May is Asian American and Pacific American Heritage Month! Celebrate by reading literature, poetry, and more by Asian American and Pacific Island artists. Here’s a list prepared by Undergraduate Student Success Librarian Haley Gillilan to get you started.
“Night Sky with Exit Wounds” by Ocean Vuong
This critically acclaimed and award-winning poetry collection by Vietnamese American author Ocean Vuong is centered around diaspora, queer love, and the author’s relationship with his mother. As a poet, Vuong is careful and thoughtful, and very focused on craft and form.
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“Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee
“Pachinko” is a saga that spans decades, following four generations of a Korean family as they navigate migration, exile, and shifting power dynamics. This beautiful story asking timeless questions about home, identity, and culture is perfect for anyone who loves historical dramas. It has recently been adapted into a miniseries for Apple TV+, featuring award winning actress Youn Yuh-Jung and popular K-drama actor Lee Min-Ho.
“Another Appalachia: Coming Up Indian and Queer in a Mountain Place” by Neema Avashia
This book of personal essays follows the experiences of an Indian woman who grew up queer in West Virginia. Avashia’s work is about a very small and close-knit community that exists in a place that seems unlikely and attempts to reconcile nostalgia with the realities of her upbringing. For those seeking a unique and moving portrait of the Appalachian region, this book is for you.
“Dial A For Aunties” by Jesse Q. Sutanto
I have heard this book described as a “Crazy Rich Asians” meets “Weekend at Bernies,” and I don’t think a description could possibly be more accurate. “Dial A For Aunties” will take you on a rollercoaster that never stops twisting. When Meddy Chan accidentally kills her blind date, her nosy Aunties spring to the rescue. Things get more complicated when the body is accidentally shipped to the billionaire island resort where Meddy and her family are supposed to be working at a wedding that weekend. Can they dispose of the body, pull off the wedding, and dodge Meddy’s college ex-boyfriend all at the same time? Find out in this hilarious, page-turning adventure.
“Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People” by Helen Zia
For those hoping to learn more about the history of Asian Americans and Asian American activism, this book is a great place to start. The author, Helen Zia, is an important activist and journalist who, when she started speaking out about the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982, energized and coalesced Detroit’s Asian American community. It became a key moment in the larger Asian American movement.
“In the Country” by Mia Alvar
Thanks to Romance Languages and Latin American Studies Librarian Miguel A Valldares- Llata for this contribution.
This first book written by Mia Alvar won multiple awards as soon as it was released in 2016. Its nine short stories evoke not only a past in the Philippines but the personal evolution, nostalgia, struggle, and conflict involved in reaching a new world in New York and Bahrain. It is a book overflowing with family, miracles, girls, legends, and especially Kontrabida (villains, although I prefer the translation as antihero). Written in English and sprinkled with Tagalog (the national language of the Philippines), it shows the desire to conquer a new world from a woman’s vantage point.
“Boxers & Saints” by Gene Luen Yang
Gene Luen Yang is one of my favorite graphic novelists. “Boxers & Saints” is among his best. These companion volumes tell the story of the Boxer Rebellion through the eyes of the characters Little Bao and Vibiana. Although they are on different sides of the struggle, their narratives mirror each other and their internal journeys weave together. For those seeking some historical fiction but with an approachable, illustrated style, Yang’s work is not to be missed.
“The Swimmers” by Julie Otsuka
“The Swimmers” is the newest release from critically acclaimed writer Julie Otsuka. Among her accolades, she has received the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Experimental in form and craft, “The Swimmers” is about what happens to a group of recreational swimmers when a crack appears at the bottom of their pool, and about a woman named Alice.