AAPI Reads for May 2023

Happy AAPI Month! If you’re not celebrating AAPI—or Asian American Pacific Islander—Month, you should be, and with the help of some incredible reads, we’re going to tell you why.

We love stories.  We love experiences that make us different and experiences that we have in common. The more we read, the more we realize that there are always more stories to tell. And while those stories are always around during the year, it is important to take the time to highlight other people's stories and experiences. As book lovers and purveyors of stories, we appreciate any opportunity to celebrate.  So, on months such as Asian American and Pacific Islander Month (this month!), Black History Month (February), Hispanic Heritage Month (September-October) and Native American Heritage Month (November), we as a nation and as a bookstore have committed to recognizing these underrepresented communities and their unique histories and stories in America.

Our goal is to share stories about all people and their myriad communities and histories, not just some. We strive to provide opportunities to learn about the unique challenges these communities experience that others have not, and we continually challenge ourselves to think about why this is so and, more importantly, to understand what we can do about it.  We want to share journeys of joy, sadness, adventure, laughter and tears.  We want to share stories that span the human experience and connect us more fully.  While we have lots of books that we would love to put in your hands, here are a few of our favorites:

Bronze Drum by Phong Ngyuen

Vivid, lyrical, and filled with adventure, The Bronze Drum is a true story of standing up for one's people, culture, and country that has been passed down through generations of Vietnamese families through oral tradition. Phong Nguyen's breathtaking novel takes these real women out of legends and celebrates their loves, losses, and resilience in this inspirational story of women's strength and power even in the face of the greatest obstacles.

On Earth We are Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid's Tale in this blend of Chinese history and mecha science fiction.  This is an seat gripping adventure from beginning to end.  Hold on tight, it is a wild ride. 

Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang

A dazzling debut novel set against the backdrop of the Chinese Exclusion Act, about a Chinese girl fighting to claim her place in the 1880s American West.  Part of this story takes place in Idaho.

We were Dreamers:  An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story by Simu Liu

The star of Marvel’s first Asian superhero film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, tells his own origin story of being a Chinese immigrant, his battles with cultural stereotypes and his own identity, becoming a TV star, and landing the role of a lifetime. We Were Dreamers is more than a celebrity memoir - it's a story about growing up between cultures, finding your family, and becoming the master of your own extraordinary circumstance.

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

An enthralling tale of books, first love, fantasy, and an unusual friendship with a talking cat, The Cat Who Saved Books is a story for those for whom books are so much more than words on paper. 

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can't remember exactly when the feeling took root--that desire to look, to move closer, to touch. Whenever it started growing, it definitely bloomed the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. Suddenly everything seemed possible. But America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father--despite his hard-won citizenship--Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

Finally Seen by Kelly Yang (A 2023 #ReadFreely Book and May #ReadFreely Book Club selection - seats still available)

From the New York Times bestselling author of Front Desk comes a gripping middle grade novel about a young girl who leaves China to live with her parents and sister, after five years apart, and learns about family, friendship, and the power of being finally seen.

Mott Street by Ava Chin

A sweeping narrative history of the Chinese Exclusion Act through an intimate portrayal of one family’s epic journey to lay down roots in America. Gorgeously written, deeply researched, and tremendously resonant, Mott Street uncovers a legacy of exclusion and resilience that speaks to the American experience, past and present.

Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by RF Kuang

From award-winning author R. F. Kuang comes Babel, a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal retort to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell that grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of language and translation as the dominating tool of the British empire.