If you weren’t aware, this month is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. It’s the month dedicated to all the hardworking Asian and Pacific Americans who have contributed to our world and spoken their voices. I’m so excited about this month because some of my favorite stories come from Asian American authors.
In honor of the occasion, I’ve decided to put together a list of some of my favorite books written by Asian American authors. Since the descriptor of “Asian American” can mean a lot of different cultures, I focused on American authors of East Asian descent. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I did. Some of these books are written for adults while others are YA. In both genres, I feel like these authors did a wonderful job with explaining the nuanced experience of being first or second generation born in American. I hope you think the same as well:
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
This isn’t necessarily a book about Asian Americans, but it is written by an Asian American author. The book follows a young family who moves to Shaker Heights, Ohio. While Shaker Heights has seen some pretty boring suburban days, the young family who arrives in town starts to “shake” things up. When a baby is found and a young couple decides to adopt it, the families of this small town start to unravel. It gets even more dicey when the birth mother shows up requesting custody of her abandoned baby.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Diversity in the ’90s was scarce; I don’t know about you, but when I want to read a book that resonates with my childhood experiences, this is the one. This book follows four Chinese women and their daughters. The four women immigrate to America from their respective locations. You read about how they adapted, how they survived, and how they coped with being so far away from home. On the other hand, you also get to read the experiences of their American-born daughters and how being both Chinese and American comes with a lot of understanding.
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily XR Pan
This story resonates with many of us. It follows a young girl who just recently lost her mother to suicide. In an attempt to keep her mother’s memory alive, she flies to Taiwan (where her mother originally came from) and learns so much not only about Taiwanese culture but also about her mother. It covers themes like grief and loss, suicide, recovery, and lots and lots of love.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
While this book isn’t set in America, it does cover the history of Japan and Korea during the Japanese occupation. The book follows a young family as they emigrate from Korea to Japan and own a series of pachinko parlors in a country that they can’t call their own. It speaks to the struggles of not being welcome in both your native country and the country you move to. It’s such a poignant book and if you know anyone who has immigrated to another country for a better life, then you might resonate with this.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
I absolutely loved Jenny Han’s series To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. This is a story about a young girl named Lara Jean who tends to write love letters to her crushes. These letters were never meant to see the light of day and Lara Jean keeps them safe in a hatbox in her closet. When she finds out her younger sister mailed those letters in a moment of vengeance, Lara Jean now has to face all of her high school crushes for the very first time. It’s such a good love story with a coming-of-age twist. While you don’t see a lot of emphasis on her Asian American heritage, there are hints here and there. The way this novel is written reminds readers that Asian Americans have pretty basic lives like everyone else, even if their bratty younger sister makes it a little bit tougher.
Chemistry by Weike Wang
This is such a great read if you’re a young post-graduate and you’re just learning that what you studied and spent so much time cultivating knowledge on turns out to be not your true calling. The main character (nameless in this novel) just realized that chemistry isn’t what she’s really into anymore. What do you do when what you’ve loved doesn’t turn out to be what you really want to do? This goes double when your Chinese parents have been so proud of you for what you’ve accomplished. You can explore this and more with Weike Wang in this glorious debut novel.