In Celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month


In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the contributors at The Book Slut wanted to cull a list of their favorite authors of AAPI heritage. There’s so many good books below, split between Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry. Consider all of these highly recommended, and please let us know in the comments if you have more for us to read that we may have missed.


You can find all of these books at our Bookshop here.



FICTION




Insurrecto by Gina Apostol


Could I possibly describe this astounding book to you? I'm not sure; Apostol barely allows the reader to understand her two protagonists and what they are writing. They are writing scripts about their heritage, personal history, and also the historic. Consider that Apostol lays out her narrative from page one with a cast of characters, a pages-long table of contents about what's to come. It's cheeky, it's funny—I laughed. She introduces her two characters: Magsalin, a Filipinx writer and translator, and Chiara, the American daughter of a famous 70s filmmaker who disappeared in the Philippines years ago. The two women have come together in Manila to work on a film script, and it seems like they end up writing two different scripts, two different movies about different time periods and different things, but maybe they're the same? I love this kind of layered, meta-fictional novel that navigates history and tragedy and what is remembered and how. — Jessica Maria


Buy it here.




America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo


Castillo is an immersive storyteller. She's not going to lay everything out for you about Filipinx culture in both the Philippines or Milpitas, California (her two settings); she's going to drop you right in there, have her characters talking to each other in Ilocano or Tagalog (which makes you realize, oh, there are MANY regional languages in the Philippines, and also me realizing, due to the Spanish colonization of the country, that I recognized some of the latin-rooted words #learningthrufiction). She's not going to translate for you, but you'll get it. Or you won't—that's okay! America is Not the Heart charts a complex journey for the reader, one that is particularly rewarding. I encourage the curious reader, the one who remembers to laugh amid tragedy, the reader who is open to the grand and minutiae, a reader who doesn't prize sentimentality, the reader who would like perspectives of those we rarely see in fiction. — Jessica Maria


Buy it here.




King of Joy by Richard Chiem


I cracked open this book last year on a warm beach in Panama. I was transported back to the U.S., to the west coast, to the life of Corvus, a young woman dealing with grief and working for a sinister pornographer. Yes, that’s right. And this story continually goes in directions unimagined. I’m still in awe of it today, and know I’ll be rereading it in my future. — Jessica Maria


Buy it here.




Miracle Creek by Angie Kim


Miracle Creek is an edge-of-your-seat courtroom thriller written by Angie Kim. The story unfolds after an accidental conflagration at a hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) center known as Miracle Submarine in the fictional town of Miracle Creek, Virginia. The courtroom drama ensues with secrets unspooling about many of those associated with Miracle Submarine including patients, parents of patients, and the proprietors, Pak and Young Yoo. Told from multiple perspectives, the unreliability of many of the narrators is tinged by secrets and lies. I had the great fortune of meeting Angie Kim in Santa Barbara, CA at my local bookseller in May 2019 and gained invaluable insight into the book. Kim, a trial lawyer for many years conveyed the struggles she had once experienced adapting as a Korean immigrant in the U.S. The theme of immigrant adaptation is one of the strengths of this absorbing debut novel. — Marian


Buy it here.




On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee


A dystopian love story of sorts that explores class, inequality, and identity through imaginative detail and rich prose. I read this years ago, and it’s stuck with me. — Nikki


Buy it here.




A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini


This is a beautiful tale of loss, love and sacrifice set in Afghanistan. The ending is one I will always remember because of how heartbreaking it was. — Hannah


Buy it here.




The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri


One of my favorite books of all time, probably because it spoke to me in a way that no other book before it had. As a daughter of an immigrant, Gogol’s journey vibrated with the same tensions and earnestness that I recognized in myself growing up. I’m not Indian-American, but it resonated nonetheless. Lahiri’s beautiful writing and wondrous narrative are clear evidence why she’s one of the best writers today. — Jessica Maria


Buy it here.




PACHINKO by MIN JIN LEE


Sometimes you just need an epic novel to take up all the space in your brain, and in that case I would point you firmly to Pachinko. It has incredible breadth and it’s so very human. I also would make a case that it’s the perfect book club book: it’s hard for me to imagine anyone thinking that it isn’t a worthwhile read, and there’s so much to discuss. Victoria


Buy it here.




THE UNPASSING by Chia-Chia Lin


This book is criminally under-read. It’s one of the most beautiful and tactile books I’ve read in a long time. It pairs splendidly with On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. — Victoria


Buy it here.




SEVERANCE by Ling Ma


This book! I can still feel my way through it. Her apartment, her medicine cabinet, a rackety commute once the subways shut down, and empty sprawling office, the abandoned hot dog cart, the empty windows. Sometimes I’m walking through New York and I see it how Ling Ma described it instead of what I’m seeing for myself. Oh, it’s so good. — Victoria


Buy it here.




