Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at CFL

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a time to recognize the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. Celebrate with the library by enjoying some of our picks of books on Asian Americans.

Non-Fiction and History

 Asian American History and Culture: An Encyclopedia Asian American History and Culture: An Encyclopedia

With overview essays and more than 400 A-Z entries, this exhaustive encyclopedia documents the history of Asians in America from earliest contact to the present day. Organized topically by group, with an in-depth overview essay on each group, the encyclopedia examines the myriad ethnic groups and histories that make up the Asian American population in the United States. Asian American History and Culture covers the political, social, and cultural history of immigrants from East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Pacific Islands, and their descendants, as well as the social and cultural issues faced by Asian American communities, families, and individuals in contemporary society. In addition to entries on various groups and cultures, the encyclopedia also includes articles on general topics such as parenting and child rearing, assimilation and acculturation, business, education, and literature. More than 100 images round out the set.

 

 Remapping Asian American History Remapping Asian American History

Remapping Asian American History exemplifies the emerging trends in the writing of Asian American history, and fills substantive gaps in our knowledge about particular Asian ethnic groups. Edited by noted scholar Sucheng Chan, the essays in this volume uses new frameworks such as transnationalism, the political contexts of international migrations, and a multipolar approach to the study of contemporary U.S. race relations. These concerns, often ignored in earlier studies that focused on social and economic aspects of Asian American communities, challenge some long-held assumptions about Asian American communities and point to new directions in Asian American historiography. Historians, students, and teachers of anthropology, Asian and Asian American Studies, race and ethnic studies, U.S. immigration history, and American Studies will find this collection invaluable.

 

 Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans by Ronald Takaki Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans by Ronald Takaki

In an extraordinary blend of narrative history, personal recollection, and oral testimony, the author presents a sweeping history of Asian Americans. He writes of the Chinese who laid tracks for the transcontinental railroad, of plantation laborers in the canefields of Hawaii, of “picture brides” marrying strangers in the hope of becoming part of the American dream. He tells stories of Japanese Americans behind the barbed wire of U.S. internment camps during World War II, Hmong refugees tragically unable to adjust to Wisconsin’s alien climate and culture, and Asian American students stigmatized by the stereotype of the “model minority.”

This is a powerful and moving work that will resonate for all Americans, who together make up a nation of immigrants from other shores.

The Chinese in America: A Narrative History by Iris ChangThe Chinese in America: A Narrative History by Iris Chang

In an epic story that spans 150 years and continues to the present day, Iris Chang tells of a people’s search for a better life—the determination of the Chinese to forge an identity and a destiny in a strange land and, often against great obstacles, to find success. She chronicles the many accomplishments in America of Chinese immigrants and their descendents: building the infrastructure of their adopted country, fighting racist and exclusionary laws, walking the racial tightrope between black and white, contributing to major scientific and technological advances, expanding the literary canon, and influencing the way we think about racial and ethnic groups. Interweaving political, social, economic, and cultural history, as well as the stories of individuals, Chang offers a bracing view not only of what it means to be Chinese American, but also of what it is to be American.

Memoirs and Poetry

 Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose the truth of racialized consciousness in America. Binding these essays together is Hong’s theory of “minor feelings.”

As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these “minor feelings” occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality—when you believe the lies you’re told about your own racial identity.

Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. This book traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and artmaking, and to family and female friendship in a search to both uncover and speak the truth.

 

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean VuongOn Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.

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.

 

They Called Us An Enemy by George TakeiThey Called Us Enemy by George Takei

A graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei’s childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon — and America itself.

Long before George Takei braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s — and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.

In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.

They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.

Fiction

 The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.

 

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa LahiriUnaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

From the internationally best-selling, Pulitzer Prize–winning author, a superbly crafted new work of fiction: eight stories—longer and more emotionally complex than any she has yet written—that take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they enter the lives of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers.

In the stunning title story, Ruma, a young mother in a new city, is visited by her father, who carefully tends the earth of her garden, where he and his grandson form a special bond. But he’s harboring a secret from his daughter, a love affair he’s keeping all to himself. In “A Choice of Accommodations,” a husband’s attempt to turn an old friend’s wedding into a romantic getaway weekend with his wife takes a dark, revealing turn as the party lasts deep into the night. In “Only Goodness,” a sister eager to give her younger brother the perfect childhood she never had is overwhelmed by guilt, anguish, and anger when his alcoholism threatens her family. And in “Hema and Kaushik,” a trio of linked stories—a luminous, intensely compelling elegy of life, death, love, and fate—we follow the lives of a girl and boy who, one winter, share a house in Massachusetts. They travel from innocence to experience on separate, sometimes painful paths, until destiny brings them together again years later in Rome.

Unaccustomed Earth is rich with Jhumpa Lahiri’s signature gifts: exquisite prose, emotional wisdom, and subtle renderings of the most intricate workings of the heart and mind. It is a masterful, dazzling work of a writer at the peak of her powers.

 

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted ChiangStories of Your Life and Others (Arrival) by Ted Chiang

Stories of Your Life and Others delivers dual delights of the very, very strange and the heartbreakingly familiar, often presenting characters who must confront sudden change—the inevitable rise of automatons or the appearance of aliens—with some sense of normalcy. With sharp intelligence and humor, Chiang examines what it means to be alive in a world marked by uncertainty, but also by beauty and wonder. An award-winning collection from one of today’s most lauded writers, Stories of Your Life and Others is a contemporary classic.

Includes “Story of Your Life”—the basis for the major motion picture Arrival

 

Children’s Literature

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace LinWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

This stunning fantasy inspired by Chinese folklore is a companion novel to Starry River of the Sky and the New York Times bestselling and National Book Award finalist When the Sea Turned to Silver

In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life’s questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family’s fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer.

Grace Lin, author of the beloved Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat returns with a wondrous story of adventure, faith, and friendship. A fantasy crossed with Chinese folklore, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a timeless story reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz and Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Her beautiful illustrations, printed in full-color, accompany the text throughout. Once again, she has created a charming, engaging book for young readers.

 

 From the stars in the sky to the fish in the sea by Kai Cheng Thom From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea by Kai Cheng Thom

A magical gender variant child brings transformation and change to the world around them thanks to their mother’s enduring love.

In the magical time between night and day, when both the sun and the moon are in the sky, a child is born in a little blue house on a hill. And Miu Lan is not just any child, but one who can change into any shape they can imagine. The only problem is they can’t decide what to be: a boy or a girl? A bird or a fish? A flower or a shooting star? At school, though, they must endure inquisitive looks and difficult questions from the other children, and have trouble finding friends who will accept them for who they are. But they find comfort in the loving arms of their mother, who always offers them the same loving refrain: “whatever you dream of / i believe you can be / from the stars in the sky to the fish in the sea.”

In this captivating, beautifully imagined picture book about gender, identity, and the acceptance of the differences between us, Miu Lan faces many questions about who they are and who they may be. But one thing’s for sure: no matter who this child becomes, their mother will love them just the same.

 

The Boy & The Bindi by Vivek ShrayaThe Boy & The Bindi by Vivek Shraya

In this beautiful children’s picture book by Vivek Shraya, author of the acclaimed God Loves Hair, a five-year-old boy becomes fascinated with his mother’s bindi, the red dot commonly worn by South Asian women to indicate the point at which creation begins, and wishes to have one of his own. Rather than chastise her son, she agrees to it, and teaches him about its cultural significance, allowing the boy to discover the magic of the bindi, which in turn gives him permission to be more fully himself.