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AAPI Heritage Month Recommended Reading

May celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, which includes the accomplishments, and the historical and cultural contributions of the AAPI community. Reading from Asian authors allows us to explore the diversity of experiences found within this community.

This is a list of books from AAPI authors that I've enjoyed or will be reading this year and would recommend for anyone to read. While May can be a great time to create intention on the authors you read from, it is just as important to incorporate diversity all year round. What books/authors will you be reading? What are ways that you will celebrete AAPI Heritage Month? Share your answers in the comments!


For Kids


A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers'. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother's, her grandmother's, and her little sister's. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.


Drawing from the strength of these powerful women in her life, she recognizes her own beauty and discovers a path to self-love and empowerment. This powerful, poetic picture book will resonate with readers of all ages.



When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens--with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words.


With spare, direct text by Minh Lê and luminous illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat, this stirring picture book about reaching across barriers will be cherished for years to come.


For Young Adults


Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte's war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.


Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth -- and the part he played in it.


While this is a young adult book it can and should be read by everyone. I felt very connected to the main character as we have similar backgrounds, but I think that anyone could feel that connection by learning along with him. Jay experiences micro-aggressions from his friends, guilt from not understanding basic information about his heritage, and an identity crisis. This book presents the universal understanding that nothing and no-one is ever all good or all evil.



Nishat doesn't want to lose her family, but she also doesn't want to hide who she is, and it only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flávia is beautiful and charismatic, and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat decide to showcase their talent as henna artists. In a fight to prove who is the best, their lives become more tangled--but Nishat can't quite get rid of her crush, especially since Flávia seems to like her back.

As the competition heats up, Nishat has a decision to make: stay in the closet for her family, or put aside her differences with Flávia and give their relationship a chance.



Deadly storms have ravaged Mina's homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God's bride, in the hopes that one day the "true bride" will be chosen and end the suffering.


Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village--and the beloved of Mina's older brother Joon--may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong's stead.


Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin--as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits--Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.


But she doesn't have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking...


For History Enthusiasts


In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant--and that her lover is married--she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son's powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.


Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan's finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee's complex and passionate characters--strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis--survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.




Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen is an autobiography by Queen Lili'uokalani. Published in 1898, the book was written in the aftermath of Lili'uokalani's attempt to appeal on behalf of her people to President Grover Cleveland, a personal friend. Although it inspired Cleveland to demand her reinstatement, the United States Congress published the Morgan Report in 1894, which denied U.S. involvement in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen appeared four years later as a final effort by Lili'uokalani to advocate on behalf of Hawaiian sovereignty, but it unfortunately came too late. That same year, President McKinley and the United States Congress approved the annexation of Hawaii.


In Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen, Lili'uokalani reflects on her experiences as a young girl growing up on Oahu, where she was raised as a member of the extended royal family of King Kamehameha III. Born in Honolulu, she was educated among her fellow royals from a young age. In addition to her studies, Lili'uokalani developed an artistic sensibility early on, and was fond of both writing and music. She crafted the lyrics to the popular song "Aloha 'Oe" (1878), just one of the more than 100 songs she would write in her lifetime.

Although her book was unsuccessful as an attempt to advocate for Hawaiian sovereignty and the restoration of the monarchy, it has since been recognized as a moving personal portrait of a girl who grew up to become Hawaii's first and only queen, a beloved monarch who fought for the rights of her people.


For Adults


Sly, surprising, and razor-sharp, Natural Beauty follows a young musician into an elite, beauty-obsessed world where perfection comes at a staggering cost.


Our narrator produces a sound from the piano no one else at the Conservatory can. She employs a technique she learned from her parents--also talented musicians--who fled China in the wake of the Cultural Revolution. But when an accident leaves her parents debilitated, she abandons her future for a job at a high-end beauty and wellness store in New York City.



In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother's particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother's tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.


As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band--and meeting the man who would become her husband--her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.




When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She's tasked with saving her Tita Rosie's failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.


With the cops treating her like she's the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila's left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block...





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