Need a Good Summer Read? Try These 28 Books Featured on the Blog

Today Hangzhou, China will reach a sizzling 36 degrees Celsius (that’s 97 degrees Fahrenheit). When the weather heats up, I love nothing better than curling up with a good book during the summer.

I’ve featured so many great books over the years, and many of them could be the perfect companion to your summer this year.

So whether you’re chilling out on the beach or cooling down indoors, here’s my list of recommended summer reads I’ve featured here on the blog, listed in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name. (P.S.: These titles are linked to Amazon, where your purchases help support this blog.)

#1: “There’s Something I Want to Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan” by Yuta Aoki

Yuta Aoki’s book shares the stories of 15 different people spanning 8 nationalities who dated Japanese locals, and explores the cultural dynamics. Learn more through my interview with Yuta.

#2: “Good Chinese Wife” by Susan Blumberg-Kason

When it comes to the success of a cross-cultural relationship, does culture or personality matter more? Susan Blumberg-Kason’s gripping memoir “Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair With China Gone Wrong” offers a very personal answer to that question. Learn more through my interview with Susan.

#3: “Tone Deaf in Bangkok” by Janet Brown

It’s never too late to follow your heart to Asia. Just ask writer Janet Brown, who went to Thailand at age 45 and fell in love with the people and places. Learn more through my interview with Janet.


Quincy Carroll#4: “Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside” by Quincy Carroll

This novel explores the clash between two Americans (a deadbeat and an idealist) teaching English in China, and the student who comes between them. Learn more through my interview with Quincy.

#5: “The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane” by Susan Chan

“The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane” is an easy breezy love story that reads like one of my favorite romantic comedies on the screen. Learn more through my interview with Susan.

#6: “Tiger Tail Soup” by Nicki Chen

In “Tiger Tail Soup”, Nicki Chen transports us to a place you don’t often find in wartime China literature – Fujian Province’s Gulangyu Island. Learn more through my interview with Nicki.

#7: “A Bollywood Affair” by Sonali Dev

“A Bollywood Affair” is such a unique and enchanting book that, even if you’ve sworn off the romance genre, you must read it. Learn more through my interview with Sonali.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes#8: “The Girl Who Wrote in Silk” by Kelli Estes

“The Girl Who Wrote in Silk” by Kelli Estes links two women across centuries to a silk embroidered sleeve in a story of love, courage and humanity. Learn more through my interview with Kelli.

#9: “Love Me Anyway” by Tiffany Hawk

Tiffany Hawk offers an inside look into being a flight attendant — along with some AMWF romance — in her coming-of-age debut novel, “Love Me Anyway.” Learn more through my interview with Tiffany.


#10: “Pearl River Drama: Dating in China” by Ray Hecht

Ray doesn’t shy away from letting you into his utterly imperfect love life, and ultimately he comes across as a genuinely nice foreign guy just looking for love in China. Learn more through my interview with Ray.

#11: “South China Morning Blues” by Ray Hecht

Through 12 viewpoints, South China Morning Blues takes readers on a tour of the underside of the expat scene in China. It’s a fresh take on modern China. Learn more through my interview with Ray.

The Porcelain Thief#12: “The Porcelain Thief” by Huan Hsu

“The Porcelain Thief” deftly combines Huan Hsu’s personal experiences as a Chinese American in China, family stories, and his quest for buried porcelain. Learn more through my interview with Huan.

#13: “A Field Guide to Happiness” by Linda Leaming

Linda Leaming’s new book “A Field Guide to Happiness: What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving, and Waking Up” reads like a love letter to Bhutan. Learn more through my interview with Linda.

Here Comes the Sun by Leza Lowitz#14: “Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras” by Leza Lowitz

Leza Lowitz shares her emotional journey towards marriage and motherhood in Japan (as well as opening a yoga studio in Tokyo) in “Here Comes the Sun”. Learn more through my interview with Leza.

#15: “My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy” & #16: “My Japanese Husband (Still) Thinks I’m Crazy” by Grace Mineta

If you’re a fan of graphic novels and you’re curious about Japan, you don’t want to miss these charming comics by Grace Mineta. Learn more through my interviews (here and here) with Grace.

#17: “Parsley & Coriander” by Antonella Moretti

“Parsley & Coriander” is a delightful novel that captures the spirit of finding your own path in China, especially as an expat woman. Learn more through my interview with Antonella.

#18: “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng

“Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng is a dark, powerful tale of an AMWF family in America facing a tragedy. Learn more through my interview with Celeste.

