Asian and Asian American authors and characters represent a wide variety of stories and cultures. Asia is, of course, an enormous continent home to a wide-ranging experiences and identities. It would be a mistake to look to Asian culture as a homogenous identity. Instead, we celebrate a variety of cultures and creators during Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month and encourage you to read their works throughout the year.
Author Jenny Lee, who is of South Korean descent, has experienced success as a television writer prior to the bestselling release of Anna K, a young adult and Korean-infused retelling of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Anna K follows a young, seemingly perfect socialite who manages to escape the pitfalls of being a teenager – until she meets the playboy Count. A sequel, Anna K Away, was released in 2021.
Randy Ribay, a Filipino writer raised in the American Midwest, was a finalist for the National Book Award with Patron Saints of Nothing. The story follows Filipino American high school senior Jay suffering the death of his cousin to the president’s war on drugs, propelling Jay to confront his silent family and his silenced identity.
Stacey Lee is also coming off the success of her hit book The Downstairs Girl and follows it with Luck of the Titanic. Stacey Lee shares a Chinese heritage with her protagonist, Valora Luck, who needs to get to America. America does not accept Chinese people as immigrants, so she is denied entry onto the Titanic. She manages to stowaway in hopes of finding her twin brother in America and finding work in a circus. Trapped onboard when the unthinkable happens, Valora’s needs quickly shift to survival.
American Betiya is Indian American author Anuradha D. Rajurkar’s debut novel and follows Rani Kelkar as she navigates her first love. Always a dutiful Indian American daughter, Rani never lies to her parents until she meets and secretly begins dating Oliver. Oliver is everything her mother doesn’t want for Rani, and when Oliver needs more of Rani, she grows confused with what she truly wants.
That journey of self is followed in Saints and Misfits by Indian Canadian author S.K. Ali. Janna is a devout Muslim who divides the world into Saints and Misfits. Saints are the people whose perfections render them invisible, and Misfits are those who don’t fit in and keep the world interesting. But perhaps there is a third category of people, Monsters, who hide behind Saints. People who simply are not what they seem.
This is also a theme in Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean. Izumi Tanaka was raised in California by her single mother before discovering that she is the secret daughter of Japan’s crown prince. Izumi travels to Japan to meet her father and learn about both a Japanese culture she is unsure of and a royal culture she is wary of. Her story centers on not feeling “Japanese enough” to be in Japan and not “American enough” to be in America, a struggle commonly felt by those whose identities transcend lines.