Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Month! This month is dedicated to supporting and uplifting the members of the AAPI community, as well as donating resources to them to help them live better, safer lives. I decided to make a list of a few of my favorite books I’ve read by AAPI authors, as well as a few links to places you can donate money and organizations that are great to get involved with. Feel free to share your favorite books and organizations in the comments!
She Who Became the Sun
by Shelley Parker-Chan
I decided to start with this book because it’s one of my 2022 favorites. It is hard to overestimate just how interesting the world the Parker-Chan created was. They were masterful at tying together multiple characters from across a historical fiction-esque magical world in a way that I really haven’t seen since Game of Thrones. Zhu Chongba is such an interesting and complex hero, and I am truly looking forward to seeing where this series goes in the future.
Goodreads Summary: “I refuse to be nothing…”
In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…
In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.
When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.
After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu uses takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.
The Bone Witch
by Rin Chupeco
Rin Chupeco has an ability to weave words together in such a beautiful way. The Bone Witch is the first book in a series that I admittedly don’t have a strong desire to read the rest of, but I still think this book is worth a read. It’s a high fantasy book about a magic race that exists in a magic world, and I really enjoyed reading about the main character and the plot that Chupeco created.
Goodreads Summary: A story of scorned witches, sinister curses, and resurrection, The Bone Witch is the start of a dark fantasy trilogy.
When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother, Fox, from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.
In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha—one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.
When Dimple Met Rishi
by Sandhya Menon
I read this book way back in the day and I was absolutely obsessed with Rishi Patel and Dimple Shah. Their relationship was so adorably nerdy and cute that I could not get enough of it. Plus, it was an enemies-to-lovers in the best way which is quite possibly my favorite romantic trope. I reviewed When Dimple Met Rishi a while back, so you should read it.
Goodreads Summary: Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family—and from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?
Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.
The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitating toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?
Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.
She Gets the Girl
by Alyson Derrick (and Rachel Lippincott)
This is somewhat cheating because the “main” author is listed as Rachel Lippincott, who is a white woman, but her co-author (and girlfriend) Alyson Derrick is a Korean-American woman and 1/2 of the book’s perspective is a Korean-American character, so I think it deserves to be on the list. It’s another enemies-to-lovers YA romance, this one between two freshman in college. It was so well done and I was lucky enough to read an ARC, so I wasn’t at all surprised when it hit the NY Times bestseller list.
Goodreads Summary: She’s All That meets What If It’s Us in this swoon-worthy hate-to-love YA romantic comedy from #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Five Feet Apart Rachael Lippincott and debut writer Alyson Derrick.
Alex Blackwood is a little bit headstrong, with a dash of chaos and a whole lot of flirt. She knows how to get the girl. Keeping her on the other hand…not so much. Molly Parker has everything in her life totally in control, except for her complete awkwardness with just about anyone besides her mom. She knows she’s in love with the impossibly cool Cora Myers. She just…hasn’t actually talked to her yet.
Alex and Molly don’t belong on the same planet, let alone the same college campus. But when Alex, fresh off a bad (but hopefully not permanent) breakup, discovers Molly’s hidden crush as their paths cross the night before classes start, they realize they might have a common interest after all. Because maybe if Alex volunteers to help Molly learn how to get her dream girl to fall for her, she can prove to her ex that she’s not a selfish flirt. That she’s ready for an actual commitment. And while Alex is the last person Molly would ever think she could trust, she can’t deny Alex knows what she’s doing with girls, unlike her.
As the two embark on their five-step plans to get their girls to fall for them, though, they both begin to wonder if maybe they’re the ones falling…for each other.
Little Fires Everywhere
by Celeste Ng
Celeste Ng is such an incredible writer that Little Fires Everywhere got adapted into a wildly popular TV series, so you have probably already heard of this book at least in that capacity. Even if you’ve already watched the show, it’s worth it to read the book in my opinion. There was something so good about the way this book was written that I found myself drawn into every page.
Goodreads Summary: Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town – and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at an unexpected and devastating cost . . .
Crazy Rich Asians
by Kevin Kwan
Yet another book that you’re sure to have heard of from the to-screen adaption, but one that’s worth the read nonetheless. Crazy Rich Asians goes into so much more detail about the characters that were merely supporting in the movie but have crucial roles in the book. Astrid and her husband’s relationship, Eleanor and her friend’s scheming- all of it plays out in vivid, multi-perspective detail that made the story feel fresh even if you (like me) have seen the movie three times.
Goodreads Summary: Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.
When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back.
Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should—and should not—marry.
Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.
The Paper Menagerie
by Ken Liu
I don’t really have much to say about “Paper Menagerie”, because I feel like you have to read it and experience it for yourself. It was incredibly emotionally taxing but in the best of ways, and is a must-read classic for anyone who enjoys Science Fiction.
Goodreads Summary: Ken Liu’s incredible story “Paper Menagerie” just became the first work of fiction to win all three of SF’s major awards: the Hugo, the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award. And we’re proud to be able to reprint the whole story, right here at io9. Here’s your chance to find out what all the excitement is about, and discover one of science fiction’s fastest rising stars.
Show Your Support
If you are not a member of the AAPI Community, then it is important to take time not just to celebrate the community this month, but to help support them. Hate crimes against Asian people in the US have been on the rise since 2020. If you can, consider making a financial donation or donating your time this month to making the world a safer place for AAPIs to exist. Below are a few of my favorite Asian American focused and run organizations that I have donated, with a brief description of where your money will go.
- Stop AAPI Hate– A place to report hate crimes against the AAPI community. The group also advocates for better protections for AAPIs. The site also has links to get involved for free from home
- Asian Pacific Fund– This organization provides resources to vulnerable and underprivledged members of the community, including giving scholarships to youth and grants for elder care
- Asian American Feminist Collective– I don’t know if you can donate directly to this group, but the AAFC works to take an intersectional feminist approach to AAPI issues, creating Zines and sharing people’s stories. It is primarily based out of NYC
- Asian Mental Health Collective– You guys know I care a lot about promoting transparency and access around mental health. AMHC is working to break down cost and stigma barriers, as well as connect Asian-Americans with therapists who will understand their unique struggles and cultural perspectives
- Eat Local– Many restaurants in Chinatowns across the country have been struggling to make ends meet since the pandemic. There are chinatowns in nearly every city across the US. Consider dining in or ordering out from a local, Asian-owned restaurant