Non-fiction is probably the realm of the bookish world that I’m the least familiar with (other than children’s literature, which I know even less about). I am reading more and more non-fiction the older I am getting, primarily because it is filling my desire to learn more about the world and the people in it. The reason that I have chosen these books to recommend it that they do/have offered me a perspective of the world that’s allowed me to learn something new and grow as an individual. Hopefully, it’ll do the same for you.
Again, I want to state that these are my personal recommendations for books that I’ve read and loved or books that are on my TBR list. This is in no way a comprehensive and exhaustive list of the number of English-language non-fiction novels written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry. This list is just a small drop in the ocean but hopefully will inspire you to explore the more nonfiction novels written by AAPI authors.
Some sites that I recommend checking out if you’re looking for more books written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and/or prominently feature characters of Asian and Pacific Islander descent are:
- Lit CelebrAsian
- Our Stories (Pacific Islander specific recs)
- Anjulie Te Pohe resource list
Let’s get to the recommendations.
We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation by Jeff Chang. Jeff Chang takes a deep dive into “post-racial” America in this collection of essays. He exams the past, the present, and the future of race in the United States and how it is all connected and how we possibly move forward. From talking to key activists and thinkers, he links the movements of #BlackLivesMatter to #OscarsSoWhite, to Ferguson to Washington D.C., and to the rise and fall of the idea of “diversity” in the United States. It was one of the best books that I have read in the past few years. Not only is it smart, but it all teaches you and uncovers bits of U.S. history that have been forgotten and/or oppressed.
The Making of Asian America by Erika Lee. Published on the 50th anniversary of the United States’ Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, The Making of Asian America is a deep, comprehensive look at the lives of Asian Americans in the United States. This book tells the stories of Asian Americans, from the firsts steps of the first Asians to come to the United States to present-day America. Lee helps to tell the stories of Asians who immigrated to their American-born descendants and how they have and continue to carve out lives for themselves in the U.S. This book isn’t just a history lesson, but a window into what it means to be of Asian descent in America and what Asian Americans have faced and continue to face as a minorities that were once despised to now categorized as “model minorities”. This is one of the few definitive books on the lives of Asian Americans in the U.S and well worth the read.
The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives edited by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Viet Thanh Nguyen brings 17 fellow refugee writers from around their world to shed light on their experiences as refugees. These essays reveal what it is like to be forced from your home, to seek refuge in another part of your country or another country entirely, and the uncertainty it brings, the trauma, and the resilience it takes to not only leave your home but to create a new one somewhere else. While not all contributors are Asian, a number are, and their stories and the stories of the other writers in this collection deserved to be heard.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Published posthumously, When Breath Becomes Air is a beautiful, heartbreaking, and enlightening memoir of Paul Kalanithi. At the age of 36, on the verge of finishing his neurosurgeon residency, Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. In a blink of an eye, the future that he and his wife had envisioned together, disappeared. He wrestles with a number of questions about life, about death, about love and family, and about human identity as one comes face-to-face with their own mortality. This is Kalanithi’s memoir about his transformation from doctor to patient, and it’s a very moving read. (I would advise you to have a box of tissues at the ready when reading this memoir.)
Other books to check out:
- Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama by Diane C. Fujino
- From Unincorporated Territory [Guma’] by Craig Santos Pérez
- The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
- Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship by Michelle Kuo
- One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
- Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim
- Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat
- I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christian Lamb
- Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir by Amy Tan
- The China Mystique by Karen J. Leong
- Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism by Nancy Wang Yuen
- The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century by Grace Lee Boggs and Scott Kurashige
- Sick: A Memoir by Porochista Khakpour
Those are my recommendations for non-fiction novels written by AAPI authors. Feel free to leave your own recommendations below or hit me up on Twitter and Instagram. Be on the lookout for more recommendations posts for books written by AAPI authors this month.
Thanks for reading!