Books: AAPI Heritage Month reading list

By Elaine Dunn | May 2023

Books are another contribution of Asians to the U.S.  Mark this AAPI Heritage Month by reading any or all of the books in the following list of books written by AAPI authors.  And, do remember you can keep reading even after AAPI Heritage Month!  Enjoy! 

Author:  Connie Wang
Publisher:  Viking
Publication date:  May 2023
Hardcover:  2408 pagesChina-born Connie Wang is a journalist, writer and editor at Refinery 29.  Raised in Minnesota, she graduated from US Berkeley and has won three Front Page Awards and has written for outlets including the New York Times.  She now lives in Los Angeles.“Oh My Mother” is her debut book on mother-daughter relationship.  The nine essays explore the complicated relationship to her own mother during their “Eat, Pray, Love”-style world travels.  Through these adventures, Wang reveals the story of two women learning that “once we’re comfortable with the feeling of not belonging, we can experience a kind of freedom.”The title is the Chinese equivalent to “Oh my God!”

Author:  Jane Wong
Publisher:  Tin House Books
Publication date:  May 2023
Hardcover:  288 pages
Jane Wong, author of poetry collections, “How to Not Be Afraid of Everything,” and “Overpour,” is an associate professor of creative writing at Western Washington University.  Chinese American Wong grew up in New Jersey and holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Iowa and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington.  She now lives in Seattle.In “Meet Me,” Wong’s debut memoir, she tells about Atlantic City and about making do with what one has, and what one doesn’t have.  It is an ode to the Asian American working class.  What does it mean, she asks, to be both tender and angry?  What is strength without vulnerability – and humour?

Author:  Kathryn Ma
Publisher:  Counterpoint LLC
Publication date:  January 2023
Hardcover:  304 pages
Kathryn Ma is author of the widely praised novel “The Year She Left Us,” which was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice and an NPR “Great Read” of the year. Her short story collection, All That Work and Still No Boys, won the Iowa Short Fiction Award and was named a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Discoveries Book. She is also a recipient of the David Nathan Meyerson Prize for Fiction and has twice been named a San Francisco Public Library Laureate.Arriving in San Francisco from China’s Yunnan province in 2015, 18-year-old Shelley has three achievables: family, love and fortune.  He soon realizes that the path to achieving said achievables is far from simple.  He can only stay with his family for two weeks before having to find his own place, his maybe girlfriend has gone radio silent and he’s not making nearly as much money as he thought he would.  Despite frequent setbacks, Shelley’s optimism is unwavering, in part because of his belief in the titular “Chinese groove,” an unspoken rule that essentially means that things will work out if you look out for your countrymen.  In “The Chinese Groove,” Ma has written an immigrant’s coming-of-age story that’s a testament to the power of community and persistence — even if nothing goes as planned.

Author:  Kristin Chen
Publisher:  William Morrow
Publication date:  June 2022
Softcover:   284 pages
The New York Times best-selling author Kristin Chen was born and raised in Singapore.  She immigrated to the U.S. at 15.When Chinese American lawyer Ava Wong reconnects with her college roommate, Winnie Fang, a woman from mainland China, Ava finds her nothing like she used to be.  Previously shy and awkward, Winnie is now supremely confident and dripping in luxury goods (impossible-to-get orange Birkin included).  The secret to her success?  Winnie has developed an ingenious counterfeit luxury handbag scheme and now she needs someone with a U.S. passport to help manage her business — someone like Ava.  But when their spectacular success is threatened and Winnie vanishes, Ava is left to face the consequences.”Through this novel, Chen “interrogates the myth of the model minority through two unforgettable women determined to demand more from life.”

Author:  Jenny Zhang
Publisher:  Lenny Letter
Publication date:  May 2018
Softcover:  320 pages
Jenny Zhang is a poet and prolific essayist living in New York City.  Her work focuses on the Chinese American immigrant identity and experience in the U.S.Born in Shanghai, her family settled in New York in 1988 where her father studied linguistics at New York University.  Zhang holds a M.F.A. in Fiction from Iowa Writers’ Workshop.“Sour Heart” is a collection of seven short stories about teen girl Chinese immigrants struggling to assimilate, f=grow up and assert their individuality apart from their parents.The common thread that binds the stories is one of setting: a cramped New York City apartment shared by newly arrived Chinese immigrants in the 1980s and the messy lives of the girls who live there.The book “captures the spirit of all five boroughs through eyes of the girls who grew up in them.”—Redbook
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