May is Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month to recognize and honor the accomplishments of Americans who are of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. Originally a week-long celebration in the beginning of May, established in June 1977, APIAHM serves as an annual reminder of the vital impact APIAs have had on American history. The significance of the first week of May represents the first wave of Japanese immigration on May 7th, 1843, as well as the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, which was built by mostly Chinese immigrants. In 1990, President Bush Sr., extended the week-long celebration to a month.
Historically, Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans have experienced discrimination and oppression (I.e. Japanese Internment Camps and Chinese Exclusion Act to name a few). Yet, there are approximately 22.2 million Asians and 1.6 Pacific Islanders currently living in the United States (source: census).
Today, we would like to recognize notable APIA writers and provide our readers with some great recommendations!
|Maxine Hong Kingston||Jhumpa Lahiri||Gene Yuen Yang||Amy Tan||Celeste Ng|
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- Internment by Samira Ahmed- In a post-911, Islamophobic world, Internment is a dystopian novel that imagines a society that forces Muslim Americans into internment camps.
- Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen- Few novels exist that show readers experiences of the Vietnam War. Sympathizer features a mysterious South Vietnamese narrator who plays the role of a military aid as he spies for the communist North Vietnamese.
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng- More well-known as a popular Hulu series, Little Fires Everywhere portrays two suburban families who find themselves on opposite sides of a custody battle over the adoption of a Chinese baby.
- The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri: A story of the journey of the Ganguli family from India to Boston and how they struggled to set down roots, felt lost, felt found, and made America home. After their arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima move to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for Ashoke’s career in engineering. While Ashoke thrives, Ashima struggles to assimilate and yearns to return home. Later, their son Gogol finds himself torn between both worlds.
- I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn- Adorable word play in the title is perfect for this sweet romantic-comedy, think shojo anime. In I Love You So Mochi, Kimi Nakamura gets into a fight with her mother and visits Japan to see her estranged grandparents during spring break. Enter a cute love interest: medical student, Akira, who works part-time as a Mochi mascot, and ends up being her tour guide in Kyoto.
- The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston- Blending autobiography with Chinese mythology, Kingston tells five interconnected stories about the incredible women in her life.
- Patron Saints Of Nothing by Randy Ribay- There are few novels with a Filipino-American narrator. Jay Reguero’s cousin is killed by the corrupt Duterte regime in the Philippines. Set on discovering the truth of his cousin’s death, Jay travels to the Philippines and finds out more than he might be able to handle.
- The Astonishing Color Of After by Emily X.R. Pan- For fans of magical realism, Pan tells the story of Leigh who believes that her mother has become a red bird after her death. To connect with her mother and learn about her past, Leigh travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. Pan explores family secrets, mental illness, grief, and love in this heart-wrenching story.
- The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang- Stella is a genius at math and has Asperger’s. She’s not great at intimacy and relationships, but wants to learn a thing or two. So, she hires an escort, Michael. However, soon they realize their relationship is developing outside of the bedroom.
- American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang-If you’re a fan of graphic novels, Yang is your man! Told through two points of view--white teen Danny and Monkey King, a Chinese folk legend, Yang has expertly woven three stories to explore issues of identity and self-worth. Surprising is how all three stories come together in the end with a twist.
- Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang- Another Yang graphic novel. In this one, he humorously plays off the stereotype that Chinese immigrant parents push their children into becoming doctors. Instead, in Shadow Hero, the protagonist’s parents make him become . . . the Green Turtle, a superhero.
- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini: Set in Afghanistan from the 1970s to 1990s, A Thousand Splendid Suns follows the story of two women, Mariam and Laila, who are married to the same man. Surviving lives of suffering and grief, they find strength in one another as they also deal with the ramifications of living in a country at war (from the Soviet invasion to the Taliban reign).
- And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: A beautiful story about how interconnected people are and how all of the people who come through your life (whether they stay or they leave) have some impact on who you become. In this novel, Hosseini doesn’t focus on any one character. Instead, we experience how members of a flawed family can love but also betray and surprise one another.
- The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan- A classic that you properly read in a high school English class. The Joy Luck Club follows four Chinese women who have recently immigrated to San Francisco in 1949, as they meet regularly to eat, play mahjong, and talk, connected by their loss and hope in a new nation.
This list is only a small portion of what currently exists. As publishers have pushed for more diverse literature in recent years, readers are able to experience the uniqueness of APIA narratives. What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!