Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage: Recommended Reading

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and the Popular Reading Display in the Hill Library's Learning Commons celebrates the struggles and family bonds of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

May 2023

Year of the Tiger: An Activist's Life

Author: Alice Wong

Summary: This impressionistic scrapbook of Alice Wong’s life as an Asian American disabled activist traces her origins and creates a space for disabled people to be in conversation with one another and the world. She shares her love of food, thoughts on mortality in the pandemic, and her unwavering commitment to dismantling systemic ableism. 

The Truths We Hold: An American Journey

Author: Kamala Harris

Summary: Vice President Kamala Harris’s commitment to speaking truth is informed by her upbringing. The daughter of immigrants, she was raised in an Oakland, California community that cared deeply about social justice. The Truths We Hold is a master class in problem solving, in crisis management, and leadership in challenging times told through the arc of her own life.

Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America

Editors: Quang Bao and Hanya Yanagihara

Summary: Take Out captures the freshness of contemporary expressive culture in queer Asian Pacific America, bringing together established and emerging artists to define their personal and collective vision. The visual, literary, and performance works in this anthology probe a variety of topics: intergenerational relationships, domesticity, pop culture, camp, Hollywood, fairy tales, and Asia. 

Afterparties: Stories

Author: Anthony Veasna So

Summary: Seamlessly transitioning between the absurd and the tenderhearted, Afterparties offers an expansive portrait of the lives of Cambodian-Americans balanced with acerbic humor and sharp emotional depth. These stories follow the children of refugees carving out radical new paths for themselves in California.

Crying In H Mart: A Memoir

Author: Michelle Zauner

Summary:  With humor and heart, musician Michelle Zauner shares her story of family, food, grief, and endurance. Growing up in Eugene, Oregon, she was one of the few Asian American kids at her school and with each step on her journey Koreanness began to feel ever more distant. Her mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer led Michelle to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her family had given her.

I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir

Author: Malaka Gharib

Summary: I Was Their American Dream is the coming of age story of the daughter of Filipino and Egyptian parents navigating the tension between being an all-American kid and holding onto family cultural values. It is also a testament to the immigrants who come to America in search of a better life for themselves. 

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning

Author: Cathy Park Hong

Summary: Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America. Binding these essays together is Hong's theory of "minor feelings." As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy.

Rise: A pop history of Asian America from the Nineties to now

Authors: Jeff Yang, Phil Yu, and Philip Wang

Summary: When the Hart-Celler Act passed in 1965, opening up US immigration to non-Europeans, it ushered in a whole new American era. Rise composes a vivid scrapbook of voices, emotions, and memories from this era in which Asian American culture was forged and transformed. It highlights the creators, performers, entrepreneurs, activists, and representatives who've been driving this cultural revolution. 

Age of Shōjo: The Emergence, Evolution, and Power of Japanese Girls' Magazine Fiction

Author: Hiromi Tsuchiya Dollase

Summary: Cloaking their ideas in the pages of girls' magazines, writers of shōjo could effectively express their desires for freedom from and resistance against oppressive cultural conventions. Youthful perspectives and social marginality gave the authors cover from the reaction of authorities and a platform to nurture writers and audiences beyond age, gender, and nationality.

They Called Us Enemy

Author: George Takei

Summary: In this stunning graphic memoir, George Takei relates his childhood experiences imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. Long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, or became a LGBT rights advocate, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father's and his entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.

Beautiful Country: A Memoir

Author: Qian Julie Wang

Summary: The word for America in Chinese, Mei Guo, translates directly to "beautiful country." When seven-year-old Qian arrived in New York City in 1994 full of curiosity, she was overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. In China, her parents were professors, but here their survival required all the determination and small joys they could muster, ever seeking out the beauty in America.

Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir

Author: Kat Chow

Summary: Kat Chow, one of the cofounders of NPR's Code Switch, has always been fixated on death. In this memoir, she paints a portrait of grief and the search for meaning told through the prism of three generations of her Chinese American family. These are the ghosts of her vivacious, mischievous mother and of the relatives she never got to meet in life. 

More recommended reading & viewing on other topics