Asian American Book Recommendations
Here are three books that we recommend to start your journey into the world of Asian American literature, with the disclaimer that these books focus primarily on East and Southeast Asian and Asian American experiences and are not meant to reflect all Asian and Asian American experiences.
1. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning (Cathy Park Hong)
Cathy Park Hong in Minor Feelings is able to capture the ‘minor feelings’ Asian Americans have towards voicing the struggles Asians and Asian Americans face. When we compare our struggles to those of other minority groups (say, for example, the police brutality faced by Black Americans), Asian Americans often feel that our struggles are not ‘major’ enough and stay silent in the face of continued and often institutionalized oppression. In Minor Feelings, Hong validates these feelings while making the case for a unified and unapologetic call for action.
Favorite Quote: “In the popular imagination, Asian Americans inhabit a vague purgatorial status: not white enough nor black enough; distrusted by African Americans, ignored by whites, unless we’re being used by whites to keep the black man down.”
You can purchase Minor Feelings and support the author here.
2. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Ocean Vuong)
In On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong writes of a Vietnamese immigrant stuck between the tension of being in between two worlds, the place he used to call home and the place he must now reside. The book serves as a letter to the narrator’s illiterate mother, focusing primarily on self-discovery, healing from trauma, and love in both familial and romantic forms. Vuong’s experience as a poet bleeds through his narrative writing, with every page showcasing the often-heartbreaking lyricism and passion present in all of his works.
Favorite Quote: “I am writing you from inside a body that used to be yours. Which is to say, I am writing as a son.”
You can purchase On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and support the author here.
3. Crying in H Mart: A Memoir (Michelle Zauner)
In Crying in H Mart, Michelle Zauner (who is also known for her music under the alias Japanese Breakfast) explores the complicated relationship between her and her mother, who is diagnosed and eventually passes from terminal cancer. She writes of both appreciating and resenting her mother and the way in which Zauner was raised, while Zauner struggles with carving out a future and a Korean American identity separate from her mother’s expectations. The book is given its title because Zauner celebrates her mother, both before and after her death, through eating and cooking traditional Korean recipes.
Favorite Quote: “In fact, she was both my first and second words: Umma, then Mom. I called to her in two languages. Even then I must have known that no one would ever love me as much as she would.”
You can purchase Crying in H Mart and support the author here.