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11 AAPI-Owned Bookstores and the Books They Recommend

Is there anything more satisfying than a day spent shopping for books? What will you buy? And equally as exciting: where will you buy? With so many booksellers offering their titles online, the world of independent bookstores is your oyster. This month, as we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage, consider purchasing a few titles from some of these AAPI-owned bookstores.

I’ve reached out to AAPI-owned bookstores around the country and put together this list of shops you can support. Plus, straight from the owners and staff of some of the stores, I got the scoop on some of the AAPI-authored novels, memoirs, and nonfiction titles they love and can’t wait for you to read, too.

A Good Used Book

Based in Los Angeles, A Good Used Book is operated by a small but mighty team of four, including co-founders Jenny Yang and Chris Capizzi. All of their books are hand-selected, cleaned, conditioned, priced, and researched before they’re photographed and displayed online for readers to browse and buy. Not only are new titles added to their site every day, but every Saturday at 12 p.m. (PT), A Good Used Book hosts a Story Sale on Instagram Stories, posting one book per minute that shoppers can swipe to claim. This fall (2021), look for A Good Used Book in its new, semi-permanent physical location in downtown LA.

AAPI-Owned Bookstores: A Good Used Book (image provided to me by A Good Used Bookstore)
The owners of A Good Used Book post new books every week.

Book Recommendations From A Good Used Book

Look for these titles at A Good Used Book — their site is updated weekly.

No-No Boy by John Okada

“Originally published in 1957 but rediscovered by Bay Area authors in the 1970s, this is the work that crowned John Okada the first Japanese American novelist. By daring to write about the realities of racism and trauma experienced by his community during WWII, Okada set his fiction to challenge America’s repeating injustices forever after.” 

—Jenny Yang and Chris Capizzi, cofounders

Fairest by Meredith Talusan

“A landmark work of transgender nonfiction and an important addition to the AAPI literary canon, Fairest is a memoir that is as intimate as it is absorbing. In it, Talusan writes vividly of her boyhood in the rural Philippines, her albinism being mistaken for whiteness in academic America, and her transition into womanhood and citizenship.”

—Jenny Yang and Chris Capizzi, cofounders

Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So (August 3, 2021)

“Set to be released this August, Anthony Veasna So’s debut is a highly anticipated one. His short stories, piercing and comedic, were the subject of a recent bidding war between publishers — his voice was one for the Khmer-American community. Tragically, in December of last year, So passed away in his San Francisco home, leaving behind a legacy as luminous as his writing.”

 —Jenny Yang and Chris Capizzi, cofounders

Arkipelago Books

Arkipelago Books, one of only two distributors of Filipino specialty books outside of the Philippines, is a cornerstone of the Filipino community in San Francisco. Their comprehensive collection of contemporary and historical Filipino American books introduces readers to Filipino literature, culture, social sciences, art, poetry, history, and more. If you can’t get to their store in the Bayanihan Building in the South of Market (SOMA) neighborhood, you can browse and shop their titles online.

Book Recommendations From Arkipelago Books

Buy these titles, recommended by Golda Sargento, co-owner of Arkipelago Books, at their store and on the website.

Letters to a Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes

In her sixth collection of poems, Reyes confronts her rage against feeling shushed and being told she’s foreign and unattractive. By writing unflinchingly about her experiences as an immigrant woman of color, Reyes takes control of her narrative and discovers beauty and grace amidst her anger.

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly

Seventh-grade siblings Cash, Fitch, and Bird are each grappling with their own personal anxieties while living together in an unpredictable household. When they are assigned a science project related to the upcoming 1986 launch of the Challenger, the three of them find themselves coming together in ways they never imagined they would.

Mixed Plate: Chronicles of an All-American Combo by Jo Koy

Comedian Jo Koy’s memoir, named after a favorite Hawaiian lunch, takes readers through his journey to becoming a successful comedian. With honesty and humor, Koy reflects on his life — from his days as a half-Filipino, half-white kid whose immigrant mom made him “dance like Michael Jackson at the Knights of Columbus” to years of rejection and bad jokes to finally experiencing his breakthrough after embracing the “craziness” of his family.

Bel Canto Books

Jhoanna Belfer, Filipina American poet and former hospitality executive, is the proud owner of Bel Canto Books in Long Beach, California. This bookstore curates fiction, nonfiction, and children’s titles organized around a monthly theme, frequently celebrating books by women and people of color. Bel Canto Books’ community-led book clubs, monthly events, and three shopping options make it easy for readers everywhere to engage with them.

