May is my birthday month, so it is obviously the best month of the year. Okay, that’s not really why it’s a great month (and I honestly don’t love it all that much because it means summer is coming and I hate summer). But it is actually a pretty cool month. May is both Mental Health Awareness Month (which is a little ironic, because it tends to be the worst mental health month for me every year) and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

You all know I like to focus on those awareness/appreciation/acceptance months when I choose my reading lists, both as a way of bringing more attention to whatever topic it is, and also just as a way of educating myself and diversifying my own reading. Mental health in particular is something I have been exploring in my reading. I’ve struggled with my mental health for basically my whole life, and find learning and reading has been a great help as I work on myself and heal. But I also think AAPI Heritage month is important as a way to bring more understanding an awareness to those cultures. I know I have thoroughly enjoyed learning more through books, both fiction and nonfiction, and can’t wait to read more this month.

Here are some of the books I plan on reading in May:

What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Bruce D. Perry, MD PhD and Oprah Winfrey

This book has been recommended to me several times, even by people who don’t really know the extent of my mental illnesses or that they stemmed from childhood trauma (I’m much better now even though I still struggle, but my mental health was very bad for a very long time). It’s gotten amazing reviews as well, and has been on my TBR for a while. So I think this is the perfect month to finally pick it up.

I really love how this book is aimed at having a better understanding of our trauma and how it affects our behavior now. I will be the first to admit I react badly a lot of the time and constantly have to apologize for the way I react to certain situations or triggers. I’m working on it, but rewiring your brain as an adult is hard. I also like that this book wants to shift from asking “what’s wrong with you?” to “what happened to you?”, because I grew up thinking something was wrong, and that it was my fault, which had a hugely negative effect on my mental health as a child and into adulthood. I am hoping this will provide me with more insight into how I can better heal from my past as well as how I can improve the way I talk about these issues and support others. I’m very excited to read this one.

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez

I love the whole idea of this book. It’s about a woman who describes a series of encounters with various people in the course of her life. Each person talks about their experiences and what they are going through in their lives – one hospitalized with terminal cancer, another who is struggling with how to interact with other people, etc. The narrator listens to their stories, until one makes a request of her and she becomes part of the story.

I don’t think this is about mental illness per se, but I do think it goes along with the previous book on this list in just being more empathetic and understanding to what other people are going through. Based on just my personal experience, I think having more empathy can go a long way to helping people with mental illnesses, so while I know it’s not quite the same topic, I feel like it is close enough.

Just By Looking at Him by Ryan O’Connell

I don’t request very many ARCs anymore (I don’t like having reading deadlines I don’t set myself, I don’t like writing actual reviews anymore, and I feel bad when I don’t like them – which is so far every other ARC I have read this year). But this one just caught my attention. It is about a gay TV writer with cerebral palsy searching for acceptance in an ableist world. Which just sounds amazing. It’s supposed to be funny and provide insight into both what it is like to be gay and disabled. I am especially interested because the author himself is gay and was born with cerebral palsy, so this is obviously someone writing about experiences they are very familiar with.

I do try to read a lot of LGBTQ+ books, so while I am straight and cisgender, that’s not an experience that feels totally foreign to me, even though it’s not my own. However, I don’t think I’ve read a lot about cerebral palsy (which is very different from my own disability/chronic illness), and I’d definitely like to learn more and this seems like a great way to start. I specifically requested an advanced copy of this one because I’m excited to read it this month and be able to talk about it going into both Pride Month (June) and Disability Pride Month (July) this year. This will be out June 7 if any of you are interested, and I will definitely be discussing my thoughts in this month’s wrap up.

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

This book came out a couple years ago, and I’ve kind of been seeing it around ever since. I honestly didn’t pay too much attention to it because it was very often paired with Crying in H Mart, which I did read and had a hard time with (it’s a great book, just kind of triggering for me – I don’t do well with books about mothers – so it wasn’t the easiest read and I had a hard time connecting to it). But I wish I’d looked past that and explored this book a little bit more, because this one looks amazing.

It’s a memoir in the form of a collection of essays about what Hong calls “minor feelings” – the feelings of shame, suspicion, and melancholy you experience when American optimism contradicts your own reality, particularly when you believe the lies you’re told about your own racial identity. I can definitely identify with those feelings that the glorified “American dream” is not remotely what the majority of us experience, but I am interested to explore that more in the context of how it relates to race (I’m fully aware that racism in America makes this harder for people of color in general, but like reading more from the people who experience that much more often than I do. I think this is the perfect read for AAPI Heritage Month.

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

This one might be a tiny bit ambitious for May, but it’s not crazy long and it is the book I kept coming back to when looking at books by AAPI authors to add to my list. So it’s here. This is a new release that follows a cast of linked characters across hundreds of years as humanity struggles to result itself following a climate plague. Basically, scientists dug into ice in the Arctic and found the remains of a girl who died from an ancient virus. Said ancient virus was released into the world and totally reshapes the world as we know it.

I am slightly hesitant about reading this one because it sounds really heavy, especially after what we’ve all been through the past few years. So while I am adding it to my list, I might not get to it this month if my mental health isn’t in the best place to read about millions of people dying and suffering. But it does sound really interesting and seems like it might have some good commentary, so I do want to read it. Maybe I’ll just need to have a fun book on hand for when I finish this one.

I definitely have a few more books I want to get to in May, but my reading has not been the best lately, so I’ll leave this list here. It might be short, but I’m very happy with it. We have some books that might help my mental health and a couple books that might make me depressed. I’ll definitely check in at the end of the month after I’ve read all of these (hopefully).

What’s on your reading list this month?

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