Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan – A Brilliant Asian Fantasy That Explores Trauma, Loss & Oppressive Systems [An Analysis?]

Text: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan.

Blurb:

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.

But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

CW’s review:

Girls of Paper and Fire was on everyone’s most anticipated book releases in 2018, and the book is now an effortless favourite among many readers – with good reason. Ngan’s Girls of Paper and Fire is a young-adult fantasy, set in Ikhara, a world inspired by Malaysian culture. It follows Lei, a girl of the lowest caste who is taken from her home to become a Paper Girl: one of eight girls chosen to serve the King. Despite the opulence and privileges afforded to Paper Girls, Lei refuses to accept the injustices enacted by the Demon King and refuses that her future as Paper Girl is her ultimate fate. Thus, she does the unthinkable: she falls in love. This is a provocative, heavy, emotional, and brilliant story about trauma, autonomy, assault, and oppression.

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Year of the Asian Reading Challenge – Book Recommendations for June’s Prompt: Pride!

Text: Book recommendations, queer Asian characters. Image: Varian the toad, wearing a rainbow skirt and holding a rainbow flag over their head, smiling.

Today is the first day of June! And you know what that means: it’s the first day of Pride! 🏳️‍🌈

You visit the Pond, feeling a lot of emotions today. You decide to visit Varian the Toadshifter – they’ll know exactly what you need.

An illustration of Varian the toad, wearing a rainbow skirt and holding a big rainbow flag about their head, smiling. They wear a sash that says, #YARC, with an aromantic and asexual pin.When you find Varian, they are wearing their rainbow skirt (the one that they wore a few months ago when you first met them!) and they’re holding a really big rainbow flag.

“Happy Pride, friend!” they greet, jumping over to you while waving their big rainbow flag. They sense how you are feeling, and they give you a smile in solidarity. “I understand, my friend. Pride can bring out a lot of feelings – some are positive and joyful, some may be feeling like they are not enough, and some may feel like they don’t belong. But the thing is, friend, you and the others who feel like they are not enough or feel like they don’t belong? They are enough. And they do belong.”

Image: Varian pointing to a pin attached to their sash; the pins are of the aromantic and asexual flag.They point to the pins stuck to their sash. “I’m wearing these pins in solidarity of my asexual and aromantic friends out there. Pride month is for all queer friends, and all I want is for my queer friends, especially asexual and aromantic friends, to feel joy and love.”

They settle down by the Pond, and gesture for you to join them by the water. “Today, I want to share with you some books that you can read! Xiaolong is still helping out with the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge, so she asked me to recommend some books with queer Asian characters to you!”

This sounds delightful! And you’re always looking for more books to read. You tuck in, set yourself down next to Varian, and listen to the books they have to recommend.

Hello friends! Welcome to June and our sixth month of the Year of the Asian reading challenge!

In case you haven’t heard, myself and three brilliant book bloggers (Lily, Shealea, and Vicky) are hosting the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge (or YARC!), a year-long reading challenge dedicated to reading Asian literature by Asian authors.

Now that it’s June (I… can’t believe it’s June already?) it’s time for a new prompt to help you find some reads! This month’s prompt is PRIDE, just in time for Pride Month where we celebrate all our queer friends. Therefore, for June, our recommendations are centered around novels with queer and Asian main characters. This month, read a book in which the main character is queer, whether it is stated outright or mentioned more subtly.Read More »

BLOG TOUR: Not Your Backup by C.B. Lee – Expectedly Light-Hearted and Unexpectedly Critical; Featuring The Queer Latinx Heroine We’ve All Been Waiting For

Text: C.B. Lee, Not Your Backup; Sidekick Squad Blog Tour! 27th May - 7th May. Image: A brown teen with short dark brown hair in mid-jump.

“Friend! Today is finally the day!”

Xiaolong looks particularly excited today, and you don’t blame her. Today is the first day of the Sidekick Squad blog tour (you know this, because Xiaolong has been reminding you for days now!) and it is her first time organising such a big and important event!

Xiaolong the axolotl, holding up a copy of NOT YOUR BACKUP by C.B. Lee and smiling“There will be friends visiting the Pond today and I want to look my best.” She stands a little straighter, magicks a copy of Not Your Backup, and gives you her best pose. “Friend, I’m feeling a little nervous. Do you think I can practice my pitch of this book with you?”

You happily agree. She does look a little nervous, but you know that she just needs a little encouragement.

