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May 17, 2010 / Katie

Browsing the Stacks for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a fact I never knew until this year, which makes me suspect this designation is a recent development. I’m not big on the trend of naming months for specific causes (although I do have a soft spot for International Talk Like Pirate Day), but I must admit I’m a festive person at heart. I wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, I pull pranks on April Fool’s, and until recently, I sent valentines to my friends in the mail. Bruce Reyes-Chow put together an excellent list of books to celebrate APAHM, which inspired me to get in the spirit and pull together my own picks (forgive me if they’re a bit Chinese heavy). These should keep your bookshelf stocked for a while–happy reading!

On Gold Mountainby Lisa See

Lisa See, who is 1/8 Chinese, tells the history of her Chinese family, from the arrival of her great-grandfather, Fong See, in San Francisco (旧金山 or Old Gold Mountain in Chinese), to the family antique store in Los Angeles’ Chinatown that the author remembers running around when she was a kid. A fascinating family history that sheds new light on the Chinese immigrant experience, xenophobia, and interracial marriage.

The Fortune Cookie Chroniclesby Jennifer 8. Lee

Former New York Times journalist Jennifer 8. Lee leads readers on a culinary adventure through the origins of uniquely American takes on Chinese dishes like chop suey, General Tso’s chicken, beef and broccoli, and, of course, the fortune cookie.

Yellow Faceby David Henry Hwang (also author of FOB)

A mock documentary that puts Hwang himself center stage as it explores both Asian identity as well as race in America. The play begins with the 1990s controversy over color-blind casting for Miss Saigon, before it spins into a comic fantasy, in which the character DHH pens a play in protest and then unwittingly casts a white actor as the Asian lead.

Shortcomingsby Adrian Tomine

In this graphic novel, cartoonist Adrian Tomine traces the lives of twenty/thirty-something Asian Americans living in San Francisco and New York. His vividly individual characters wander through the maze of imposed and self-generated stereotypes of Asian and American identities.

American Chinatownby Bonnie Tsui

Acclaimed travel writer Bonnie Tsui takes an affectionate, attentive look at the neighborhood that has bewitched her since childhood. Tsui visits the country’s four most famous Chinatowns — San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu — and makes her final, fascinating stop in Las Vegas; in her explorations, she focuses on the remarkable experiences of ordinary people.

Yellowby Don Lee

Set in the fictional California town of Rosarita Bay, Don Lee’s Yellow is a fresh, contemporary vision of what it means to be Asian in America, a post-immigrant examination of identity, race, and love. In this short story collection, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese Americans flirt across and within racial lines, and end up facing not only fears of being ethnically “yellow” but also the universal terrors of failure and abandonment.

Part Asian, 100% Hapaby Kip Fulbeck

In this beautiful photo book, Hapa artist and writer Kip Fulbeck decided to “increase mainstream Hapa awareness” by photographing Hapas of diverse backgrounds and ages and asking each participant how he or she copes with the daily query, “What are you?”

Girl in Translationby Jean Kwok

An inspiring debut novel from Jean Kwok about a young immigrant in America, a smart girl who, living a double life between school and sweatshop, understands that her family’s future is in her hands.

Shoplifting from American Apparelby Tao Lin

An autobiographical novella, spanning two years in the life of a young writer, that has been described by the author as “a shoplifting book about vague relationships,” and “an ultimately life-affirming book about how the unidirectional nature of time renders everything beautiful and sad.” Although not explicitly about the Asian American experience, Tao Lin is an up and coming Taiwanese American author to keep your eye out for.

Double Happiness by Jason Shiga

Tom, the protagonist of this graphic novel, has always felt weird and different growing up the only Chinese in a white suburb of Boston. When he moves to San Francisco to stay with a distant cousin, he discovers himself to be quite at home, yet still can’t figure out where he fits in. [full disclosure: Jason is my cartoonist cousin, but I still heartily recommend this book!]

One Comment

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  1. DragonRose / Aug 22 2011 7:03 am

    Nothing but the truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen Headley Also a great math-geek-girl book!
    American-born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
    Whale Talk Chris Crutcher
    Re-Gifters by Mike Carey
    Supermarket by Brian Wood

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