Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Must Read Books

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Sofia the Great of Platypire Reviews has challenged me to create a list of books that I'd recommend with that in mind. When I started thinking about that, though, I realized that this list could go a few different ways, so I think that's what I'm going to do with it, take it a few different ways. (And this list is significantly bigger than the one I tried to create for Cinco de Mayo.)

Asian/Pacific American Main Character

This is the most obvious category for a list of this nature. These are all books that I have read and would personally recommend. 

This is a middle grade book set in India (and I'm pretty sure the MC is American although I don't remember exactly. She is visiting family in India though.)

Synopsis: At first Priya is excited about her trip to visit relatives in India. But when a strange man shows up at her uncle's house in Pollachi, Priya learns that someone has been keeping secrets, dangerous secrets, and that her family just happens to be involved in a curse on an ancient jungle temple! To protect her family, Priya and her friends decide to risk a hike to the temple to uncover its hidden treasure. Their adventure will teach them a terrifying lesson about greed and evil. A lesson that will be learned the hard way. 

Green Island begins in Taiwan with the birth of the MC, who later becomes an American. It involves a lot of history of Taiwan, although I'm not sure how accurate the historical facts are personally. 

Synopsis: A stunning story of love, betrayal, and family, set against the backdrop of a changing Taiwan over the course of the twentieth century.

February 28, 1947: Trapped inside the family home amid an uprising that has rocked Taipei, Dr. Tsai delivers his youngest daughter, the unnamed narrator of Green Island, just after midnight as the city is plunged into martial law. In the following weeks, as the Chinese Nationalists act to crush the opposition, Dr. Tsai becomes one of the many thousands of people dragged away from their families and thrown into prison. His return, after more than a decade, is marked by alienation from his loved ones and paranoia among his community — conflicts that loom over the growing bond he forms with his youngest daughter. Years later, this troubled past follows her to the United States, where, as a mother and a wife, she too is forced to decide between what is right and what might save her family — the same choice she witnessed her father make many years before.

As the novel sweeps across six decades and two continents, the life of the narrator shadows the course of Taiwan’s history from the end of Japanese colonial rule to the decades under martial law and, finally, to Taiwan’s transformation into a democracy. But, above all, Green Island is a lush and lyrical story of a family and a nation grappling with the nuances of complicity and survival, raising the question: how far would you be willing to go for the ones you love?

Bright Lines was actually a miss for me, but I think part of that was I had a deadline for reading it, which led to me procrastinating reading it, so I never made the connections I needed to in order to really enjoy the story. Even though it was a 2 star for me when I read it, I still feel like it's definitely worth reading, if that makes any sense. 

Synopsis: A vibrant debut novel, set in Brooklyn and Bangladesh, Bright Lines follows three young women and one family struggling to make peace with secrets and their past. 

For as long as she can remember, Ella has longed to feel at home. Orphaned as a child after her parents’ murder, and afflicted with hallucinations at dusk, she’s always felt more at ease in nature than with people. She traveled from Bangladesh to Brooklyn to live with the Saleems: her uncle Anwar, aunt Hashi, and their beautiful daughter, Charu, her complete opposite. One summer, when Ella returns home from college, she discovers Charu’s friend Maya—an Islamic cleric’s runaway daughter—asleep in her bedroom.  

As the girls have a summer of clandestine adventure and sexual awakenings, Anwar—owner of a popular botanical apothecary—has his own secrets, threatening his thirty-year marriage. But when tragedy strikes, the Saleems find themselves blamed. To keep his family from unraveling, Anwar takes them on a fated trip to Bangladesh, to reckon with the past, their extended family, and each other.

Books Set in the Pacific or Asia

I believe a large part of Asian/Pacific American's heritage is rooted in where their ancestors originated (although if that's incorrect, please feel free to correct me. I am kind of basing that assumption on my recent viewing of Dr. Ken, and things that were said in the Thanksgiving episode.) So including books that are set entirely in Asia or the Pacific also seems worthwhile to me (and it makes this list look less pathetic, in my opinion.) 

 This book is set in like the 12th century, and the storytelling is a little odd, but like I said in my review, I think it may be consistent with traditional Japanese storytelling. 

Synopsis: Not all vengeance is exacted by the living.

In 12th-century Japan, Yamabuki, a woman samurai 17 years old, travels deep into the Oku wilderness.

Along a lonely road, at a forgotten inn, she seeks shelter, warm food, and cold sake.

But as darkness falls, she ends up fighting for her life . . . and she finds that there are terrible things under heaven that no weapon can vanquish, and that her only way to survive is to heal that which cannot be healed."

Cutted Chicken in Shanghai is a travel memoir of an American who lived in China for a time. Based on the memoir, she really embraced the culture while living there though. 

Synopsis: Friends will take you by the hand and help you cross a busy street. Occasionally, they will lead you into a whole new world. 

