May is Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a time dedicated to celebrating the individuals of Asian and/or Pacific Islander descent and their cultural and historical contributions to the United States. We have collected a list of memoirs, novels, and nonfiction collections by Asian/Pacific Islander authors to showcase the varied and rich cultures within the Asian and Pacific Islander identity.
Memoirs by Asian and Pacific Islander Authors
The moving story of an undocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in the world — an incandescent debut from an astonishing new talent
In Chinese, the word for America, Mei Guo, translates directly to “beautiful country.” Yet when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City in 1994 full of curiosity, she is overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. In China, Qian’s parents were professors; in America, her family is “illegal” and it will require all the determination and small joys they can muster to survive.
In Chinatown, Qian’s parents labor in sweatshops. Instead of laughing at her jokes, they fight constantly, taking out the stress of their new life on one another. Shunned by her classmates and teachers for her limited English, Qian takes refuge in the library and masters the language through books, coming to think of The Berenstain Bears as her first American friends. And where there is delight to be found, Qian relishes it: her first bite of gloriously greasy pizza, weekly “shopping days,” when Qian finds small treasures in the trash lining Brooklyn’s streets, and a magical Christmas visit to Rockefeller Center — confirmation that the New York City she saw in movies does exist after all.
But then Qian’s headstrong Ma Ma collapses, revealing an illness that she has kept secret for months for fear of the cost and scrutiny of a doctor’s visit. As Ba Ba retreats further inward, Qian has little to hold onto beyond his constant refrain: Whatever happens, say that you were born here, that you’ve always lived here.
Inhabiting her childhood perspective with exquisite lyric clarity and unforgettable charm and strength, Qian Julie Wang has penned an essential American story about a family fracturing under the weight of invisibility, and a girl coming of age in the shadows, who never stops seeking the light.
An unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.
In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.
As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band–and meeting the man who would become her husband–her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.
Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner’s voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, and complete with family photos, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.
A riotous collection of “witty and captivating” (Bitch Magazine) essays by a gay Filipino immigrant in America learning that everything is about sex—and sex is about power
When Matt Ortile moved from Manila to Las Vegas, the locals couldn’t pronounce his name. Harassed as a kid for his brown skin, accent, and femininity, he believed he could belong in America by marrying a white man and shedding his Filipino identity. This was the first myth he told himself. The Groom Will Keep His Name explores the various tales Ortile spun about what it means to be a Vassar Girl, an American Boy, and a Filipino immigrant in New York looking to build a home.
As we meet and mate, we tell stories about ourselves, revealing not just who we are, but who we want to be. Ortile recounts the relationships and whateverships that pushed him to confront his notions of sex, power, and the model minority myth. Whether swiping on Grindr, analyzing DMs, or cruising steam rooms, Ortile brings us on his journey toward radical self-love with intelligence, wit, and his heart on his sleeve.
Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose the truth of racialized consciousness in America. Binding these essays together is Hong’s theory of “minor feelings.”
As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these “minor feelings” occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality—when you believe the lies you’re told about your own racial identity.
Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. This book traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and artmaking, and to family and female friendship in a search to both uncover and speak the truth.
In this deeply intimate second poetry collection, Ocean Vuong searches for life among the aftershocks of his mother’s death, embodying the paradox of sitting within grief while being determined to survive beyond it. Shifting through memory, and in concert with the themes of his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong contends with personal loss, the meaning of family, and the cost of being the product of an American war in America. At once vivid, brave, and propulsive, Vuong’s poems circle fragmented lives to find both restoration as well as the epicenter of the break.
The author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds, winner of the 2016 Whiting Award, the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize, and a 2019 MacArthur fellow, Vuong writes directly to our humanity without losing sight of the current moment. These poems represent a more innovative and daring experimentation with language and form, illuminating how the themes we perennially live in and question are truly inexhaustible. Bold and prescient, and a testament to tenderness in the face of violence, Time Is a Mother is a return and a forging forth all at once.
Fiction by Asian and Pacific Islander Authors
From the acclaimed and award-winning author of The Hunger and The Deep comes a new psychological and supernatural twist on the horrors of the Japanese American internment camps in World War II.
1944: As World War II rages on, the threat has come to the home front. In a remote corner of Idaho, Meiko Briggs and her daughter, Aiko, are desperate to return home. Following Meiko’s husband’s enlistment as an air force pilot in the Pacific months prior, Meiko and Aiko were taken from their home in Seattle and sent to one of the internment camps in the Midwest. It didn’t matter that Aiko was American-born: They were Japanese, and therefore considered a threat by the American government.
