11 Books To Read To Better Understand The Asian-American Experience

Add these to your reading list.

Donating to organizations like the Asian American Advocacy Fund and buying from Asian-owned businesses are just some ways to support the AAPI community in 2021 and beyond. For further research that touch on the broader experiences of the Asian diaspora, here are 11 books to read.

Historian and writer Erika Lee explores the rich, complicated, and often forgotten history of Asians living in the U.S. The historical narratives touch on events like the first trans-Pacific ships in the 1500 and the incarceration of Japanese Americans in World War II.
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Rakesh Satyal’s novel is set in an Indian American community outside of Cleveland. The story centers on the lives of two Indian immigrants who unexpectedly become friends. Themes explored include what it means to be an outsider and how to find one’s place in this world.
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Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Alex Tizon writes about the challenges of being an Asian-American man in America. In the book, the late Filipino-American author explores topics related to race, masculinity, and personal identity.
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Vietnamese-American poet Ocean Vuong has been dubbed the Emily Dickinson of our time. His poems explore romance, family, memory, grief, war, and melancholia. You can follow up the book of poems with his critically-acclaimed debut novel: We're Briefly Gorgeous.
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Charles Yu
Interior Chinatown
Written in the form of a satirical screenplay, Charles Yu’s novel explores the racist tropes that exist about Asians by the entertainment industry. The story centers on Willis Wu who acts in a police procedural called Black and White and is chasing his dream role of “Kung Fu Guy.”
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Min Jin Lee
This novel shines a light on the Korean-American experience as it follows four generations of a Korean family through their immigration to Japan and then eventually to the U.S. It portrays a story of immigrant survival and sacrifice.
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Rahul Mehta
Quarantine: Stories
Rahul Mehta’s debut short story collection explores the lives of Indian-American gay men and their families. This book will resonate with anyone who grew up trying to balance western culture with the culture and traditions of one’s immigrant family.
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Elaine Castillo
America Is Not the Heart: A Novel
In Elaine Castillo’s debut novel, America Is Not the Heart, the author addresses issues of social inequity and racism in the Filipinx American community plus what it means to pursue the American Dream. The title is a nod to Carlos Bulosan’s famous novel America is in the Heart.
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John Okada
No-No Boy
First published in 1957, No-No Boy gained a renewed interest in the mid ‘70s thanks to a new generation of Japanese-American writers and scholars. For those seeking to learn about the traumatic effects of World War II on Japanese-Americans, this book is for you.
Writer and poet Cathy Park Hong taps into the Asian-American consciousness in her book Minor Feelings. Topics touch on the model minority myth and what exactly are these “minor feelings” Asian-Americans feel, and how they reckon with those emotions and thoughts.
Hieu Minh Nguyen
This Way to the Sugar
Poet Hieu Minh Nguyen dissects the queer experience as an Asian-American in the Midwest. (He grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota and was raised by a single Vietnamese-American mother.) Poems center on sexuality, death, family, and race.
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