Celebrate AANHPI Heritage Year Round With These 12 Book Recommendations

by | May 30, 2023 | Other

Growing up, it always felt difficult to get my hands on books by AANHPI authors. I grew up with Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club on my mom’s bookshelf, but beyond that, I felt resigned to the white, mostly male authors that filled the Barnes and Nobles of the Texas suburbs. And while publishers have a long way to go in elevating the stories of AANHPIs, I’ve been so happy to see larger and larger numbers of them line the shelves of bookstores today.

As a former bookseller and forever bookworm, this list was tough to narrow down, but I attempt to highlight some titles that haven’t made the big lists or won the prominent awards that are often still determined by a predominantly white crowd. Telling the stories of the AANHPI community often includes grief, intergenerational trauma, the struggles of migration, and loneliness and isolation. In this list, I attempt to complement these themes with books that also showcase AANHPI joy, humor, resilience, romance, and hope.


Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change by Angela Garbes (Filipina American) – This book is a critical reframing of motherhood and what it means to be a caregiver, particularly after the pandemic has changed the way people view unpaid care work. “Reimagining our approach to mothering can birth its transformative potential. Day in and day out, this work fan be our most consistent, embodied resistance to patriarchy, white supremacy, ableism, and the exploitation that underlies American capitalism.” Garbes writes through the lens of a Filipina American whose immigrant family has a complicated relationship with global care work.

Book cover: Essential Labor, Mothering as Social Change by Angela Garbes

Seeing Ghosts by Kat Chow (Chinese American) – Kat Chow lost her mother to cancer when she was a teenager, and this memoir follows her life and relationship with her late mother after after their family’s loss. I really loved that this wasn’t your typical grief memoir—it’s also the portrait of an Asian American family and their story of struggle and coping, with hints of dark humor and quirkiness.

Book cover: Seeing Ghosts by Kat Chow

Good Talk by Mira Jacob (Indian American) – How do you have conversations with your inquisitive, biracial child about tough topics like racism, 9/11, and queer identity? Mira Jacob does so beautifully via this graphic memoir that made me both laugh and cry page after page.

Book cover: Good Talk by Mira Jacobs

All You Can Ever Know and A Living Remedy by Nicole Chung (Korean American) – Nicole Chung’s first memoir centers around her identity as a Korean adoptee and her search for her family’s roots while reexamining her relationship with her white parents in Oregon. Her second memoir walks us through her experience losing both parents to a failed health care system that crippled their working class family. In both, she’s able to articulate and have us sit through complex emotions that we can all relate to even if we’ve never been in her situation.

Book cover: All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung  Book cover: A Living Remedy: A Memoir by Nicole Chung

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden (Chinese and Hawaiian American) – This coming-of-age memoir focuses on Madden’s experiences as a queer, biracial teenager in Boca Raton, Florida, growing up with a Chinese Hawaiian mother and a Jewish father in a town with stark racial disparities. I love a good memoir, and this one is not to be missed. (Trigger warnings: addiction, sexual assault)

Book cover: Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden


The Kiss Quotient series by Helen Hoang (Vietnamese American) – Don’t overlook contemporary romance! Helen Hoang’s books, which are fun and funny, also feature main characters on the autism spectrum navigating romance, immigration, care work, and sex positivity. I also highly recommend The Heart Principle, the third book of this series.

Book covers: The Kiss Quotient series by Helen Hoang

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (Chinese American) – Set in San Francisco during the 1950s Red Scare, this young adult novel follows a Chinese American teenager who sneaks out to a lesbian bar at night and falls in love with another girl. Much of American history seems to skip the part where its government targeted Chinese Americans and threatened to deport them under the excuse of Communist ties.

Book over: Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Babel, or the Necessity of Violence by R.F. Kuang (Chinese American) – This book was incredibly gutsy and epic. It’s set in 1800s United Kingdom, following the story of a biracial Chinese boy who is brought to Oxford to become a translator for the British Empire. You learn a ton about translation and languages while also going on an adventure of a secret society, magic, and the building of a revolution against colonial imperialism. The writing is beautiful, the story is one of a kind, and it’s generally very hard to put down, so don’t be intimidated by its size.

Book cover: Babel, or the Necessity of Violence by R.F. Kuang

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia Manansala (Filipina American) – Combine murder mystery, the humor of Asian aunties, small town drama, and enticing Filipino food, and you get this cozy mystery that will easily turn into your weekend plans.

Book cover: Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto (Chinese-Indonesian) – This book is technically a mystery, but for me it was pure comedy. I couldn’t stop laughing and turning the pages, and it’s the perfect escape from a lot of the more somber, heart wrenching stories of immigrant women and women of color. Bring it to the beach, the pool, or on your summer vacation.

Book cover: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto

Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So (Cambodian American) – This is one of the best short story collections I’ve read. Impactful and raw, the stories center around interweaving families in a Cambodian American community in California, where the characters grapple with intergenerational trauma, exploring queer identity, women’s emotional labor, and so much more.

Book cover: Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So

Sea Change by Gina Chung (Korean American) – Does the theme of millennial loneliness ever get old? Ro feels so alone (her father passed away, best friend is fading, and boyfriend leaves her for Mars) that at times it seems her best friend is the giant octopus in the aquarium. Entirely character-driven and filled with intense flashbacks, this debut novel goes deep into the importance of relationships and how to heal from trauma.

Book cover: Sea Change by Gina Chung

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