AAPI-Owned Bookstores: Bel Canto Books (image from Bel Canto Books website, used with permission from bookstore owner)
Bel Canto Books owner, Jhoanna Belfer, describes herself as an “avowed booknerd.”

Book Recommendations From Bel Canto Books

Buy these titles from Bel Canto Books in the store or through Bookshop and Libro.fm.

The Body Papers by Grace Talusan

“I love Grace Talusan’s extraordinary memoir, The Body Papers, for how she layers together reporting,  family history, and personal documents to investigate the price of keeping secrets and the liberation that comes from speaking one’s truth. A survivor of cancer and childhood abuse, Talusan finds a way to write about the most harrowing things with dignity and an open-minded curiosity.”

 —Jhoanna Belfer, Owner and Manager

The Leavers by Lisa Ko 

I want everyone to read The Leavers by Lisa Ko about a Chinese undocumented nail salon worker whose sudden deportation irrevocably disrupts her young son Deming’s life. Ko delves deeply into the lasting trauma of this one night, as Deming, now renamed Daniel by his White adoptive parents, struggles to fit into his new life.

 —Jhoanna Belfer, Owner and Manager

Eastwind Books of Berkeley

Located in downtown Berkeley, California, this bookstore carries a variety of titles, but specializes in Asian American literature as well as books for and about Asian studies, ethnic studies, language learning, traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts. Founded in 1982, Eastwind Books of Berkeley features regular readings and events featuring AAPI authors, artists, and community members, and also serves as a publisher for many local AAPI authors. Stop by their store or browse and shop their selection of books on their website.

Meet Eastwind Books of Berkeley.

Book Recommendations From Eastwind Books of Berkeley

Buy these titles at Eastwind Books of Berkeley or on the store’s website.

Generation Rising: A New Politics of Southeast Asian American Activism by Loan Thi Dao

“This book is one of Eastwind Books of Berkeley’s publications. Author Loan Thi Dao introduces readers to the growing Southeast Asian LGBTQ youth movement in Rhode Island where they are organizing against the deportation of refugee youth and uniting in coalitions with Black, Indigenous, and people of color for equal rights and against police brutality and killings. Dao reveals a new Asian American Movement of today: working class, community grassroots, and a new perspective beyond the 1970s past.”

—Harvey C. Dong, co-manager

Not Yo’ Butterfly: My Long Song Of Relocation, Race, Love, And Revolution by Nobuko Miyamoto  

“This is a must-read for anyone who loves music. Yes, Asian American music. Nobuko Miyamoto, known as the singer in the Chris and Joanne band, has written [a] memoir of her life dedicated to music, resistance, and revolution from the ’70s to today. She still rocks on breaking old traditions and forging new ways to unite our communities. While most remember Nobuko for her music that once united the Asian American movement, her memoir reveals another side of her, as her biracial family brings her a new role in uniting a people of color resistance.”

—Bea Tam Dong, co-manager

Preorder a copy of Not Yo’ Butterfly with an autographed bookplate.

Other: An Asian & Pacific Islander Prisoners’ Anthology by Helen Zia (Preface), Compiled by Eddy Zheng and the Asian Prisoner Support Committee

Other: An Asian & Pacific Islander Prisoners’ Anthology highlights the writing, poetry, and art of 22 currently or formerly incarcerated Asians and Pacific Islanders. This anthology brings light to Asian American incarceration, a topic that is not widely addressed in American society. The collection features the voices of prisoners whose writings on topics such as violence, oppression, family, and hope are impactful and emotionally touching.”

—Kelly Wong, staff member

Maomi Bookstore

Next time you find yourself in Atlanta, Georgia, swing by their Chinatown to check out this Chinese bookstore and cafe. Maomi Bookstore sells books, stationery, coffee, and tea. Many of the books are written in Chinese, but if you don’t read Chinese and want to learn the language, you’ll find the books and supplements you need to do just that. If you don’t live in Atlanta, but know someone who does, you can support Maomi Bookstore by buying a gift card online.

Now Serving

If you love cookbooks and all things culinary, you’ll want to shop at Now Serving, a bookstore and specialty shop in LA’s historic Chinatown. In addition to food-related books, you’ll also find a curated selection of food magazines, independent periodicals, aprons, pantry items, and more. Now Serving’s collection of products can be shopped online or by phone.

Book Recommendations From Now Serving

Shop these titles at Now Serving’s website.

