Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month through these works of literature written by authors of Asian descent
As Asian Pacific American Heritage Month comes to a close (and let’s be honest its every month here at KH), our contributor Vicky Marie Juram presents to you all her list of her Top 6 APAHM books. Dive in to any one of these critically acclaimed titles written by authors of Asian descent to celebrate our Asian community for the rest of APAHM and beyond. Let these stories encourage you to embrace your culture, to always uplift each other, and always be proud of being Asian. Enjoy!
In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
“Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.” -Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
To start off this list, let me introduce you all to Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows. Made up of only 56 pages, this short read of an essay consists of discussions of the traditional Japanese aesthetics and provides an insightful perspective to how you examine how things look the way they do in Japan and why they are built that way. It moves and touches upon diverse topics like theatre, women, lacquerware, hotels, and more amongst its many comparisons of light with darkness.
If you appreciate art, architecture, photography, or simply wish for a new addition to your coffee table, then this book is for you!
Love & Misadventure by Lang Leav
“It’s so dark right now, I can’t see any light around me…That’s because the light is coming from you. You can’t see it but everyone else can.”
Sometimes when you cannot find the right words to describe how you feel, it’s very heartwarming to read it from someone who is able to convey those feelings for you in a beautiful way. Thai author Lang Leav showcases the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of romance and life in this lovely collection of poetry. Not all poetry needs to be complex or requires advanced prose. Leav’s work contains true, raw feelings and is able to strike one’s heart if one resonates with it.
For all of you hopeless or hopeful romantics out there, this book is worth picking up at different times in your life to stir up new thoughts, opinions, and feelings.
Date & Time by Phil Kaye
“a great story has a beginning, middle & end but not necessarily in that order” -Phil Kaye
Phil Kaye is one of my favorite poets of all time. His words offer such emotional depth, both on the page and on stage, in that you can almost visualize him speaking in front of you. It’s wonderfully inspiring to hear about his experience as a Jewish Japanese-American, touching on topics of childhood, adolescence, love and loss, identity, and culture.
I highly recommend you look up Phil Kaye’s spoken word poetry on Youtube to get a taste of the relatable beauty and honesty that lies within his unique way of storytelling.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
“Twenty Ways You Can Tell You Have Asian Parents. Number one on the list: Your parents never, ever call you “just to say hello.” -Kevin Kwan
Yes, plenty of you have probably watched the movie before reading the book. I’ll admit that I am one of those people, too. But if you absolutely adored the film, then it also wouldn’t hurt to read the book it was adapted from (or the rest of its series for that matter). This story is brilliant and original as it dives deep into these “crazy rich” characters that live such lavish and extravagant lives filled with Gossip Girl-esque drama. This book holds so much dedication to Asian culture and themes of family ties, wealth, and finding out where you belong.
If you want to live vicariously through the lives of the prosperous, then I’ll present you a one-way ticket to this masterpiece given to us by the amazing Kevin Kwan
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
“It’s easy to romanticize a place when it’s far away… But as many good things as there are, there are many bad things, things not so easy to see from far away. When you are close, though, they are sometimes all you see.” -Randy Ribay
This book was the first Filipino novel I’ve ever read in my life and let me tell you… all of the confusion and guilt I felt when it came to being a Filipina growing up in America could be found within Randy Ribay’s breathtaking novel. In my experience reading this book, I know that you don’t have to be Filipinx to resonate with Jay’s story because the feeling of shame from not being in touch with your heritage can apply to all cultures. It encompasses themes of identity, war on drugs, trauma, and toxic family behaviors, which all can make you sit back and reflect on your own beliefs towards life.
Even if you don’t finish this book with tears running down your face, this book will definitely leave you feeling some type of way when it comes to reclaiming your roots.
A Thousand Beginnings and Endings by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman
“Star-crossed lovers. Meddling immortals. Feigned identities. Dire warnings. But beware… not every tale has a happy ending.”
-Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman
I saved the best for last for y’all! This fascinating anthology is a collection of fifteen short stories that are based on East and South Asian lore and reimagined by authors of the Asian diaspora. Each short story ends with an author’s note, explaining why they wrote their story the way that they did, making each addition to the anthology indescribably powerful and personal.
A Thousand Beginnings and Endings represents the very thing that a vast amount of us have been missing throughout our lives since it explores the beauty of East and South Asian cultures and how these stories capture Asian voices that deserve to be known. Read it to your children, share it with your parents and grandparents, and allow the wonder of these stories to bring you a great sense of pride in being Asian.
Written by: Vicky Marie Juram (she/her/hers)