Asian/Pacific Islander Americans have been part of the USA’s history for more than two decades now. However, authors from the community are nowhere near where they should be in terms of recognition for their literary work.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI) month had to overcome many hurdles before it won a month long place in American history.
The idea was proposed back in 1977, to last for the first 10 days of May, by Frank Horton, a New York politician and representative.
Sadly, not many people backed the idea – which meant it took a whole year for the former US President Jimmy Carter to sign the event into public law.
The commemorative month was initially far from an annual celebration either. For 10 years, each president that followed had to work hard to re-establish this heritage event.
That was until 1992, when all 31 days of May became AAPI Month under the administration of George Bush.
But why May?
May has much to do with the AAPI history. The month signified the first arrival of Japanese immigrants in the US along with the significant contributions from Chinese workers in the construction of a transcontinental railroad. Both these events took place in the 1800s, long before AAPI month was introduced.
Despite these efforts, however, the AAPI community continues to face increased levels of racism, discrimination and hate.
Covid-19 only fuelled this behaviour, with multiple racist attacks towards the community from members of their own country. This in turn sparked a national movement; #StopAsianHate to bring awareness to the brutalities faced by the community on a day-to-day basis.
While the heritage event has helped to create awareness around the culture and diversity of the AAPI community at large, the book community has taken on its own role to celebrate AAPI authors within the publishing industry.
On Twitter, users are sharing their list of favourite books written by AAPI authors in recognition of their inspiring stories.
Considering the Asian community makes up 7% of the United States’ population, the prevalence of the community within the publishing industry should be fairly large. But figures by Zippia show the opposite of this, as there are only 4.9% of Asian authors in the US at present compared to 75.6% of white authors.
This number has only increased by less than 1% in over a decade between 2010 to 2021. Adding on to this lack of diversity, Asian authors were shown to have the lowest salary on average among other ethnicities. They earn approximately $2,000 less than both white and black authors.
More opportunities within the publishing industry need to be made available to the AAPI community so that authors and writers from within the group can better represent their culture.
To diversify your bookshelf for AAPI month, here are just some of the many novels by AAPI authors to choose from:
In 1917, deep in the snowy mountains of occupied Korea, an impoverished local hunter on the brink of starvation saves a young Japanese officer from an attacking tiger.
In an instant, their fates are connected—and from this encounter unfolds a saga that spans half a century.
In the aftermath, a young girl named Jade is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school – an act of desperation that will cement her place in the lowest social status.
When she befriends an orphan boy named JungHo, who scrapes together a living begging on the streets of Seoul, they form a deep friendship.
As they come of age, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence, and Jade becomes a sought-after performer with a new romantic prospect of noble birth.
Soon Jade must decide whether she will risk everything for the one who would do the same for her.
From the perfumed chambers of a courtesan school in Pyongyang to the glamorous cafes of a modernizing Seoul and the boreal forests of Manchuria, where battles rage, Juhea Kim’s unforgettable characters forge their own destinies as they wager their nation’s.
Immersive and elegant, Beasts of a Little Land unveils a world where friends become enemies, enemies become saviours, heroes are persecuted, and beasts take many shapes.
For years, the residents of Lake Haven, Wisconsin ignored the whispered troubles about the Chao family, if only to keep eating at the best restaurant in town. But when tyrannical patriarch Big Chao is found frozen to death in the family’s meat freezer, scandalous events force the community to turn its attention to the three Chao sons.
Dagou – presupposed heir to the business.
Ming – accomplished city lawyer, determined to sever ties with Haven’s Asian community once and for all.
James – naive college student, who is only just learning of his family’s past.
When the family’s dog mysteriously disappears, and Dagou ‘Dog Eater’ Chao is held on trial for his father’s murder, the Chaos’ turbulent history spills into the public eye, while a small town looks on in disbelief.
An inventive comic mystery about the undercurrents of an unfortunate death and a timeless tale about distrust, judgement and condemnation.
Kareena dreams of having a perfect love story like her parents did. That’s why on the morning of her thirtieth birthday, she’s decided to suit up and enter the dating arena. When her widowed father announces he’s retiring and selling their home after her sister’s engagement party, Kareena makes a deal with him. If she can find her soulmate by the date of the party, he’ll gift her the house, and she’ll be able to keep her mother’s legacy alive.
‘Hi, I’m Dr. Prem Verma, host of the Dr. Dil Show. Prem means love, Dil means heart, and I’m a cardiologist. Don’t let my name fool you. I only fix broken hearts in the literal sense.’
Prem doesn’t have time for romance, which is why it’s no surprise when his first meeting with Kareena goes awry. Their second encounter is worse when their on-air debate about love goes viral. Now Prem’s largest community center donor is backing out because Prem’s reputation as a heart-health expert is at risk. To get back in his donor’s good graces, he needs to fix his image fast, and dating Kareena is his only option.
Even though they have warring interests, the more time Prem spends with Kareena, the more he thinks she’s might actually be the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. In this Taming of the Shrew re-imagination, for Prem and Kareena to find their happily ever after, they must admit that hate has turned into fate.
So begins Kaikeyi’s story. The only daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, she is raised on tales about the might and benevolence of the gods: how they churned the vast ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, how they vanquish evil and ensure the land of Bharat prospers, and how they offer powerful boons to the worthy.
Yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, listens as her own worth is reduced to the marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear.
Desperate for independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With it, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen.
But as the evil from her childhood stories threatens the cosmic order, the path she has forged clashes with the destiny the gods have chosen for her family. And Kaikeyi must decide if resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak—and what legacy she intends to leave behind.
The unforgettable tale of a woman determined to leave her mark in a world gods and men dictate the shape of things to come.
It’s high time for Stella Lane to settle down and find a husband – or so her mother tells her. This is no easy task for a wealthy, successful woman like Stella, who also happens to have Asperger’s. Analysing data is easy; handling the awkwardness of one-on-one dates is hard. To overcome her lack of dating experience, Stella decides to hire a male escort to teach her how to be a good girlfriend.
Faced with mounting bills, Michael decides to use his good looks and charm to make extra cash on the side. He has a very firm no repeat customer policy, but he’s tempted to bend that rule when Stella approaches him with an unconventional proposal.
The more time they spend together, the harder Michael falls for this disarming woman with a beautiful mind, and Stella discovers that love defies logic.
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Shruthi is a journalism student with a passion for reading, travel, food and music. She likes to spend her free time at Waterstones or journalling whenever she can. She’s passionate about human connection and relationships in books, so that we can learn to better ourselves and how we communicate with others.
Favourite genre: Contemporary romance.