An American woman takes a cultural fling into China and finds humorous and engaging adventures as her Shanghai driver tries to keep her out of trouble in a land she struggles to understand, and her Chinese friends become as unforgettable to her as the China she comes to love. From supermarkets to restaurants, and her driver who doesn’t speak English, every aspect of her daily life contains a challenge. In Cutted Chicken in Shanghai, we join Sharon as she interacts with Chinese people and uncovers similarities. Her quick wit, humor, and open heart endear her to those she meets. Interspersed with snapshots from her past, this book is an opening into the ancient kingdom where there is something deeply familiar at its core. 
When Sharon first faced those busy Shanghai streets and asked for help crossing, never did she suspect she was being led home. 
Cutted Chicken in Shanghai is an honest and delightfully realized memoir full of humor, warmth, and thoughtful insights into the sometimes inscrutable (to Westerners) culture of the people of the “Middle Kingdom,” which is unflinchingly described, warts and all. The author’s affection for the people of Shanghai and the city itself is unmistakable, and readers will find this well-written diary-cum-travelogue an eye-opening and entertaining read.
I don't really know how to classify The Ghosts of Nagasaki, even with looking at the categories it's been given on Goodreads. It was strange, and seemed like the kind of book my college writing professor would have had us read, so maybe a little bit high-brow. 

Synopsis: One night a foreign business analyst in Tokyo sits down in his spacious high rise apartment and begins typing something. The words pour out and exhaust him. He soon realizes that the words appearing on his laptop are memories of his first days in Nagasaki four years ago. 

Nagasaki was a place full of spirits, a garrulous Welsh roommate, and a lingering mystery. 

Somehow he must finish the story of four years ago--a story that involves a young Japanese girl, the ghost of a dead Japanese writer, and a mysterious island. He must solve this mystery while maneuvering the hazards of middle management, a cruel Japanese samurai, and his own knowledge that if he doesn't solve this mystery soon his heart will transform into a ball of steel, crushing his soul forever. Though he wants to give up his writing, though he wants to let the past rest, within his compulsive writing lies the key to his salvation.

So you might not think that a book set in Afghanistan qualifies, but Afghanistan is part of Asia (I checked the Google). Knowing that, I would be remiss to not include this book in my list.

Synopsis: An unforgettable novel about finding a lost piece of yourself in someone else.

Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. 

In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. 

Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.

My list wouldn't be complete without Life of Pi, which I read before I started blogging. I really enjoyed it, but my review on Goodreads is so short. 

Synopsis: The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes. 

The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional--but is it more true?

Asian/Pacific American Authors

I haven't necessarily read the books listed here, but I own a few of them and want to read them (and probably will eventually, maybe). 

Mary Ting/M. Clarke

Crossroads (Crossroads Saga Book 1)
Between (Crossroads Saga Book 2)
Beyond (Crossroads Saga Book 3)
Eternity (Crossroads Saga Book 4)
Halo City (Crossroads Saga Prequel)
The Angel Knights (Angel Knights Book 1)(Crossroads Spinoff)
The Chosen Knights (Angel Knights Book 2)(Crossroads Spinoff)
From Gods (Descendent Prophecies Book 1)
From Deities (Descendent Prophecies Book 2)
From Origins (Descendent Prophecies Book 3)
From Titans (Descendent Prophecies Book 4)(Pre-Order)
Something Great (Something Great Book 1) as M. Clarke
Something Wonderful (Something Great Book 2) as M. Clarke
Something Forever (Something Great Book 3) as M. Clarke
Something Amazing (Something Great Book 4) as M. Clarke
Something Precious (Something Great Book 5) as M. Clarke
'Twas the Knight Before Christmas (Something Great Novella) as M. Clarke
Sexiest Man Alive (Knight Fashion Series Book 1) as M. Clarke
Sexiest Couple Alive (Knight Fashion Series Book 2) as M. Clarke
My Clarity as M. Clarke
My Serenity as M. Clarke

I have read many of Mary Ting's books (proofread to be specific). Also, she's an indie author. That's why I listed almost all of her books. 

Amy Tan

I haven't read anything by Amy Tan (not even The Joy Luck Club), but I have been working on building a collection of her books from my thrift store and have several, including the three I've listed. 

Lisa See

I have also not read anything by Lisa See, and I hesitated to include her in this list. According to her website, her paternal great-grandfather was Chinese (so she's 1/8 Chinese, I think). I decided to include her in the list because her main characters are at least predominantly Asian. Also, I just bought a couple of her books at my thrift store yesterday.

So looking at my list, most of the books that I've read (without being paid to look for errors while reading) I got either through a Goodreads giveaway or through Penguin's First to Read program. That means that I basically have Goodreads to thank for this diversity in my reading. However, if I wasn't a blogger, proofreader, and Goodreads giveaway addict, it's very possible that I would have found the time to read some of Amy Tan's books (at least The Joy Luck Club). So I don't know. But that's my list, and I hope you find it helpful. - Katie 


  1. like this idea very much ;) as you would expect from someone with the last name of Sakata after all...

    1. I got the idea from Sofia at Platypire Reviews...Basically she told me I had to do it or she was going to send me oatmeal raisin cookies, which is a pretty serious threat. :) I was pleasantly surprised at how many books I've read that fit the criteria. - Katie

  2. Very nice. I like the idea of giving different cultural style books some much needed publicity

  3. Very nice. I like the idea of giving different cultural style books some much needed publicity