#19: “The Empress of Bright Moon” by Weina Dai Randel

Weina Randel has crafted a beautifully written, engaging and suspenseful tale of how one of the greatest rulers in China came to rise. You can learn more about this second chapter of the duology by reading Weina’s guest post on sex education during Tang Dynasty China.

The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel#20: “The Moon in the Palace” by Weina Dai Randel

“The Moon in the Palace” by Weina Dai Randel, about the rise of China’s young Empress Wu, truly reads like a Tang Dynasty-era Cinderella story. Learn more through my interview with Weina.

#21: “The Secret of the Nightingale Palace” by Dana Sachs

The romance at the heart of this novel — which relates to its intriguing title — just stole my heart away. Plus, the book explores a side of World War II that we all too often forget — the US internment of Japanese Americans. Learn more through my interview with Dana.

The Good Shufu#22: “The Good Shufu” by Tracy Slater

“The Good Shufu” by Tracy Slater is a heartfelt story about love & life abroad that proves sometimes those unexpected detours lead us to incredible joy. Learn more through my interview with Tracy.


#23: “Empire of Glass” by Kaitlin Solimine

“Empire of Glass” is stunning for its lyrical prose and unique in that it’s presented as a “translation” of the story of Li-Ming and her husband Wang. Learn more through my interview with Kaitlin.

Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self#24: “Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self” by Alex Tizon

Alex Tizon’s memoir “Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self” offers a personal view on Asian masculinity in the West — and is a book you must read. Learn more through my interview with Alex.

Atom Yang Red Envelope#25: “Red Envelope” by Atom Yang

Thanks to Atom Yang’s exceptional writing and sense of humor, Red Envelope is a fun, romantic romp through the most wonderful time of the year for Chinese. Learn more through my interview with Atom.

#26: “Ferry Tale: A Hong Kong Love Story” by Shannon Young

It’s as enchanting as any big-screen rom com – but better, thanks to the Hong Kong setting and charming AMWF couple. Learn more through this post on Ferry Tale.

#27: “How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia” edited by Shannon Young

For me, this is the rarest of all anthologies. I actually devoured it from cover to cover in record time, and found something to love in all the essays — regardless of the story. You’ll also find my essay “Huangshan Honeymoon” featured in this collection. Learn more about my essay and 12 other essays you’ll want to read.

Year of Fire Dragons#28: “Year of Fire Dragons” by Shannon Young

“Year of Fire Dragons” details the life-changing year Shannon Young spent in Hong Kong while in a long-distance relationship with her Eurasian boyfriend. Learn more through my interview with Shannon.

Interview with Shannon Young on Her Memoir “Year of Fire Dragons”

Year of Fire Dragons

When you love someone from another culture and country, there’s a chance you’ll end up in a long-distance relationship. But what if you thought the long distance was over, only to discover you would have to be divided for another year?

That’s what happened to Shannon Young, an American who fell for a British man while studying abroad in England who she described as “my very own Mr. Darcy, except…talkative—and half Chinese.” But after she moved to Hong Kong to finally be together with him, he suddenly gets transferred to his company’s London office for a year, leaving Shannon all alone. Year of Fire Dragons details the life-changing year she spent in Hong Kong while continuing a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend. It’s a beautifully written story about how far people will go for love — and the unexpected joys that come when things don’t work out as planned.


Longtime readers may already remember Year of Fire Dragons from Shannon Young’s lovely guest post titled My Very Own Mr. Darcy, Except Talkative And Half Chinese. She also edited the fantastic anthology How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia (which I’m honored to be a part of). I’m excited to once again feature Shannon Young and Year of Fire Dragons on Speaking of China.

Shannon Young
Shannon Young

Here’s Shannon’s bio from Blacksmith Books:

Shannon Young is an American twenty-something living in Hong Kong. She is the editor of an anthology of creative non-fiction called How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia and the author of a bestselling Kindle Single called Pay Off: How One Millennial Eliminated Nearly $80,000 in Student Debt in Less Than Five Years. She has written e-books including a novella, The Art of Escalator Jumping, and a travel memoir, The Olympics Beat.

She writes a blog called “A Kindle in Hong Kong” and is an active member of the Hong Kong Women in Publishing Society. Originally from Arizona, she likes to read, travel and spy on other people’s books on the train.

You can learn more about Shannon Young at her author website as well as her blog.

