The story of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is not a singular one. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders hail from more than 20 countries, reflecting a multitude of languages, traditions, cultures — and narratives.
Collectively, they represent the fastest-growing racial group in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center, and they have become a creative force of notable fiction, poetry, memoir, nonfiction and children’s literature. Malindo Lo’s young adult novel, Last Night at the Telegraph Club, won the National Book Award this year, and Watercress, a picture book written by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Jason Chin, received both a Caldecott Medal and a Newbery Honor. In 2019, Ocean Vuong, poet and author of the best-selling novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Grant, while Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown won the National Book Award for fiction and Don Mee Choi’s DMZ Colony won the National Book Award for poetry. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizers also received a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2016, and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland was short-listed for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.
To celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we've highlighted 10 captivating and diverse books by AAPI authors. They were curated from a long list of recommendations from May-lee Chai, a creative writing professor at San Francisco State University and author of the memoir Hapa Girl; Marie Myung-Ok Lee, a writer in residence at Columbia University and author of the new novel The Evening Hero; Colleen Lye, an English professor at UC Berkeley; and Maw Shein Win, a poet and author of Storage Unit for the Spirit House.
Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now
By Jeff Yang, Phil Yu, and Philip Wang
Fun and empowering, Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now chronicles the rising influence of Asian Americans in entertainment, food, fashion and politics. From The Joy Luck Club to Crazy Rich Asians, Yahoo to Zappos, Vera Wang to Prabal Gurung, Asians and Asian Americans have put their stamp on popular culture. Rise deftly captures the history, challenges and triumphs through colorful graphics, illustrations, essays and interviews.
By Vanessa Hua
Vanessa Hua’s Forbidden City takes us back to the start of China’s Cultural Revolution, a turbulent time that eventually led to the persecution and deaths of millions of people. An ambitious, teenage girl named Mei leaves her impoverished village and finds herself inside the walls of Chairman Mao’s palatial home, as one of his dancing partners. (Mao was a fan of ballroom dancing.) From there, Mei becomes his confidant, lover — and a strategist in the revolution.
The Immortal King Rao
By Vauhini Vara
The Immortal King Rao, a novel by former Wall Street Journal technology reporter Vauhini Vara, imagines a man raised on a coconut farm in India who becomes a Steve Jobs-like figure in the United States and the founder of a powerful company called Coconut Computer Corporation. He has now passed on his legacy to his daughter, Athena, who must wrestle with the dystopian world he helped create, one that is devastated by climate change, in which the government has been replaced by a corporate entity, and where humans can connect their brains to the internet.