May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which is a great time to learn about new authors and add more books to your TBR list. Monthly celebrations like this are important for amplifying marginalized voices, but it’s also necessary to speak out against anti-Asian discrimination and violence at all times. Reading helps us expand our horizons, build empathy, and learn about what others are facing. With greater awareness, we can all be better allies.
This list of books in different genres will give you plenty of reading material long into the future. Keep reading to learn more about the authors and find links to their books in the library catalog.
If you like essays, check out:
Cathy Park Hong
Cathy Park Hong has published three volumes of poetry and most recently released Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, a book of essays that was awarded the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography. Her writing addresses her own experiences of racism, along with broader issues surrounding identity and social change.
When I say ‘minor feelings,’ that includes all the feelings of shame, suspicion, and melancholy that you feel when the dominant culture gaslights your lived experiences.-Cathy Park Hong, interviewed by The Believer, May 27th, 2020
Books by Cathy Park Hong at the Library:
- Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning
- Engine Empire
- Dance Dance Revolution: Poems
- Translating Mo’um
Jia Tolentino is currently a staff writer at the New Yorker, where she has published essays on topics ranging from music to women’s empowerment. Her first book, Trick Mirror, was an instant bestseller and nominated for the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize for Best First Book in 2019.
Books by Jia Tolentino at the library:
If you like memoirs, check out:
Jose Antonio Vargas
Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker and Tony-nominated theatrical producer who moved from the Philippines to the U.S. at age 12. His non-profit organization, Define American, advocates for the human rights of immigrants in the news, entertainment, and digital media. He published his first memoir, Dear America: Notes of An Undocumented Citizen, in 2018 and will have a new book launching in 2023 titled, White Is Not a Country.
“After twenty-five years of living illegally in a county that does not consider me one of its own, this book is the closest thing I have to freedom.” – Jose Antonio Vargas
Books by Jose Antonio Vargas at the library:
T Kira Madden
When T Kira Madden published her debut memoir, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, in 2019, it was named one of the best books of the year. It was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize and the LAMBDA Literary Award for lesbian memoir.
Madden teaches in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College, as well as leading writing workshops for homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals. She is the founding Editor-in-chief of the literary and art journal No Tokens.
If you rise up, your job is to lift other people with you as often as you can.– T Kira Madden, interviewed by Bookforum, April 24, 2019.
Books by T Kira Madden at the Library:
If you like novels, check out:
Fatima Farheen Mirza
Fatima Farheen Mirza’s first novel, A Place for Us, was published in 2018 to instant acclaim, including becoming a New York Times bestseller. The novel follows the lives of a Muslim Indian family living in California, and the conflicts that arise when one walks the line between two cultures.
Mirza graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship. In 2020, she was also named one of the “5 Under 35” by the National Book Foundation.
Books by Fatima Farheen Mirza at the library:
Ocean Vuong is a poet, essayist, and novelist who was born in Vietnam. He has published three poetry collections and one novel, which won the American Book Award along with many other accolades. Vuong received the MacArthur Genius Grant in 2019.
Books by Ocean Vuong at the library:
Karen Tei Yamashita
Karen Tei Yamashita is a Professor Emerita at UC Santa Cruz, where she teaches Asian American Literature and specializes in Japanese immigration to Brazil. She is a winner of the American Book Award and has published seven books over the past 30 years, including her most recent collection of stories in 2019: Sansei and Sensibility.
For the Asian American movement, as with the Black and Mexican and Brown and Native American movements, all of these folks begin to move together to think about how to reconstruct a vision about this country and these past hurts.-Karen Tei Yamashita, interviewed by the LA Review of Books, February 15th, 2021.
Books by Karen Tei Yamashita at the library:
- Sansei and Sensibility
- Anime Wong: Fictions of Performance
- I Hotel: A Novel
- Circle K Cycles
- Tropic of Orange: A Novel
- Brazil-Maru: A Novel
- Through the Arc of the Rain Forest: A Novel
If you like science fiction, check out:
Ted Chiang began as a technical writer in the software industry before becoming a prolific science fiction author. He has won multiple Huge and Nebula awards for his short stories and novellas. His short story “Story of Your Life” was the basis of the 2016 Academy Award-winning film Arrival.
Chiang’s recent collection of short stories, Exhalation, was named one of the best books of 2019 by the New York Times, TIME Magazine, and many other publications.
Books by Ted Chiang at the library:
If you like graphic novels, check out:
Mira Jacob is a novelist, memoirist, illustrator, and cultural critic. Her 2018 graphic memoir Good Talk was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award and longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award. It was inspired by conversations and questions surrounding race within her own interracial family, with the 2016 election as a backdrop.
I wanted to write it because I felt that we were becoming a monolith in America, as people of color. The minute you’re not allowed to explore your own complexity and interrogate yourself, you’ve had to become someone else’s version of you.– Mira Jacob, interviewed by the Atlantic, April 12th, 2019.
Books by Mira Jacob at the library:
If you like history, check out:
Erika Lee is an author and historian. She is the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History and Director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota. In March of 2021, she testified before Congress during its hearings on discrimination and violence against Asian Americans. Lee has received so many awards that it’s hard to choose just a few to name, but an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship is just one of the most impressive. She also gave a TEDxMinneapolis talk in 2020 about xenophobia in America.
Books by Erika Lee at the library:
- The Making of Asian America
- Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America
- At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943
Looking for more good reads? Every year, the Asian Author Alliance celebrates Asian & Pacific Islander American Book Month with events like virtual author panels. Visit their website to see what’s happening this month, and watch past events on their YouTube channel.
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