Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month: Reading Recommendations

Will Harlan | May 10, 2021



Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with our digital book display! We’re highlighting books and movies by and about Asian and Pacific Americans throughout history for readers of all ages. Each item is available through the Minuteman Library Network. All you need is your library card!

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Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Featured Recommendations


Minor Feelings

Cathy Park Hong

A ruthlessly honest, emotionally charged, and utterly original exploration of Asian American consciousness and the struggle to be human "Brilliant . . . To read this book is to become more human."--Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR AUTOBIOGRAPHY * NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times * The Washington Post * NPR * Time * New Statesman * BuzzFeed * Esquire * The New York Public Library * Book Riot Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America. Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative--and its relentless and riveting pursuit of vital questions around family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality, will change the way you think about our world. Binding these essays together is Hong's theory of "minor feelings." As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these "minor feelings" occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality--when you believe the lies you're told about your own racial identity. Minor feelings are not small, they're dissonant--and in their tension Hong finds the key to the questions that haunt her. With sly humor and a poet's searching mind, Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. This intimate and devastating book traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and female friendship. A radically honest work of art, Minor Feelings forms a portrait of one Asian American psyche--and of a writer's search to both uncover and speak the truth. Praise for Minor Feelings "Hong begins her new book of essays with a bang. . . .The essays wander a variegated terrain of memoir, criticism and polemic, oscillating between smooth proclamations of certainty and twitches of self-doubt. . . . Minor Feelings is studded with moments [of] candor and dark humor shot through with glittering self-awareness."--The New York Times "Hong uses her own experiences as a jumping off point to examine race and emotion in the United States."--Newsweek (40 Must-Read Fiction and Nonfiction Books to Savor This Spring) "Powerful . . . [Hong] brings together memoiristic personal essay and reflection, historical accounts and modern reporting, and other works of art and writing, in order to amplify a multitude of voices and capture Asian America as a collection of contradictions. She does so with sharp wit and radical transparency."--Salon

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The Duke Who Didn’t

Courtney Milan

Miss Chloe Fong has plans for her life, lists for her days, and absolutely no time for nonsense. Three years ago, she told her childhood sweetheart that he could talk to her once he planned to be serious. He disappeared that very night. Except now he’s back. Jeremy Wentworth, the Duke of Lansing, has returned to the tiny village he once visited with the hope of wooing Chloe. In his defense, it took him years of attempting to be serious to realize that the endeavor was incompatible with his personality. All he has to do is convince Chloe to make room for a mischievous trickster in her life, then disclose that in all the years they’ve known each other, he’s failed to mention his real name, his title… and the minor fact that he owns her entire village. Only one thing can go wrong: Everything.

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Dial A for Aunties

Jesse Q. Sutanto

"Sutanto brilliantly infuses comedy and culture into the unpredictable rom-com/murder mystery mashup as Meddy navigates familial duty, possible arrest and a groomzilla. I laughed out loud and you will too.”—USA Today (four-star review) “A hilarious, heartfelt romp of a novel about—what else?—accidental murder and the bond of family. This book had me laughing aloud within its first five pages… Utterly clever, deeply funny, and altogether charming, this book is sure to be one of the best of the year!”—Emily Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Beach Read One of PopSugar’s "42 Books Everyone Will Be Talking About in 2021"! What happens when you mix 1 (accidental) murder with 2 thousand wedding guests, and then toss in a possible curse on 3 generations of an immigrant Chinese-Indonesian family? You get 4 meddling Asian aunties coming to the rescue! When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is inadvertently shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working at an island resort on the California coastline. It's the biggest job yet for the family wedding business—"Don't leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!"—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie's perfect buttercream flowers. But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy's great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?

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Good Talk

Mira Jacob

"Like many six-year-olds, Mira Jacob's half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, has questions about everything. At first they are innocuous enough, but as tensions from the 2016 election spread from the media into his own family, they become much, much more complicated. Trying to answer him honestly, Mira has to think back to where she's gotten her own answers: her most formative conversations about race, color, sexuality, and, of course, love."--Amazon.com.

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The Henna Wars

Adiba Jaigirdar

"Impossible to put down." - Kirkus, starred review 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.

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American Betiya

Anuradha D. Rajurkar

A luminous story of a young artist grappling with first love, family boundaries and the complications of a cross-cultural relationship. Perfect for fans of Sandhya Menon, Erika Sanchez and Jandy Nelson. Rani Kelkar has never lied to her parents, until she meets Oliver. The same qualities that draw her in--his tattoos, his charisma, his passion for art--make him her mother's worst nightmare. They begin dating in secret, but when Oliver's troubled home life unravels, he starts to ask more of Rani than she knows how to give, desperately trying to fit into her world, no matter how high the cost. When a twist of fate leads Rani from Evanston, Illinois to Pune, India for a summer, she has a reckoning with herself--and what's really brewing beneath the surface of her first love. Winner of SCBWI's Emerging Voices award, Anuradha D. Rajurkar takes an honest look at the ways cultures can clash in an interracial relationship. Braiding together themes of sexuality, artistic expression, and appropriation, she gives voice to a girl claiming ownership of her identity, one shattered stereotype at a time. "A brave, beautiful exploration of identity--those thrust upon us, and those we forge for ourselves." --Elana K. Arnold, award-winning author of What Girls Are Made Of

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Super Fake Love Song

David Yoon

From the bestselling author of Frankly in Love comes a contemporary YA rom-com where a case of mistaken identity kicks off a string of (fake) events that just may lead to (real) love.

