In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage next month, here are four books written by Asian-American authors to have on your reading list:
Sour Heart, Jenny Zhang
Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart is a collection of coming-of-age short stories that gives voice to daughters of Chinese immigrants and their struggles they endured upon moving to New York City. These stories shatter the stereotypical image of successful Chinese-Americans by telling powerful stories of hardship and vulnerability packed with hard truths that are almost painful to read. A PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction winner for in 2018, Penguin Random House recommends Zhang’s eclectic debut novel for avid readers of Zadie Smith and Junot Diaz, and is available for pre-order on Amazon.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford
Jamie Ford tells the heartbreaking story of Henry Lee, a Chinese-American boy, and Keiko Okabe, a Japanese-American girl through a series of flashbacks in Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Set at the time of internment during World War II, Henry and Keiko’s story reads like a wartime version of Romeo and Juliet, where their innocent love transcends Old World tensions between China and Japan, as well as the racist attitudes prevalent in America in the 1940s.
In The Country, Mia Alvar
Mia Alvar tells the tales of disconnect and the yearning to find a place to call home in In The Country, a collection of nine gripping short stories featuring Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) living in the Middle East and in the United States. In her stories, Alvar tackles everything from uprooting lives to drastic cultural changes and the family strains that come with the separation. The universality of these stories make the book a must-read for anyone who has experienced the feeling of leaving home. Born in the Philippines and raised in Bahrain and the United States, Alvar returned to the Philippines visit her ailing grandmother, and kept a journal during her time there, noting experiences that were “alien to [her] after so much time away” (Asian American Writers’ Workshop). Her debut novel won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction in 2016, and is a must-have in everyone’s bookshelves.
Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies navigates the mesh of traditional Indian culture, as well as the New World in a collection of nine short stories. Her stories feature characters who struggle with the immigrant experience and their journey to belonging in a country that views them as “others.” Born in the United Kingdom and raised in Rhode Island, she was inspired by her family’s frequent visits to Calcutta, where she went “neither as a tourist nor as a former resident” and used the feeling of the combination “distance” and “intimacy” to shape her stories.