Asian American Short Stories: Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Thai, Vietnamese in English

These short stories were written by Asian authors, and are divided by ethnicity. There’s a separate section at the bottom for stories that weren’t written by Asian authors but have Asian characters or an Asian influence.

Asian Short Stories

Chinese Short Stories

“Rules of the Game” by Amy Tan

Lindo is a mother and a Chinese immigrant. Her daughter, Waverly, is American born. Their mother/daughter relationship is explored as the daughter learns to play chess and progresses from her first tournament at age eight and continues as she becomes a stronger player. (Summary and Analysis)

This is the second story in the preview of Growing Up Ethnic in America: Contemporary Fiction About Learning to Be American.

“Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon” by Ken Liu

Yuan tells her younger sister, Se, a bedtime story. Se wants to hear about the Qixi Festival because it’s tonight. In the story a young woman and young man fall in love, get married and have two sons. The woman neglects her duties as a weaver of sunset clouds. The Emperor of Heaven separates the couple as a punishment. When the story ends, Yuan leaves the apartment to go meet Jing. It’s her last night in China.

Most of this story can be read in the preview of Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories. (50% in)

“Immortality” by Yiyun Li

In communist China, a baby boy is born to a widow whose husband was killed for making negative remarks about the dictator. The boy grows to look like the dictator. He receives a government appointment, and, in his late twenties, auditions for the role of the dictator’s impersonator.

“The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu

The narrator, Jack, remembers when he was a young boy. His mother folded origami animals for him. She was able to breathe life into them. His mother was a mail-order bride from China. As Jack grows up, he draws away from his mother, preferring American toys and food. He won’t answer her if she speaks Chinese. He’s embarrassed by his mom.

“The Richest Man” by Ha Jin

Li Wan, a doctor, is the richest man in town. He is a miser and widely disliked. During China’s Cultural Revolution he is accused of destroying a likeness of Chairman Mao. His fortunes change.

“In the American Society” by Gish Jen

Callie Chang’s parents are Chinese immigrants who started a successful pancake restaurant. Her family is adapting to American business standards and society.

“The Jade Peony” by Wayson Choy

The narrator, a Chinese-Canadian, remembers when his Grandmama died at 83. The family is waiting for some kind of sign, according to their tradition, that her life had ended well. He relates some experiences with her during her later years, including how they would go hunting in the neighborhood for glass fragments and old jewelry.

“New Year for Fong Wing” by Monfoon Leong

Fong and Lee, restaurant workers, get paid. Lee wants to gamble, but Fong is worried about what his wife will think. Fong’s sons were killed in wars, and now he has no male heir. Feeling depressed, he agrees to go gamble with Lee.

“Two Kinds” by Amy Tan

The mother of a young Chinese American girl believes that people in America can be anything they want. This mother has high hopes for her daughter. One night while watching the Ed Sullivan Show, she figures out what her daughter should do.

Read here

“On Discovery” by Maxine Hong Kingston

A Chinese explorer, Tang Ao, discovers The Land of Women. He is captured and forced to undergo a grooming process so he can meet the Queen.

Read “On Discovery”

“Mrs. Spring Fragrance” by Sui Sin Far (Edith Maude Eaton)

Mrs. Spring Fragrance is a Chinese woman who’s lived in Seattle for 5 years. She has adapted quickly to the English language and American customs. Next door lives a young woman named Laura, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Laura’s parents want to follow tradition and have her marry a man she’s never met, but Laura is in love with an American man. Mrs. Spring Fragrance wants to help.

Read “Mrs. Spring Fragrance”

“Goodnight, Melancholy” by Xia Jia

The narrator remembers when her creation, Lindy, first came to her home. Lindy is modeled on a child. She’s introduced to another robot, Nocko, modeled on a baby seal. The story proceeds with some of the narrator’s interactions with Lindy, and a look at the Turing test.

Read “Goodnight, Melancholy”

Filipino Short Stories

“Forbidden Fruit” by Roshani Chokshi

The Mountain, Dayang, likes to lean over and stare at the mortals, who are beautiful for their fragility and evanescence. Her father from the clouds warns her not to lose her heart. One day she goes in human form to a small pool and encounters a young man, Bulan. The villagers wonder at his long absence.

This story can be read in the preview of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings(17% in) This anthology has stories based on the mythology of East and South Asia.

“Immigration Blues” by Bienvenido N. Santos

In San Francisco, two Filipino women go to the home of Alipio Palma, a Filipino widower. One of the women, Mrs. Zafra, is the wife of an old friend of Alipio. While having lunch together, she tells the story of how she was able to stay in America by marrying her husband, an American citizen.

“Dark Fiesta” by Oscar Peñaranda

Amador comes home after skipping school and hanging out with Totoy, a boy who doesn’t go to school. His mother doesn’t want him hanging around Totoy or going to the old bridge. Amador pretends he went to school, but then finds out his father went to meet him, so he’ll know he wasn’t there. There’s a festival coming up soon.

