11 Books by Asian American Writers for #APAHM

Collage of our favorite books by Asian American Writers

To close out #APAHM, we asked APEN staff to share their recommendations for books by Asian American authors. We’re excited to share this list of novels, graphic novels, poems, and stories with you — 11 in total, so you can read one each month from now until #APAHM next year!

On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Recommended by our Communications Director Marie Choi, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous “is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read … At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.”

Find it at your local independent bookstore.

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

APEN State Organizer Seng So recommends Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay, “a powerful coming-of-age story about grief, guilt, and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin’s murder.”

Find it at your local independent bookstore.

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

Recommended by Chinatown Operations Associate Eric Chen, The Best We Could Do is the first of two books on our list by acclaimed graphic novelist Thi Bui. “This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.”

Find it at your local independent bookstore.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

In Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, recommended by our Oakland Community Organizer Cheuk-Ning Li, “four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family fighting to control their destiny in 20th-century Japan, exiled from their home … So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.”

Find it at your local independent bookstore.

If They Come For Us by Fatimah Asghar

If They Come For Us, recommended by SOMAH Outreach Coordinator Ayesha Abbasi, is the debut book of poems by poet Fatimah Asghar. “These poems at once bear anguish, joy, vulnerability, and compassion, while exploring the many facets of violence: how it persists within us, how it is inherited across generations, and how it manifests itself in our relationships. In experimental forms and language both lyrical and raw, Asghar seamlessly braids together marginalized people’s histories with her own understanding of identity, place, and belonging.”

Find it at your local independent bookstore.

Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang

APEN Policy Director Sylvia Chi recommends Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang, a collection of stories which “cut across generations and continents, moving from the fraught halls of a public school in Flushing, Queens, to the tumultuous streets of Shanghai, China, during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s…A darkly funny and intimate rendering of girlhood, Sour Heart examines what it means to belong to a family, to find your home, leave it, reject it, and return again.”

Find it at your local independent bookstore.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi and Thi Bui

Recommended by Richmond Organizing Director Megan Zapanta, A Different Pond “is an unforgettable story about a simple event — a long-ago fishing trip. Graphic novelist Thi Bui and acclaimed poet Bao Phi deliver a powerful, honest glimpse into a relationship between father and son — and between cultures, old and new.”

Find it at your local independent bookstore.

Paper Sons by Dickson Lam

Recommended by Richmond Youth Organizer Katherine Lee, Paper Sons by Dickson Lam “combines memoir and cultural history, the quest for an absent father and the struggle for social justice, naming traditions in graffiti and in Chinese culture.”

Find it at your local independent bookstore.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee, recommended by State Policy Organizer Terilyn Chen, “is the author’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he grows from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckons with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover, and a friend.”

Find it at your local independent bookstore.

Stargazing by Jen Wang

In Stargazing, recommended by Campaigns & Organizing Director Alvina Wong, “Jen Wang draws on her childhood to paint a deeply personal yet wholly relatable friendship story that’s at turns joyful, heart-wrenching, and full of hope.”

Find it at your local independent bookstore.

I Love Yous are for White People

Recommended by Operations Director Chiravann Uch, I Love Yous Are for White People is a memoir by writer Lac Su. “As a young child, Lac Su made a harrowing escape from the Communists in Vietnam. With a price on his father’s head, Lac, with his family, was forced to immigrate in 1979 to seedy West Los Angeles where squalid living conditions and a cultural fabric that refused to thread them in effectively squashed their American Dream… Heart-wrenching, irreverent, and ultimately uplifting, I Love Yous Are for White People is memoir at its most affecting, depicting the struggles that countless individuals have faced in their quest to belong and that even more have endured in pursuit of a father’s fleeting affection.”

Find it at your local independent bookstore.

In addition to the authors our staff recommended, please consider adding books by fantastic authors Cathy Park Hong, R. O. Kwon, Frances Cha, and C Pam Zhang to your reading list and buying them this week from WORD bookstores! If you do, 10% of the sale price will go to our COVID-19 Emergency Community Stabilization Fund. Find out more: https://www.wordbookstores.com/word-association

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