May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a month “paying tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success.” The month of May was selected in commemoration of the immigration of the first Japanese people to the United States in May 1843. Additionally, May 7 is known as Golden Spike Day, a day marking the completion of the transcontinental railroad, built largely by Chinese labor.
According to the latest Census data, there are 20.6 million people in the United States who identify as part of the AAPI community. In celebration of AAPI stories, here are selections from our collection to pick up on your next trip to the library.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity.
Dust Child by Nguyẽ̂n Phan Qué̂ Mai
In 1969,sisters Trang and Quỳnh, desperate to help their parents pay off debts, leave their rural village to work at a bar in Sài Gòn. Once in the big city, the young girls are thrown headfirst into a world they were not expecting. They learn how to speak English, how to dress seductively, and how to drink and flirt (and more) with American GIs in return for money. As the war moves closer to the city, the once-innocent Trang gets swept up in an irresistible romance with a handsome and kind American helicopter pilot she meets at the bar.
Hot and Sour Suspects by Vivien Chien
When Lana Lee’s best friend, Megan Riley, asks her to help host a speed dating contest at Ho-Lee Noodle House, she doesn’t see the harm in lending a hand. The night goes better than anticipated, and both Lana and Megan are beyond thrilled with the results. But before they can break out the champagne, Rina Su, fellow Asia Village shop owner and speed dating participant, calls to inform Lana that the date she’s just matched with has been murdered. Under suspicion of foul play, Rina enlists Lana’s help in finding out what really happened that night.
Good Fortune by C.K. Chau
When Elizabeth Chen’s ever-hustling realtor mother finally sells the beloved if derelict community center down the block, the new owners don’t look like typical New York City buyers. Brendan Lee and Darcy Wong are good Chinese boys with Hong Kong money. Clean-cut and charismatic, they say they are committed to cleaning up the neighborhood. To Elizabeth, that only means one thing: Darcy is looking to give the center an uptown makeover.
Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
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.
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.
They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.