All this month, bookish types across America are celebrating Asian Pacific Islander (API) authors for API Heritage Month with countless book recommendations. Whenever I read nonfiction, especially memoir and personal essays, I always prefer that the author reads her own work. So here are a few of my favorite nonfiction titles by Asian American women who read their audiobooks themselves!
American Harvest: God, Country, and Farming in the Heartland by Marie Mutsuki Mockett
In American Harvest, Marie Mutsuki Mockett joins a group of evangelical harvest workers as they migrate from Texas to Idaho, stopping along a decades-old route to help farmers bringing in their wheat harvest. As she gets to know the crew, Mockett contemplates her own position as a non-Christian person and how that interacts with the Christian faith she sees all around her. She asks question after question, attends church services with congregations from a wide range of denominations, and begins to realize that these people may not be so different from her as she first thought. In her clear narration, Mockett performs the audiobook beautifully, giving voice to her entire journey, complete with the wide range of American accents of the people she meets along the way.
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong
One of the buzziest nonfiction books of the year, Minor Feelings examines the Asian American identity in contemporary society. Using her own experience as an Asian American and the daughter of Korean immigrants as a springboard, Hong unpacks a new topic in each essay, such as the friendship between Asian American women or the Asian American woman as Artist. Hong brings her wealth of experience as a poet to her prose, giving us paragraph after paragraph of gorgeous writing. When Hong reads her work out loud, the words gracefully dance off the page, until Hong brings us back with a dose of reality, giving us the perfect combination of style and substance.
Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship by Michelle Kuo
One of my favorite hidden gems, Reading with Patrick follows Michelle Kuo as she accepts a position as a Teach for America volunteer and moves to southern Mississippi. As a recent graduate of Harvard, Kuo believes herself to be up for any challenge, but in Mississippi, she faces the challenging task of teaching students from very different walks of life. Through Reading with Patrick, Kuo examines her own preconceived notions, learning more about her students and the community she now calls home. The perfect read for educators or listeners interested in learning more about life in the American South, Kuo’s story is a beautiful example of the power of friendship and the deep connection human beings can have with one another.
Monsoon Mansion: A Memoir by Cinelle Barnes
In her debut memoir, Cinelle Barnes tells the story of her childhood in the Philippines. As a small girl, her family possessed unimaginable wealth. But when her parents lost everything and split up, Barnes’s stable home life evaporated, and she found herself trapped in a crumbling mansion with a mother who didn’t know how to care for her anymore. Full of resilience and strength, Barnes’s story captured my attention from the start, and her narration gives listeners an added layer of emotion to an already incredible story.
Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino
Literary darling Jia Tolentino’s first essay collection Trick Mirror features pieces examining contemporary culture through Tolentino’s unique lens. Originally from Texas, Tolentino takes anecdotes from her own life—her brief stint on a reality show, her experience with mega churches, or her fascination with Lululemon—and expands those ideas to discuss some greater aspect of society. Tolentino’s voice narrates her essays with such a rich tone, creating the perfect performance for her collection. I would love to see her narrate other nonfiction, or just read a grocery list or instruction manual; she’s just that good.