In case you were not already aware – in which case you skipped my most recent post, and shame on you (kidding) – May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. And while I personally like to read a wide variety of diverse books all the time, I think this gives us a great reason to focus on AAPI authors. I was going to do a recommendations post, but I feel like I’ve already talked about most of the books that I’d include (namely, Know My Name by Chanel Miller and How Much of These Hills is Gold by C. Pam Zhang, in case you need some suggestions). So today, I thought I’d put together some of the books by AAPI authors at the top of my reading list.
This was a really fun post to put together. I found some new books to include and was reminded of a few that have been sitting on my bookshelves for way too long. I ended up with a list of fifteen books by AAPI authors that I really want to read, and I am very excited to try and at least cross a couple of these off my list this month.
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park
This one is actually on my reading list for this month, so I’m obviously hoping to get to it very soon. It just seems like the perfect read for AAPI Heritage Month since it’s actually a memoir about the author’s experience with “minor feelings”, which are what happens when American optimism – “the American Dream” – contradicts your own reality. It seems like a really great commentary on race in America, and you all know I like to educate myself by reading nonfiction about race. I have been looking to branch out and read more of it by authors from a variety of experiences, so this one is perfect. Hopefully I’m able to get to it asap and share my thoughts at the end of this month.
World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
I really haven’t read any in a while, but I also love reading weird science/nature books. Just ask anyone who was near me when I wouldn’t shut up about zombifying cockroach wasps. I also love reading about animals and learning cool facts about them (I’ve read books about octopuses, earthworms, microorganisms, and dinosaurs), so this is an obvious choice for me. It’s actually been on my TBR for a while now, and I’m not quite sure why I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Maybe I should make this a priority for this year.
Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen
I feel like this book was talked about a lot when it came out a year ago, but I was kind of iffy on whether or not I wanted to read it. Family dramas are not really something I gravitate towards or really enjoy all that much. However, I have been wanting to read more immigrant stories, and this one keeps popping up. It’s about a mother who immigrates from to New Orleans with her two young sons, only to realize when they get there that she will never see the husband she left behind in Vietnam. This one definitely seems like it’ll make me cry, so it might be a good one to pick up when I just need a good cry. Or when I have some more fun books on my list to balance it out.
The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
I have no idea how long this poor book has been sitting on my shelves, but it’s been years. It’s a collection of all of Ken Liu’s award-winning (or nominated) short stories, and it has incredible reviews. I also have the first book (maybe even the first two books) of his fantasy trilogy, the Dandelion Dynasty, but this seems a bit more manageable. I honestly think I just keep forgetting about it, but I definitely need to fix that because this one sounds great. I think this might be a maybe for my TBR this month if I somehow manage to get to everything else I need to read (there is a lot).
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
This is another book I’ve been back and forth on whether I want to read, but since I am still thinking about it and it sounds fun, it’s landing in the yes pile. This one is a retelling of The Great Gatsby, but with Jordan Baker as the protagonist. She’s also queer and Asian, which just sounds amazing. I kind of didn’t want to pick up any Gatsby retellings when they were all coming out a couple years ago after the original became public domain. But I think this one is different enough that it just sounds like a great read and not a copy.
We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry
I really don’t read a lot of contemporary YA nowadays, so it takes a lot for me to add one to my TBR, but this one made it. I keep hearing great things about this one, and it sounds so, so fun. Set in the 80s, inspired by the Salem Witch Trials (which just makes this history nerd so happy), and is about a girls’ field hockey team. Sports aren’t really my thing, but I think witches might be enough to hold my interest.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Yet another book I keep forgetting that I own, and thus never get around to reading. It’s a graphic novel about a young boy trying to find a middle ground between being an American kid and the Chinese culture he’s grown up with. It’s been a long while since I’ve read a graphic novel, so this does sound fun. But what really bumped this up on my list is that I found out there is an adaptation coming out with Michelle Yeoh, who I LOVE. Obviously, I will be watching that and I have to read the book first, so at least I have a little extra motivation to read this one soon.
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
We all know George Takei as Sulu from Star Trek (or you do if you watched the original or had a parent who was obsessed with the original show). But did you know that he and his family lived in a Japanese internment camp during WWII? I have seen some of the remnants of the camps in California (highly recommend visiting the Japanese American National Museum if you’re ever in LA), and it’s a really sad and dark part of our history that we need to talk about more. This graphic memoir is about George Takei’s experience in the camps, and it just sounds so interesting. And while I’m sure it’s going to be a difficult read, it’s a valuable part of history that I do want to learn more about.
