Books to read during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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Literature is, and always will be, a valuable tool in learning about the lives of others. Reading can connect us to cultures different and unique from our own. As the month of May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, it’s a perfect time to read books written by those of Asian descent while remembering to keep in mind the importance of reading these books year-round. Here are a few books to pick up this May:

“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” is a 2019 debut novel from Vietnamese poet Ocean Vuong. At 246 pages, it’s not necessarily a short novel and has poetic prose throughout. The novel is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read and is an honest exploration of class and race. Vuong writes about people trying to survive while finding joy along the way.

Another book from 2019, “Trust Exercise” by Susan Choi was the winner of the years’ national book award for fiction. Choi’s novel is set in an American suburb in the early 1980s, featuring students at a highly competitive performing arts high school. The characters of this novel face the outside world of family life, economic status and academic pressure in a shocking spiral of events.

First published in 2018, “The Incendiaries” by R.O. Kwon is 214 pages and follows Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall. “The Incendiaries” features a fractured love story as Phoebe is drawn into a cult tied to North Korea that is committing acts of domestic terrorism. Kwon’s novel is an examination of culture and the minds of extreme terrorists.

Michelle Zauner’s “Crying in H Mart” was widely read in 2021 when it was first published. A memoir, Zauner tells of growing up as an Asian American kid in Oregon. She examines struggling with high expectations, her relationship with her mother and their shared love of food and how her life changed when her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Described as vivacious and plainspoken, “Crying in H Mart” is rich and powerful – a novel to cherish and reread.

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