I asked Shannon about everything from her thoughts on Hong Kong and managing a long-distance relationship to how her family’s ties to the city made her feel more at home there.


What inspired you to write this memoir?

Originally I just wanted to write about Hong Kong. The place itself inspired me, and writing became a way to catalogue and make sense of my experiences. But as I got further into the manuscript I realized I wanted people to actually read it. It became clear that I’d need to include my personal story to appeal to readers because that’s what appealed to me in the travel memoirs I read. Far away locations can be interesting, but a personal story that resonates with the experiences of real people is far more compelling. As I slowly opened up about my own life, it became easier to understand the growing process I was going through at the time. Writing the memoir morphed into a way to make sense of my feelings, perhaps even more than my surroundings, during a pivotal stage in my life.

You followed Ben to Hong Kong so the two of you would finally be together and then, after a month, he leaves you there to take a position in London. You couldn’t afford to chase after him because you had already committed yourself to a job in Hong Kong that would help you pay off your $80,000 student loan debt. Could you share with us some of your hopes and fears that came to mind when you said goodbye to Ben that fateful afternoon in September?

I was probably too optimistic for my own good. I thought the whole experience would be easier than it was, and didn’t realize how much turmoil I would end up feeling over the course of the year. I felt alone and disconnected in those first moments, but not as much as when the months dragged on and being together seemed less and less likely. The chances of the whole thing not working out were much greater than I let myself acknowledge at the time.

One of the love stories in your memoir follows your own relationship with the city of Hong Kong and how it unexpectedly charms you in so many ways. What was the most surprising thing about Hong Kong that you came to cherish?

I didn’t expect to love the energy so much. I’m a fairly reserved, introverted type, and it was surprising how much I loved the opportunity to be on the go and to see all sorts of different people around me every day. Hong Kong is enchanting, and living in such a vibrant city was more stimulating than I expected.

Your own family has an interesting connection to Hong Kong because your grandparents lived there for a period of time and your father was born there. How did your family’s ties to Hong Kong influence how you felt living alone there as well as your feelings about your relationship with Ben?

Hong Kong wasn’t 100% foreign to me, and I think that helped. I grew up hearing stories about Hong Kong and, although I never expected to live here, it had always been on my radar. I still meet people in the US who think Hong Kong is in Japan or who don’t understand the difference between Hong Kong and Mainland China, and that was never an issue for me. During my childhood, my dad used to talk about how much he’d like for us to move to China. He’d studied Mandarin and he had fond memories of his childhood in Asia. The prospect of an international life wasn’t as scary to me as it might be for someone whose family has always lived in the same town. Once I actually moved, it was encouraging to know that other people in my family had done it first. I even had the letters my grandma wrote home while she was living here in the late 1950s, and I’ve included excerpts in Year of Fire Dragons as a counterpoint to my own journey in Hong Kong. As for Ben, his stories about Hong Kong are guaranteed conversation starters around my relatives!

While in Hong Kong, you decide to buy a wedding dress, even though you weren’t certain if or when you would be getting married. You write, “I’d taken enough risks for Ben already. What was one more gamble that everything would work out?” Do you think that this kind of confidence is an example of how long-distance relationships can be a positive experience?

I think so. Looking back I’m still a little surprised I did that. It comes back to me being maybe a little too confident for my own good. On the other hand, long-distance relationships are difficult enough and you have to be hopeful and confident about your prospects in order for them to work. That kind of positive attitude can help carry you through the tougher times. I am lucky it turned out well, and the dress still fit me on my wedding day!

Now that you’ve survived a long-distance relationship, do you have any advice for anyone out there in the same situation? What do you think it takes to make a long-distance relationship successful?

Communication is absolutely the most important part of a relationship, especially a long-distance relationship. You have to be honest with each other about your concerns and feelings. It makes it much easier to trust the other person when you feel you can talk to them about anything, and without trust it won’t work at all. I think it’s also helpful to make plans for the end of the long-distance period, even though my own plans were thwarted a few times.

What do you hope readers come away with from your memoir?

I hope they’ll come away with a sense of optimism from my journey, and a reassurance that even during a tumultuous time like your early twenties, things can turn out better than you ever imagined possible. I also hope they’ll be as enchanted by Hong Kong as I am after reading about my adventures here!

Thanks so much to Shannon for this interview about Year of Fire Dragons! You can learn more about Shannon Young at her author website as well as her blog. Year of Fire Dragons is available at, where your purchase helps support Speaking of China.

