22 Memoirs to Read with Asian Men & Western Women in Love

It’s been almost seven years since I posted about books featuring Chinese men and Western women in love, and over five years since I posted about memoirs featuring Asian men and Western women in love. Plus, a lot of wonderful memoirs have come out in the past few years. Time to update you with a full list of AMWF memoirs you should read!

I’ve listed the titles in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name and linked them to Amazon, where your purchases help support this site.

“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.

“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.

“Burmese Lessons: A true love story” by Karen Connelly

When Karen went to Burma in 1996 for research on the conditions of Burmese political prisoners, love wasn’t on her mind — until she met Maung, a sexy young Burmese revolutionary leader. But this isn’t just a love story, as she beautifully captures her entire experience in this country — including her interview with Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China” by Rachel DeWoskin

A woman who dared to love Chinese men on screen (and off), as well as Chinese culture. DeWoskin writes about it all with passion and humor.

“Kissing Outside the Lines: A True Story of Love and Race and Happily Ever After” by Diane Farr

Think gorgeous girls don’t go for Asian men? Then you haven’t met actress and celebrity Diane Farr, who married a Korean-American man and shared her story — and those of many others who crossed racial/cultural/ethnic lines in the name of love — in this humorous read.

“Mae Franking’s My Chinese Marriage: An Annotated Edition” by Mae Franking

A rare window into the world of a Western woman who married a Chinese man in the early 20th century, despite the estrangement of both families. Half a love story, half a collection of letters that capture the times in which they lived.

“The Natural Laws of Good Luck: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage” by Ellen Graf

In her mid-forties and divorced, the last thing Ellen ever expected was to travel to China and marry a Chinese man she knew for less than a week. But the unspoken connection between then brings this unlikely pair together, and sustains them through the trials and tribulations of their new cross-cultural relationship.

“Sideways on a Scooter: Life and Love in India” by Miranda Kennedy

Miranda’s book is an exploration of the many cultural rules and norms that govern women’s lives there, especially love, marriage and family. She dates some Indian men along the way, but reveals so much more through the Indian women she comes to know throughout the story.

“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.

“Married to Bhutan: How One Woman Got Lost, Said “I Do,” and Found Bliss” by Linda Leaming

Linda discovered her bliss — and later, her Bhutanese husband — in this oft-overlooked Himalayan country. This magical tale of her relationship with her future husband and his country is filled with moments that will have you laughing out loud.

“Mao’s Last Dancer” by Li Cunxin

Li Cunxin is a poor rural Chinese who skyrockets to fame as a ballet dancer. But when China sends him to Texas as part of an exchange, he falls in love with an American woman and America, and wants to defect. (Also a movie.)

“Son of the Revolution” by Liang Heng and Judith Shapiro

Most of the story revolves around Liang Heng’s personal suffering during the Cultural Revolution. However, the last few chapters of this book document how Liang Heng and Judith Shapiro incredibly fall in love, and marry, in a China just barely open to the world.

Here Comes the Sun by Leza Lowitz“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.

“My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy” & “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.

“At Home in Japan: A Foreign Woman’s Journey of Discovery” by Rebecca Otowa

Rebecca’s book explores her 30 years as the foreign housewife of a Japanese man in their 350-year-old farmhouse in Japan’s countryside, a home that you might argue is one of the most important characters in the story.

“Love, Again: The Wisdom of Unexpected Romance” by Eve Pell

At 68, Eve fell for Sam Hirabayashi, a man 10 years her senior. She wrote about it for The New York Times, and the overwhelming response from readers helped spark this memoir exploring late-in-life love through her own relationship and others.

“The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam” by Dana Sachs

Dana truly followed her heart in moving to Vietnam when, in the course of learning the language and later teaching, she landed into an unlikely relationship with a local Vietnamese man. She writes about it with honesty and vulnerability, which made her a delightful narrator.

The Good Shufu“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.

Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self“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.

“Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband” by Wendy Tokunaga

I connected so much with the experiences of the women interviewed by Wendy that I almost thought it could have been “Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Chinese Husband.” (Sorry, John.) It’s not one memoir, but more like a collection brought together.

Year of Fire Dragons“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.

What memoirs did I miss? What would you recommend?

Interview with Linda Leaming on Her Book “A Field Guide to Happiness”

Married to Bhutan by American Linda Leaming — which tells the story of how she found her bliss and a husband in this oft-forgotten Himalayan country — remains one of my personal favorite AMWF memoirs for a very simple reason: Linda.

She’s delightfully self-effacing (such as when she shares her many awkward “lost in translation” moments while learning Dzongkha, the official language of Bhutan), hilarious (a friend mistakenly calls Bhutan “Butane” and then she tells them the country is located in Africa), and wise too (such as when she points out that “Happiness can’t be willed.”). Linda’s voice ultimately makes the book a pleasure because she’s the one taking you along for the ride — and what a ride it is.

So when Linda told me about her new book A Field Guide to Happiness: What I Learned in Bhutan about Living, Loving, and Waking Up, I was excited to jump into her world once again.

A Field Guide to Happiness revised

True to its subtitle, this book dishes out Linda’s own personal insights on that universal topic of happiness through a collection of stories from her life in Bhutan (including a LOT of stories that feature her Bhutanese husband, Namgay). But she does it without being too preachy or new age, or even expecting you to, say, complete exercises throughout the book.

Honestly, it’s more like sitting around Linda’s table with a cup of tea in your hands, hearing a friend tell you all about her most vulnerable and ridiculous and embarrassing and even scary moments in life. The lessons you learn along the way feel authentic and relatable, and ultimately will make you think about your own happiness in life.

