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.
The Butterfly Mosque: A Young Woman’s Journey to Love and Islam by G. Willow Wilson. You might think I’m stretching to mention Willow’s book, which in part captures her love affair and eventual marriage to an Egyptian Sufi Muslim (definitely not Asian). But she had to overcome cultural hurdles and even stereotypes about Arab men (misogynists, sound familiar?) that reminded me of my own journey towards love in China. Much of the story also revolves around her conversion to and relationship with Islam, as well as her unique feminist perspective on living in the Middle East. Still, the book exudes a wisdom far beyond Willow’s youth and is definitely worth a read.
At Home in Japan: A Foreign Woman’s Journey of Discovery by Rebecca Otowa. What comes after “Happily Ever After?” That’s the heart of Rebecca’s book, which 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. She shares everything from her daily life and family to how the experience has helped her forge a new identity.
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, but also captures so much of life in Vietnam that the book also reads like her personal Valentine to the country.
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.
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. This is a quick read, super-affordable at $2.99 (it’s an e-book), and one any yangxifu or yangxifu-hopeful will enjoy.
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. Even better, the Kindle version only costs $1.79, which makes it one of the most affordable reads on this list (the best $1.79 I ever spent on a book).
Sideways on a Scooter: Life and Love in India by Miranda Kennedy. Miranda learned that proper women in India ride their scooters sideways — a realization that echoes the heart of her book, 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. Her writing also drop-kicks you straight into the hustle and bustle of Indian life and makes for an enjoyable ride.
What memoirs did I miss? What would you recommend?
23 Replies to “Yangxifu Pride: 8 Memoirs For Western Women Who Love Asian Men”
Great list! I’ve read a few of these and am excited to check out the others! I picked up Dana Sachs’ book because I wanted to read about her experience in Vietnam in the 90s. So what a great surprise to find out that it was also about her relationship with her Vietnamese boyfriend. The end was so touching, it still gives me shivers. She was certainly brave to go back.
Thank you for this great list! I love reading and am always looking for new books to add to my list of must reads, especially when they are written by Western women who found love in Asia. Happy International Women’s Day to you and all the lovely ladies out there!
Jocelyn, Thanks so much for the shoutout about “Marriage in Translation” and for this wonderful list!
For Indian-white relationships read Gori girl and white indian housewife. Daine Farr’s kids are cute.
I must confess that I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned, Jocelyn. The closest to a yangxifu book that I have read was “Foreign Babes In Bejing”. And Foreign Babes is not a yangxifu book anyway. But I did enjoy 洋妞在北京 Foreign Babes though. May now look into some of the books you mentioned.
Thank you for the suggestions. I appreciate it. 🙂
I’m more of a fiction reader than non-fiction but I do admit that the titles do look intriguing 🙂 Happy late March 8th to everyone!
@Susan, thanks for the comment! I should say I have you to thank for adding Dana’s memoir to this list, because the moment I read your review of it for Asian Jewish Life, I knew I had to pick it up. I agree, she was so brave to return.
@Nathalie, thanks and glad you found the list helpful. Happy belated International Women’s Day!
@Wendy Tokunaga, it’s my pleasure, I’ve been meaning to give you a shoutout for a while because I really did love your book and found it to be so relatable. I also should add that I’d really like to pick up some of your novels too, such as Love in Translation (for those of you who don’t know, it’s a story about a white woman who eventually finds love in Japan).
@David, yes, Gori Girl is a great website, though sadly it hasn’t been updated since November 2010 (the blog part at least). But there is Diary of a White Indian Woman, and actually I know she is also working on a memoir, which I’m looking forward to reading when it comes out.
@ordinary malaysian, thanks for the comment. Yeah, I know what you mean about Foreign Babes, I enjoyed it too even though it wasn’t quite a yangxifu book.
@Eileen, my pleasure!
@Sveta, thanks for the comment! You know, one of these days I’ll try to come up with some fiction lists of good books as well. I do read a lot of fiction also — it’s very inspiring to me as a writer, since memoir draws on a lot of fiction techniques.
Something similar to the Gori Girl happened to White Girl in a Chinese American World..then they reappeared with wedding photos in December and now the couple have totally dropped out of sight.
great read up list !! will look into it
Thanks for the suggestion. I love to read memoir and biography, plus real life blog. I am currently reading “Will love 4 crumbs”, not AMWW story but a well written memoir.
I may have a bias in term of choosing books. I mean if one goes to a foreign country for a long time, it has a large chance fall for locals. But here in US, one has many choices, how one makes ones choice really shows characters.
Just purchased one of the book in the list following the suggestion, guess which one it was 🙂
@David, yes, indeed, it did happen with the White Girl. I sort of wish she would continue to share her adventures, but I am glad now they have their happily ever after.
@kevin lee, thanks for the comment!
@cvaguy, hmmmm, I’m going to have to guess “Kissing Outside the Lines,” am I right?
Thanks, Jocelyn, for the recommendations! When my Chinese husband and I got engaged a friend shared the following read, which was incredible. It may be hard to find, but is highly worth it. “Grace: An American Woman in China, 1934-1974”.
Jocelyn – your guess is correct.
I read not for entertainment but for learning, researching and understanding. Anything that is not real or remotely related has less appealing to me.
Sometimes, I wonder if I am too practical and lack of imagination, or too down to earth and boring…
Just finished the book, really enjoy reading it and I learned a lot.
The book is about a journey from they first meeting to their wedding, interweaving with the stories of five other couples that have different cultures, religions and races, as the results of author’s quest to understand her own situation. The book is humorous and out pouring with emotions. I am sure anyone that reads the book will love it and definitely learn something from it.
The way she organized her wedding clearly shows that she is very smart and capable person and full of content. I just love smart people’s memor and learn how they handle different situations.
Thank you for recommend this book to us.
I, for one, am more interested in the physical side of the equation. Whenever the “Asian men” topic comes up, there is always a deafening cry of “they have wee wee’s.” Sadly, very few Western women, white women in particular, have something to say about Asian men from their own physical experience.
I’m trying to set a new trend by talking about the physical attraction between Western women and Asian men. I just self published a true-story based fiction “Double Sauté.” Wish me luck. The book is here http://amzn.to/16Wtxwr
@ Tamara Hart
I have a blog where I review a lot of Asian male/white female fiction 😀 Let me know if I can review your book.
This is my new reading list (whilst awaiting yours!) x
Aw, thanks Lauren! 😉
A couple of titles to add to this list would be Sharell Cook’s memoir (Henna for the Broken-Hearted) and also Jamie Zeppa’s (Beyond the Sky and the Earth). Both of those are worth a read.