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Last Night at the Telegraph Club

Malinda Lo

Acclaimed author of Ash Malinda Lo returns with her most personal and ambitious novel yet, a gripping story of love and duty set in San Francisco's Chinatown during the 1950s. "That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other." And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: "Have you ever heard of such a thing?" Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can't remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father--despite his hard-won citizenship--Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

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The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

Maggie Tokuda-Hall

In a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic, a desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial lady find a connection on the high seas. Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don't trust, don't stick out, and don't feel. But on this voyage, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is headed to an arranged marriage she dreads. Flora doesn't expect to be taken under Evelyn's wing, and Evelyn doesn't expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian. Neither expects to fall in love. Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, double agents, and the all-encompassing Sea herself. Deftly entwining swashbuckling action and quiet magic, Maggie Tokuda-Hall's inventive debut novel conjures a diverse cast of characters seeking mastery over their fates while searching for answers to big questions about identity, power, and love.

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The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

Sheela Chari

Based on the Peabody Award–winning podcast, this tech-filled adventure series pits intrepid Mars Patel and his outcast friends against a brilliant, enigmatic billionaire as they race to figure out why kids are disappearing from their school. Mars Patel’s friend Aurora has disappeared! His teachers are clueless. His mom is stressed out about her jobs. But Mars refuses to give up—after all, his own dad disappeared when Mars was a toddler, before he and Ma moved to Puget Sound from India. Luckily, Mars has a group of loyal friends eager to help—smart Toothpick, strong and stylish JP, and maybe-telepathic Caddie. The clues seem to point toward eccentric tech genius (and Mars’s hero) Oliver Pruitt, whose popular podcast now seems to be commenting on their quest! But when the friends investigate Pruitt’s mysterious, elite school, nothing is as it seems—and anyone could be deceiving them. Slick science, corporate conspiracies, and an endearingly nerdy protagonist make this first book in the series a fresh, exciting sci-fi adventure.

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City of the Plague God

Sarwat Chadda

Thirteen-year-old Sikander Aziz has to team up with the hero Gilgamesh in order to stop Nergal, the ancient god of plagues, from wiping out the population of Manhattan in this adventure based on Mesopotamian mythology.

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Brother’s Keeper

Julie Lee

Can two children escape North Korea on their own? North Korea. December, 1950. Twelve-year-old Sora and her family live under an iron set of rules: No travel without a permit. No criticism of the government. No absences from Communist meetings. Wear red. Hang pictures of the Great Leader. Don't trust your neighbors. Don't speak your mind. You are being watched. But war is coming, war between North and South Korea, between the Soviets and the Americans. War causes chaos--and war is the perfect time to escape. The plan is simple: Sora and her family will walk hundreds of miles to the South Korean city of Busan from their tiny mountain village. They just need to avoid napalm, frostbite, border guards, and enemy soldiers. But they can't. And when an incendiary bombing changes everything, Sora and her little brother Young will have to get to Busan on their own. Can a twelve-year-old girl and her eight-year-old brother survive three hundred miles of warzone in winter? Haunting, timely, and beautiful, this harrowing novel from a searing new talent offers readers a glimpse into a vanished time and a closed nation. A Junior Library Guild Selection

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The Girl and the Ghost

Hanna Alkaf

A Malaysian folk tale comes to life in this emotionally layered, chilling middle grade debut, perfect for fans of The Book of Boy and The Jumbies. I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command. Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable. But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness. Fans of Holly Black’s Doll Bones and Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore series will love this ghostly middle grade debut that explores jealousy, love, and the extraordinary power of friendship.

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Asha and the Spirit Bird

Jasbinder Bilan

In contemporary India, 12-year-old Asha will journey across the dangerous Himalayas to find her missing father and save her family's home -- guided by a mythical bird and a green-eyed tiger who she believes to be the spirits of her ancestors. This is an incredibly unique debut about loss, family, buried treasure, and hope. Asha lives on a family farm with her mother in rural India in the foothills of the Himalayas. Life would be perfect if her father were with them instead of working at the factory in the faraway city. But she knows they wouldn't be able to afford their home without the money he sends home. When four months go by without a single letter, a ruthless debt collector arrives with a warning, and soon the entire world that Asha has known is threatened. Determined to save her home, Asha and her best friend must swallow their fears and set out on a dangerous journey across the Himalayas to find her father. As desperation turns to peril, Asha will face law enforcement, natural disaster, and the wild dangers of the Himalayas. But with a majestic bird and a green-eyed tiger as her guides, who she believes to be the spirits of her ancestors, she's determined to keep faith in order to save her family.

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Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth

Emily Haynes

An original story based on Hindu mythology, this book tells the story about how Ganesha's love of sweets led to a broken tusk and the writing of the epic poem, the Mahåabhåarata. Includes author's note about the myth.

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A Big Mooncake for Little Star

Grace Lin

A gorgeous picture book that tells a whimsical origin story of the phases of the moon, from award-winning, bestselling author-illustrator Grace Lin Pat, pat, pat... Little Star's soft feet tiptoed to the Big Mooncake. Little Star loves the delicious Mooncake that she bakes with her mama. But she's not supposed to eat any yet! What happens when she can't resist a nibble? In this stunning picture book that shines as bright as the stars in the sky, Newbery Honor author Grace Lin creates a heartwarming original story that explains phases of the moon.

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Meet Yasmin!

Saadia Faruqi

In this compilation of four separately published books, Pakistani American second grader Yasmin learns to cope with the small problems of school and home, while gaining confidence in her own skills and creative abilities.

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Eyes That Kiss in the Corners

Joanna Ho

This lyrical and stunning picture book tells a story about learning to love and celebrate your Asian-shaped eyes, in the of spirit of Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry. "This tale of self-acceptance and respect for one’s roots is breathtaking.” —Kirkus (starred review) 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 and is a celebration of diversity.

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Looking for more resources? We have you covered. Check out our entire list of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month recommendations. For more personalized recommendations, fill out our recommendation form.