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May 13, 2022
Our book club is reading Ghost Bride for May, which is great because it is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. I am pretty sure we did not plan that, but it works out beautifully.
Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo was chosen because we all loved her Night Tiger, which was chosen because we all have a deficit in our Asian/Asian American authored books repertoire, and we wanted to rectify that.
Kate and I were thinking that maybe some of you need recommendations for Asian American authors like we do, so we decided to take the month of May to introduce you to some of our favorites while asking you to tell us about some of your favorites!
I was in the 11th grade when I read The Joy Luck Club. I remember loving it. I remember my teacher making a very specific point to add authors of color into our American Lit class (while still a novel idea in 2022, it was even more so then).
When I entered college in 1996, I again was lucky; I was required to take a class called Ethnic Literature (sure the name could have been better), but the class was right on. We confronted our own privilege; my professor shattered the whitewashed history we were previously taught; we explored different cultures and the literary devices used to convey those stories. The first Asian American book I read in that class was called Women Warrior.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston are two books that will stick with me forever.
I am not sure that these two books should be paired, but they are paired in my head as they are the first two I read by Asian American authors. And they do share similarities. They are both written in a memoir style. They both address children of immigrants. And they both focus on the importance of language and culture. And of course they are both written in sections that can be excerpted.
I also read Donald Duk by Frank Chin in this college class. This is a great coming of age novel, and a constant struggle for our twelve year old protagonist is his name, Donald Duk, a name which his parents King and Daisy Duk are very proud of. The book explores the generation gap, especially that of immigrant parents and their first generation American children.
After these first three books by Asian American authors, I was excited to read more and expanded the definition of Asian.
Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Sun are on this list of my favorites because they are also from my favorite genre, historical fiction. Nothing makes me feel dumber than learning I know nothing about the world. The Kite Runner is a beautiful and violent story of tragedy, politics, coming of age and forgiveness set in Afghanistan spanning from before Russian rule, through Russian rule, into the rise of the Taliban. A Thousand Splendid Suns illustrates the life of women and girls under the Taliban during the contemporary era. These are not for the faint of heart; some of the very realistic violence sticks with me, but I am thankful for those vivid memories that help remind me regularly the suffering and survival of people.
Namesake and The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, an Indian American author, are about Indian and Indian American families, friends and lovers. Lahiri has been celebrated for giving diversity to Indian and Indian Americans through her stories. The Interpreter of Maladies won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 2000.
There are others on our list, and just because I did not write about them does not mean they are not worthy. These specific ones, I chose because they changed me in a way, maybe because of when I read them in my life, maybe because of the book, maybe a little of both.
Kate is a lover of Celeste Ng-- if she liked writing blogs as much I as I do, she would love to tell you about her books. So take it from me--if Kate says they are good, they are good!
Here are some other books we can recommend
Our book club read and enjoyed The Leavers by Lisa Ko.
After reading The Joy Luck Club, I rushed out to read The Kitchen God’s Wife; loved it.
The Night Tiger is a great mix of Chinese and Malaysian culture with a lot of mystery.
Good Talk is a graphic novel. It is a great story and the illustrations are mixed media, a bit of a different take on the graphic novel.
Share with us some of your favorite books/stories by Asian American and Pacific Islanders!
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December 04, 2023