You are here

AAPI Authors

We see every day how much the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community is hurting as horrific attacks and racist insults are in the news. This certainly isn’t a new problem, but it has become strikingly more visible in the past year. There are many tangible ways we can all help out, and if you’re curious about educational resources or where to make donations, please don’t hesitate to ask at a library information desk. A few links that are helpful: Stop AAPI Hate, where you can report a hate incident; Asian American Feminist Collective, a group that brings people together and creates public and policitcal educational programs; We Are Not a Virus, a movement to end the social stigma against Asian Americans during Covid-19; and the Chicago branch of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a group working towards racial equity.

Does reading a book by an AAPI author in itself fix anything? Of course not. But I’m a firm believer that reading creates empathy,  and it certainly doesn’t hurt anyone to get inside someone else’s worldview for the time it takes to read a book. It’s also important to support and lift up the voices of communities that face inequity, so in that vein, here is a selection of books by AAPI authors. Some speak to a character’s experience as an immigrant or early generational American, some don't touch on that plot at all. Some are heavy and some are just plain fun. After the novels are a handful of non-fiction selections in order to hear the author's own voice rather than a character's. These authors and their works are as rich and varied as any reader could hope for.

FICTION: 

                    

  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet. So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother's bright blue eyes and her father's jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue--in Marilyn's case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James's case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party. When Lydia's body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart.

  • My Year Abroad by Chang-Rae Lee: Tiller is an average American college student with a good heart but minimal aspirations. Pong Lou is a larger-than-life, wildly creative Chinese American entrepreneur who sees something intriguing in Tiller beyond his bored exterior and takes him under his wing. When Pong brings him along on a boisterous trip across Asia, Tiller is pulled into a series of ever more extreme and eye-opening experiences that transform his view of the world, of Pong, and of himself.

  • White Ivy by Susie Yang: Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar but you'd never know it by looking at her. Raised outside of Boston, she is taught how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops by her immigrant grandmother. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy's mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, where her dream instantly evaporates. Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when she bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon's sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable, it feels like fate.

  • The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang: Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases--a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old...It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice--with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan--from foreplay to more-than-missionary position... Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but crave all of the other things he's making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic.

  • Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan: The Crazy Rich Asians author's latest novel. On her very first morning on the island of Capri, Lucie Churchill sets eyes on George Zao--and instantly can't stand him. Especially when he kisses her in the darkness of the ancient ruins of a Roman villa and they are caught by her snobbish, disapproving cousin Charlotte. The daughter of an American-born Chinese mother and a blue-blooded New York father, Lucie has always sublimated the Asian side of herself in favor of the white side, and she adamantly denies having feelings for George. Several years later, when George appears in East Hampton where Lucie is weekending with her new fiancé, Lucie finds herself drawn to George again.

                       

  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan: In 1949 four Chinese women begin meeting in San Francisco to play mah jong, invest in stocks, eat dim sum, and say stories. They call their group the Joy Luck Club. Nearly forty years later, one of the members has died, and her daughter has come to take her place, only to learn of her mother's lifelong wish and the tragic way in which it has come true. The revelation of this secret unleashes an urgent need among the women to reach back and remember.

  • Chemistry by Weike Wang: You must love chemistry unconditionally...' When we meet the narrator of Weike Wang's taut debut novel, this is the credo she's striven to follow for most of her life. But now, three years into a graduate program at a demanding Boston university, she finds her onetime love for chemistry to be more hypothesis than reality. She is frustrated by reminders of her failed research from her peers, her advisor, and most of all her Chinese parents, who have expected nothing short of excellence from her since she was young. On top of all this looms the marriage proposal from her devoted boyfriend, a fellow scientist, whose path through academia has been free of obstacles, and with whom she can't make a life before finding her own success. The pressure of these volatile elements eventually mounts so high that she has no choice but to leave behind everything she thought she knew about her future--and herself.

  • The Incendiaries by RO Kwon: Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet their first month at an elite American university. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn't tell anyone she blames herself for her mother's recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy transferring in from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe. Haunted by her loss, Phoebe is increasingly drawn into a religious group--a secretive cult tied to North Korea--founded by a charismatic former student with an enigmatic past involving Phoebe's Korean American family. Will struggles to confront the obsession consuming the one he loves, and the fundamentalism he's tried to escape. When the group bombs several buildings in the name of faith, killing five people, Phoebe disappears. Will devotes himself to finding her, tilting into obsession himself, seeking answers to what happened to Phoebe and if she could have been responsible for this violent act.

  • Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen: Stranded for eighteen years since the 1990s, time-traveling agent Kin Stewart, suffering from memory loss, has started a new life, but when rescuers from the year 2142 finally arrive, he must choose between his current family and the one he left behind in the future.

  • The Farm by Joanne Ramos: Ensconced within a Hudson Valley retreat where expectant birth mothers are given luxurious accommodations and lucrative rewards to produce perfect babies, a Filipino immigrant is forced to choose between a life-changing payment and the outside world.

                    

  • Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu: Willis Wu doesn't perceive himself as a protagonist even in his own life: He's merely Generic Asian Man. Sometimes he gets to be Background Oriental Making a Weird Face or even Disgraced Son, but he is always relegated to a prop. Yet every day he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He's a bit player here, too, but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy--the most respected role that anyone who looks like him can attain. At least that's what he has been told, time and time again. Except by one person, his mother. Who says to him: Be more.

  • The Leavers by Lisa Ko: One morning, Deming Guo's mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. Set in New York and China, The Leavers is the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he's loved has been taken away--and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

  • Must I Go by Yiyun Li: Lilia Liska has shrewdly outlived three husbands, raised five children, and seen the arrival of seventeen grandchildren. Now she has turned her keen attention to the diary of a man named Roland Bouley, with whom she once had an affair--the man who was the father of her daughter Lucy. Lilia tells her rather different version of events revealing the surprising, long-held secrets of her past. And she returns inexorably to her daughter, Lucy, who took her own life at the age of twenty-seven. This is a novel about life in all its messy glory--life lived, for the extraordinary Lilia, absolutely on her own terms.

  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo: A young royal from the far north, is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully. Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor's lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for.

  • Miracle Creek by Angie Kim: In rural Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine-- a pressurized oxygen chamber that patients enter for therapeutic 'dives' with the hopes of curing issues like autism or infertility. When the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos' small community. The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night-- trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges-- as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice.

NON-FICTION: 

                     

  • The Making of Asian America: a history by Erika Lee: Asian Americans have helped change the face of America and are now the fastest growing group in the United States. But as award-winning historian Erika Lee reminds us, Asian Americans also have deep roots in the country. The Making of Asian America tells the little-known history of Asian Americans and their role in American life, from the arrival of the first Asians in the Americas to the present-day.

  • Dear Girls by Ali Wong: In her hit Netflix comedy special Baby Cobra, an eight-month-pregnant Ali Wong resonated so strongly with viewers that she became a popular Halloween costume. Wong told the world her remarkably unfiltered thoughts on marriage, sex, working women, and why you never see new-mom comics on stage but you sure see plenty of new dads. Wong's sharp insights and humor are even more personal in this completely original collection. She shares the wisdom she's learned from her career in comedy and reveals stories from her life off stage, including the brutal single life in New York (e.g., the inevitable confrontation with erectile dysfunction), reconnecting with her roots (and drinking snake blood) in Vietnam, being a wild child growing up in San Francisco, and parenting humiliations. Though addressed to her daughters, Ali Wong's letters are absurdly funny, surprisingly moving, and enlightening (and gross) for all.

  • Know My Name by Chanel Miller: She was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with a letter. Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting her on Stanford's campus. Her victim impact statement was posted on BuzzFeed, where it instantly went viral--viewed by almost eleven million people within four days, it was translated globally and read on the floor of Congress; it inspired changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case. ... Now she reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words.

  • Minor Feelings: an Asian American reckoning by Cathy Park Hong: Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong ... blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America ... Binding these essays together is Hong's theory of 'minor feelings.' As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these 'minor feelings' occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality--when you believe the lies you're told about your own racial identity. Minor feelings are not small, they're dissonant--and in their tension, Hong finds the key to the questions that haunt her. With sly humor and a poet's searching mind, Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today.

  • All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung: Chung investigates the mysteries and complexities of her transracial adoption in this chronicle of unexpected family for anyone who has struggled to figure out where they belong.