As a book blogger and reviewer, I have always felt that we as readers have a responsibility to make sure the texts we’re reading are reflective of the greater community around — and that includes reading books by diverse writers whose lived experiences are different than your own. And as a Chinese American adoptee, I’ve worked really hard to read books by not only Chinese American writers, but various writers of Asian descent. It’s been important in figuring out my own racial identity. It’s also been key in helping me break down the internalized racism I’ve been carrying around my whole life, especially that all Asians are the same. While no amount of book stacks are going to stop racism, I do think books provide an awesome opportunity to learn more about yourself and others while gaining a greater sense of empathy for everyone.
So to honor my Asian American heritage and in light of the recent attacks in Atlanta, Georgia, that left the whole Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Asian diaspora community really in shock and awe at the horror of racism, I wanted to feature the five books by Asian American writers that are especially close to my heart.
While this list is far from comprehensive and certainly isn’t going to the solve the issue of stopping Asian hate, I wanted the chance to feature books that mean a lot to me and would make great additions to anyone looking to learn about the wide range of Asian experiences — we aren’t a monolith!!
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino. This collection of essays was not only well written, but full of sharp observations and criticisms of life in the United States. Her essays about womanhood — especially as an Asian American woman and woman of color — really hit home with me.
The Night Tiger by Yangzse Choo. This is probably the first book I read by an Asian American writer after school — meaning, one of the first books by a writer of Asian descent that I chose on my own to read. And it was life changing! I loved seeing a character who looked like me but wasn’t delegated to some stupid stereotype, and I found the characters and plotline to be complex, magical, and lyrical.
Anna K by Jenny Lee. This book was flat out fun — and it’s one I wish I had had as a young adult! Anna K, the main character, is bold, smart, compassionate, and caring, and her romance with Count Vronsky is so steamy. Until that point, I hadn’t read a romance with not one but several Asian leads who were, again, not stereotyped or just side characters!
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu. I devoured this satire in one day because it hit so real. Using Hollywood as the backdrop to explore the inherent racism and stereotyping of Asians in media (and real life), this book’s lesson was so powerful and still has stuck with me almost a year later — to be more, and not let any stereotype hold you back.
Three Souls by Janie Chang. Chang is one of my favorite writers of historical fantasy — I’ve read two of her three novels, and each one has been so captivating, and also taught me about a period of China’s history that was unfamiliar to me. Her debut novel was also so thought provoking, making me as a reader think about regrets and what I’d do differently if given the choice.
What are you favorite books by writers of Asian descent or in the AAPI or Asian diaspora community? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram!