Reads for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2022

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which celebrates the inspirational lives and considerable contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.  Join in the celebration by reading a few of the many writings by and about Asian and Pacific Americans and their heritage and cultures.

The list includes recently published novels, short story collections, memoirs and nonfiction works that touch on the themes of Asian American identity, immigration and what it means to belong, as well as stories that explore familial bonds and romantic love.  All are available to borrow with your Livingston Library card.

Be The Refuge : Raising The Voices Of Asian American Buddhists by Chenxing Han

Drawing from dozens of interviews with Asian American Buddhists, Han explores the complexities of Buddhist identity and practice, highlighting people who grew up in Buddhist families as well as those raised in other religious backgrounds before coming to Buddhism as converts. Han and her subjects rebuke the racism of white Buddhist communities and the erasure of Asian Americans from positions of prominence in Buddhist magazines and conferences.

Beautiful Country : A Memoir by Qian Julie Wang

In this haunting memoir, Wang reflects on her childhood experiences as an undocumented immigrant. Her family traveled to the United States to escape communist rule in China when she was seven years old. They settled in Manhattan’s Chinatown, where they experienced disillusionment and poverty as they worked exploitative jobs while fearing the ever-present threat of deportation. Wang tells her family’s story from her then-perspective as a child who was attempting to understand her new life. 

Brown Girls : A Novel by Daphne Palasi Andreades

Set in Queens, New York, this debut novel from a first-generation Filipino American presents a string of vignettes depicting the coming of age of first-generation immigrant Millennial girls. Told in seven parts that correspond to various life stages of girls and women from age nine until death, it’s an immersive exercise steeped in 1990s references and awash in the characters’ yearnings and preoccupations. The girls talk about their clashes with ethnic traditions and family expectations, their unbridled ambitions and desires, and their belief that despite living in an alleged realm of opportunities, they see themselves as outsiders. 

The Cartographers : A Novel by Peng Shepherd

A highly imaginative thriller about a young woman who discovers that a strange map in her deceased father’s belongings holds an incredible, deadly secret–one that will lead her on an extraordinary adventure and to the truth about her family’s dark history.

Chinatown Pretty : Fashion And wisdom from Chinatown’s most stylish seniors by Andria Lo

This book features the portraits and stories of fashionable seniors across Chinatowns in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, and Vancouver, in a celebration of aging gracefully and Asian-American culture.

Dating Dr Dil : A Novel by Nisha Sharma

An anti-love cardiologist must reassess matters of the heart when he is attracted to a sharp-tongued lawyer seeking true love.   A loose adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, the inaugural installment of Sharma’s If Shakespeare Was an Auntie trilogy is replete with endearing references to Indian, specifically Punjabi, culture. 

Days of Distraction : A Novel by Alexandra Chang

Chang’s incisive debut follows a 25-year-old Chinese-American woman as she balances an interracial relationship, her career as a technology reporter, and a drive toward self-discovery. The narrator’s meditations on themes like racism, capitalism, the role of technology in our lives, and complicated family relationships are simultaneously uniquely insightful and accessible to anyone who has grappled with these issues themselves.

Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou

A struggling PhD student makes a shocking discovery about a famous Chinese American poet that sets into motion a series of escalating events, both humorous and fraught, that culminates in an incendiary reckoning of her relationships, beliefs, and identity.

Go back To Where You Came From : And Other Helpful Recommendations On How To Become American by  Wajahat Ali

A Pakistani American journalist, playwright, and activist uses his personal history as a tool to analyze how America’s relationship with Muslims, immigrants, and people of color has developed since the 1980s.  

Incense And Sensibility : A Novel by Sonali Dev

Dev continues her charming Jane Austen-inspired Rajes series, and adeptly weaves a deeply soulful, second-chance romance within a larger story that includes LGBTQIA+ relationships, multicultural adoption, class differences, mental health, family loyalty, and the value of hard work and unconditional love.

Joan Is Okay : A Novel by Weike Wang

 Wang’s provocative sophomore novel centers on an accomplished Chinese American Harvard graduate with uneasy social, professional, and familial connections. Here Wang dissects the titular Joan’s singularity, interrupted by seeming demands from her hospital co-workers, her overfriendly new neighbor, and, most urgently, her immediate family comprised of wealthy older brother Fang, their late father, and surviving mother. 

