If you think “the AAPI experience” is a simplistic phrase for said community, you wouldn’t be wrong. It’s hard to say there is a single experience that all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders share, especially considering the rich diversity of cultures, values, and ideas between ethnic groups, let alone individuals. At the same time, there are common joys, sorrows, and journeys for many community members that authors have captured in writing, whether about their own identities or those of characters they have brought to life.
Here are seven book quotes from these authors that people within the AAPI community may relate to and that people without may learn from—keeping in mind that maybe none of them are truly universal, and that’s okay.
“We don’t talk about it. There’s never so much as a knowing look. We sit here in silence, eating our lunch. But I know we are all here for the same reason. We’re all searching for a piece of home, or a piece of ourselves. We look for a taste of it in the food we order and the ingredients we buy. Then we separate. We bring the haul back to our dorm rooms or suburban kitchens, and we re-create a dish that couldn’t be made without that journey, because what we’re looking for isn’t accessible at a Trader Joe’s. H Mart is where you can find your people under one odorous roof, where you can have faith that you’ll find something you can’t find anywhere else.”
“Over the years, I learned to choose from the best opinions. Chinese people had Chinese opinions. American people had American opinions. And in almost every case, the American version was much better. It was only later that I discovered there was a serious flaw with the American version. There were too many choices, so it was easy to get confused and pick the wrong thing.”
“She had noticed the stunned reactions from her friends whenever she randomly hugged her mother or said ‘I love you’ at the end of a phone call. And several years ago, she had been e-mailed a humorous list entitled ‘Twenty Ways You Can Tell You Have Asian Parents.’ Number one on the list: Your parents never, ever call you ‘just to say hello.'”
“While the astronauts, heroes forever, spent mere hours on the moon, I have remained in this new world for nearly thirty years. I know that my achievement is quite ordinary. I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first. Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.”
“I was written into that map as a landmark. Before I’d even known it, I’d been a part of this place, and it was increasingly hard to pretend it wasn’t a part of me. Something of it lived under my skin, indelible as a tattoo. It was the home that might have been, and for the first time, I felt the loss of it.”
“It was that kind of mindfuck: to be too visible and invisible at the same time, in the ways it mattered the most.”
“… because she would not believe that she was no different than her parents, that seeing him as only Korean—good or bad—was the same as seeing him only as a bad Korean. She could not see his humanity, and Noa realized that this was what he wanted most of all: to be seen as human.”
There will be more to come this month on AAPI books, authors, and more. Click here to keep track of our Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month series.