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Books for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Celebrating the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.

April 25, 2024

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! This month, we recognize the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.

The month of May was chosen for two reasons. The first Japanese immigrant arrived in the United States in May of 1843. More than two decades later, again in May, the golden spike was driven into the first transcontinental railroad, which was completed using Chinese labor.

President Jimmy Carter signed a joint resolution for the celebration—originally Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week—on October 5, 1978. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush extended the celebration from a week to a month. Finally, in 2009, President Barack Obama updated the celebration’s name to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Want to learn more? Check out last year’s list or visit one of these websites:




Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar


Kaveh Akbar

An alcoholic, addict and poet, Cyrus Shams, the orphaned son of Iranian immigrants, finds his obsession with martyrs leading him to examine the mysteries of his past and to a terminally ill painter living out her final days in the Brooklyn Museum.

When I'm Gone, Look For Me In The East by Quan Barry

When I’m Gone, Look For Me In The East

Quan Barry

Tasked with finding the reincarnation of a great lama across windswept Mongolia, young monk Chulun and his estranged identical twin, Mun, who can hear each other’s thoughts, traverse through this land, making a journey where faith, love and brotherhood haunts them.

The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang

The Family Chao

Lan Samantha Chang

When Big Leo, the owner of Fine Chao restaurant is found dead—presumed murdered—his three sons are reunited and fall under suspicion of the town and police, and must reckon with the legacy of their father’s outsized appetites and own future survival.

Real Americans by Rachel Khong

Real Americans

Rachel Khong

In this intricately woven tapestry of class and striving, race and visibility, and family and inheritance, 15-year-old Nick Chen, who can’t shake the feeling his mother is hiding something, sets out to find his biological father—journey that raises more questions than provides answers.

What We Kept To Ourselves by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

What We Kept To Ourselves

Nancy Jooyoun Kim

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Story of Mina Lee comes a propulsive new novel of a family that unravels when a stranger is found dead in their backyard, only to find he might hold the key to finding their mother who disappeared a year ago.

Happiness Falls by Angie Kim

Happiness Falls

Angie Kim

We didn’t call the police right away. When Mia’s father doesn’t come home from a walk in the local nature reserve, she doesn’t think much of it. He must’ve turned off his phone. Or his battery died. Or he probably stopped for an errand–but doing what exactly? Soon more questions arise and it becomes clear to Mia and her family that he is missing. Or is he?

Memory Piece by Lisa Ko

Memory Piece

Lisa Ko

Moving from the predigital 1980s to a strikingly imagined portrait of the 2040s, a novel of friendship, art and ambition follows three lifelong friends as they strive for meaningful lives in a world that turned out to be radically different from the one they were promised.

How To End A Love Story by Yulin Kuang

How To End A Love Story

Yulin Kuang

Helen Zhang hasn’t seen Grant Shepard once in the thirteen years since the tragic accident that bound their lives together forever. Now she’s in Los Angeles, where the two have to work together. The result is messy, and electrifying.

Lies And Weddings by Kevin Kwan

Lies And Weddings

Kevin Kwan

Forced to attend his sister’s wedding to seduce a woman with money and get his family out of debt, Rufus, the future Earl of Greshambury, finds their plans—and their reputation—going up in flames when a secret tryst and tragedy become known, revealing a shocking twist.

You Can't Stay Here Forever by Katherine Lin

You Can’t Stay Here Forever

Katherine Lin

After the death of her husband, Ellie Huang, discovering he had a mistress, cashes in his life insurance policy for a stay on the French Riviera with her best friend—a sun-drenched getaway that turns into a reckoning for Ellie as uncomfortable truths come to the surface.

All This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews

All This Could Be Different

Sarah Thankam Mathews

Follows a young Indian American woman who is grappling with graduating into a recession, working a grueling entry-level corporate job and trying to date Marina, a beautiful dancer who always seems just beyond her grasp.

The Fetishist by Katherine Min

The Fetishist

Katherine Min

Determined to get revenge on the man who seduced her mother then callously dropped her, leading to her death, Kyoko, a Japanese American punk-rock singer full of rage and grief, finds nothing going according to plan when she sets in motion a series of unexpected reckonings.

A History Of Burning by Janika Oza

A History Of Burning

Janika Oza

Taken from his village in India to work on the East African Railway for the British, Pirbhai spends his life reconciling an act he committed to survive that will haunt his family’s future for years to come.

The Sense Of Wonder by Matthew Salesses

The Sense Of Wonder

Matthew Salesses

From the author of PEN/Faulkner finalist Disappear Doppelg�nger Disappear and Craft in the Real World comes a searing masterwork on the ways Asian Americans navigate the thorny worlds of sports and entertainment when everything is stacked against them.