The Karma of Brown Folk by Vijay Prashad
In The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois asks “how does it feel to be a problem?” In this book, Vijay Prashad asks “how does it feel to be a solution?” He looks into what it means to be South Asian in America, which he argues is a model minority – successful and pliant – that is used as a weapon against Black America simply by being more tolerant of oppression. That’s really not something I had ever seen argued or thought about, so I’m interested to read this argument to see if it changes how I see things, and if there is anything we can do better.
The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki
I’m definitely planning to read this one soon (it fits the Buzzword Reading Challenge prompt for July, so I’m hoping to read it then) because it sounds so good. It’s the kind of book that’s right up my alley. It’s about a boy who, after the death of his father, starts hearing inanimate objects talk to him. This kind of reminds me of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran For, which I absolutely loved back in high school (and maybe should reread soon). Plus, I have read and liked Ruth Ozeki before, so I am really looking forward to this one.
Trick Mirror: Reflections of Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino
I feel like I see this around all the time, and while it always catches my eye, I never looked too much into it until recently. This one is a collection of essays that examine out own self-delusion. It’s kind of a commentary on incentives in today’ society and how our culture revolves so heavily around the self, and the effects that has on us. Which I find fascinating. I feel like I’ve never quite bought into that aspect of our society, but maybe I participate more than I think I do. Or maybe this book will help me find other ways to choose to not participate, because I find that part of our culture pretty harmful. Either way, should be an interesting read (whenever I get around to it.
We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen
The last book I finished (as of my writing this) was Hench by Natalie Zina Walshots, and I loved it so much I have definitely been wanting to explore more superhero books and this one definitely caught my attention. It’s about Jamie, who wakes up one day with no memory, but the ability to read and erase others’ memories (which he uses to rob banks so he can buy coffee, cat food, and books) and Zoe, who uses her skills of speed and strength to deliver fast food. This just sounds like a really fun read, and I’m excited to check it out.
The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang
This one seems particularly fitting since in addition to AAPI Heritage Month, May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. While it is mainly about schizophrenia and the author’s experience with that particular illness, it does also discuss mental and chronic illness in a broad sense. As someone who has plenty of experience with both mental and chronic illnesses, I find learning more to be helpful. I also want to gain a better understanding of what other people experience – schizophrenia is not something I’ve personally experienced, and also, everyone experiences mental illness differently. I’m going to not like myself later, but I think I might try and squeeze this in before the end of the month. I’m only slightly regretting this post, because while I’ve discovered (or been reminded of) a lot of great books while doing this, I’ve also added way too many of them to my already-too-long reading list for May.
Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap
I literally discovered this book yesterday while doing some research for this post (just making sure I didn’t miss anything good) and immediately added it to my own reading list. It’s a collection of horror and fantasy short stories that draws in Filipino folklore and immigrant experiences. This sounds spooky and amazing, and even though I literally just found out about it, I already have a copy in my cart ready to be ordered (also, the cover is gorgeous, so that might be part of why I was immediately enticed to buy it).
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu
Finally, we have the other book that is on my reading list this month. It’s a new release – which I am trying (and kind of failing) to read more of this year. It’s being compared to Cloud Atlas (which I thought was fine) and Station Eleven (which I loved), and seems really interesting. It follows a group of linked characters over hundreds of years following a climate plague. Cli-fi (climate fiction) is kind of a new-ish genre that I’ve explored very little, so I’m curious about this one. Bonus points for it being only three-hundred pages, so it (probably) won’t hurt my brain this month.
This is obviously not all of the books by AAPI authors on my list, but these are some of the ones I am very excited to read, and think I might really enjoy. Have you read any of these books? Are you planning on doing any reading for AAPI Heritage month this year?
If you want recommendations for books by AAPI authors that I have already read and loved, check out my AAPI authors recommendations list from last year – I still stand by all of those recs, and looking back on that one is giving me even more motivation to finally read Minor Feelings.
And check out my bookshop, where you can buy books and also shop my curated collections of my personal favorites AND all of the books I’ve read for my reading experiments. Or you can just buy whatever books you want to. I get a small commission at no extra cost to you, and you get to support your choice of indie bookstores – it’s a win all around!