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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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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