My Appearance in the Beijing Bookworm Literary Festival on March 29

At the end of March, I traveled to Beijing to appear on a panel with Ember Swift and Edna Zhou as part of a book launch of How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit for the Beijing Bookworm Literary Festival.


This was my first-ever appearance in a literary festival. (Hello, nerves!) But I decided, what better way to prep myself (and relax a little) than to attend an event in the festival? I caught the Writing China Through History event with three very fascinating authors and journalists (moderated by Ian Johnson, who wrote Wild Grass, one of my favorite books about China). All of them had terrific and often humorous stories to share.


That evening, the Beijing Bookworm looked so romantic with its lanterns all aglow. How I wish John had been there to see it! Everyone at the Bookworm was so welcoming, including Anthony Tao (who blogs at Beijing Cream).


Later that night, I saw Ember Swift playing live at the Temple Bar, where I also met two other Western women with Chinese husbands in the audience! (Sorry, no pictures of that!)

Nothing builds confidence like a great hair style — so I had my hair done Sunday morning at a hair salon in Sanlitun.


I had lunch at Element Fresh with my friend Peter, who I think of as my “brother” here in China (he and I met in 1999, when I first came to China). He promised John he would be there to attend my event (and take photos!).


Would you believe, the event actually SOLD OUT! I was stunned! I wish had taken a photo of the audience, with over 50 people in attendance!



Sometime after 2pm in the afternoon, we were on! I started off by reading my essay, followed by Edna and then Ember.


During the panel, I spoke about the pressure of being married for 10 years in China with no kids, how I’m committed to spending the rest of my life in China, and also some funny anecdotes about how my husband seemed to have set up my WeChat account to make it harder for people to find me (one of the women I met at Ember’s show said her husband did the same thing, so apparently I’m not alone!). Ember and I also swapped experiences during the panel, which turned out to be a lot of fun! And Edna shared some terrific stories about what it’s like to be a Chinese American woman living in China.


People asked questions about everything from whether it gets easier if you can communicate better with your mother-in-law (both Ember and I agreed it doesn’t get easier!) to how you can cope with repatriation and the struggle with fitting in (Ember suggested creating, I agreed and added that I had actually started up this blog in the US, when I yearned to share my experiences in China).


I met some fantastic people there, including Oda from Chinadoll:




As well as Yang, and Jack. (Sorry, no pics, guys!)

Someone came up to me after the event and said it was one of the best events they had attended during the literary festival. Wow!

Afterwards, I had a lovely dinner with Rosalie of Rosie in Beijing, along with one of her friends and Alejandra at a delicious Middle Eastern Restaurant called Rumi. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of that (I was seriously running on pure adrenaline by that time because I hadn’t gotten much sleep during the weekend and when I’m like that, I’m super-forgetful.) But here’s what Rumi looks like from their website:

(Photo from
(Photo from

The following day, I met Charlotte of Chinese Potpourri in the Beijing South Railway Station just before my train took off for Hangzhou. We had Starbucks (which I haven’t drank in a LONG time…boy, was that green tea latte with soy amazing!).


Unfortunately, when you pack in so much into one weekend with so little sleep and travel, it is bound to catch up with you. I caught the flu on Thursday (ugh) and am recovering as a write this. Still, I wouldn’t have changed a single thing — going to Beijing to appear in this literary festival was such an honor, and incredibly life changing.

Can’t wait until I have the chance to do another literary festival in the future!

Meet Me in Beijing March 29 at the Bookworm Literary Festival

Jocelyn in Beijing

Exciting news! I’ll be in Beijing on Sunday March 29 at 2pm to discuss How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit as part of the Bookworm Literary Festival, along with my fabulous fellow contributors Ember Swift and Kaitlin Solimine.

I would love more than anything to see you there!

Here are the details from the Bookworm Literary Festival Events Page:

Book Launch: How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia 2 pm

Jocelyn Eikenburg, Kaitlin Solimine, Ember SwiftiQiyi, Sun March 29, 14:00 | IQ29B 60 RMB

How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit?, edited by Shannon Young, is the first collection to explore in depth the varied and unconventional lives of expat women in East Asia. Their stories go far beyond the stereotypical image of a trailing spouse at brunch, and give voice to a population that is often sidelined. They are artists, filmmakers, singers, teachers, professionals, mothers, wives, and diplomats. Their stories explore love, loss, and identity. Bookworm Literary Festival welcomes three of the contributors who, together, will formally launch this unique anthology in Beijing. This event is at iQiyi.