Mother and daughter attempt to hold on to elements of their old life in the camp when a mysterious disease begins to spread among those interned. What starts as a minor cold quickly becomes spontaneous fits of violence and aggression, even death. And when a disconcerting team of doctors arrive, nearly more threatening than the illness itself, Meiko and her daughter team up with a newspaper reporter and widowed missionary to investigate, and it becomes clear to them that something more sinister is afoot, a demon from the stories of Meiko’s childhood, hell-bent on infiltrating their already strange world.
Inspired by the Japanese yokai and the jorogumo spider demon, The Fervor explores a supernatural threat beyond what anyone saw coming; the danger of demonization, a mysterious contagion, and the search to stop its spread before it’s too late.
In this riveting and immersive novel, bestselling author Thrity Umrigar tells the story of two couples and the sometimes dangerous and heartbreaking challenges of love across a cultural divide.
Indian American journalist Smita has returned to India to cover a story, but reluctantly: long ago she and her family left the country with no intention of ever coming back. As she follows the case of Meena—a Hindu woman attacked by members of her own village and her own family for marrying a Muslim man—Smita comes face to face with a society where tradition carries more weight than one’s own heart, and a story that threatens to unearth the painful secrets of Smita’s own past. While Meena’s fate hangs in the balance, Smita tries in every way she can to right the scales. She also finds herself increasingly drawn to Mohan, an Indian man she meets while on assignment. But the dual love stories of Honor are as different as the cultures of Meena and Smita themselves: Smita realizes she has the freedom to enter into a casual affair, knowing she can decide later how much it means to her.
In this tender and evocative novel about love, hope, familial devotion, betrayal, and sacrifice, Thrity Umrigar shows us two courageous women trying to navigate how to be true to their homelands and themselves at the same time.
In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends.
Nainoa’s family, struggling amidst the collapse of the sugarcane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favor from ancient Hawaiian gods – a belief that appears validated after he exhibits puzzling new abilities. But as time passes, this supposed divine favor begins to drive the family apart: Nainoa, working now as a paramedic on the streets of Portland, struggles to fathom the full measure of his expanding abilities; further north in Washington, his older brother Dean hurtles into the world of elite college athletics, obsessed with wealth and fame; while in California, risk-obsessed younger sister Kaui navigates an unforgiving academic workload in an attempt to forge her independence from the family’s legacy.
When supernatural events revisit the Flores family in Hawaii – with tragic consequences – they are all forced to reckon with the bonds of family, the meaning of heritage, and the cost of survival.
From award-winning author Nghi Vo comes a dazzling new novel where immortality is just a casting call away.
It was magic. In every world, it was a kind of magic.
“No maids, no funny talking, no fainting flowers.” Luli Wei is beautiful, talented, and desperate to be a star. Coming of age in pre-Code Hollywood, she knows how dangerous the movie business is and how limited the roles are for a Chinese American girl from Hungarian Hill—but she doesn’t care. She’d rather play a monster than a maid.
But in Luli’s world, the worst monsters in Hollywood are not the ones on screen. The studios want to own everything from her face to her name to the women she loves, and they run on a system of bargains made in blood and ancient magic, powered by the endless sacrifice of unlucky starlets like her. For those who do survive to earn their fame, success comes with a steep price. Luli is willing to do whatever it takes—even if that means becoming the monster herself.
Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.
The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories: A Collection of Chinese Science Fiction and Fantasy in Translation from a Visionary Team of Female and Nonbinary Creators
From an award-winning team of authors, editors, and translators comes a groundbreaking short story collection that explores the expanse of Chinese science fiction and fantasy.
In The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories, you can dine at a restaurant at the end of the universe, cultivate to immortality in the high mountains, watch roses perform Shakespeare, or arrive at the island of the gods on the backs of giant fish to ensure that the world can bloom.
Written, edited, and translated by a female and nonbinary team, these stories have never before been published in English and represent both the richly complicated past and the vivid future of Chinese science fiction and fantasy.
Time travel to a winter’s day on the West Lake, explore the very boundaries of death itself, and meet old gods and new heroes in this stunning new collection.
Nonfiction by Asian and Pacific Islander Authors
The definitive history of Asian Americans by one of the nation’s preeminent scholars on the subject.
In the past fifty years, Asian Americans have helped change the face of America and are now the fastest growing group in the United States. But as award-winning historian Erika Lee reminds us, Asian Americans also have deep roots in the country. The Making of Asian America tells the little-known history of Asian Americans and their role in American life, from the arrival of the first Asians in the Americas to the present-day.
An epic history of global journeys and new beginnings, this book shows how generations of Asian immigrants and their American-born descendants have made and remade Asian American life in the United States: sailors who came on the first trans-Pacific ships in the 1500s; indentured “coolies” who worked alongside African slaves in the Caribbean; and Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, and South Asian immigrants who were recruited to work in the United States only to face massive racial discrimination, Asian exclusion laws, and for Japanese Americans, incarceration during World War II. Over the past fifty years, a new Asian America has emerged out of community activism and the arrival of new immigrants and refugees. No longer a “despised minority,” Asian Americans are now held up as America’s “model minorities” in ways that reveal the complicated role that race still plays in the United States.
