Broaden Your Bookshelf With These Astonishing Debuts From AAPI Authors

For this week’s Three to Read, we’re introducing some stunning debuts from AAPI authors. Keep reading for our recommendations!

Recommendations Three To Read
Spring 3TR banner with book covers for "The Night Parade" by Jami Nakamura Lin, "888 Love and the Divine Burden of Numbers" by Abraham Chang, and "The Dream Builders" by Oindrila Mukherjee

Trigger Warning: The books in this article contain mentions of death that may be triggering to some readers. Please exercise caution while reading.

The cultures and identities that make up the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) diaspora are rich, ancient, and severely underexplored in literature. Comprised of descendants from countries in Asia and the Pacific Islands, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders have contributed significantly to American history. Reading works from AAPI authors is just one way to learn about and uplift this history while also encouraging more AAPI people to share their experiences. In our ongoing efforts to upraise unsung voices in the literary world, we’re highlighting AAPI authors with moving, impactful debuts.

HOT PICK

The Night Parade: A Speculative Memoir by Jami Nakamura Lin

Book cover for "The Night Parade: A Speculative Memoir" by Jami Nakamura Lin.
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SUMMARY:

Jami Nakamura Lin uses the four acts of a Japanese narrative structure to question the process of recovery people are often fed. In her youth, Jami’s undiagnosed bipolar disorder fractured her life into periods of rage and psychiatric treatments. These episodes would have damaging effects on herself and those around her, especially as her family faced her father’s cancer diagnosis. As she grew older and learned more about her condition, Jami got frustrated with the recurring themes she saw in mental illness and grief narratives. She wanted something different, something that offered the same solace as the stories of her childhood, the stories of ghostly creatures that stalked the night. Using the yokai and other figures from Japanese, Taiwanese, and Okinawan legends and aided by illustrations from her sister Cori Nakamura Lin, Jami brings forth a new narrative that turns toward the things that haunt us instead of turning away.

WHY:

The Night Parade is a memoir that pushes the boundaries of traditional literary narrative. Several organizations like Writers & Poets, The Boston Globe, and The San Francisco Chronicle, named it “A Most Anticipated Book.” An experiment in the memoir genre, Nakamura Lin’s debut is brutally honest and gorgeously written. Through her necessary portrait of mental illness, family, and grief, Nakamura Lin not only adds to the rising numbers of AAPI writers but challenges the inclusivity of classic mental illness and recovery tropes.

COFFEE SHOP

888 Love and the Divine Burden of Numbers by Abraham Chang

Book cover for "888 Love and the Divine Burden of Numbers" by Abraham Chang
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP

SUMMARY:

Chang’s debut is a mesh of Western pop culture and Eastern traditions in a love letter. Our main character, Young Wang, has received a lot of advice from his uncle, but the one that has stuck with him the most is: everyone gets just seven great loves in their life. Young filters everything in his life through Chinese numerology and superstitions, so this seventh love deal seems to fit perfectly with his worldview. Then, in 1995 while attending New York University, Young meets Erena. Erena is brilliant, charming, witty, and funny, and they fall for each other hard. But Erena is only the sixth love in Young’s life. Does that mean Erena isn’t actually Young’s final true love? Or is his uncle wrong? Determining which of these answers is right will force Young to confront his superstitious beliefs and if he can really trust them to tell him everything he needs to know about love.

WHY:

888 Love and the Divine Burden of Numbers showcases life for the people who navigate different cultures. Voted a Goodreads Editor’s Pick, Chang’s debut explores love and identity in an ever-changing world with the help of Western pop culture references and traditional Eastern beliefs. As Young and Erena fall in love against the nostalgic backdrop of the ’90s, there is a search for meaning in the world and in the self that is timeless.

DARK HORSE

The Dream Builders by Oindrila Mukherjee

Book cover for "The Dream Builders" by Oindrila Mukherjee
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SUMMARY:

Delivered through ten different characters’ perspectives, The Dream Builders takes readers to modern India to explore themes of class, gender, and the Americanization of Eastern cities. After years in the United States, the death of Maneka Roy’s mother has her returning home to India. The city that greets Maneka is nothing like what she remembers. The booming city of Hrishipur where her father now resides has no reminders of the part of the country where Maneka grew up. The more she sees of this city, the more she learns that nothing about it, including its inhabitants, is what it seems.

WHY:

Set in the fictional city of Hrishipur, India, The Dream Builders faces the real unpredictability of growing cities and chaotic economics. Mukherjee delivers her story through ten characters, all of whom have their own unique places in India’s class system. Despite their financial differences, all the characters are united by the fact that their dreams and desires are not immune to the turmoil of change. Sprawling and poignant, The Dream Builders dares to look for the similarities among people who couldn’t seem further apart.

Thanks for checking out this week’s Three to Read! We hope you are excited about this week’s picks, and don’t forget to tune back in next week for more recommendations!


Thanks for tuning in to this week’s article; check out last week’s Three To Read on memoirs written by Jewish American authors here.

Find these books and more on our Bookstr Three to Read Bookshop.org bookshelf.

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