The 60RMB ticket fee includes a free drink. Tickets are now on sale at the Bookworm in Beijing; you can also e-mail the Bookworm at [email protected] to learn more about getting tickets or the event itself.

FYI, the venue address is: 北京市朝阳区三里屯南路 1 号 爱奇艺/iQiyi Cafe 1 Sanlitun South St. (opposite Bookworm) 65008180

Seriously, I would love more than anything to meet any of you out there in person! If you’re attending, please let me know!

I hope to see you in Beijing!

P.S.: To learn more about How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit, you can read this post about my essay Huangshan Honeymoon (which includes actual photos from that trip) and also read about 12 other fantastic essays I highly recommend in this lovely book!

UPDATE: For anyone wondering about the location of the venue (北京市朝阳区三里屯南路 1 号 爱奇艺/iQiyi Cafe 1 Sanlitun South St. (opposite Bookworm) 65008180), here’s a handy map included in this PDF version of the Beijing Bookworm Lit Fest:


Help Support Fused Society, a Publication Celebrating the Fusion of Different Cultures

Fused Society, a new publication celebrating hapas, interracial/cross-cultural relationships and more, is raising funds for printing on and needs your support!


Created by Eva Cohen (who is also published along with me in How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit?) and Mai Huynh, the publication “showcases essays, creative writing and art about the fusion of different cultures, groups, and people” and invites submissions from people like you.

This round of funding will go towards the costs of printing their First Edition, which features stories from people of mixed racial, ethnic and/or cultural backgrounds (including Susan Blumberg-Kason’s Chinese Jewish American son). Anything money raised above and beyond their goal will go towards the next editions of their magazine (the Second Edition will include one of my essays!)

Funding levels start at as little as $10 US dollars  (which I’ve donated — this level gets you a copy of their magazine and a Fused Society magnet). Head on over to their page, where you can find sample pages from their forthcoming First Edition and choose a supporting level that works for you.

P.S.: Their Second Edition highlighting cross-cultural and interracial relationships is still seeking submissions. If you’d like to contribute an essay, creative writing or art to this worthy publication, visit the Fused Society submissions page to learn more.

Gift Recommendations For Books Featured On This Blog

Does your holiday shopping list include book lovers? Over the years, I’ve featured a lot of fantastic books on this blog (including AMWF titles); they could also make amazing gifts for that special someone in your life.

I’ve listed them in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name, along with a recommendation for who would love it and a link to my interview with the author and/or other post. Happy holidays! (Note: titles are linked to, where your purchase helps support this blog.)

For fans of love stories with lots of drama:

Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China Gone Wrong

Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair With China Gone Wrong by Susan Blumberg-Kason (Read my interview with Susan)

For the armchair traveler fascinated by Asia:

Almost Home by Janet Brown

Almost Home: The Asian Search of a Geographic Trollop by Janet Brown


Tone Deaf in Bangkok (And Other Places) by Janet Brown (Read my interview with Janet)

For fans of Pearl Buck’s wartime China stories:


Tiger Tail Soup: A Novel of China at War by Nicki Chen (Read my interview with Nicki)

For anyone interested in interracial relationships:


Kissing Outside the Lines: A True Story of Love and Race and Happily Ever After by Diane Farr (Read my post about Kissing Outside the Lines)

For chick lit fans:


Love Me Anyway by Tiffany Hawk (Read my interview with Tiffany)

For the person who wants to be happier, but hates self-help books:

A Field Guide to Happiness revised

A Field Guide to Happiness: What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving, and Waking Up by Linda Leaming (Read my interview with Linda)

For anyone who loves comics and stories about the ups and downs of living abroad:

My Japanese Husband Thinks I'm Crazy

My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy by Grace Buchele Mineta (Read my interview with Grace)

For fans of mysteries and thrillers:


Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (Read my interview with Celeste)

For people who like reading about road trips and love stories:


Secret of the Nightingale Palace by Dana Sachs (Read my interview with Dana)

For readers interested in the Asian American experience:

Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self

Big Little Man: In Search Of My Asian Self by Alex Tizon (Read my interview with Alex)

For readers who love coming-of-age stories:


Year of Fire Dragons: An American Woman’s Story of Coming of Age in Hong Kong by Shannon Young (Read Shannon’s guest post here)

For fans of travel stories with a little heart and soul:


How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia edited by Shannon Young (See my post on favorite essays from the anthology and a post about my own essay “Huangshan Honeymoon”)

What books do you think would make great Christmas gifts?

