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15 Books by Asian American and Pacific Islander Authors to Read this AAPI Heritage Month

Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! If you didn’t know already: AAPI Month is a time to spotlight Asian and Pacific Islander culture and contributions to the U.S.  Since stories are one of the most impactful and long-lasting forms of entertainment, what better way is there to celebrate than to read books by AAPI authors? Read on for a list of narratives rooted in and inspired by living as an Asian person in America. Finally, be sure to check out my two previous book recommendation articles (here and here) for some other must-read books by AAPI authors - happy reading!

 

  1. The Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan (literature)

Prominent Chinese-American novelist Amy Tan’s debut novel explores the lives and generational struggles of a close-knit group of Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-born daughters.

  1. I’ll Be the One - Lyla Lee (young adult)

After a lifetime of being told she’s too fat to sing and dance, Korean-American teenager Skye Shin enters an internationally televised K-pop competition show with thousands of other performers to break the arbitrary rules that society has set for plus-sized girls like her.

  1. When Dimple Met Rishi - Sandhya Menon (young adult)

Stanford-bound Dimple Shah is ecstatic to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers at SFSU, but her excitement soon turns to horror as she realizes her parents only sent her to set her up with Rishi Patel, their pick for her Ideal Indian Husband.

  1. The Best We Could Do - Thi Bui (graphic memoir)

In this poignant graphic memoir, Bui, a new mother, looks back on her family’s experiences fleeing Vietnam after the fall of Saigon and doing the best they could for a better life in America. 

  1. Like a Love Story - Abdi Nazeiman (young adult)

Reza, a closeted Iranian immigrant who views his sexuality as a death sentence from AIDS, is in love with Art, the only out and proud gay boy at their conservative private school. Unfortunately for him, he is dating Art’s best friend Judy, an aspiring fashion designer who is thrilled to be in her first relationship. Set against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis in New York City, Like a Love Story explores friendship, love, and what it meant to be queer in the late ‘80s and ‘90s.

  1. Luck of the Titanic - Stacey Lee (historical fiction)

Inspired by newly discovered accounts of six Chinese survivors of the Titanic disaster, Luck of the Titanic follows seventeen-year-old British-Chinese Valora Luck as she sneaks aboard the ship to try to convince her estranged twin brother Jamie to join her in becoming an acrobat in New York. However, Val’s plans are hindered not only by their time apart, but also the strictly stratified environment onboard and the tragedy that awaits them.

  1. From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry - Paula Yoo (nonfiction)

In 1982, Chinese-American Vincent Chin was murdered by two white auto workers who believed him to be Japanese and blamed the rise of the Japanese auto industry for the loss of their jobs. In her book, Paula Yoo recounts the factors that influenced the killing and the murderers’ outrageously lenient punishment, and analyzes their role as a catalyst for the Asian-American civil rights movement.

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini (literature)

In Soviet- and later Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, Mariam is the poor illegitimate daughter of businessman Jalil Khan and his housekeeper, while Laila is born a generation later into a loving family and community that dotes on her and encourages her education. Their lives intersect after Laila’s parents are killed in a missile attack and she is taken in as the second wife of Mariam’s abusive husband.

  1. The Kiss Quotient - Helen Hoang (romance)

Stella Lane is a successful corporate econometrician with intimacy issues from living with Asperger’s, while Michael Phan is a tailor moonlighting as an escort to help pay his mother’s medical bills. Tired of her parents’ nagging to settle down and start a family, Stella hires Michael to help her navigate the world of dating and sex.

  1. First They Killed My Father - Loung Ung (memoir)

After her well-to-do family is torn apart and forced to flee Phnom Penh during the Khmer Rouge genocide of the late 1970s, five-year-old Loung Ung is forced to become a child soldier while her siblings are sent to labor camps.

  1. The Leavers - Lisa Ko (literature)

The Leavers is told from the point of view of Deming Guo, who is adopted by two white professors and renamed Daniel Wilkinson after the disappearance of his undocumented mother Peilan, and later of Peilan herself, who immigrated to New York alone from China in search of a better life. 

Alison Sun (she/her/hers) is a second-year Computer Science major (for now) at UCSC who tries her best to be a bright and sunny presence to those around her every day. When she's not toiling over Python, you can find her bullet journaling, rereading her favorite romance novels, or dancing to Twice's "Fancy" at her desk. If you're reading this, she would like to remind you to go drink some water.
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