21 Must-Read Books for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

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Katisha Smith

Staff Writer

Katisha is a former military brat who studied engineering because she couldn’t hack it as a writer. You can find her on the internets talking books, movies, pop culture, beauty or whatever is floating her boat at the moment.

Katisha Smith

Staff Writer

Katisha is a former military brat who studied engineering because she couldn’t hack it as a writer. You can find her on the internets talking books, movies, pop culture, beauty or whatever is floating her boat at the moment.

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which gives bibliophiles 31 days of perfect opportunities to add one, two, or possibly a few more books from Asian Pacific American writers to our ever growing TBR Lists. Whether you are still celebrating National Poetry Month, are looking for the next great novel by an Asian American author, or want to meet an awesome Asian American YA protagonist, we’ve got a round-up of books from various genres to satiate your diverse reading appetite. Happy Reading, y’all!

Books that are perfect for Asian Pacific American Heritage month and beyond. book lists | books by asian american authors | books by asian pacific american authors | diverse books | books by authors of color

Children’s Literature

A Different Pond Book Cover ImageA Different Pond by Bao Phi (Author) and Thi Bui (Illustrator)

A moving story about the simple event of fishing and the relationship between father and son. Before starting his long workday, a father brings his son to a small Minneapolis pond to fish for enough food to feed their family for the day while sharing stories about their homeland of Vietnam.

Dumpling Days by Grace Lin

Loosely based on Lin’s Taiwanese American childhood, Dumpling Days follows Pacy as she takes her first trip to Taiwan to visit distant relatives and learn more about her parents’ home country. This book captures Pacy’s journey of experiencing a new culture while trying to better understand herself and her family.

Hush!: A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho (Author) and Holly Meade (Illustrator)

In this perfect bedtime story, a mother tries to put her baby to sleep, but the sounds of nearby animals keep disturbing them. By the end of the story, the lizard, monkey, and water buffalo have finally quieted down, so will mother finally be able to get the baby to sleep?

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

Fadi is having a difficult time adjusting to life in the United States away from his home in Kabul and his sister, Mariam, who is missing. When a photography competition is announced and the grand prize is a trip to India, Fadi sees a chance to return to Afghanistan and find Mariam.

Young Adult Novels

From Twinkle with Love by Sandhya Menon coverFrom Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

Twinkle Mehra is an aspiring filmmaker with stories she’s ready to share with the world, so she is excited to work with fellow film geek Sahil Roy on a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival. Told through letters from Twinkle to her favorite female filmmakers, this teen romantic comedy navigates friendship, family, and the unexpected places you find love.

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo

Fans of teen thrillers will find their next new fave in this story about best friends Jess Wong and Angie Redmond, whose friendship is put to the test when Angie starts spending more time with Margo, a girl from the nearby boarding school. Dark secrets lie beneath the surface of Margot’s carefree world, and Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences.

Skunk Girl by Sheba Karim

Nina Khan is a girl living in upstate New York. Although she has never lived in Pakistan, the strict Muslim traditions affect her daily life. She isn’t allowed to date, or go to parties, or wear flashy clothes. She is expected to study hard and obey her parents, but Nina wants the freedom her friends enjoy. She wants Asher Richelli to be her boyfriend. Above all else, she wants to get rid of the dark, coarse hair sprouting all over her body.

Adult Fiction

Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung Cover ImageForgotten Country by Catherine Chung

Chung weaves Korean folklore with modern identity and immigration in this story about Janie and her sister, Hannah, who she feels a special responsibility to protect. When Hannah inexplicably cuts ties from her family, Janie embarks on a mission to find her sister before their family returns to Korea to seek treatment for their father’s terminal cancer.

Gun Dealers’ Daughter by Gina Apostol

Defying her wealthy upbringing, Soledad Soliman falls in with the radical crowd upon entering university and quickly transforms from bookish rich girl to communist rebel. Years later and far from the Philippines, Sol confesses her youthful indiscretions in hopes to find salvation.

The Last Illusion by Porochista Khakpour

In a rural Iranian village, Zal was born with pale skin and light hair, which convinces his horrified mother that she has given birth to a “White Demon.” For the first decade of life, Zal’s mother keeps him in a birdcage and away from human society. When Zal is rescued by a behavioral analyst, he awakens in New York with possibility, but an emotionally stunted and physically unfit childhood makes for a bumpy journey to adulthood.

The People in the Trees Book CoverThe People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara

Partly inspired by the life of Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, The People in the Trees is the story of Dr. Norton Perina, who earns a Nobel Prize for his research on a lost Micronesian tribe living longer than expected thanks to a native turtle. Unable to resist the possibility of everlasting life, Perina smuggles some of the turtle meat into the United States, but he quickly learns this miracle property comes with terrible consequences.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Lahiri brings the immigrant experience and culture clash in this story of the Ganguli family from traditional life in Calcutta to their transition to Americans in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ashoke is a trained engineer adapting more quickly to American life than his wife, who pines for life back in India. Gogol is their son, struggling between tradition and assimilation along his first-generation path.

The Reeducation of Cherry Truong  by Aimee Phan

In Phan’s debut novel, Cherry Truong journeys from Los Angeles to reunite with her brother living with distant relatives in Vietnam and uncovers how her family escaped during the Vietnam War, the forces that keep them separated, and the ties that bind them across three continents.

The Samurai’s Garden Gail Tsukiyama

During the Japanese invasion of China in the late 1930s, Stephen is sent to his family’s summer home in Japan to recover from a bout with tuberculosis under the care of housekeeper and master gardener Matsu.

Nonfiction Books

The Best We Could Do cover imageThe Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

History and memory are woven together in this graphic novel portrayal of Bui’s family as they make their daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s and rebuild their lives as immigrants in a new country.


From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii by Haunani-Kay Trask

Through one Native’s viewpoint, learn the rich history of Hawaii and the indigenous people who occupied the land and successfully governed the people for thousands of years, and how the arrival of Westerners suddenly changed that peaceful unity between land and people.

Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye by Marie Mutsuki Mockett

As Mockett grieves her American father’s recent and unexpected death, she travels to Japan, the birthplace of her mother, following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston

Blending autobiography and mythology, Kingston portrays the intersecting identities of being a first generation Chinese American woman.

Poetry Collections

Iep Jaltok by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner Cover ImageIep Jaltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

Through Jetnil-Kijiner’s family history and recounted legends, this collection of poems explores the trauma to the Marshallese people due to colonialism, racism, and forced migration, and contrasts the island’s idyllic past with being used as a nuclear test site by the United States military.


Lucky Fish by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

In a sea of poetic cynicism, Nezhukumatathil brings joy by taking the reader along on a journey through her Indian and Filipina heritage and sharing her observations on motherhood, love, and childhood.

Saturday Night at the Pahala Theatre  by Lois-Ann Yamanaka

Written in Hawaiian Pidgin, this collection is composed of four verse novellas about working class Hawaiian teenagers and explores ethnic identity, sexual awakening, drug use, and abusive relationships.



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