Kaikeyi : A Novel by Vaishnavi Patel

In the traditional epic the Ramayana, Kaikeyi is immortalized for using her two boons to banish golden, beloved Rama and ensure that the crown would go first to her own son. Despite Rama’s later forgiveness of her actions, Kaikeyi has gone down in history as a jealous and power-hungry woman; this novel reimagines that narrative. Here, Kaikeyi uses her talent with a chariot and a magical gift of manipulation and intuition to gain power and improve the lot of women within Kosala, all despite being forsaken by the gods. 

Lesser Known Monsters Of The 21st Century : Stories

Poet and novelist Fu delivers a stellar story collection that grounds tales of magical realism in her characters’ emotional realities. s unafraid of the sandman and suffers from insomnia, is eager to consume. An earnest coworker gives Kelly tips to help her sleep, but the sandman becomes her salvation.

The Loneliest Americans by Jay Caspian Kang

A riveting blend of family history and original reportage that explores-and reimagines-Asian American identity in a Black and white world.  This is the unforgettable story of Kang and his family as they move from a housing project in Cambridge to an idyllic college town in the South and eventually to the West Coast. 

Love Marriage : A Novel by Monica Ali

This latest from Bangladeshi-born, UK-raised Ali, features 26-year-old medical student Yasmin Ghorami, who’s engaged to posh Joe Sangster. To Yasmin’s relief, Joe’s elegant mother quickly embraces her own not-as-polished mom, but family complications—and Joe’s less-than-devoted ways—quickly threaten the romance.

O Beautiful : A Novel by Jung Yun

An unflinching portrayal of a woman trying to come to terms with the ghosts of her past and the tortured realities of a deeply divided America. Elinor Hanson, a forty-something former model, is struggling to reinvent herself as a freelance writer when she receives an unexpected assignment. Her mentor from grad school offers her a chance to write for a prestigious magazine about the Bakken oil boom in North Dakota. Elinor grew up near the Bakken, raised by an overbearing father and a distant Korean mother who met and married when he was stationed overseas. After decades away from home, Elinor returns to a landscape she hardly recognizes, overrun by tens of thousands of newcomers.

Our Stories : An Introduction To South Asian America 

With stories spanning from the 1780s to the present day and bringing together the voices of sixty-four authors, this volume demonstrates the diversity, vibrancy, and power of the South Asian American community.

Peach Blossom Spring by Melissa Fu

Settling in America years after his turbulent childhood in China, Renshu, now Henry Dao, refuses to talk to his daughter about her heritage, determined to keep her safe in this new land despite being weighed down by his history.

Portrait Of A Thief : A Novel by Grace D. Li

Ocean’s Eleven meets The Farewell in this book, a lush, lyrical heist novel inspired by the true story of Chinese art vanishing from Western museums, about diaspora, the colonization of art, and the complexity of the Chinese American identity.

Rise : A Pop History Of Asian America From The Nineties To Now by Jeff Yang

Documents the history and major shifts in pop culture from the 1980s to the present as experienced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). Guided by engaging essays, honest dialogue, and graphics, readers will absorb and understand the struggles and successes of AAPIs in the U.S., particularly in the entertainment industry.

Sari, Not Sari : A Novel by Sonya Singh

This delightful debut rom-com follows the adventures of a woman trying to connect with her South Asian roots and introduces readers to a memorable cast of characters in a veritable feast of food, family traditions, and fun.

Seasons Of Purgatory by Shahriar Mandanipour

In this collection translated from the Persian,, the fantastical and the visceral merge in tales filled with opposites: the boredom and brutality of war; modern urban life and rural traditions; tender desire and sudden violence. Mandanipour delivers fierce social critique in stories steeped in the beauty of an ancient land and culture.

Seeking Fortune Elsewhere : Stories by Sindya Bhanoo

These intimate stories of South Indian immigrants and the families they left behind center women’s lives and ask how women both claim and surrender power.

Thank You, Mr Nixon : Stories From The Transformation by Gish Jen

This short story collection offers a fresh take on the experience of immigration and exile. Political and economic relations between China and the United States are major news, but Jen takes it to the micro level in her vibrant short stories about characters who are varying degrees of Chinese and American—and for whom the question of what it means to be Chinese and/or American touches every corner of their lives.

The Way Spring Arrives And Other Stories edited by Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang

This anthology brings together a range of fantasy and science fiction by women and nonbinary writers from China.

Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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