Cook Real Hawai’i by Chef Sheldon Simeon

“Simeon is a third generation Filipino from Hawaii who is a fan favorite on Top Chef. [He] explores his identity and heritage through the numerous influences that make up modern Hawaiian cooking. Deeply personal, it’s one of only a handful of books available today that examine the roots of the cooking there and its place in American history.”

—Ken Concepcion, Owner

Buy a copy of Cook Real Hawai’i with an autographed bookplate.

My Shanghai: Recipes and Stories from a City on the Water by Betty Liu

My Shanghai by Betty Liu is wonderfully organized by season as she explores her deep Shanghainese roots. Part cookbook, part gorgeous travelogue, part cultural study, Liu deftly navigates via thoughtful expositions on the centuries-old city and modern-day living. A love letter to Shanghai as much as it is to her family, Liu celebrates tradition while also embracing sensibility and simplicity in her accessible and hand-on approach [to] her recipes.”

—Ken Concepcion, Owner

Orphan Books

Author Katie Orphan, owner of Orphan Books, describes her shop as “two things: a mobile bookstore and a book collection consultant.” Orphan, an experienced bookseller, came up with the idea for a bookstore on wheels — much like a food truck — in order to give readers in many different neighborhoods easy access to an indie bookstore. While her mobile bookstore isn’t quite up and running yet, you can support the bookstore by buying titles online, donating directly, or working with Orphan to build a library of books at your business or home.

Book Recommendations from Orphan Books

Buy these titles at Orphan Books online via Bookshop.

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang (August 31, 2021)

“I am really excited for the new Helen Hoang, The Heart Principle. She has explored what love looks like from an autistic perspective, and the wide variety of experiences that make up first and second generation immigrant families, plus lots of fun, steamy romance.”

—Katie Orphan, Owner 

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

“I also recently read and loved Malinda Lo’s Last Night at the Telegraph Club. It’s such a stunning picture of what life was like in San Francisco in the 1950s, both for Chinese American families with the Red Scare and for the queer communities that have long since made San Francisco their home.”

—Katie Orphan, Owner 

Philippine Expressions Bookshop

Since 1984, Philippine Expressions Bookshop in Los Angeles, California, has been the home of Filipino writings and books in the U.S. The store hosts regular events, including publication parties, book talks, poetry readings, and lectures on Filipino culture. While they describe their shop as “dedicated to Filipino Americans in search of their roots,” all readers are invited to share in the experience. During non-pandemic times, in-person shoppers are treated not only to a collection of books, but also to an array of cultural artifacts. For now, you can shop their books and products online.

Townie Books

This bookstore in Crested Butte, Colorado, was built on the belief that people would much rather buy books from a familiar neighborhood bookstore than from a faceless company. The bookshop is attached to Rumors Coffee & Teahouse, where you can relax with a cup of locally roasted coffee and loose leaf tea — perfect companions to book perusing. But if you can’t make it to the store in person, make your own beverage and shop their large selection of books online.

Book Recommendations From Townie Books

Buy these titles from Townie Books.

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian

Gold Diggers is a truly fun and funny character-driven novel with magical elements that will delightfully surprise readers as they make their way through this less-than-typical immigrant narrative about success in 21st century America.”

—Arvin Ram, Owner

Northern Light: Power, Land, and the Memory of Water by Kazim Ali

“[This book] speaks directly to the rootless immigrant experience of the places we dwell on our journey to find home. Ali returns to Jenpeg, Manitoba to explore forces that brought his family to the area and discovers a complex network of broken promises to Indigenous people, imminent environmental collapse, and reconsiders his connection to the remote Canadian province.”

—Arvin Ram, Owner

Waucoma Bookstore

Nestled in downtown Hood River, Oregon, Waucoma Bookstore takes its cue from the natives of its Columbia Gorge community, who recognized the importance of gathering spots. This bookstore hopes to provide a central place for the community to come together, engage, and discover both national bestsellers and undiscovered local titles. While Waucoma Bookstore specializes in books and other products related to the Pacific Northwest, customers can also special-order books not in the store’s inventory both in-store and online.

27th Letter Books

Underrepresented voices and excellent writing are the driving forces behind the curated collection at 27th Letter Books, based in Detroit, Michigan. The name of the store is inspired by the ampersand, which was once considered the 27th letter of the alphabet and, in the owners’ eyes, symbolizes coming together, creation, and the continuing nature of language. While the owners are securing a permanent brick and mortar location, you can shop their books via Bookshop and Libro.fm.


Now that you know where to shop — and what to get — you can start dreaming of that sweet new-book scent, the way each title feels in your hand, the promise of stories just waiting to be discovered. I can’t think of a better way for a book lover to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month.

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