Xuan Juliana Wang
Xuan Juliana Wang was born in Heilongjiang, China, and moved to Los Angeles when she was seven years old. Her debut short story collection, Home Remedies, takes place in both the U.S. and China, with characters that embody a new generation of Chinese youth. These stories turn the immigrant narrative on its head, imbuing it with the culture and verisimilitude of the young.
East Goes West
Younghill Kang has been called the father of Korean American literature and this re-publication of his 1937 classic needs to be read. It centers on Chungpa Han, who flees Japanese-occupied Korea to make a life in the United States in the 1920s. He arrives in New York with only four dollars in his pocket and a suitcase full of Shakespeare and has to fend for himself while at the same time witnessing the greed and racism of his new homeland.
A River of Stars
This powerful meditation on immigration and motherhood follows Scarlett Chen, pregnant with her boss’s baby, who has left China to live in a secret maternity home in Los Angeles in order to give birth on American soil. But when she finds out something life-altering, she goes on the run to San Francisco’s Chinatown, along with Daisy, an insouciant, expectant teen, to protect her child and herself.
Ted Chiang’s parents moved to Taiwan during the Chinese Communist Revolution before settling in the United States, where the author was later born. In his new short story collection, he combines science fiction with age-old questions, so alternate universes and aliens are paired with life’s ponderances in a stunning combination.
The People in the Trees
You may have already read the bestselling (and heartbreaking) novel A Little Life, but I urge you to go back to Yanagihara’s first novel. The novel centers on Dr. Abraham Norton Perina, who, as the doctor on an anthropological mission, embarks on a voyage to a remote chain of islands called U’ivu. On the island is a lost tribe whose people have been gifted with eternal life, though through further research, Perina eventually exploits and endangers the tribespeople—and himself.
The Bride Test
Helen Hoang’s second romance novel is just as irresistible as her first. Due to his autism, Khai Diep doesn’t process emotions like other people. He either feels really flat, or flies off the handle at tiny things. While he avoids relationships, his mother would like to see him married, so she goes back to Vietnam to find a suitable bride. When Esme Tran sees her chance to escape life in Ho Chi Minh City, she takes it, but seducing Khai proves to be way tougher than she thought.
The Hollow of Fear
Sherry Thomas is so skilled at writing historical mysteries that you’d never guess that English is the author’s second language. The Hollow of Fear is part of the Lady Sherlock series and in this book, we follow Charlotte Holmes as she investigates a murder and a disappearance, both of which point back to the same culprit.
Before Janie’s sister, Hannah, is born, her grandmother tells her a story: Since the Japanese occupation of Korea, their family has lost a daughter in every generation, and Janie is told to keep Hannah safe. Years later, when Hannah inexplicably cuts all ties and disappears, Janie goes to find her, confronting her family’s painful past along the way. Catherine Chung’s novel weaves in Korean folklore with a modern-day identity story to create a beautiful result.
The True Queen
The heroines of Zen Cho’s novel, The True Queen, are sisters, Muna and Sakti, who awaken on a beach with no memories of their past. They realize they’ve been cursed as Sakti begins to fade away, causing Muna to go to distant Britain to an academy that trains women in magic. To save her sister, Muna must navigate British society and trick English magicians into thinking she’s a magical prodigy.
June Han was orphaned as a young girl by the Korean War. Hector Brennan escaped small-town life to join the army. When the war ends, the two meet at a Korean orphanage and find themselves each fighting for the attentions of Sylvie Tanner, a missionary in charge of the orphanage. This gorgeous novel of love and war, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, will make you ache—in a good way.
May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, when we celebrate the culture, traditions, and history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. We also remember and pay tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders whose incredible contributions have enriched America’s culture and history and paved the way for our future legacy. Currently, there are over 20 million people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent living in the U.S., which makes up about 6 percent of the American population.
To celebrate, we’re reading and re-reading some of our favorite books by Pacific Islander and Asian American authors. Here’s our list:
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