Meet “Good Chinese Wife” Author Susan Blumberg-Kason in Hong Kong!

If you’re based in Asia and itching to meet Susan Blumberg-Kason, author of Good Chinese Wife (an AMWF memoir you really don’t want to miss — see my interview with her from this past July), here’s your chance in October 2014. Come on down to Hong Kong for one of these special events!

Meet Susan Blumberg-Kason, author of Good Chinese Wife, in Hong Kong!
Meet Susan Blumberg-Kason, author of Good Chinese Wife, in Hong Kong!

Monday, October 13, 7:45pm – Hong Kong Jewish Community Center (Reading and Signing)

Everyone is welcome to attend this event, but due to tight security you MUST be on the guest list in order to enter. Contact Erica Lyons at [email protected] to get your name on the list. Bring your ID the night of the event to get in, plus a cover charge (HK$65 for JCC members, HK$100 for non-JCC members) that includes dessert and a drink. Books will be for sale.

Tuesday, October 14, 6:30pm – Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club (Talk)

Susan will be speaking to the Hong Kong Women in Publishing Society (WiPS) about memoir writing, but anyone can attend this event. There will be a fee to get in (HK$200 for non-WiPS members and HKD$100 for WiPS members). Appetizers will be served and books will be for sale here, too.

Thursday, October 16, 6:30pm – Bookazine in Exchange Square (How Does One Dress To Buy Dragonfruit? Launch Party)

If you can’t make the previous two events, you can still meet Susan at this launch party for the anthology How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? (which includes her essay, as well as mine!). There will be wine, dragonfruit and giveaways, including a chance to win your very own copy of Good Chinese Wife. All are welcome.

 UPDATE: Added in correct fees for the Hong Kong WiPS event.

12 reasons you should read “Dragonfruit” anthology of true stories of expat women in Asia

Last week, I shared a photo essay as a companion to “Huangshan Honeymoon“, my own true story of the honeymoon vacation where my husband and I brought his father along to view one of China’s most breathtaking mountains. (Well, thanks to the lousy weather, I’ll have to take someone else’s word for just how breathtaking Huangshan can be.)

Yet that’s not the only reason you should pick up a copy of How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asiaa collection I can’t stop raving about because of how personal and soulful every single essay is.

For me, this is the rarest of all anthologies. I actually devoured it from cover to cover in record time, and found something to love in all the essays — regardless of the story. But if you’re looking for the sort of stories that drew you to this blog, well, you’re in luck.

Love reading about cross-cultural relationships? Or dating and marriages and families in Asia? Or just want some great stories from AMWF writers? This anthology is also for you! Specifically, you’ll enjoy these 12 other essays I’d like to introduce to you. Think of them as 12 more reasons (besides, of course, “Huangshan Honeymoon“) why you should buy How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia.

Here they are in order of appearance:

(photo by Giorgio Minguzzi via

1. “The Weight of Beauty” by Dorcas Cheng-Tozun

Dorcas instantly became one of my favorite writers when I discovered her funny and moving essay last summer titled How to be Mistaken for a Prostitute in China. Her contribution to this anthology is yet another exploration of her experience as the Chinese-American wife of a white American guy in China, but it also delves into issues all-too-familiar to many of us — how we view our bodies and ourselves. You can actually read it in the sample chapters featured — and chances are, you’ll love her writing as much as I did.

(photo by LeeAnn Adams via

2. “Finding Yuanfen on a Chinese Bus” by Kaitlin Solimine

When Kaitlin steps onto that rickety, sleeper bus for a two-day journey from Kunming to Guangzhou, she ends up finding the ultimate road buddy (or should I say, “road gal”?). In the process, she ends up reflecting on her dating experiences in China with expats and locals alike. Kaitlin’s essay is so refreshingly honest, delving into all of the off-and-on madness, the one-night stands, the “just for sex” experiences…things most of us would rather keep locked away in our journals and minds. It’s this, plus her beautiful writing, that makes you fall in love with her essay — and long for more.

(photo by Shoko Muraguchi via

3. “Love and Polka Dots” by Suzanne Kamata

Suzanne  has a different kind of AMWF family experience in Japan because of her special needs daughter Lilia, who is deaf and uses a wheelchair. Suzanne promised to take Lilia to an exhibition of artwork from the internationally renowned artist Yayoi Kusama in Osaka (which requires a two and a half-hour bus ride), and you can imagine the challenges involved in taking out a wheelchair-bound child and communicating in a language (signing) that, for Suzanne, can be tiring. Ultimately, they make the journey together to appreciate what Suzanne describes as Kusama’s “playful and whimsical” works of art (with, you guessed it, polka dots) and come away feeling stronger, inspired and even hopeful.

