Books to Read During AAPI Month

asian american pacific islander month concept
Theresa Witham Photo
VP/Publications & Publisher

3 minutes

To celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, CUESers share their favorite resources.

We’ve established that I am a reader. Previously I’ve shared books and other resources to celebrate Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

Reading helps me see how other people, both very much like me and very different from me, think and act. Through books, I can explore another place and time, learn what it’s like to live on another continent (or planet!) or work in a different profession. For some reason, I keep coming back to books about people who own or work in bookshops!

While my reading is mostly for pleasure, I believe it helps me be a better person and a better employee. Because I read so much, I might better understand why someone might react a certain way to a situation—or better understand questions to ask and avoid.  

I hope you will come on a journey with me this month to better understand our Asian American and Pacific Islander colleagues, friends and community members. 

To celebrate this month, we’ve once again asked CUES employees to share their favorite books, movies and resources. 

CUES Editor Danielle Dyer recommends The Downstairs Girl by Stacy Lee, which tells the story of the daughter of Chinese immigrants at the beginning of the women’s suffrage movement. 

Chief Learning Officer Christopher Stevenson recommends Facing the Mountain by Daniel James Brown,  a non-fiction book about the experience of Japanese Americans and Hawaiian Japanese during WWII. (This author also wrote the wildly popular book The Boys in the Boat.)

For another perspective on the Japanese internment during WWII, read They Called Us Enemy by Star Trek actor George Takei. This was assigned middle school reading for my son, and he recommended it to me. 

In my blog with resources for Women’s History Month, I included The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See, and it bears repeating. The book is set on the Korean island of Jeju and follows two girls who become friends while working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective. From the publisher: “This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a unique and unforgettable culture, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children.”  

Currently, I am reading The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford. This work of fiction tells the story of Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to come to America, and some of her ancestors while exploring inherited generational trauma. 

This year, I have also enjoyed reading Kaikeyi, a debut novel by Vaishnavi Patel, which reimagines and retells a story from Indian mythology. Pick it up if you enjoyed Circe by Madeline Miller.

The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka is a short and beautiful book about a group of swimmers whose routines are disrupted when the pool develops a crack.

On the lighter side, I loved Dating Dr. Dill by Nisha Sharma, a romance about a woman looking for her soulmate and a cardiologist who doesn’t believe in love. I loved the meddling aunties who make sure the couple gets their happily ever after.

Also on the romance front, Vietnamese-America Helen Hoang’s books are delightful. Start with The Kiss Quotient. In addition to the great Vietnamese representation, these books feature autistic characters, and Hoang herself was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2016.

If you prefer movies and you haven’t yet seen this year’s Oscar darling Everything, Everywhere All at Once, what are you waiting for? It’s so good. And check out Medium’s list for more films and documentaries.

Finally, here is a comprehensive list of resources to help empower Asian and Pacific Islander communities. It includes organizations, media, toolkits and more.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading and watching this month to celebrate AAPI. cues icon

Theresa Witham is VP/publications and publisher at CUES.

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