Reading has always been a part of my life. When I was younger, my mom and I used to go to the library and fill a wicker basket with as many picture books as it could hold. When I was older, I became an English major. However, during my undergrad experience, I started to notice that almost all of the books we read in my foundational classes were by white males. So I went in search of other voices. I ended up taking a concentration in multicultural studies, taking classes entirely dedicated to the works of Toni Morrison or a class on Latin American authors. But I still felt like there was something missing. Where were the API voices? Who was telling the stories of people who I had shared experiences with? Of course I grew up reading Kitchen God’s Wife and the Joy Luck Club, but I was still searching for contemporary Asian American voices.
So about a year ago, I decided that I wanted to create a reading list of books by and/or about Asian Americans. Here are a few of my favorites
Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
I’m in love with this book. Maybe it’s the fact that it has two Asian American female lead characters who are superheroes, maybe it’s because it’s set in the Bay, or maybe it’s the demon cupcakes? Regardless, this book is one of my favorites. Heroine complex is the first in a trilogy that has friendship, romance, identity, and action at its heart.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Although Crazy Rich Asians focuses on the rich elite of Singapore, one of the main characters hails from the Bay Area. It’s through her eyes that we get a look into the often scandalous and ridiculous lives of the rich and famous of Asia’s elite. This is also one of a series and has a movie set to premier in August of 2018.
Double Cup Love by Eddie Huang
This is Huang’s second book. And if you’ve watched Huang’s World, you’ll know that he can drop some serious truth. This book explores Huang’s connection to his Taiwanese roots, the formation of his Baohouse and media empire, and search for identity. Such profound writing on the hip-ification of Asian foods that white people used to shame him for eating.
The Wangs Vs. the World by Jade Chang
This is a tale of the downfall of a family fortune and what happens afterward. This novel centers around family dynamics, the dreams of different generations, and the return to a homeland. The way this novel’s written, you feel like you’re going along for the cross-country ride with the Wangs.
Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang
Sour heart is a beautifully written set of short stories. It’s a deeply haunting and disturbing account of intergenerational relationships, assimilation, and trauma. The candid and raw stories that Zhang brings to life hit a chord.
My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki
My Year of Meats follows the story of a Japanese-American producer working for a Japanese company that is looking to promote the use of American beef in Japan. This novel so beautifully weaves together the stories of women who are trying to make a stand. It also highlights the nuances and uniqueness of Japanese versus Japanese-American culture.
Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
This novel outlines the struggles that a young girl faces when her and her family move to Brooklyn from Hong Kong. Kimberly Chang, the protagonist finds herself going to school by day and working in a sweatshop by night. This book centers around family, poverty, and finding a future in America.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
This is another novel by Ruth Ozeki. Like My Year of Meats, this novel also weaves together two parallel stories that take place across time between a Japanese American teenager living in Tokyo and a Japanese American writer living on a drizzly, remote island in the Pacific Northwest. This novel center’s around bullying, creativity, and communication across time and space.