These Violent Delights by Victoria Namkung


A smart, suspenseful, and deeply thought-provoking novel that unpacks and deconstructs rape culture. — Maggie


Buy it here.




ON EARTH WE’RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS by Ocean Vuong


I first read Ocean Vuong’s poems on the Paris Review website when I was one month out of college, making a very poor attempt to be a grant writer for a tiny nonprofit in Dayton, Ohio. When I read this novel last year, it felt the same way those poems felt then, absolutely transcendent. — Victoria


Buy it here.




Chemistry by Weike Wang


I really loved this small, intimate book about a woman who keeps most people at an arm's length. I liked how she intertwined scientific perspective with her personal struggles. The language is sparse and moving, and I enjoyed this very much. It reminded me of The Dept of Speculation and Goodbye, Vitamin...quick reads with deep insight, and can be very funny amidst heartache. — Jessica Maria


Buy it here.




A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara


I have never been so affected in my entire life by a book. The content is so traumatic and heartbreaking, but the writing is so beautiful that the characters will remain with you for years. Maggie


Buy it here.



SOME MORE RECOMMENDED FICTION




Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha


Edinburgh by Alexander Chee


The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee


The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang


The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob



Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong


If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim


The Leavers by Lisa Ko


The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon


In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin



Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee


Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng


Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng


The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen


Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao



The Hundred-Year Flood by Matthew Salessess


Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu


The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar


Sour Heart: Stories by Jenny Zhang




Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi


Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi


To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han


Anna K by Jenny Lee


The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan


Frankly in Love by David Yoon



NON-FICTION & ESSAYS & MEMOIR




The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui


The Best We Could Do is an exquisitely illustrated graphic novel by Thi Bui which recounts her family history from the Indo China war in Vietnam to her immigration following the fall of Saigon. Bui’s black and white drawings also feature a palette of orange-toned water colors that are stunning. Her narrative is bookended by the birth of her son in 2005 then told through a series of flashbacks touching on her parents’ history in Vietnam. The book provides important history on Vietnam prior to the Vietnam War that helps the reader understand the partitioning of the country and the role the French played in the country’s history. I’m not usually a reader of graphic novels but this one is a fantastic one to pick up. — Marian


Buy it here.




How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee


Some people talk about writing as a gift, but um, Alexander Chee's writing is a gift... to me? To readers everywhere? To EVERYONE? I'm not exaggerating. It may sound hyperbolic, but have you read Chee?! He is a particularly generous writer and this collection of essays demonstrates precisely why. The reader is invited to understand Chee as a writer, through his words and inner life. Gardening, protests, Chloe Sevigny, college, drag, identity, and more. — Jessica Maria


Buy it here.




Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong


Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings is a brilliantly written memoir depicting her experiences navigating her racial identity as an Asian American (Korean American) with prescient insight into identity issues, POCs in publishing, positionality and cultural production, and so much more. To say that I was utterly gob smacked by her introspective, intentional meditations is a gross understatement. The shape of myriad Asian American experiences are drawn. The false veneer of the model minority myth is ever-present and thus limits an actual understanding of diverse ethnic and class experiences, as Hong quips, “We are reputed to be so accomplished, and so law-abiding, and so we will disappear into this country’s amnesiac fog.” The book is both lyrical and analytical, all at the same time. If you like nonfiction and no-holds barred books about the struggles of Asian Americans, then this book is for you. — Marian


Buy it here.




Know My Name by Chanel Miller


A captivating memoir on the woman the world knew as Emily Doe. It is one of the most well-written books on the journey through the survival and grief of sexual assault and it gives Asian-American women the spotlight in survivorship in what is often a sea of white faces. Maggie


Buy it here.




Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino


This collection of culturally critiquing essays was enlightening and dazzling in regards to opening up my perspective to my own self delusions. It makes you pause in a world that is constantly trying to get you to run. Maggie


Buy it here.



SOME MORE RECOMMENDED NON-FICTION



All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung


The Woman Warrior by Maxine Kingston Hong


Good Talk by Mira Jacob


Tell Me Everything You Don't Remember by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee


Dear Girls by Ali Wong



POETRY



The Octopus Museum by Brenda Shaughnessy


This is the perfect collection of poetry to read during the pandemic. It’s about a future state of the world in which cephalopods have taken over and humans are captive, dying out. The poems retrace memories of humanity, all the good and awful we wrought. Shaughnessy also touches on her Japanese heritage and what it means to exist today, and in a future world we brought on ourselves. — Jessica Maria


Buy it here.



SOME MORE RECOMMENDED POETRY



Bite Hard by Justin Chin


Names Above Houses by Oliver de la Paz


Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong


Eye Level by Jenny Xie