Published May 23, 2023

By Emma Ito

Did you know that May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Month?

On June 11, 1978, Rep. Frank Jefferson Horton (R-NY) and co-sponsor Rep. Norman Yoshio Mineta (D-CA) introduced a bill “authorizing the President to proclaim a week, which is to include the seventh and tenth of the month, during the first ten days of May of 1979 as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.’”

These dates were chosen to include the date of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrant to the United States (May 7, 1843) and the completion of the Trans-Continental Railroad in Utah (May 10, 1869), which depended on the work of over 11,000 Chinese immigrants. Beginning in 1990, the federal observance was to last for the entire month. In 2009, at the federal level, the month took on its current name: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Virginia has recognized and celebrated the month since 2002. 

My use of the term API here encompasses a huge umbrella of folks, including (but certainly not limited to!) Asians, Asian Americans, Asian Canadians, Pacific Islanders, Native Hawaiians; South Asians, Southeast Asians, East Asians — all Asians of the diaspora, all folks that identify within API. Mixed race Asians, half Asians, quarter Asians, Asian adoptees, Queer Asians, Disabled Asians — you cannot think about Asians without thinking of intersectionality!

This month, and all year, I encourage you to read API stories written by API authors — whether you are interested in fantasy, history, romance, memoir, or other genres. Some of these authors have also done events with our Virginia Festival of the Book, so check out the Festival site for recordings of live-streamed and virtual events.

Jump to:

Memoirs

  • Biting the Hand: Growing Up Asian in Black and White America by Julia Lee
  • Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place by Neema Avashia
  • What My Bones Know by Stephanie Foo
  • Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Live by Alice Wong
  • Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner
  • Know My Name by Chanel Miller
  • Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang
  • A Living Remedy by Nicole Chung

History

  • Asian American Histories of the United States by Catherine Ceniza Choy
  • Our Voices, Our Histories: Asian American and Pacific Islander Women by Shirley Hune & Gail M. Nomura
  • American History Unbound: Asians and Pacific Islanders by Gary Y. Okihiro
  • Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now by Jeff Yang, Phil Yu & Philip Wang
  • The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee
  • Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the South by Khyati Y. Joshi & Jigna Desai

Graphic Novels

  • Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob
  • Displacement by Kiku Hughes
  • They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
  • Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
  • American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
  • The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

Fiction

  • Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
  • Disorientation by Elain Hsieh Chou
  • Yolk by Mary H. K. Choi
  • Nuclear Family by Joseph Han
  • Hula by Jasmin Iolani Hakes
  • Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang
  • The Fortunes of Jaded Women by Carolyn Huynh
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  • Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

Sci-Fi/Fantasy

  • Babel: An Arcane History by R. F. Kuang
  • Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  • Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki
  • Severance by Ling Ma
  • A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee
  • Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
  • Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan
  • The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake
  • How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu
  • The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

Poetry/Essays

  • I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World by Kai Cheng Thom
  • Iep Jaltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner
  • Soft Science by Franny Choi
  • The Future is Disabled: Prophecies, Love Notes and Mourning Songs by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
  • The Collection Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang
  • Time Is A Mother by Ocean Vuong
  • DMZ Colony by Don Mee Choi

Romance

  • The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
  • Café Con Lychee by Emery Lee
  • Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
  • Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
  • A Pho Love Story by Loan Le
  • The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Thriller/Horror

  • Natural Beauty by Ling Ling Huang
  • She Is A Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran
  • White Ivy by Susie Yang
  • The Missing Sister by Elle Marr
  • These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant
  • Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
  • The Fervor by Alma Katsu

Middle Grade & Picture Books

  • Eyes that Speak to the Stars by Joanna Ho
  • Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao
  • Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
  • Eva Evergreen: Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe
  • Asian Adventures: Delicious Asian Foods from A to Z! by Yobe Qiu
  • Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho
  • Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki
  • Tofu Takes Time by Helen H. Wu

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