Blog Business Entertainment Environment Health Latest News News Analysis Opinion Science Sports Technology Videos World
Ten Stunning Novels for AAPI Heritage Month

AAPI Heritage Month has been celebrated every May since 1992 and honours the culture, history, and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The term encompasses the entire Asian continent, as well as the Pacific Islands of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia. There are approximately 20.6 million people in the US who identify as AAPI, making up 6.2% of the US population. In honour of AAPI Heritage Month, I decided to pick ten of my favourite books by Asian American and Pacific Islander authors.

This list contains a diverse mix across the genres; from fantasy to memoir, young adult to historical fiction, taking you across the decades and around the world. What better way to celebrate AAPI month than by reading some gorgeous literature by AAPI authors?

1. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

I’m starting this list with a stunning memoir that had me in tears when I read it last year. Zauner, who is the lead singer of the indie band Japanese Breakfast, details her experiences of grief, looking back on her life with her mother up until her death. Following Zauner from childhood, when she was one of the only Asian American students at her school, to adolescence when she fought with her mother, right up to twenty-five when her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Zauner weaves stunning descriptions of food into every memory she shares, immersing the reader into her life. At times, it truly felt like I was sitting at the table with Zauner and her mother, tucking into kimchi jjigae. In March it was announced that Will Sharpe will be directing the film adaptation of the memoir, with Zauner having completed the screenplay last year. With over 100,000 five-star reviews on Goodreads, this book is a must-read, but you’ll need a box of tissues at hand.

2. Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

A gorgeous YA historical fiction, Last Night at the Telegraph Club follows seventeen-year-old Lily Hu as she begins to question her sexuality and navigate her identity as a Chinese American in 1954 San Francisco. Dealing with the Red Scare and the possible deportation of her father, Lily begins sneaking out to the local lesbian bar where she discovers drag kings and a community of queer women like herself. One of my favourite things about the book was that every other chapter contained a flashback from one of Lily’s relatives, as well as a timeline of historical events. This provided a rich cultural context and made me feel as though I’d been transported back to San Francisco. Last Night at the Telegraph Club is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and a book I will think about forever.

3. Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn

A story of heritage, family, and survival, Sharks in the Time of Saviors tells the story of the Flores family. Beginning in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i in 1995, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores is rescued by a shark after falling off a cruise ship. Hailed as a miracle, the family sees their child’s rescue a sign of appreciation from the Hawaiian gods. This event transforms the dynamic of the family, changing their lives forever. A stunning exploration of Hawai’i’s ancient history, Washburn’s debut novel is a beautiful work of magical realism.

4. She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

Set in 1345 China, during the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty, the book begins with a son and daughter from a peasant family, whose fate is announced by a local fortune teller. The son is told that he is destined for greatness, whereas the daughter is destined for nothing. When the brother succumbs to illness and dies, the daughter takes her brother's identity, becoming a monk at a Buddhist monastery and eventually joining the Red Turban Rebellions. The story chronicles the rise of the Ming Dynasty in 14th-century China, with a queer woman as its lead. Dubbed a crossover between Mulan and The Song of Achilles, this sapphic story of love and war is a perfect pick for fantasy fans.

5. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Heartbreaking and poignant, Vuong’s debut novel examines colonialism and class through a Vietnamese family’s rich history. Written as a letter from a son to his illiterate mother, the narrator Little Dog shares his family’s history, beginning from before he was born and spanning decades until drawing to a striking revelation. This a superbly written book; beautifully tender and raw, yet at times disturbing and difficult to read. I would recommend reading the trigger warnings before reading this one.

6. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

If you have been on BookTok in the last couple of months, you’ll have heard of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. This book won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fiction last year, and it was truly well deserved. A gorgeous love story between friends, the book follows Sam Masur and Sadie Green’s friendship which begins in 1987 in a hospital gaming room. Bonding over their mutual love for video games, we watch their lives intertwine as they create their own video games that catapult them into fame and fortune. It is a dazzling tale of creativity, failure, and love.

7. Yolk by Mary H.K Choi

A young adult contemporary, Yolk follows estranged sisters Jayne and June Baek. Complete opposites, the pair have nothing in common and live completely separate lives. However, when June is diagnosed with cancer, the sisters are forced back together. The novel is raw and hard-hitting, dealing with some heavy topics; eating disorders, immigration, and the complexity of family. Choi writes beautifully, perfectly encapsulating the intricacies of sisterhood. The characters are messy and unlikeable, yet you root for them the entire time.

8. How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

An epic science fiction, How High We Go in the Dark begins in the Artic Circle in 2030. Following his daughter’s death, Dr. Cliff Miyashiro arrives at the Batagaika crater to continue her research, however, uncovers a virus. Written from multiple points of view with characters who are all intricately linked to each other, Nagamatsu’s novel spans centuries and continents to portray a beautiful vision of human resiliency.

9. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko begins in the early 1900s in Yeogdo, Korea. When Sunja discovers that she is pregnant and that her boyfriend is married, she accepts a marriage proposal from a minister from Japan. Sunja’s decision to leave her family and move to Japan has challenging consequences for her descendants. The novel follows the lives of Sunja’s family; across eighty years and four generations. Lee provides a rich exploration of Korean history and the lives of Korean immigrants living in Japan in the 20th century. A stunning historical fiction, Pachinko has almost 200,000 five-star reviews on Goodreads alone.

10. Potiki by Patricia Grace

I’m finishing my list with a gorgeous piece of New Zealand folklore about a Maori community and their struggle to fight for control of their ancestral land. The short novel is told through the eye of Roimata, Hemi, and their adoptive son Toko, who can see events before they occur. Grace was awarded the New Zealand Book Award for Fiction in 1987 for Potiki, and it remains a powerful piece of New Zealand literature.

Share This Post On

Tags: Books AAPI Heritage Month AAPI Literature


Leave a comment

You need to login to leave a comment. Log-in is a Global Media House Initiative by Socialnetic Infotainment Private Limited.

TheSocialTalks was founded in 2020 as an alternative to mainstream media which is fraught with misinformation, disinformation and propaganda. We have a strong dedication to publishing authentic news that abides by the principles and ethics of journalism. We are an organisation driven by a passion for truth and justice in society.

Our team of journalists and editors from all over the world work relentlessly to deliver real stories affecting our society. To keep our operations running, We need sponsors and subscribers to our news portal. Kindly sponsor or subscribe to make it possible for us to give free access to our portal and it will help writers and our cause. It will go a long way in running our operations and publishing real news and stories about issues affecting us.

Your contributions help us to expand our organisation, making our news accessible to more everyone and deepening our impact on the media.

Support fearless and fair journalism today.