ReadMHK AAPI Reads for May
by Amber Hoskins, Adult Services Librarian
As we move into May, we begin the month reserved for celebrating the cultural heritage of Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). AAPI authors not only give us entertaining reads, they provide new perspectives for some and a mirror for others. There are too many authors to mention in just one article, so I will do my best to cover as many as possible.
One of my favorite genres to read is horror/thriller, so I will start with an author I recently discovered. I enjoy reading all types of thrillers whether it be apocalyptic, creature-feature or paranormal. Alma Katsu brings her own version of horror by writing about historical events, with a few of her own twists and turns woven throughout. The first book I read by Katsu was “The Hunger,” which follows the ill-fated saga of the Donner Party. This story is fast-paced, and I found it hard to put down. If you are a fan of Titanic history and enjoy thrillers, you can check out her book called “The Deep.” This story revolves around two survivors from the shipwreck and intermingles a level of paranormal suspense that will keep you turning pages.
April (National Poetry Month) is ending but that is no reason to stop indulging. There are plenty of fantastic AAPI authors to keep us in the mood for poems. Franny Choi’s poetry has been featured in the New York Times as well as on PBS News Hour, among others. In her book “Soft Science”, Choi delves into verse that shares her insights on womanhood, along with being queer and Asian American.
Ocean Vuong is another author/poet to consider. His collection of poetry in “Time Is a Mother” is a moving compilation of his thoughts and experiences upon dealing with the death of his mother. He also wrote the novel “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.” This beautifully-written work is based on Vuong’s life experience as a Vietnamese immigrant and focuses on the subjects of war and loss.
If you are into upbeat mysteries, you will probably enjoy author Mia Manansala. She offers a new take on recipe mysteries with her “Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery” series. Main character Lila, and her family own and operate the kitchen while crime-solving on the side. This cozy collection is funny and offers up something new to the recipe mystery genres with Filipino dishes inspiring the titles. The first book in this collection is “Arsenic and Adobo,” and it was recently followed up with “Homicide and Halo-Halo.”
For those who enjoy book-to-film, “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee has recently made the jump. This book is a New York Times bestseller and follows a Korean family through four generations of hopes and ambitions. It has recently been made into a television series with rave reviews. Celeste Ng is another author to be on the look out for. Her book “Little Fires Everywhere” has already been made into a series on Hulu. This story involves the adoption of a Chinese-American baby and the division it causes between neighbors, all while exploring the mystery of one woman’s long-held secrets at catastrophic costs.
If you are more interested in the non-fiction route, try “Crying in H Mart” by Michelle Zauner. Zauner shares the story of her young life growing up Korean-American and spending time at her grandmother’s home in Seoul. Described by the publisher as an, “exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance,” this biography gives an unflinching narrative of Zauner’s strength and spirit, along with a keen insight into her Korean culture.
To learn more about the history of AAPI individuals, “Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now” is a good start. Written by Jeff Yang, who started one of the first Asian American national magazines, this entertaining work archives the history of AAPIs in pop culture. From the 1980s to now, Yang touches on cultural appropriation in film and its damaging effects. He then shares his knowledge on cinema that features Asian actors, such as Pat Morita, Margaret Cho, and Ben Kingsley. This book also has an interactive element, with a QR code that links to a music playlist involving AAPI musicians.
As mentioned above, it is simply not possible to list all of the wonderful authors of the AAPI community in one article. If you would like to learn more about AAPI culture and history, check out asianpacificheritage.gov. This is a resourceful website that includes information and events, as well as exhibits and collections.