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1. The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui
The beautiful and emotional memoir is written by Thi Bui, an Asian author, telling the story of Bui’s parents’ life before, during Vietnam War, and after their escape to America due to the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s. Like other immigrant families, Thi Bui struggled with the search for a better future and home in a foreign country, while longing for her identity and culture in Vietnam. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls this novel “a book to break your heart and heal it.” The novel provides the reader with a powerful personal story of overcoming struggles and the story of the refugee experience in that period of Vietnam history.
2. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Little Fires Everywhere is a national, international, and #1 New York Times bestseller. The author reveals the story of Mia Warren in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Mia is an artist and a single mother, carrying her mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo, becoming a threat to the carefully ordered community. The tension rises with the adoption of a Chinese-American baby, with the uncovering of Mia’s past. Little Fires Everywhere “explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood–and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.”
3. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane tells the story of Li-yan and her family living in the remote mountain village of the Akha tribe of China’s Yunnan province, around the story of the tea-growing family. Li-yan has to overcome the harsh customs of the village and escapes the village for better education, a life, and a business, while her daughter is raised by adoptive parents. The whole story surrounds the study of Pu’er in discovering the mother’s struggle and the daughter’s longing to find her origin. Overall, it’s a beautiful story about family, culture, and distance.
4. The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai
“A triumph, a novelistic rendition of one of the most difficult times in Vietnamese history… Vast in scope and intimate in its telling… Moving and riveting.” —VIET THANH NGUYEN, author of The Sympathizer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
The novel tells two storylines of a multigenerational family in the context of the Vietnam war, the Great Hunger, and the Land Reform. Tran Dieu Lan had to flee her family farm with six children, and later, her young granddaughter headed off back home. The story emerges from the life experience of different generations and their struggle.
5. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Everything I Never Told You is a New York Times, National, and International Bestseller. The novel shares the story of family, history, and home about a Chinese American family in the 1970s in Ohio, and their complex journey of emotions and suspicion when their favorite child’s body was found in the river. This moving story portrays the “divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family”, the individual struggles of each family member while trying to understand each other.
6. Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner
Crying in H Mart is a story about the family, grief, food, and endurance of Michelle Zauner, a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. H Mart refers to the Asian supermarket chain specializing in Korean and Asian products. The story shares the experience of being an Asian American in a school in Oregon, living up to her mother’s expectations, spending time with her mother in Seoul, and exploring the life she wants to live when moving to the East Coast for college.
7. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong
As the daughter of Korean immigrants, the author experienced “minor feelings.” “Minor feelings occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality—when you believe the lies you’re told about your own racial identity. Minor feelings are not small, they’re dissonant—and in their tension, Hong finds the key to the questions that haunt her.” The collection is the journey where Cathy searches for relationships with the English language, friendship, and various emotions.
8. Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
This book explores various layers of identity and experience of Casey, a Korean American with his immigrant family working in a dry cleaner. After graduation from Princeton, she moved to Manhattan and explored a new lifestyle. The story surrounds the question of identity and how to maintain identity in an ever-changing world.
9. On Earth, We Are Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
The book is a letter from a son called Little Dog to his mother who could not read English. The letter unveils the family history rooted in Vietnam and the family’s transition to the new country. The story is a discovery of race, class, and masculinity between a single mother and her son.
10. A Burning by Megha Majumdar
The debut novel follows Jivan, a Muslim girl being accused of aiding a terrorist attack due to a comment on Facebook. The other two characters in the novel are PT Sir, Jivan’s former PE teacher, and Lovely, aspiring actress who is a hijra (a South Asian gender identity known for spiritual practice and feminine self-presentation). The novel highlights underprivileged groups and how they were incentivized to fight amongst themselves.
11. The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai
The Inheritance of Loss is an award-winning novel by Kiran Desai. The story centers around the lives of a judge and his orphaned daughter at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas, and his son – an illegal immigrant- who is hopscotching from one NY restaurant to another. The story reveals the fate of powerless individuals while exploring international issues related to economic inequality, multiculturalism and so much more. All characters seem different, but they all shared a similar “historical legacy and a common experience of impotence and humiliation.” Kiran Desai’s novel is a story of joy and despair.
12. The Garden of Evening Mists, Tan Twan Eng
The Garden of Evening Mist is a second English-language novel by Malaysian novelist Tan Twan Eng and was later adapted into a film. The story spans three different time periods and follows Teoh Yun Ling, a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, who later become a judge overseeing criminal cases while making sense of her life and experience.
13. Please Look After Mother, Shin Kyung-sook
The novel follows a family’s desperate search for their missing mother in Seoul while discovering desires, heartaches, and secrets that the mother struggled with. The story is told in the voices of the mother’s family members to express their loss, and self-recrimination caused by the mother’s disappearance.
14. Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco
The story opens with the death of Crispin Salvador, a famous New York writer, and him leaving behind a list of names. The n 1. The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui arrator was one of Salvador’s students who recently became close, and he decided to follow the clues in Manila to write the biography of Salvador. The determination leads to the discovery of a four-generation family history that traces back over 150 years of Philippine history. According to the New Yorker, the novel “begins as a murder mystery and develops into an ambitious exploration of cultural identity, ambition, and artistic purpose.”
15. Love, Chai and Other Four-Letter Words by Annika Sharma
This light-hearted novel centers around the journey of Jiran, an Indian immigrant that came to America for a college degree and a new career. She vowed to not make mistakes after her sister brought shame to the family with her marriage. However, she met Nash, a doctor who is committed to being alone, and explored a wide range of emotions: love, risk, and the fear to disappoint her parents. The book makes readers feel in love with not only the couple, but also the vibrancy of New York City.