As Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month come to a close, don’t let that end your appreciation and learning for the incredible people from the community. Reading is always the best way to learn and support a community because you enter a world where their perspective is centered. So here are 6 AAPI authors that you need to discover right now.
1. Anthony Veasna So
The first author you should absolutely know is the late Anthony Veasna So. So was a Cambodian American author that focused on the greater Cambodian American diaspora. When reading So’s work, you see how he’s able to transition between humor and tragedy, the monotonous and the marvelous. He’s a writer that is able to communicate his wit, depth, and concerns flawlessly. His collection of short stories, Afterparties exemplifies his writing style and shows his ability to balance polarizing ideas, emotions, and visions. The stories in Afterparties are an homage to his Cambodian American community; the stories convey the complexity of life after tragedy and savors in the experiences and well-learned lessons of being Cambodian refugees and immigrants.
2. Viet Thanh Nguyen
If you haven’t read Viet Thanh Nguyen yet, you must fix that right now! Nguyen is a Vietnamese American novelist and professor. The author of multiple books, both nonfiction and fiction, Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Sympathizer, is a literal breakthrough in modern literature. The Sympathizer is a black comedy thriller set in April 1975 (at the dawn of the fall of Saigon), following a nameless spy as they infiltrate the South Vietnamese army and then their escape to the United States. Nguyen’s writing is intelligent, funny, and educational, demonstrating the need to understand the socio-political context of politics, society, race, and history.
3. T Kira Madden
T Kira Madden is a Chinese and Kānaka Maoli writer, photographer, and amateur magician living in Charleston, South Carolina. Madden’s memoir, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Daughters, is an exceptional dive into queer identity, race, and grief. She tells us about her childhood in Boca Raton, Florida, and growing up into her identity as a queer and biracial woman. In her writing, Madden attacks the way the structures of society, economics, and politics end up acting as obstacles and oppositional forces to one’s growth. Her memoir specifically speaks about how the beauty standards and rape culture of Boca Raton were hidden underneath the glamour and excess of the status quo.
4. Ken Liu
Ken Liu is a Chinese American writer of speculative fiction based in Boston, Massachusetts. Liu is the author of The Dandelion Dynasty series and two collections of short stories: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories and The Hidden Girl and Other Stories. His writings subvert social standards and structures, uprooting our own perspectives of the world. Liu’s sense of imagination is incredible and unlike anything that I’ve ever read before. He seamlessly melds his knowledge of science and technology into his writing and the results are stellar and groundbreaking.
5. Hanya Yanagihara
Hanya Yanagihara is an American writer and novelist. She is the author The People in the Trees, A Little Life, and To Paradise. Her novel, A Little Life is critically acclaimed and follows the lives of four friends from their college years to their fifties; Yanagihara tackles difficult subjects and allows them to unravel effortlessly. Her writings specifically speak from a fearless and devastatingly beautiful place. Yanagihara is introspective of the worlds she lives in; her ability to translate heartbreaking experiences into her novels takes expertise and brilliance that Yanagihara owns in spades.
6. Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri is a South Asian American author and essayist. Her published works include Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth, and The Lowland. Lahiri’s works tackles the issues of immigration and the Indian diaspora. She is most concerned with how identity, culture, and society are affected within a postcolonial world, specifically the Indian experience. Lahiri’s writing examines how her characters navigate the immigrant experience; she puts into perspective how the reckoning that immigrant families and households have to face–the ideas of what changes, what stays, and what leaves–ultimately leaves immigrant families balancing specific cultural identity with a new one and it’s not always positive.
For more similar articles, take a look at this article that features AAPI Poets.