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  • Writer's pictureNora Curry

An Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Reading List

In addition to beautiful blooms around Camden, May brings the month-long observance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This celebration of heritage has been in place in some form since 1979, when Congress thus designated the first ten days of May to the recognition of Asian American history, which was expanded to a full month in 1990. The choice of May was made to coincide with the anniversaries of the first Japanese immigration to the United States and the completion of the transcontinental railroad, driven largely by Chinese workers. And what exactly does this umbrella term cover? According to the Library of Congress, "Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island)." Whew!

There are more than 20 million Asian American and Pacific Islanders in this country, and certainly one designated month is not the only to time to listen to, read, and explore their stories and perspectives. Given recent events in this country, however, it feels more important than ever to try to gain an understanding of other cultures and experiences. On that note, today I'm bringing you a selected reading list of novels, memoirs, histories, poetry, and more from Asian American and Pacific Islander authors. As usual, it's only the tip of the iceberg!

If you are interested in learning more about Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage, visit the online exhibit curated through a partnership between the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the National Archives Records Administration, and others. You can view artwork, documents from the archives, and explore other cultural and historical information, from Japanese relocation to current day experiences to explorations of sites of cultural importance. Explore the multifaceted exhibit here:

Without further ado, the reading list! Click on the links to learn more about each title and/or to request them from our catalog.


Insurrecto, Gina Apostol

America is Not the Heart, Elaine Castillo

Days of Distraction, Alexandra Chang

Trust Exercise, Susan Choi

Forgotten Country, Catherine Chung

The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang

The Leavers, Lisa Ko

Searching for Sylvie Lee, Jean Kwok

Whereabouts, Jhumpa Lahiri

Pachinko, Min Jin Lee

Severance, Ling Ma

A Burning, Megha Majumdar

Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng

The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka

The Island of Sea Women, Lisa See

The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong

Chemistry, Weike Wang

I Hotel, Karen Tei Yamashita

Interior Chinatown, Charles Yu

Sour Heart: stories, Jenny Zhang

Memoirs, Poetry, Biographies, and Other Nonfiction

Go Home!, ed. Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

When I Grow Up I Want To Be a List of Further Possibilities, Chen Chen

All You Can Ever Know, Nicole Chung

Minor Feelings, Cathy Park Hong

The Woman Warrior: memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, Maxine Hong Kingston

Native Speaker, Chang-rae Lee

Rose: poems, Li-Young Lee

Dear Friend, From My Life I Write To You in Your Life, Yiyun Lee

They Called Us Enemy, George Takei

The Body Papers: a memoir, Grace Talusan

Sigh, Gone: a misfit's memoir of great books, punk rock, and the fight to fit in, Phuc Tran

Dear Girls: intimate tales, untold secrets, and advice for living your best life, Ali Wong

Eye Level: poems, Jenny Xie

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