I’m thrilled to introduce you to Linda Leaming and A Field Guide to Happiness through this interview.

Linda Leaming
Linda Leaming

A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Linda Leaming has written pieces for publications including Ladies’ Home Journal, Mandala, Guardian UK and A Woman’s Asia (Travelers’ Tales, 2005). She received her M.F.A. in fiction from the University of Arizona and was even featured in Eric Weiner’s bestselling book The Geography of Bliss. You can learn more about her and her writing (including Married to Bhutan) at her website LindaLeaming.com.

In this interview, I asked Linda a number of questions about A Field Guide to Happiness — including why she chose to explore the idea of happiness through her experiences in Bhutan, how her husband Namgay felt about being featured prominently in the book, and why she choose one of Namgay’s unique paintings for the cover.


(photo courtesy of Linda Leaming)

While you’ve titled your book A Field Guide to Happiness, it also reads as a love letter to Bhutan (a love letter in the sense that you love this place, warts and all, so to speak). Why did you decide to use your experiences as a way to discuss happiness?

I’ve found a lot of happiness in Bhutan. The first time I came in 1994, I knew I had to get back. It was such a peaceful, calm, quirky, funny, remarkable place. The people were laid back but strong. I decided that I had to live here. It was really hard to pull off, but I couldn’t see my life any other way. The Bhutanese have a lot to teach the rest of the world about how to be happier. They live with less, they live with a spirituality and a sense of themselves that’s conducive to happiness. They believe kindness and compassion are the glue that holds a society together. They’re funny.They take care of their environment. All the things I wrote about in the book are things I learned in Bhutan about how to be happier. But you can do them anywhere and be happier. Or you can find your own things that make you happy.

Your husband Namgay – and your marriage, for that matter — is an important part of this book, as he shows up in the vast majority of the stories you tell. How did Namgay feel about that?

It’s mixed. He’s proud of me and maybe flattered that I choose to write about us. He likes my writing and thinks I write good books.I think he’s also a bit wary because it’s not his nature to be an extrovert and show himself. He’s shy. He thinks what I write about is sufficiently interesting and worth the invasion of our privacy– most of the time.

Linda and Namgay (photo courtesy of Linda Leaming)

What part of your book was your favorite part to write and why?

I liked writing about the different relationships — the married couple who divorced but then the wife became close to her ex husband’s new daughter, my own relationship with Namgay, especially the chapter when we encountered the monkeys. Having an intercultural marriage means you have to look at relationships differently, and think differently. End of story. Your relationship won’t survive if you don’t bend. And bend and bend.

I also enjoyed writing the story of the broken washing machine. It’s a good example of being able to bend– or rather to flow.It’s a nice counterpoint to the first chapter and the description of how I felt when I first came to Bhutan: impatient, disgusted, unhappy.

I liked writing the end. Because it was the end haha.

You often mention in the book how you and your husband divide your time between Bhutan and the US. Why did you decide to split your time between the two countries?

We went to the U.S. because we needed to be there for my family. And Namgay needed to spend some time in the U.S. We had always talked about how we’d spend time there so Namgay could see how I grew up and where I came from. He’s had opportunities to teach and paint and do fellowships in the U.S. and it’s easier for me to publish if I’m in the U.S.

(photo courtesy of Linda Leaming)

One of the unique features of this book is your cover. You wrote about this in your book, saying, “The front of this book is a painting by Namgay called The Great Game, which he painted when we were coming back from Bhutan from the U.S. I think with his rocket paintings Namgay is reminding himself to be mindful, to wake up. I know he thinks of himself in a rocket, going somewhere really fast, and with no idea where he’s going. He says that’s what he feels like in the U.S.” Why did you choose to put this on your cover?

I love that painting. It’s looks so happy– it’s bright and colorful, but it also has a deeper meaning: It’s the two sides of our lives, East and West, the dragon and rocket. My publisher, Hay House, liked the idea of using his art for the cover, as they did with my first book, Married to Bhutan, and I sent them some images the they actually picked this one. I was thrilled.

If there’s one piece of advice you hope people come away with after reading this book, what would that be?

Happiness is a habit and it’s another word for contentment, and you can have more of it if you treat it like a habit to be cultivated and understand that it comes from inside you, from doing a lot of little things well.


Thanks so much to Linda Leaming for this interview! To learn more about A Field Guide to Happiness (including upcoming book-related events), visit her website at LindaLeaming.com.

Yangxifu Pride: 8 Memoirs For Western Women Who Love Asian Men

Burmese Lessons by Karen Connelly
Burmese Lessons (photo from Goodreads.com)

Only a handful of Western women wrote about their love affairs with Chinese men (such as those I’ve recommended on this list). But I’ve found new women to call my Jiemei (that’s sisters in Chinese), thanks to the many memoirs I’ve discovered about Western women who found love in Asia (and beyond). In honor of International Women’s Day (March 8), I’d like to salute and recommend these literary sisters.


Burmese Lessons: A true love story by Karen Connelly. When Karen went to Burma in 1996 for research on the conditions of Burmese political prisoners, love wasn’t on her mind — until she met Maung, a sexy young Burmese revolutionary leader. But this isn’t just a love story, as she beautifully captures her entire experience in this country — the struggling artists and writers she meets, the monks who pull her out of dangerous situation one evening and send her home with crackers, the family in the countryside who helps her understand the state of family planning, her interview with Aung San Suu Kyi. Continue reading “Yangxifu Pride: 8 Memoirs For Western Women Who Love Asian Men”