“Yoneko’s Earthquake” by Hisaye Yamamoto

Marpo, a twenty-seven year old Filipino man, works as a hired man for the Hosoumes, who are Japanese. He’s an excellent worker and multi-talented besides. He tells the Hosoume girl, Yoneko, about Christianity, which she was already interested in, as her cousins from the city go to a Baptist church for Japanese people. One early spring evening while Mr. Hosoume is out on an errand, there’s a tremendous roar and the house starts shaking. The family and Marpo huddle together outside. Mr. Hosoume returns later in the evening, escorted by two strangers, as he was in a car accident.

Japanese Short Stories

“Seventeen Syllables” by Hisaye Yamamoto

Rosie’s mother, Tome Hayashi, has been writing haikus and submitting them to a daily newspaper that publishes some once a week. Until the dinner dishes were done, Tome did the housework and helped with the tomato harvest, along with the hired Mexican family, the Carrascos. Afterward, she would write at the table, sometimes until midnight. When there’s company, Tome talks poetry with the interested party and her husband talks to the other. Rosie has become friends with the Carrasco boy, Jesus, who goes to the same school as her. Both mother and daughter have significant experiences.

“The Elephant Vanishes” by Haruki Murakami

An elephant, the ward of a Japanese town, disappears along with its caregiver. The narrator follows the story of the elephant closely, clipping all the news articles and thinking about what happened.

“Aftermath” by Mary Yukari Waters

Japan is becoming Americanized following its defeat in WW II. Makiko, a widow, worries that her son will forget his heritage and his father.

“Tears of Autumn” by Yoshiko Uchida

Hana Omiya is on a ship going from Japan to the United States. She is seasick and nervous; she has some regret about the trip. She’s going to America to marry a man she has never met.

“Train to Harbin” by Asako Serizawa

The narrator tells of a time forty years prior in 1939 when Japan and China were at war. He was a doctor, recruited by his country for some patriotic service. His group’s goal was to preserve lives. He hasn’t fully come to terms with his past. The fact that it was wartime doesn’t settle things in his mind.

Other Stories with Asian Characters or Influence

These stories weren’t written by Asian authors but have Asian characters, settings or influence.

“The Chinese Statue” by Jeffrey Archer

The narrator is at an auction at Sotheby’s. The next item is a magnificent little Chinese statue. Curious about it, the narrator researched its history. He relates how it came to be up for auction. It all started over a hundred years ago. Sir Alexader Heathcote, ambassador to China, was shown the little masterpiece by a craftsman outside Peking.

Read “The Chinese Statue” (first story in preview)

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler

Narrated by Vietnamese-Americans living in Louisiana, the connected stories in this volume focus on the culture clash experienced by Vietnamese immigrants after the war.

“A Ride Out of Phrao” by Dina Nayeri

Shirin, an Iranian, runs into financial difficulties while living in America. She joins the Peace Corps and moves to a village in Thailand where she teaches English to children. Her grown daughter, Leila, lives in New York and quickly adapted to American life. Shirin had difficulty with this. They had a falling out.

“The Paper House” by Norman Mailer

Nicholson and Hayes are Army cooks, stationed in Japan after the war. Hayes is divorced and bitter about it. They often visit the geisha house where they each have a regular woman.

“Currents” by Hannah Bottomy

Gary drinks at night, and his mother tucks his daughters into bed, telling them they’ll swim tomorrow and shouldn’t be afraid of the water. A Filipino boy drowned earlier that day, and the narrative moves back in time to fill in the day’s events.

“The Old Demon” by Pearl S. Buck

Mrs. Wang lives in a remote Chinese village. They have heard the talk of a war with the Japanese, but they haven’t seen it firsthand. Mrs. Wang is more concerned with the river; it is higher than it’s ever been at this time of year.

“The Old Demon”

“The Good Deed” by Pearl S. Buck

Mr. Pan has moved his mother from China to his home in New York. She is homesick and isolated by the language barrier. The family arranges for Lili, a young Chinese woman, to visit Mrs. Pan. When she finds out that Lili is unmarried with no prospects, she takes it on herself to arrange a match despite the family’s insistence that things aren’t done like that in America.

Read here

“The Enemy” by Pearl S. Buck

Dr. Sadao Hoki, who’s a surgeon, and his wife, Hana, live on the coast of Japan. Japan and America are at war. On a foggy night, the Hoki’s are out on the verandah. Through the mist, they see someone stagger out of the sea. Thinking he might be a lost fisherman, they run to him. To their surprise, and consternation, he’s a wounded white man—an escaped American prisoner of war. They don’t know what to do with him.

Read “The Enemy”

“The Golden Kite, the Silver Wind” by Ray Bradbury

A city, probably in ancient China, is surrounded by a wall shaped like an orange. The leader gets a message that the adjacent city, Kwan-Si, is going to build a wall shaped like a pig. Since a pig could eat an orange, the inhabitants are worried that their city will suffer and Kwan-Si will prosper. At the suggestion of his daughter, the leader consults with the city’s stonemasons and builders to come up with a plan.

Read “The Golden Kite, the Silver Wind”

“The Flying Machine” by Ray Bradbury

In ancient China, Emperor Yuan is relaxing when a servant excitedly gives him the news that a man was seen flying with wings. The Emperor enjoys simple things, and this amazing development makes him think about his people’s safety and way of life.

Read “The Flying Machine”