Books Magazine

Let’s Diversify Our Shelves: Asian American Literature Book List

By Appraisingpages @appraisjngpages

I am a big fan of the We Need Diverse Campaign, which is an online and social movement that is pushing for a more diverse literary world. While this campaign focuses mainly on children’s and YA literature, it also points to the fact that diverse adult literature is not as wildly visible as other forms of literature. Diversity in this context means all diverse experiences that can range from cultural, ethnical, racial, LGBTQ, gender, religious and people with disabilities. To learn more about the We Need Diverse Book Campaign, check out the video below:

I didn’t read anything written by or focusing on a minority until I reached college. I was unaware of all the great aspects of Queer Literature, African American Literature, Hispanic Literature, Asian American literature and many more. It baffled me that even though I grew up in such a diverse part of the country, the Bay Area, that I was introduced to these great works so late in the game. It is important that we not only see ourselves in the books we read but that we experience and empathize with the lives of the people around us. Books are not just a way to escape the world; they are also a way to experience the world from another person’s perspective. So for those of you looking to diversify your bookshelf or even just looking for an interesting read here are a few of my diverse favorite books. I will try and cover a different diverse genre each blog.

For this blog, I will be highlighting my favorite Asian American Literature:

Monstress: Stories by Lysley Tenorio is a collection of short stories focusing on the Filipino American experience. It also tackles some LGBTQ issues. Tenorio brings new light to the melancholy of isolation, the need for acceptance and the tragedy of losing one’s first home. I have read this book more than once because the characters are so vivid and witty that I just never wanted to let them go. The stories take place all over the world, from the streets of San Francisco to the country of Manila. You will find yourself speeding through each of these stories and leaving with a new sense of what it means to be “Home”.

Birds of Paradise Lost by Andrew Lam is also a collection of thirteen stories, and they chronicle the lives of the Americas newest Americans who fled Vietnam during the Vietnam War. These compassionate stories share the struggle of assimilating, the nightmare of war and the realization that you can never go back. Always poignant and sometimes humorous, these stories will stay with you. Lam reminds us that we all have a history in common; that we all cry and laugh the same regardless of how we got here.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri delves into the lives of Indian Americans through this collection of short stories. The stories do not focus on the “Indianness” of the characters, but rather how love and acceptance reach beyond cultural and generational borders. From the young couple trying to reconcile, to the young boy who befriends his Indian caregiver, these stories are bound to resonate with you. This book is also a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, which is not a surprise because Lahiri’s control of the words on the page is fantastic. Don’t believe me? Pick up a copy.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang follows the lives of three characters: The monkey king from Chinese folklore that wishes to become a God; the struggles of Jin Wang, a lonely Asian American middle school student who is having a hard time fitting in with his white classmates; and Danny, an “All American” teen that is forced to change schools when his cousin comes to visit and embarrasses him. All of these stories work well on their own, but what I enjoyed most was seeing how they converge together. This graphic novel is humorous and is a great commentary on self-acceptance, identity, and race.

Do you have a piece of Asian American Literature that you would suggest? Is there a genre of diverse literature that you would like me to cover? Leave it in the comments.

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