Published to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the United States’ Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 that has remade our “nation of immigrants,” this is a new and definitive history of Asian Americans. But more than that, it is a new way of understanding America itself, its complicated histories of race and immigration, and its place in the world today.
“Dr. Jenny T. Wang has been an incredible resource for Asian mental health. I believe that her knowledge, presence, and activism for mental health in the Asian American/Immigrant community have been invaluable and groundbreaking. I am so very grateful that she exists.”—Steven Yeun, actor, The Walking Dead and Minari
Asian Americans are experiencing a racial reckoning regarding their identity, inspiring them to radically reconsider the cultural frameworks that enabled their assimilation into American culture. As Asian Americans investigate the personal and societal effects of longstanding cultural narratives suggesting they take up as little space as possible, their mental health becomes critically important. Yet despite the fact that over 18 million people of Asian descent live in the United States today — they are the racial group least likely to seek out mental health services.
Permission to Come Home takes Asian Americans on an empowering journey toward reclaiming their mental health. Weaving her personal narrative as a Taiwanese American together with her insights as a clinician and evidence-based tools, Dr. Jenny T. Wang explores a range of life areas that call for attention, offering readers the permission to question, feel, rage, say no, take up space, choose, play, fail, and grieve. Above all, she offers permission to return closer to home, a place of acceptance, belonging, healing, and freedom. For Asian Americans and Diaspora, this book is a necessary road map for the journey to wholeness.
Cultural critic Jeff Yang, blogger Phil Yu of Angry Asian Man, and Wong Fu Productions’ Philip Wang team up (with iconic guests!) for a graphic romp through the ups and downs of how, over the past three decades, Asian Americans went from quiet and invisible to incredibly relevant and irresistibly cool
The first generation of U.S.-born Asian Americans raised after 1965’s Hart-Cellar Act passed would have found it difficult to imagine that sushi and boba would one day be beloved by all, that a Korean boy band named BTS would be the biggest musical act in the world, that one of the biggest movies of 2018 would be Crazy Rich Asians, or that a Facebook group for Asian American identity memes would be 2 million members strong. And that’s not mentioning the execs working behind the scenes at major companies; the activists and representatives fighting for equity; and the singers, rappers, dance crews, and social media pioneers making their mark on pop culture. And still: Asian America is just getting started.
In this intimate, eye-opening, and frequently hilarious guided tour through the pop-cultural touchstones and sociopolitical shifts of the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and beyond, Jeff Yang, Phil Yu, and Phil Wang chronicle how we’ve arrived at today’s unprecedented diversity of Asian American cultural representation through engaging, interactive graphics (like a step-by-step walk-through of a typical night out in Koreatown…for those who probably won’t remember it the day after), charts (how much has yellowface fluctuated decade over decade?), graphic essays from major AAPI artists, exclusive roundtables with Asian American cultural icons, and more, framed by extended insider narratives of each decade by the three co-authors. Rise is an informative, lively, and inclusive celebration of community, and will remain a cultural touchstone for years to come.
Three voices. Three acts of defiance. One mass injustice.
The story of camp as you’ve never seen it before. Japanese Americans complied when evicted from their homes in World War II — but many refused to submit to imprisonment in American concentration camps without a fight.
In this groundbreaking graphic novel, meet:
— JIM AKUTSU, the inspiration for John Okada’s No-No Boy, who refuses to be drafted from the camp at Minidoka when classified as a non-citizen, an enemy alien;
— HIROSHI KASHIWAGI, who resists government pressure to sign a loyalty oath at Tule Lake, but yields to family pressure to renounce his U.S. citizenship; and
— MITSUYE ENDO, a reluctant recruit to a lawsuit contesting her imprisonment, who refuses a chance to leave the camp at Topaz so that her case could reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
Based upon painstaking research, We Hereby Refuse presents an original vision of America’s past with disturbing links to the American present.
Many of us can recall the targeting of South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh people in the wake of 9/11. We may be less aware, however, of the ongoing racism directed against these groups in the past decade and a half.
In We Too Sing America, nationally renowned activist Deepa Iyer catalogs recent racial flashpoints, from the 2012 massacre at the Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, to the violent opposition to the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and to the Park 51 Community Center in Lower Manhattan.
Iyer asks whether hate crimes should be considered domestic terrorism and explores the role of the state in perpetuating racism through detentions, national registration programs, police profiling, and constant surveillance. She looks at topics including Islamophobia in the Bible Belt; the “Bermuda Triangle” of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim hysteria; and the energy of new reform movements, including those of “undocumented and unafraid” youth and Black Lives Matter.
In a book that reframes the discussion of race in America, a brilliant young activist provides ideas from the front lines of post-9/11 America.