5 Books Written By Asian American Women That We'd Love To See Made Into A Movie Or TV Show Someday

lara jean and kitty in to all the boys: always and forever
(Image credit: Netflix)

The Asian-American experience, especially for women, is like no other experience in this country. And, as a Black man, I would have no idea of that experience since, well, I’m not Asian. Or a woman. However, with the power of literature, I can get a sense of what that experience might actually be like by reading books by Asian-American women. Now, as a voracious reader, I’ve actually read several books by Asian-American women over the course of a few years without even realizing it, since I always just pick up whatever sounds interesting. And, some of those books would make for great movies or TV shows. So, for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I’d thought I’d highlight a few.  

Now, some books by Asian authors have already been brought to the screen with great success. The lively comedy, Crazy Rich Asians (which was written by Kevin Kwan), was a very popular movie that got good reviews. And Jenny Han’s, To All the Boys series met with great success on Netflix.

Plus, you have original properties right now that are not based on books that also star Asian actors, like Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, which you seriously need to see right now. So, here are some books by Asian-American women that would make for great television shows or movies. And hey, if they never do become movies or TV shows, you could always just, you know, read the book!  

White Ivy book cover

(Image credit: Simon & Schuster)

White Ivy: A Novel - Susie Yang 

Oh, my God. White Ivy. I have recommended this book so many times this year that I might as well work on Susie Yang’s publicity team. The book, which came out in 2020, is about a young Asian girl who steals. Like, all the time. She learned it from her grandmother, who came from China. But, because of her stealing, and failing most of her classes, she gets shipped away to China, and then comes back later when her parents think she’s cooled off. If only they knew.

What follows is…complicated. Ivy grows up and has her ups and downs with her relationships, until she runs into an old flame from her middle school days. I’m just going to stop right there, though, since there are so many twists and turns here, that to say anything more would be giving away too much. But, let’s just say that my mouth literally dropped at one point in the story, and I had to sit down. For real. It’s not a thriller, but reads like one, and it’s also rich in Asian culture, making this a book that I would love to one day see as a movie. Seriously, READ this book. 

Severance by Ling Ma

(Image credit: Picador)

Severance - Ling Ma 

Not to be confused with the original Apple+ TV series Severance (or shows like it), Ling Ma’s debut novel, Severance, which came out in 2018, is a zombie story, but a smart one, kind of like George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead movies.  In it, a pandemic travels around the world from China that makes people mindlessly repeat doing things over and over again until it eventually kills them. So, World War Z (which is very different from the book), it isn’t.

There are people who are immune to the virus, like our protagonist, Candace Chen, and she documents the decline through photographs. But along the way, she kind of wonders what the point of existence is now, and thus begins her search for understanding. That said, it’s not a serious drama, but rather, a satire. In that way, I’d love to see a TV series of Severance that follows Candace and the characters she meets along the way in her quest of self-discovery.  

When You Trap a Tiger

(Image credit: Random House Books for Young Readers)

When You Trap A Tiger - Tae Keller 

Winner of the 2021 Newbery Medal, as well as the Asian Pacific American Literature Award, When You Trap a Tiger is not a book for adults, but it’s one that adults will also enjoy. The story concerns a biracial girl named Lily who one day sees (or thinks she sees) a tiger in the road while on the way to her Korean grandmother’s house. But, what follows is Lily learning a great deal about her family (and her own identity) while living under her super trendy grandmother’s roof. It might not sound like it, but this one is actually a tearjerker. 

This is why I would love to see it as a movie one day. Being a Middle Grade novel, this one deals with ethnicity in a way that many others don’t, in that you get to experience the protagonist’s understanding of her own identity along with the character. All of the characters, especially Lily’s mother, sister, and grandmother, are very vibrant and alive on the page, and it would be amazing to see them on the big (or little) screen one day. 

Spirit Hunters the island of monsters book

(Image credit: HarperCollins)

The Spirit Hunters Series - Ellen Oh  

Written by We Need Diverse Books co-founder, Ellen Oh, Spirit Hunters is actually a series of Middle Grade books that consists of the self-titled first novel, and the sequels The Island of Monsters, and the upcoming third book, Something Wicked, which releases in July. The first book stars a seventh grader named Harper Raine who moves to a new house and must help her younger brother who is now seeing ghosts. Think the frightening horror movie, Insidious, meets Ghostbusters (But for kids!) and you’re not too far off the mark.

And doesn’t that just sound like an awesome premise? Spirit Hunters would make for an amazing TV series that is safe enough for youngsters that I could picture it being on Disney+, though it would fit perfectly well on any of the streaming services. Harper Raine and her friend, Dayo, are great characters, and I could see children really warming up to their spooky adventures together.  

Journey to the Heart

(Image credit: Pocket Star)

Journey To The Heart - Tif Marcelo  

Now, full disclosure, but I actually know the author of the Journey to the Heart series, and her name is Tif Marcelo.  She actually has several books, but I think her Journey to the Heart books, which consists of the novels North to You, East in Paradise, and West Coast Love, are all cozy, heart-warming romance stories that have food as a central conceit. They’re also distinctly Filipino, which we don’t see nearly enough on TV. 

And I do think they would go well in the television format. Each season could be a different story, but could also have connective tissue, like similar actors or locations. I’m really not much into romance as a genre, but the author creates such charming characters, that it’s fun to go along for the ride.  

Those are just five female Asian authors out of many I could have chosen. I would be remiss if I didn’t also bring up authors like Erin Entrada Kelly and her book Hello, Universe (which apparently is getting a Netflix movie), or Sylvia Liu and her delightful MG book, Manatee’s Best Friend, but I thought I would just give you a sampling. For more news on other great Asian-American women, make sure to swing by here often!   

Rich Knight
Content Producer

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.