Earlier this month, I wrote down all of my reading goals for 2024. Besides the usual goals like “Finish 50 books in a year,” I also included goals that would help me diversify my bookshelf, and one of those goals is to read more books by Filipino women writers in a variety of genres and subgenres.
If you’re also looking to diversify your bookshelf this year, or if you’re interested in discovering more works by Filipino women writers, here’s a list of my current must-reads — from poetry to cozy mystery and historical fiction — to help you get started!
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala
This cozy mystery has everything you need: a hilarious protagonist, a surprise murder, and lots of delicious food. But instead of an idyllic manor house or a charming British village as its setting, you’ll find 25-year-old Lila Macapagal trying to solve a murder that takes place in a Filipino restaurant.
After a horrible breakup, Lila moves back to her quaint hometown of Shady Palms, Illinois, for some peace and quiet. But when her ex-boyfriend suddenly drops dead in her aunt’s restaurant — after having eaten a dish Lila cooked — the Macapagal family needs to work together to prove her innocence.
When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe
For all the historical fiction and magical realism lovers out there, this book’s for you. Holthe’s debut novel follows a Filipino family as they struggle to stay alive during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II.
Finding refuge in the cellar of a house a short distance away from Manila, they pass the time telling magical stories based on Filipino legends and myths. As they wait for Japan to finally surrender to the United States, they slowly build up hope through their stories and become determined to fight for their freedom.
If you need any more reason to check this book out, here’s a fun fact: the stories that the characters share with each other in the cellar are based on stories that Holthe was told by her own Filipino father and grandmother.
Chloe and the Kaishao Boys by Mae Coyiuto
If you’re a fan of rom-coms and young adult novels, look no further! Coyiuto’s newest novel follows Chloe Liang, a Chinese Filipino teenager living in Manila, who dreams of studying at the University of Southern California and becoming an animator.
The main issue in her life? Her father wants her to study somewhere closer to home, so he sets her up on a series of arranged dates in the hopes that she’ll change her mind. Will Chloe end up studying abroad, or will she meet someone who just might convince her to stay? You’ll have to read to find out!
In the Country by Mia Alvar
In the mood for something shorter? This short story collection features nine globe-trotting tales about Filipinos all around the world, from the Philippines and the United States to the Middle East.
Alvar explores the lives of different Filipinos living at home and abroad in stories such as “The Kontrabida,” which centers around a pharmacist-turned-drug smuggler living in New York, and “The Miracle Worker,” which tells the story of a Filipino teacher hired by a wealthy Bahraini woman to teach her disabled daughter.
The Farm by Joanne Ramos
If The Handmaid’s Tale is one of your favorite books, The Farm might just be right up your alley too. Ramos’ bestselling novel is set in Golden Oaks, a fictional facility in the Hudson Valley akin to a luxurious retreat — you’ve got free daily massages, delicious food, access to private fitness trainers, and more. However, anyone who wants access to these amenities has to give up something valuable: their freedom.
The Farm is a dystopian novel told through multiple perspectives and details the experiences that women at Golden Oaks endure to produce babies for their rich clients. During every nine-month stay, these women become “hosts” and cannot leave the facility. But what happens when certain truths about Golden Oaks are slowly revealed and paradise turns into a nightmare?
I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir by Malaka Gharib
In this moving coming-of-age story filled with colorful illustrations, Gharib sheds light on her experiences growing up in the United States as the daughter of a Filipino mother and Egyptian father.
Throughout her childhood, she grapples with fitting in with her fellow American peers and learning about the differences between the cultures and traditions of both sides of her large family. If you’ve ever questioned your identity and culture during your adolescence, this book might just speak to you.
Letters to a Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes
If poetry’s more your thing, or if you’ve made it a goal to read more poetry this year, give this book a try. Reyes’ sixth collection of poems explore themes such as self-love and power through the voice of the Brown Girl, who is fed up with being called foreign and unwanted.
Reyes, who was born in Manila and raised in California, addresses the struggles that many Filipino Americans and immigrant women of color face on an everyday basis in relation to ethnicity, race, nationality, gender, and religion.