Lady Tan's Circle Of Women by Lisa See

Lady Tan’s Circle Of Women

Lisa See

Sent into an arranged marriage, Tan Yunxian, forbidden to continue her work as a midwife-in-training as well as see her forever friend Meiling, is ordered to act like proper wife and seeks a way to continue treating women and girls from every level of society in fifteenth-century China.

Banyan Moon by Thao Thai

Banyan Moon

Thao Thai

Three Vietnamese American women mourning the death of the family matriarch recount their lives and childhoods at a crumbling, gothic manor called Banyan House, where the secrets of her grandmother’s past come to light.

The Brightest Star by Gail Tsukiyama

The Brightest Star

Gail Tsukiyama

Arriving in Hollywood to become an actress, Anna May Wong discovers her beauty and talent aren’t enough to overcome the racism that relegates her to supporting roles and, over the years, fights to win lead roles, accept risqu� parts, and keep her illicit love affairs hidden-even as she finds global stardom.

The Museum Of Failures by Thrity Umrigar

The Museum Of Failures

Thrity Umrigar

Returning to Bombay to adopt a baby and see his elderly mother, Remy Wadia, stumbling upon a photograph that reveals shocking family secrets, reevaluates his entire childhood, his relationship to his parents and his harsh judgment on the decisions and events long hidden from him.

Late Bloomers by Deepa Varadarajan

Late Bloomers

Deepa Varadarajan

Thirty-six years into their unhappy arranged marriage, an Indian couple decide to get a divorce and start new paths in life, leaving their adult children unmoored, confused and hiding secrets about their own lives.

Sharks In The Time Of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn

Sharks In The Time Of Saviors

Kawai Strong Washburn

When a child falls overboard and is returned safely to his mother by a shark, his miraculous rescue is hailed as a sign from ancient Hawaiian gods, complicating his family’s troubles amid a collapsing sugarcane industry.

Straw Dogs Of The Universe by Ye Chun

Straw Dogs Of The Universe

Ye Chun

Sold to a human trafficker after her village is devastated by famine, 10-year-old Sixiang, arriving in 19th-century America with the profits from her sale and a single photograph of her absent father, makes her way through an unforgiving new world in hopes of reuniting her family.

Land Of Milk And Honey by C Pam Zhang

Land Of Milk And Honey

C Pam Zhang

About a Chinese American chef who, lured to a decadent, enigmatic colony of the superrich in a near future in which food is disappearing, discovers the meaning of pleasure and the ethics of who gets to enjoy it, altering her life and, indirectly, the world.


Memoir and Biography

Everything I Learned, I Learned In A Chinese Restaurant by Curtis Chin

Everything I Learned, I Learned In A Chinese Restaurant

Curtis Chin

The cofounder of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop tells his story of growing up as a gay Chinese kid in 1980s Detroit and how he found refuge in a welcoming Chinese restaurant.

They Called Us Exceptional by Prachi Gupta

They Called Us Exceptional
And Other Lies That Raised Us

Prachi Gupta

Weaving a deeply vulnerable personal narrative with history, postcolonial theory and research on mental health, an award-winning journalist and former senior reporter at Jezebel articulates the dissonance, shame and isolation of being upheld as an American success story while privately navigating traumas invisible to the outside world.

Stay True by Hua Hsu

Stay True

Hua Hsu

A New Yorker staff writer, in this gripping memoir on friendship, grief, the search for self and the solace that can be found through art, recounts his close friendship with Ken, with whom he endured the successes and humiliations of everyday college life until Ken was violently, senselessly taken away from him

Waiting To Be Arrested At Night by Tahir Hamut Izgil

Waiting To Be Arrested At Night
A Uyghur Poet’s Memoir Of China’s Genocide

Tahir Hamut Izgil

In this story of the political, social and cultural destruction of his homeland, a prominent poet and intellectual calls our attention to one of the world’s most urgent humanitarian crises: the persecution of the Uyghur people—a predominantly Muslim minority group in western China.

Biting The Hand by Julia Lee

Biting The Hand
Growing Up Asian In Black And White America

Julia Lee

A passionate, no-holds-barred memoir about the Asian American experience in a nation defined by racial stratification. Julia Lee lays bare the complex disorientation and shame that stems from this country’s imposed racial hierarchy to argue that Asian Americans must leverage their liminality for lasting social change alongside Black and brown communities.

We Were Dreamers by Simu Liu

We Were Dreamers
An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story

Simu Liu

The star of Marvel’s first Asian superhero film, in this candid, inspiring and relatable memoir, tells his own origin story and how he embarked on a journey that took him far outside of his comfort zone into the world of show business.

Meet Me Tonight In Atlantic City by Jane Wong

Meet Me Tonight In Atlantic City

Jane Wong

An incandescent, exquisitely written memoir about family, food, girlhood, resistance, and growing up in a Chinese American restaurant on the Jersey shore. Filled with beauty found in unexpected places, Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City is a resounding love song of the Asian American working class, a portrait of how we become who we are, and a story of lyric wisdom to hold and to share.