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Authors to Read During Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and to celebrate, we’re looking back on ten remarkable memoirs, novels, and story collections written by AAPI authors and Asian and Pacific Islander authors publishing in America. With original releases spanning from 1967 to 2024, these ten titles transport us from the bustling city centers of Beijing, Seoul, and San Francisco all the way to the beaches of New Zealand and the forests of Western Japan. Moving, inquisitive, often both joyful and somber at once, these books showcase just some of the rich diversity of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander writers working today—and are stories worth reading every month of the year.


A Man of Two Faces by Viet Thanh Nguyen

In A Man of Two Faces Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Sympathizer, rewinds the film of his own life. He expands the genre of personal memoir by acknowledging larger stories of refugeehood, colonization, and ideas about Vietnam and America, writing with his trademark sardonic wit and incisive analysis, as well as a deep emotional openness about his life as a father and a son. A Man of Two Faces explores the necessity of both forgetting and memory, the promises America so readily makes and breaks, and the exceptional life story of one of the most original and important writers working today.

“Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen returns with a deeply personal and political memoir that uses the defining moments of his own life to explore his conflicted relationship with America . . . A witty and scathing look at what it means to be a refugee, an immigrant, and an American in a world that doesn’t see you as you see yourself.”TIME

And be sure to watch THE SYMPATHIZER, now an HBO Original Limited Series from Park Chan-wook and Robert Downey Jr., based on Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel. 



Orphan Bachelors by Fae Myenne Ng

Bestselling and award-winning author Fae Myenne Ng’s Orphan Bachelors is an extraordinary memoir of her beloved San Francisco’s Chinatown and of a family building a life in a country bent on their exclusion. Orphan Bachelors weaves together the history of one family, lucky to exist and nevertheless doomed; an elegy for brothers estranged and for elders lost; and insights into writing between languages and teaching between generations. In this powerful remembrance, Fae Myenne Ng gives voice to her valiant ancestors, her bold and ruthless Orphan Bachelors, and her own inner self, howling in Cantonese, impossible to translate but determined to be heard.

“Beautifully written, powerfully informative and never boring . . . Thanks to Ng’s fierce talent and unapologetic honesty, Orphan Bachelors is a revelation.”—Washington Post


Chinese Prodigal by David Shih

After his father’s passing in 2019, David Shih sought to unravel the underlying tensions that defined the complex relationship between him and his parents. Ultimately, this forced a reckoning with the expectations he encountered as the only son of Chinese immigrants, and with the realities of what it means to be Asian in a de facto segregated country. Chinese Prodigal knits together the personal, the historical, and the present, offering an incisive examination of a society and the people it has never made space for. It is a moving testimony of a son, father, and citizen stepping outside the identities imposed on him.

“A profoundly thoughtful, unflinchingly honest Asian American memoir . . . Throughout this memorable book, Shih is adept at seamlessly weaving historical events into his life story, forging thoughtful, creative connections between his evolution and that of the U.S. The result is an insightful, vulnerable, trenchant, and utterly readable story about belonging that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt that one or more of their identities sets them apart.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


My Nemesis by Charmaine Craig

My Nemesis is an immersive and searing story of two women, their marriages, and the rivalry between them. Tessa is a successful writer who develops a friendship, first by correspondence and then in person, with Charlie, a ruggedly handsome philosopher and scholar based in Los Angeles. While Tessa’s husband Milton enjoys Charlie’s company on his visits to the East Coast, Charlie’s wife Wah is a different case, and she proves to be both adversary and conundrum to Tessa. Compassionate and thought-provoking, My Nemesis is a brilliant story of seduction, envy, and the ways we publicly define and privately deceive ourselves today.

“The book explores what it means to be feminine, a feminist, how we perceive these qualities, and how much our identities and beliefs define us. This book is short, sharp, philosophical, and dramatic. It’s insightful and uncomfortable.”—Condé Nast Traveler 


Return to Blood: A Hana Westerman Thriller by Michael Bennett

From the author of Better the Blood, Return to Blood (out 5/21) is the gripping second novel in a crime series starring Māori detective Hana Westerman, in which the discovery of human bones in the dunes of New Zealand upends a long-ago murder conviction. Expanding the range of vivid characters who made author Michael Bennett’s first book so appealing, and offering a shocking twist at the end, Return to Blood takes readers further into Māori culture and traditions as it engages us more deeply in Hana Westerman’s story.

“Boasting a multilayered protagonist, this sequel to Bennett’s debut, Better the Blood, immerses itself in Māori culture, ranging from mysticism to the ‘unavoidable tension’ between traditional and modern lawmaking in New Zealand . . . Smart, beguiling, and ultimately surprising . . . A skillfully rendered Māori crime story.”—Kirkus Reviews


Heart Sutra by Yan Lianke

At the Religious Training Center on the campus of Beijing’s National Politics University, disciples of China’s five main religions—Buddhism, Daoism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Islam—gather for a year of intensive study and training. In this hallowed yet jovial atmosphere, the institute’s two youngest disciples—Yahui, a Buddhist jade nun, and Gu Mingzheng, a Daoist master—fall into an uneasy acquaintanceship that might bloom into something more. Illustrated throughout with beautiful original papercuts, animated by Yan Lianke’s characteristically incisive sense of humor, Heart Sutra is a stunning and timely novel that highlights the best and worst in mankind and interrogates the costs of division.

