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The best novels, short stories, memoirs, and more by Asian and Asian Pacific authors
“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet,” writes Jhumpa Lahiri in her first novel, The Namesake, which was adapted for film in 2006. Not only do books transport us to new locations, but they also allow us to inhabit experiences different from our own. Seeing through someone else’s eyes is one of the most powerful aspects of reading, and authors from the Asian American Pacific Islander community offer a myriad of perspectives. With violence against Asians on the rise in America, supporting AAPI creators and reading Asian American books is even more urgent.
Equally as important as reading stories different from our own is being able to find a reflection of one’s community in literature. Growing up in the United States in the 1990s, I rarely saw my Chinese American family reflected in media or art. Subconsciously, this made me feel like we weren’t valued, and I couldn’t see my place in society. While the number of books, films, and shows that feature AAPI stories has increased over the years, many communities still feel unreflected. The diversity of the AAPI community is vast—it encompasses people of East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander descent, which includes over 50 ethnic groups and 100 languages.
Instead of a list of only mainstream best sellers, we’ve compiled 25 books for you that are critically acclaimed, groundbreaking for their communities, and indicative of the multitudes of stories by Asian American authors, Pacific Islander authors, and Asian authors. May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a great time to start reading books by AAPI authors if you haven’t yet. If you like this roundup, also check out our lists of best books, books by Black authors, books by Latinx authors, Native American books, and children’s books about diversity
1. Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden
We’re kicking off our list with this 2019 coming-of-age memoir by T Kira Madden. In stunning prose, Madden writes of childhood and adolescence in Boca Raton as a queer girl of native Hawaiian, Chinese, Irish, and Eastern European Jewish descent. To read this book is to revel in its humor and insight, sometimes bright and sparkling, other times singed with pain. With boundless love, Madden makes vivid her parents’ struggle with drug addiction, the loss of her father, and her kinship with other fatherless girls. Her writing extends the boundaries of family and the possibilities of what a memoir can be. The New York Times hailed it as “a fearless debut,” and author Chanel Miller called it “the book I wish I’d had growing up.”