About two years ago I wrote several blog posts dedicated to recommending books written by AAPI authors – ranging from romance to non-fiction and everything in between. To commemorate this year’s Asian Heritage Month in Canada and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the U.S., I’m going to be posting an updated list of recommendations of books written by AAPI authors.
These are my recommendations for books that I’ve read and/or books that I want to read and are in no way a comprehensive list of the number of English-language novels written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry.
Some websites and posts that I recommend checking out if you are looking for even more recommendations for books written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and/or prominently feature characters of Asian and Pacific Islander descent are listed below:
- Lit CelebrAsian
- The Quiet Pond
- PEN America
- Ruru Read [currently under construction]
- Book Riot
- “19 Books to Read for Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month” from Bustle
- “12 Summer Reads by Asian Authors to Put on Your TBR” from DailyWaffle
I’m staring this new collection of posts with recommendation for fiction novels written by AAPI authors. Here’s the link to my original post featuring fiction novels by AAPI authors (link).
So let’s get to my recommendations:
How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C. Pam Zhang
How Much of These Hills Is Gold came onto my radar a few months ago and is a book that I really want to dive into. This is Zhang’s debut fiction novel, centring on the story of two newly orphaned siblings. Lucy and Sam’s entire world changes overnight when their father dies. Alone, these children of immigrants must learn to survive and find a home in the unforgiving landscape of the American gold rush.
The novel blends together an epic adventure and intimate tale of two immigrant children searching for their place in a world that is stacked against them after the death of their father. It’s a book that explores race, immigration, and the bond between siblings.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
This was one of my favourite books I read in 2019, and honestly one of my favourite novels I’ve read in the past few years. Vuong is a poet and his ability to weave together words and sentences shine brightly in his debut fiction novel. This is a powerful story, one that explores family, forced migration, first love, and the power of being able to tell one’s own story.
This is Little Dog’s story, a letter to his illiterate single mother that explores their family dynamic, their history, their pasts, and their story. It is equal parts tender and traumatic, and one woven together with utter grace from a writer that I hope continues to tell more and more story for years to come.
If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha
If you know anything about South Korean society, you will know that there is a heavy emphasis on how one looks and how that plays into the possibilities one has in society. Set in South Korea, If I Had Your Face follows the lives of four women living in the same apartment building in Seoul. These four women, Kyuri, Miho, Ara, and Woanna – live very different lives, all with different goals, different problems, different pasts, but all subject to the rigours of strict social hierarchy and a cutthroat capitalist society.
Cha is a debut author, and this debut novel offers a look into South Korean society and how women are still subject to impossibly high standards of beauty and adherence to a society that is still very patriarchal. A different character and how their lives are intertwined and form a friendship between the four that may ultimately be what saves them in the end narrate each chapter.
Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang
Freedom is a weird thing – the ability to decide one’s own path is freeing but also terrifying since everything that lays ahead rest solely on one’s own shoulders. Days of Distraction a coming-of-age novel that follows a 24-year-old tech writer who leaves behind her job and her life to follow her boyfriend to upstate New York. This is the opportunity that she’s been looking for, an opportunity to shape her life and sense of self.
Soon enough, the narrator becomes enraptured by the stories of her ancestors and the lives of Asian Americans and faced with the question of what it means to live in a society that neither sees you or understands you. A visceral appraisal of American society, this is a tale of exploration and discovery offered up in a tender and humorous tale of what it means to grow up Asian American in America.
America Is Not The Heart by Elaine Castillo
Hero de Vera has lived many different lives in a single lifetime, and she is about to embark on a whole new one when she immigrates to the Bay Area after being disowned by her parents in the Philippines. Welcomed by her Uncle Pol and his wife Paz, only her cousin Roni is willing to ask about Hero’s past as she starts anew in a new land.
America Is Not The Heart is a family saga – one that explores the promise of the American dream and the unshakeable hold of the past. This is Castillo’s powerful debut novel that explores the political history of the Philippines in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as the communities of Filipino immigrants in California during the same time, one that offers a tender and relevant story about the society we live in today.
New Waves by Kevin Nguyen
Black Marks on the White Page edited by Witi Ihimaera & Tina Makereti
I hope these recommendations help you find your next books written by an AAPI author. Look out for the next post on non-fiction books written by AAPI authors in this series.
Thanks for reading!