(By the way, many fans of this blog will enjoy Suzanne’s anthology Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering.)

(photo by Jo Schmaltz via

4. “Happy Anniversary” by Stephanie Han

While this essay tells the story of how one Korean American woman happens to fall in love with a white British man in Hong Kong on the eve of the turnover, it’s also an excellent meditation on the peripatetic nature of expat life (especially in an international family). It’s the details that make Stephanie’s essay a joy, from screaming “Kill it!” to the cobra coiled before her door (which challenges her identity as an “animal-lover”) to the $5 gold ring she got as a freebie from a Turkish rug salesman (which she subsequently uses when she gets married).

(photo by Jonathan E. Shaw via

5. “Giving in to Mongolia” by Michelle Borok

A lifelong horseback riding enthusiast, Michelle once again returns to the saddle in her thirties and ultimately her passion draws her to Mongolia for a solo vacation. There she discovers a braver, stronger side of herself and finds herself gradually falling for “a man with golden eyes, a gentle voice, broad shoulders, and close-cropped salt- and-pepper hair” who speaks no English. It’s an epic story of love and personal transformation, and it stars an incredibly handsome Asian guy. What’s not to like?

(photo by Vanessa Berry via

6. “An Awkward Phone Call” by Christine Tan

When she used to blog at Shanghai Shiok, Christine dished out some of the smartest (and most addictive) essays I’ve ever encountered about the experience of being an Asian woman dating a White man. And this contribution doesn’t disappoint, as she continues that conversation and deepens it with completely new and unexpected layers (including the shocking comment that drove her to abandon Shanghai Shiok). It’s moving, confessional and incredibly brave — and personally, I hope we’ll hear much more from Christine (such as finishing the memoir she alludes to in her essay).

(photo by Sarah Kim via

7. “How to Marry a Moonie” by Catherine Rose Torres

Stereotypes about cross-cultural relationships don’t end with “yellow fever”, as Catherine reminds us. “…the term moonie came to mean all Korean men seeking mail-order brides from poor countries like the Philippines. But I expected my friends to know the difference—to know I wasn’t mail-order bride material.” She’s Filipino, Jay is Korean, and the challenges they face go far beyond stereotypes. A terrific essay for anyone who has ever had the bride-to-be jitters (like me!) or managed to survive the kind of “our family will handle everything”, big, fat wedding I had in China.

(photo by Eric Hunt via

8. “The Rainiest Season” by India Harris

As longtime readers know, I’ve railed against the whole “Asian women are stealing our husbands” stereotype that makes its rounds in the expat world. Still, you’ve heard the stories — how some white guy relocates to Asia with his wife in tow, only to toss her aside for a local woman. For anyone wondering what could happen when a marriage blows up this way (and for that matter, how the woman comes to reclaim her own life) here’s your essay. If you’re anything like me, you’ll keep turning the pages and thinking, “Oh. My. God.”

(photo by Jose Javier Martin Espartosa via

9. “Moving to the Tropic of Cancer” by Philippa Ramsden

Living abroad doesn’t make you immune to the ravages of life, such as a potentially life threatening illness. That’s not what Philippa, who hails from Scotland, expected when she moved to Burma with her Himalayan Tamang husband. But suddenly, she’s forced to navigate hospitals, appointments and tests in a completely foreign world — and must find the courage to face one frightening diagnosis. A moving essay from an AMWF sister.

(photo by Sarah Joy via

10. “Ninety Minutes in Tsim Sha Tsui” by Susan Blumberg-Kason

A stroll through this neighborhood in Hong Kong transports Susan right back to the days when she was still the “Good Chinese Wife” to her husband from Wuhan, and all of the challenges she faced back then. While you’re waiting for Susan’s book to come out in late July (titled, of course, Good Chinese Wife), this essay is the perfect introduction to what I’m calling the AMWF memoir of the year.

(photo by Boff Hiroshi via

11. “Here Comes the Sun” by Leza Lowitz

Not every country and culture encourages adoption, including China…and Japan. That’s where Leza and Shogo, her Japanese husband, decide pursue this unconventional pathway to parenthood. It’s a tale of determination, silver linings, and what happens when a little boy suddenly becomes a new ray of sunshine in your life. And if you enjoy this essay, watch for Leza’s forthcoming memoir which covers her adoption experience.