“A Bildungsroman wrapped in a fable wrapped in a morality play. In the spirit of the Buddhist text that shares its name, Heart Sutra (which first appeared in Chinese in 2020) embraces paradox, impermanence and the ways in which the human and divine realms mutually constitute each other.”—Rhoda Feng, Times Literary Supplement


The Silent Cry by Kenzaburo Oe

The Silent Cry follows two brothers who return to their ancestral home, a village in densely forested Western Japan. After decades of separation, the reunited men are each preoccupied by their own personal crises. When long-kept family secrets are revealed, the brothers’ strained bond is pushed to its breaking point and their lives are irrevocably changed. Considered Oe’s most essential work by the Nobel Prize committee, The Silent Cry is as powerfully relevant today as it was when first published in 1967.

“Somehow—and this is what gives his art such unquestionable stature—Oe manages to smuggle a comic thread in all this tragedy.”—Independent


Pyre by Perumal Murugan

Saroja and Kumaresan are young and in love. After meeting in a small southern Indian town, they quickly marry before returning to Kumaresan’s family village, where they hope to build a happy life together. But they are harboring a terrible secret: Saroja is from a different caste than Kumaresan, and if the villagers find out, they will both be in grave danger. Will their love keep them safe in a world filled with thorns? In evocative prose, Perumal Murugan masterfully conjures a moving tale of innocent young love pitted against chilling violence.

“An acclaimed writer in his native India, Murugan skillfully contrasts the young couple’s innocence with the increasingly caustic attacks on their marital union . . . Murugan shows that intolerance, cruelty, and bigotry are universal traits of humankind, even while tailored to the peculiarity of each society. Universal too, are the love, kindness, and familial bonds that exist between individuals who have the sensitivity to look beyond societal custom and coercion.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park

A funny, transporting, surprising, and poignant novel that was one of the highest selling debuts of recent years in Korea, Love in the Big City tells the story of a young gay man searching for happiness in the lonely city of Seoul. A brilliantly written novel filled with powerful sensory descriptions and both humor and emotion, Love in the Big City is an exploration of millennial loneliness as well as the joys of queer life, that should appeal to readers of Sayaka Murata, Han Kang, and Cho Nam-Joo.

“A novel, told through relationships, about navigating life as a young gay man in Korea . . . The novel skips freely around in time, lending it a sense of propulsion and instability that feels entirely intentional. It’s anchored, however, by the narrator’s irresistible voice, which alternates between earnest, heartfelt emotion, and likable wryness . . . This book will sweep readers up in its sheer longing. An addictive, profound novel.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata

The long-awaited first short story collection by the author of the cult sensation Convenience Store Woman, Life Ceremony is a collection of tales on weird love, heartfelt friendships, and the unsettling nature of human existence. In these twelve stories, Murata mixes an unusual cocktail of humor and horror to portray both the loners and outcasts as well as turning the norms and traditions of society on their head to better question them. In these strange and wonderful stories of family and friendship, sex and intimacy, belonging and individuality, Murata asks above all what it means to be a human in our world and offers answers that surprise and linger.

“Murata’s prose is deadpan, as clear as cellophane . . . Chilly and transgressive at the same time . . . Murata is interested in how disgust drives ethics, in why some things repel us but not others . . . Murata’s prose, in this translation from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori, is generally so cool you could chill a bottle of wine in it.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times


Plus, keep an eye out for these bold, thrilling new releases coming later this year:


Medusa of the Roses by Navid Sinaki (Out 8/13)

Sex, vengeance, and betrayal in modern day Tehran—Navid Sinaki’s bold and cinematic debut is a queer literary noir following Anjir, a morbid romantic and petty thief whose boyfriend disappears just as they’re planning to leave their hometown for good. Steeped in ancient Persian and Greek myths, and brimming with poetic vulnerability, subversive bite, and noirish grit, Medusa of the Roses is a page-turning wallop of a story from a bright new literary talent.

“Navid Sinaki flips noir on its head in this propulsive, twisting novel about creating identity against formative love in an oppressive society. Sexy, raw, and perfectly paced, Medusa of the Roses will get under your skin.”—Julia Fine, author of Maddalena and the Dark


Those Opulent Days by Jacquie Pham (Out 11/12)

Jacquie Pham’s transportive debut, Those Opulent Days, delivers a classic historical murder mystery centered around the glamor, violence, wealth, and opium of 1920’s French-colonial Vietnam.

Duy, Phong, Minh, and Edmond have been best friends since childhood. Now, as young men running their families’ formidable businesses, they make up Saigon’s most powerful group of friends in 1928 Vietnam’s elite society—until one of them is murdered. Those Opulent Days is at once both a historical novel of vivid intensity and a classically structured, pitch-perfect murder mystery featuring a robust cast of characters you won’t soon forget.