She clears her throat with an ‘ahem!’ and raises the book up to show you. “Friend, you know how much I love the Sidekick Squad series! And oh my, this third book was everything that I wanted! I mean, it has action, there’s friendship, there’s even some exploration about love and attraction and romance and identity! I just loved it.”

You give her an encouraging nod and tell her that she’s doing good so far! Xiaolong seems to relax at your assurances, and gives you a big smile.

“Well, friend, since you have me started, I want to tell you more about this book! So, Not Your Backup is so awesome because…”

Foreword and gratitude

Three years ago, I read a book that changed my life.

That book was Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee. Not Your Sidekick was one of the first books where I saw myself represented; it was the first time I had felt seen. Reading Jess’s struggle with her diaspora identity struck such a deep chord within me, and I’ve been in love with the Sidekick Squad series and its wonderful characters ever since.

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Want to Read More Diverse Books? Here are Six Tips to Diversify Your Reading! 🌈

Text: Six Tips to Diversify Your Reading. Image: Amina the Hedgehog, playing her lute, with rainbow-coloured magic swirling around her with music notes.

You are sitting by the pond, discussing the intersections of written-magic and sewing-magic with Varian the Toadshifter, when you hear, what seems to be, Xiaolong’s approaching footfalls and her yelps of delight.

“Friend! Everybody!” says Xiaolong, emerging from the brush with a massive smile on her face. “Amina’s coming! She’s almost here!”

Oh that’s right, Amina the Hedgehog Bard! Xiaolong had mentioned her when you first met all your pond friends, but you haven’t had the chance to meet her yet. Seeing how excited all your pond friends are at seeing Amina again warms your soul a little bit, you can’t help but feel a little excited too.

Amina the hedgehog, wearing a red and green hat, pushing grass aside, smiling.You feel a ripple in the air, a light wobble at your core, and – look! Over there, Amina, carrying a beautiful lute and a knapsack, is wading through the thicket of bushes. When she looks over and sees all her friends, she smiles.

“Oh, how I missed you all so much,” are her first words, her voice gentle and soothing.

“Amina!” they all yell, running over to her. Xiaolong tackles her in a big hug, and Varian looks absolutely delighted. Even shy Gen is grinning from eye to eye and is nuzzling Amina’s cheek. Cuddle approaches shyly – it’s the first time Cuddle has met Amina too! They all seem so happy to be together.

Over Varian’s shoulder, Amina spots you and smiles knowingly. “Who’s this, my darlings? Is this our newest friend?”

“Oh yes!” exclaims Xiaolong, pulling Amina over to you. After Xiaolong introduces the both of you, she turns to Amina, her gills bouncing. “Amina, what stories do you have to tell today? Did you learn new kinds of magic? Did you meet new magical beings from other places of magic?”

“Yes, Xiaolong! I had the most wonderful adventure and I’ll tell you all about them, but first!” She sits down on the floor, opens her knapsack, and pulls out what appears to be a well-loved and worn journal. “I have to share this piece of wisdom for you. Sit down friends, let me tell you about…”

Hello friends, and welcome back to The Quiet Pond! I hope you all are reading some lovely books and are enjoying your current reads. ✨

Today’s post will be on how to read more diversely. This is, interestingly, quite a common question that I receive on Twitter, and the question always excites me! Reading diverse books is something I am incredibly passionate about and I’m always happy to help people diversify their reading. So for those of you who are thinking of reading more diverse books but aren’t quite sure how to, or even for those of you are reading diverse books at the moment but want tips on how to find more books — this post is for you. 💛

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Meet Stella, Your Newest (and Most Buzzy!) Pond Friend [Introducing Our Second Co-Blogger!]

Text: Meet your newest friend, say hello the pond's second co-blogger! image: a silhouette with a winged insect.

You’re sitting by the Pond, eating fish-flavoured biscuits with Cuddle, Gen, and Varian, when Xiaolong comes barreling through the Pond.

Xiaolong the pink axolotl, poi

“Friends, come quick!” says Xiaolong, beckoning for you all to follow. “She’s here! She’s made it!”

Who’s here, Xiaolong?” you ask, as you get up to follow her. The others look excited; Cuddle runs ahead of Xiaolong and everyone else, Varian stands a little taller and brushes the dirt off their feet, and Gen looks a little shy but eager.

“Our newest friend! Our newest member of the Pond family!”

Friends, I am so happy you are here! It is with excitement and joy that I finally get to introduce to you all my second co-blogger! In March, you all met Cuddle and Joce. Today, you all get to meet the Pond’s newest friend – and you are all going to love her. 💛

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