Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Reads

AAPIH reads

This month we’re celebrating our favorite Asian-American and Pacific Islander authors. There’s everything from short stories and personal essays to emotional nonfiction and award winners. Know them, read them, love them. Repeat.

For when you want to be transported to another world…

Exit West - Mohsin Hamid

Start with Mohsin Hamid’s “Exit West.” A couple falls in love in a war zone and as their city implodes due to conflict, the two begin a journey to escape. And for them—escaping means life as a refugee, and leaving everything they ever knew behind.

For the friend who can’t stop thinking about immigration...

The Leavers - Lisa Ko

Start here. Lisa Ko's "The Leavers" begins when an undocumented Chinese immigrant goes missing. The book centers on what happens to her son after he’s adopted by a white couple who rename him and try to make him assimilate. It’s set in both China and upstate NY and will make you think about what it really means to belong. It’s also a National Book Award nominee, so you know it’s good.

For when you want to honor an OG...

Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan

Enter: Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club.” It’s an intimate look inside the lives of eight Chinese mothers and their American daughters. It made a huge splash when it was published in 1989 and eventually got turned into the first studio film to star an all-Asian cast. The next one to do this was last year’s “Crazy Rich Asians.”

For the friend who’s missing her university days...

The Incendiaries - R.O. Kwon

Try R.O. Kwon’s “The Incendiaries.” Boy meets girl in college. Boy falls for girl. Girl joins a secret cult and the cult turns violent. Naturally, things go awry. It all takes place on a college campus so you know it’s ground zero for drama.

For when you need a good cry...

A Little Life - Hanya Yanagihara

Hanya Yanagihara’s “A Little Life,” will help with that. Her debut novel—released to critical praise—centers on four men as they graduate from college and make their way through New York. They’re bound by trauma, brotherhood, love, success and addiction. This one’s heavy and will probably break your heart. It’s also a long one—it’s worth it, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.

For when you want a book with serious credentials...

The Sympathizer - Viet Thanh Nguyen

Oh heyyy Pulitzer. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s “The Sympathizer” won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It follows a conflicted Vietnam War sympathizer as he acts as a double agent. It’s set in both America and Vietnam and will make you rethink everything you ever thought about the war.

For your friend who has a short attention span…

Sour Heart - Jenny Zhang

Enter Jenny Zhang’s collection of stories, “Sour Heart.” Her shorts span from NY to China and are all about the experience of growing up in NYC as a Chinese-American. It’s a manifesto on girlhood, immigration, life, experimentation, family, and more. Perfect for anyone who can’t find the time to tackle one of the really long novels on your never-ending book list.

For the friend who needs a reality check...

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel Essays Alexander Chee

This one will do it. Alexander Chee’s “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel,” is, yup, you guessed it, a collection of non-fiction essays. Chee reflects on the AIDS crisis, his father’s death, sexual trauma, the 2016 presidential election, and more. It will make you think hard about life, identity, politics, art, and humanity. All the easy, fun stuff.

For the person who loves to watch “Inception”…

Trust Exercise -Susan Choi

This one’s a mindf*ck too. Enter: Susan Choi’s “Trust Exercise.” We’re telling you upfront, this one’s a puzzle. It’s the American suburbs. It’s the 1980s. There’s a performing arts class, two freshmen, and an acting teacher. And everything you think happens to these characters gets flipped upside down, spun around, and flipped again.

For your friend who wants to read a critical fave...

Pachinko - Min Jin Lee

“Pachinko,” is a good start. Min Jin Lee’s novel was a National Book Award finalist and will transport you to 1990s Japan and Korea. This one's all about what happens when a fisherman's daughter falls for a wealthy stranger who also happens to be married. She gets pregnant, and spoiler: things get complicated.

For when you can’t stop watching “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”...

Emergency Contact - Mary H.K. Choi

Mary H.K. Choi’s "Emergency Contact" is here for you. It’s all about an awkward meet-cute that turns into more. You’ll watch a couple’s relationship develop over text as they become each other's emergency contacts. Very millennial, very timely, and very technological.

PS: Want to continue to learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month? We got you covered.

PPS: *These are editorially selected, but if you purchase, theSkimm may get something in return. Thanks.

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AAPIH Firsts
The Firsts