We love the books we read because we find in them something that echoes our own experiences and lives—the situations in these books become something #relatable and we’re always looking out for those books. As Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month come to a close, take their stories with you. The unique experiences from the AAPI community have a lot to teach us and communicate to us, and in the end, there is a sense of belonging and community building when we share certain aspects that are similar to one another. So without further ado, here are five of the most relatable AAPI books that you have to read.
1. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner is the memoir of the year and you have to get your hands on it. In this memoir, Zauner talks about her grappling with Korean American identity, her relationship with her mother, the expectations placed upon children of immigrant parents, and grief. For Zauner, it begins with her childhood of being one of the only few Asians in school in Eugene, Oregon, and as she grows into adulthood, she reevaluates what being Korean means to her through food, language, and familial history. Through her exploration, she also comes to terms with her grief, feeling even more connected to her deceased mother.
2. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is a story about the pressures of being the first of anything and how it can work to weigh you down. The story begins in the aftermath of tragedy in a small town in 1970s Ohio—the eldest daughter, Lydia, of a Chinese American family is found dead in the local lake in what seems to be a suicide. The Lee family has to come to terms with the death of Lydia and through their grief, they understand the pressures that were placed upon Lydia were a culmination of their own dreams and fears. In the end, the pressures of belonging, family identity, and loneliness contribute to the unraveling of Lydia and her family.
3. Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So
Afterparties by the late Anthony Veasna So is a collection of short stories about the shared experiences, nuances, and lives of the Cambodian American community. In these short stories, So takes the ordinary and transforms them into the marvelous that we grapple to read and understand. The short stories explore Cambodian American identity, the aftermath of tragedy and genocide, and the convoluted oddness that comes with being spectacularly simple. So’s sense of perception and humor sets up various scenes of life that are familiar to the immigrant experience and establishes what it means to thrive in the imperfections that comes with life.
4. Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir by T Kira Madden
Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden is a memoir about her childhood and growing up in Boca Raton, Florida. Her memoir is raw and remarkable, sharing her experiences of confronting her desire as a queer and biracial teenager amdist the toxic community of Boca Raton. As Madden grows, she reevaluates her childhood of privliedge and glamour amongst her parents’ struggles with drug and alcohol addictions. Through her journey, Madden learns about forgiveness, acceptance, and community from a place that shapes her reality anew.
5. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri follows the Ganguli family, immigrants from Calcutta to the United States. In the novel, Lahiri explores Indian identity within the context of immigration and culture using Gogol Ganguli, the firstborn, and his journey. She tackles the meaning of cultural assimilation and its faults while concetrating on the children of Indian immigrants and their struggles to grapple with Indian American identity.
For similar articles, take a look at this article about AAPI-owned bookstores here.