Guo Jian and Ember Swift (photo by Luna Zhang)

12. “Chinese Stonewalls” by Ember Swift

Going abroad has a way of teaching us new things about ourselves. For Ember, who had only ever been with women, falling for a man (Guo Jian, the lead singer of Long Shen Dao) takes her by surprise in Beijing, and eventually pulls her into a life she never imagined for herself. Anyone who has followed Ember’s writing will enjoy the beautiful and life-changing story of how she came to be the queer girl who got married in China.

So what are you waiting for? Pick up your copy of How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? today and get swept away by these and the many other outstanding stories!

P.S.: On Facebook? Follow How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? now!

How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit?

Photo Essay: On “Huangshan Honeymoon”, my true story featured in “Dragonfruit” anthology

How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit, the anthology featuring true stories of expat women in Asia, is now available for purchase through Amazon — and officially released everywhere on June 10, 2014! (Goodreads is also giving away five FREE copies!).

You’ll find my essay “Huangshan Honeymoon” included in the anthology, which explores a very different kind of honeymoon my husband and I enjoyed in 2005.

How was it different?

Well, yes, we planned our vacation around the chance to hike all the way up to China’s Huangshan or “Yellow Mountain”, instead of the typical honeymoon of sunny days spent lounging on golden sand beaches sipping tropical drinks and intimate twilit evenings laying in each others’ arms.

And yes, we chose to set out at the height of summer’s most sultry days, and stay in a region where July and August are feared for the ferocious heat of the “Autumn Tiger” that comes around every year.

But ultimately, this is what made our honeymoon so unusual: John’s father came along with us!


I never thought I would share my honeymoon suite with a man who once advised his son not to date foreign women. (Then again, I suppose he never imagined he’d have a foreign daughter-in-law!)

And as if that wasn’t enough, the heavens also brought us some of the lousiest viewing conditions for the mountain, thanks to the remnants of a typhoon that enveloped the scenery in a misty cloud of rain and fog.

(This is the one and only photo that offers a hint to the breathtaking views we should have enjoyed, had the weather cooperated!)

Why did we bring John’s father along? And how did that experience change my relationship with his father forever? You’ll find all the answers (and much more!) when you buy a copy of How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit and read the essay. Don’t miss out on a collection that I can’t stop raving about! (Okay, yes, I am biased but it’s still really an amazing book.)

(Want to win a FREE copy of How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? Goodreads is giving away five copies of the book and you could be one of the lucky winners. Click here to enter!)

My essay will appear in anthology of “True Stories of Expat Women in Asia”

How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit?

Exciting news! My essay will appear in the forthcoming anthology How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit: True Stories of Expat Women in Asia edited by Shannon Young and published by Signal 8 Press. Our publication date is June 10, 2014, which is coming up soon!

My personal essay is titled “Huangshan Honeymoon” and centers on a rather unusual kind of vacation for newlyweds in China — one where my husband’s father-in-law came along for the ride! Why did we bring his father on the trip? And, more importantly, how did this journey change my relationship with his father, a man who once counseled his son not to date foreign women? Find out when you read “Huangshan Honeymoon” in this forthcoming anthology.

Want another reason to check out How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit: True Stories of Expat Women in Asia? The many fantastic contributing writers, including some names you just might recognize:

Plus, the anthology has received glowing blurbs from two of my favorite writers:

How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit is an eclectic, soulful collection of stories by badass women who have adventured far out of their comfort zones. Full of candid observations about travel, language, food, self and other, it’s a book for anyone who has ever felt peripheral, upside down, culturally shocked or inspired. In other words, a book for all of us.”
Rachel DeWoskin, author of Foreign Babes in Beijing, Repeat After Me, Big Girl Small, and Blind.

“A unique and inspiring collection of voices that calls up all the wonder, fascination, challenges, disorientation, and delights faced by women expats throughout Asia. I was moved by the breadth of experiences included in this anthology at the same time that I fell in love with one thread running throughout: how the expatriate journey takes us away from ourselves and then ultimately delivers us back, richer, wiser, and even more aware of how our own identities fit within our wide, wide world.”
Tracy Slater, author of The Good Shufu: A Wife in Search of a Life Between East and West.

I’ll keep you posted on the forthcoming publication of How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit. In the meantime, you can follow the anthology on Facebook.