May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! In this past month, we’ve seen countless stories from authors, both new and old, sharing their unique experiences through their writing. With more representation happening in the media and the publishing world, it is crucial to continue to listen to marginalized groups and how they want to be represented.
Many people fall under Asian American and Pacific Islander, and it may seem challenging to find yourself represented. We’ve selected twenty books by AAPI writers of various backgrounds to amplify their voices. We have also included quick blurbs to pique your interest. We hope you can add a few to your TBR list!
20. Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi
Jayne Baek and her sister couldn’t be any more different. One is wealthy and thriving, while the other is just trying to keep it together. When devastating circumstances result in the girls living together, the true colors of sisterhood present themselves.
19. We Are Not Free by Traci Chee
Fourteen young Nisei, second-generation Japanese-American citizens, come together as over 100,000 people of Japanese descent are forced into concentration camps. Their collective stories show that though they may not be free, they are stronger together.
18. The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
Part memoir, part fiction piece, Kingston tells the stories of her life as a first-generation Chinese-American and her family’s stories through Chinese folktales and myths. This novel has inspired many other Asian American writers for her vulnerability and craftsmanship.
17. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
Amid Leigh Chen Sanders’ grief surrounding her mother’s suicide, she travels to Taiwan to meet her grandparents. While searching for her mother, who has transformed into a bird, she finds more ghosts and family secrets than she bargained for.
16. Almost American: A Mongolian Girl’s American Story by Billie Tuvshinbayar
In her memoir, Tuvshinbayar speaks out about her experience of immigrating from Mongolia to America at nineteen years old. She proves through her accounts that immigrants are not the problem in America but rather the solution.
15. America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo
This debut novel introduces readers to three generations of Filipino-Americans as they try to navigate the “American Dream” while still being tied to their past. The stories speak of love, family, and the definition of home.
14. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
Bui’s self-illustrated memoir depicts the journey her family endured after escaping the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s. She beautifully details her experience of motherhood in a new country and the struggles and triumphs that come along with it.
13. Rumor: Poems by Pimone Triplett
In one of her most famous poetry collections, Triplett’s Rumor features poems with people who are whispered, rumored, and exploited due to both Eastern and Western influences. The collection discusses matters such as the victims of the Thai sex trade and the power of rumors.
12. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
In this novel-turned-film, Nick Young takes his born and raised Asian-American girlfriend, Rachel Chu, back to his home in Singapore for his cousin’s wedding. Rachel is met with excessive extravagance, Singapore It Girls, and an overprotective mother.
11. Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So
So’s collection of short stories gives readers a broad view of Cambodian-Americans who are young, queer and trying to survive. The various perspectives provide insight into what it is like to live and grow up in immigrant communities.
10. Demonstra: A Poetry Collection by Bryan Thao Worra
Worra, the first Laotian-American to hold a Fellowship in Literature from the National Endowment for the Arts, weaves extraordinary and sometimes frightening poems using the monsters and spirits in Laotion mythology. It is a poetry collection twenty years in the making and reveals what lurks in the shadows.
9. Translating Myself and Others by Jhumpa Lahiri
In Lahiri’s latest essay collection, she breaks down her experience as both a writer and translator in two languages. Her writings cover the differences between writing and translating and the struggles of translating her own works.
8. The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood
Masood’s debut novel follows the stories of two families in Pakistan and Iraq who have very different experiences and reasons for immigrating to America. The two humorously navigate their families, their Islamic identities, and romance.
7. Tiare in Bloom by Célestine Hitiura Vaite
In the final installment of the Materena Mahi series, Materena begins facing marital issues when her husband, Pito, is annoyed with her independence from him. But when his infant grandaughter is left on their porch, Pito is determined to prove himself to his family and himself.
6. Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu
Born into Sri Lankan-American households, Lucky and her arranged husband are both gay. When she reunites with her first love, who is in the same predicament as her, Lucky examines her sexuality, family expectations, and identity to explore her life fully.
5. Where We Once Belonged by Sia Figiel
At thirteen years old, Alofa tries to navigate womanhood in her small Samoan village. Figiel uses the Samoan tradition of suʻifefiloi to weave her words and this story together poetically.
4. Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
In this thrilling and intriguing novel, two families are forced to stay together during a blackout sweeping the rural town. With their families’ lives on the line, the parents must learn to trust each other amid this crisis.
3. The Bone People by Keri Hulme
Kerewin is an asexual and aromantic artist who is exiled from her family and lives alone in a tower along the sea. When her isolation is interrupted by a boy named Simon, Kerewin learns of friendship and her identity.
2. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Being the first Afghan novel to be written in English, Kite Runner centers around the relationship between a father and son in 1970s Afghanistan. It is a story of love and family while covering the country’s history.
1. Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden
In her debut memoir, Madden shares the solace she found in fatherless girls while facing assault and being objectified. She speaks of growing up alone, her sexuality, and the privilege of her family name.
Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month! Let us know what other AAPI books deserve the spotlight!
Click here to find 9 Must-Read Memoirs by AAPI Authors.