With roots in more than 20 countries, Asian Americans make up one of the most diverse groups in the United States. Yet, pop culture depictions sometimes fail to reflect the depth of the Asian American experience, often neglecting smaller communities and ethnicities within the diaspora to focus instead on larger, more established populations. This Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we're spotlighting books by acclaimed Asian American authors such as Christina Soontornvat and Sheba Karim as well as a few others. These books speak to the often overlooked parts of Asian America and the importance of being seen in the books we read.
The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M Masood
The book begins in the mid-1990s when Anvar Faris’ parents — disturbed by increasing fundamentalism around them — decide to immigrate to the United States from Pakistan. At the same time, thousands of miles away in Iraq, an adolescent girl named Faqwa is also getting ready to move to the United States with her father under much more tragic and complicated circumstances. Following both characters over the course of 25 years, the two unexpectedly meet as adults in California.
A Good True Thai by Sunisa Manning
Sunisa Manning’s “A Good True Thai” gives readers an in-depth look at the intensity of the student movement of the 1970s in Thailand through the eyes of three twenty-somethings with very different backgrounds and life experiences. The sumptuous details immerse you in life in Bangkok in the tumultuous ‘70s. This story of friendship and betrayal is startlingly relevant to both the current political situation in Thailand, and the fight for democracy and voting rights that is happening right now in the United States.
Afterparties: Stories by Anthony Veasna So
The literary world was stunned by the news in December that Cambodian American writer Anthony Veasna So had died unexpectedly at the age of 28, just months before the highly anticipated debut of his first book. Over the course of his short career, So had developed a reputation for creating sharply observed stories about the Cambodian American experience, many of which drew from his family’s own history as Vietnam War-era refugees. In August, Ecco will release “Afterparties,” a collection of short stories by So that wrestles with the immigrant and queer experiences in touching and unexpected ways.
Adobo and Arsenic by Mia P. Manansala
Lila Macapagal, the lead character in Mia P. Mansala’s funny new mystery is going through a rough patch. She’s recently had to move back to her hometown after a bad breakup left her reeling and she’s also been tasked with helping to save her Tita Rosie’s Filipino restaurant. Things go from bad to worse when Lila’s high school boyfriend — now a food critic with a grudge against Tita Rosie— suddenly drops dead while dining. It’s now up to Lila to clear her own name and to find out what really happened. As an added bonus for readers, Manansala includes recipes for classic Filipino dishes like chicken adobo so that they can recreate Tita Rosie’s cuisine at home.
Every Day Is A Gift by Tammy Duckworth
The new memoir by Senator Tammy Duckworth takes readers from the Illinois Democrat’s childhood in Southeast Asia as the child of a Thai Chinese mother and white American father to the devastating injury she experienced as a helicopter pilot during the Iraq War and her present position in the Senate. This memoir doesn’t hold back while showing us how resilient and strong the human spirit is. Senator Duckworth is unquestionably a hero, but it’s the beautiful tributes to the other unsung heroes in her life that will leave you in tears.
Olive Witch by Abeer Hoque
One of the most memorable memoirs Karim has read in recent years is “Olive Witch” by the Bangladeshi American writer and photographer Abeer Hoque. Born in Nigeria to Bangladeshi parents, Hoque moved to Pittsburgh with her family as a teenager. Karim said she was particularly struck by the book’s openness. It talks about moving to America as a teenager and also talks in a very honest way about mental health issues and other experiences.
Eyes That Kiss in the Corner by Joanna Ho with illustrations by Dung Ho
The book is about a young Asian girl who, upon realizing that her eyes look different from everyone in her class, learns how to embrace her eyes and those of her mother, grandmother and other family members.
Amrita Sher-Gil: Rebel with a Paintbrush by Anita Vachharajani
A new picture book about the Indian and Hungarian painter Amrita Sher-Gil, who was renowned for her portraits in the 1930s.
Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh
The latest book by We Need Diverse Books co-founder Ellen Oh was inspired by the author’s mother’s experiences as a child growing up in wartorn Korea. Main character Junie Kim is a modern-day middle schooler who is struggling to process things after she encounters racism at school. After learning about her grandparents' experiences growing up during the Korean War, Junie learns how to draw on her inner resilience and speak up.
Amina’s Song by Hena Khan
Shortly before the release of her popular 2017 middle grade novel “Amina’s Voice,” author Hena Khan told NBC News that she hoped “girls from all backgrounds find a friend in Amina, especially those who may not have met a Muslim before.” Khan’s latest release “Amina’s Song” is a follow up to Amina’s story and was released earlier this spring.
A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi
Two girls from two very different worlds strike up an unlikely friendship in “A Thousand Questions” by Saadia Faruqi. When Mimi is sent to Karachi to stay with her grandparents for the summer, she isn’t happy. The Pakistani American middle schooler is more interested in finding the father she hasn’t seen in years, even though she is not quite sure how to do so. But it’s at her grandparents' home that Mimi meets Sakina, the daughter of her family’s cook who has a secret of her own. The two girls decide to team up and help each other throughout a summer of discovery.
Source: NBC News by Lakshmi Ghandi, Shop TODAY May 18, 2021.