid identity, an experience I relate to a lot as an Asian American.

Nara from The Prophecy Trilogy/The Dragon King Chronicles by Ellen Oh – YA, fantasy

Nara was one of my favorite supporting characters from the Prophecy trilogy. She’s a fox demon whose greatest desire is to experience being human. I wanted to know more about her background and her adventures after the events of the series, whether she had any luck finding love or companionship. (I emailed the author about the lack of queer rep in the series except for one minor character who was heavily implied to be gay, and she told me that Nara’s character was supposed to be a lesbian, but that was edited out because she was on a tight deadline didn’t want to risk getting Nara’s representation wrong, so I’m 100% headcanoning her as queer.)

Zhen Ni from Serpentine and Sacrifice by Cindy Pon – YA, fantasy

Zhen Ni, the MC Skybright’s mistress and best friend, is a lesbian and I wanted to see more of her relationship with Lan and other girls. She’s a supporting character in the first book and then a viewpoint character in the second. SPOILER (highlight to see): She ends up with someone at the end of the series but there’s very little about the details of her relationship and how she got into it, just a brief summary of it as she tells it to Skybright. She also raises an adoptive daughter who’s a demon, and I wanted to know more about her mothering adventures. END SPOILER

Raffaele Laurent Bessette from The Young Elites Trilogy by Marie Lu – YA, fantasy

My favorite gorgeous queer guy. I want to know more about his relationship with (and sadly, one-sided love for) Enzo prior to the events of The Young Elites and what he’s up to after the events of The Midnight Star. Raffaele is a sex worker, and while his clients include men and women, the author’s out-of-text comments seem to point to him being gay. I originally read him as bi though, maybe because I really want bi rep. (On a related note: I was disappointed by the way sex work was treated by the narrative in The Young Elites. During a conversation between Adelina and Raffaele, it was said that nobody would ever choose to be a sex worker, which erases the agency of sex workers who aren’t trafficked/coerced into the work. I want more narratives that are nuanced and center sex workers and portray the diversity of experiences they have.)

Whit Wu from The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee – YA, contemporary, magical realism

Stacey Lee took a departure from her established pattern by not featuring a Chinese American protagonist in The Secret of a Heart Note. However, one of the supporting characters is the handsome and talented Asian (most likely Chinese or Taiwanese based on the last name) American soccer player, Whit Wu. It was mentioned during the narrative that Court, Mim’s crush, got a magazine cover shoot because he looked more “all-American,” i.e. white, even though Whit is the more skilled player between them. I really want more stories about Asian Americans playing sports and kicking ass and the struggles they face because of stereotypes. A fictional Jeremy Lin, you might say.

Daphne Richards from Timekeeper by Tara Sim – YA, steampunk/alternate historical fiction, fantasy

Although the main character of Timekeeper is white, there is a supporting character who, like the author herself, is biracial white and Indian and white-passing. That would be Daphne, who is an extremely competent clock mechanic and a total badass who rides around on a motorbike flouting society’s rules about how women should dress and act. Since the story is mostly told from Danny’s point of view, we don’t get to see much of Daphne’s inner world as a WOC. However, the second book of the trilogy, Chainbreaker (coming later this year!), will be set in India, so I’m hoping Daphne will be there and play a larger role in the events.

Bucket from Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger – NA, urban fantasy

As I mentioned in my review, Last Call has a very diverse cast across the board. Bucket is a trans guy who befriends the protagonist Bailey, and he already transitioned prior to the events of the book, so his storyline isn’t about transitioning. There is one scene where he discloses to Bailey that he’s trans, and it’s written in a way that’s hilarious but not at the expense of trans people. It was probably one of my favorite scenes in the book. Bucket is very much a comedic relief type character, but I’m sure he has his inner demons somewhere, and it would be cool to learn more about how he got into the demon-fighting business. Also, he works at a gay bar, so delving more into that setting as it relates to the story would be a bonus.

My Complete Fiction Collection

I finally shoved all of the stray books in my room onto my bookshelves so I could take a picture of my complete fiction collection. There are a few autobiographies and memoirs thrown in here and there, but this is 99% fiction. My book collection has changed a lot in the past two years. I got rid of/donated a ton of books (about 300) that were for early readers and started buying a bunch of newer, mostly diverse YA, NA, literary fiction titles to replace them. I don’t think my diverse book count is greater than my non-diverse book count yet, but it’s getting there.

How I Organize My Books:

  • The overarching organization scheme is alphabetically by author’s last name.
  • Books in a series are placed together and arranged in chronological order.
  • Books by the same author are arranged either by publication order or by size from smallest to largest.
  • Anthologies in which the stories are all by the same author are grouped with books by that author.
  • Anthologies that are by multiple authors are groued seall together at the very end of my collection, after the Zs, and arranged in order by [first] editor’s last name

If I didn’t arrange my books this way, I’d never be able to find anything. Haven’t updated my inventory in a while, so I’m not sure exactly how many books I have (some of these are omnibus editions so they’re actually more than one book). My best estimate is somewhere around 500. I’ve been reading and collecting YA books since circa 2003, so this is some 13-odd years’ worth of books (granted, I purchased a lot of them in the past two years, but a decent number were published years ago and/or I first read them during the 2003-2014 time period). I might update this with my book count later on.

Sorry for the bad picture quality, my camera sucks. =___=

My main wall of shelves. There are two more against the opposite wall, one with prose novels, the other with manga.

Now, all of my shelves, one by one.

Shelf 1: Abawi-D’Lacey

Shelf 2: D’Lacey-Lam

Shelf 3: Lasky-Nix

Shelf 4: Nix-Redgate

Shelf 5: Rodda-Zia+anthologies+three miscellaneous books that aren’t fiction

See any familiar titles and authors? 😀