Monthly Observance: Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage

By  - 

AAPI Heritage Month, celebrated each year in May, is intended to develop awareness of and celebrate the rich cultures and contributions of America’s fastest growing demographic group. In 2021, this time for celebration falls in the midst of a worsening crisis of racism and violence against some of the nearly 20 million AAPIs living in the U.S. today. The March murder of six women of Asian descent during a shooting in Atlanta and an escalating number of anti-Asian hate crimes has brought this often overlooked population to the forefront of the nation’s anti-racism movement. In solidarity with this community, we highlight recent releases by six celebrated authors who convey diverse AAPI experiences through the power of fiction, poetry, and essay.  

Days of Distraction: A Novel 

By Alexandra Chang

A Chinese American technology reporter navigates the challenges of institutional racism and sexism within her profession while questioning her role in an interracial relationship. Chang’s quasi-autobiographical novel employs a fragmented form of storytelling that uses everything from overheard conversations to historical records, earning her high praise for humor, emotion, and originality. Published 2020 by Ecco

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning 

By Cathy Park Hong

Hong’s witty collection of 2020 essays won the National Critics Circle Award for Autobiography and has been acclaimed for its ability to weave personal narration with astute critiques of racial consciousness in the U.S. The book explores her Korean American upbringing and personal conflicts with her own identity while critiquing broader assumptions about Asian Americans — leading one New Yorker magazine critic to write that Hong’s essays “bled a dormant discomfort out of me with surgical precision.” Published 2020 by One World

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous 

By Ocean Vuong

Celebrated author Ocean Vuong’s latest novel tells the story of a Vietnamese American son, nicknamed Little Dog, through a series of nonlinear letters to his illiterate mother. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous details the protagonist’s personal and family history, ranging from his grandmother’s escape from an arranged marriage during the Vietnam War to Little Dog’s own trauma caused by the abuse he suffers for his queer identity. Published 2019 by Penguin Group

Pidgin Eye 

By Joe Balaz 

This collection of poetry, written in Pidgin (Hawai’i Creole English), balances humor, history, spirituality, and protest. Spanning 35 years of Balaz’s work, Pidgin Eye examines the beauty and culture of Hawai’i, his beloved homeland, and its people. The collection serves as a critique of colonialism and militarization while also challenging the idea of monolingualism within poetry. Published 2019 by Ala Press 

This Is One Way to Dance: Essays 

By Sejal Shah

Shah is a former creative writing professor, the daughter of Gujarati immigrants from India and Kenya, and a recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in fiction. In her debut memoir essay collection, Shah highlights immigration, race, culture, geography, and belonging through her South Asian American identity. The essays span a range of writing styles and give readers a journey of Shah’s career changes and world travels while she analyzes cultural distances and differences. Published 2020 by University of Georgia Press

We Are Not Free 

By Traci Chee

This National Book Award Finalist follows a group of 14 teenage Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, who are forcefully uprooted from their lives in San Francisco to a remote internment camp in Utah after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. A work of vibrant historical fiction for young adults, We Are Not Free gives a realistic portrayal of an often overlooked stain on American history and explores the ways in which racism and fear can be used to strip away the humanity of others. Published 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers