Asian-Pacific American Heritage Picks for Adults
It is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, so to celebrate these writers we asked our staff here at NYPL to name some of their favorites. Here is what they had to say:
"So it was that we soaped ourselves in sadness and we rinsed ourselves with hope, and for all that we believed almost every rumor we heard, almost all of us refused to believe that our nation was dead." Viet Thanh Nguyen's masterful debut novel, The Sympathizer, not only sheds light on the Vietnamese experience in America, but takes a penetrating look at the lasting legacies of war. —Miriam Tuliao, Selection Team
Last year I read A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. It's a little bit surreal in parts, uncanny and dreamy like a Murakami story, which I like. And it regularly reminded me of a film I love, Ikiru, for extra obvious reasons that might be spoiler-y if I wrote them out. It manages to both be a bit of a meditation and well as a story with suspenseful moments. And it's all very human and real, despite being surreal at points. I feel like my describing it is a bit of an injustice but I liked this one quite a lot. I found it enveloping and delicate and descriptive and interesting. —Carmen Nigro, Milstein Division
Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age is one of a series of novels that Kenzaburō Ōe has written about a father’s relationship with his developmentally challenged son. There are a number of books, both fiction and nonfiction, that describe the trials and gifts of raising a child in those circumstances, but few achieve the emotional and intellectual insights that is achieved here. Combining moving descriptions of this special father/son relationship filtered through ruminations on the writings of William Blake, Ōe demonstrates why his Nobel Prize for literature was well-deserved. —Wayne Roylance, Selection Team
The collection of short stories titled Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharensap, a young Thai-American author, is a raw, hilarious, and personal take on Thai cultural norms, family relationships, romance and friendship. The author offers incisive views about Thai interactions with farang (tourists), and also tackles the issue of Cambodian immigration in Bangkok communities. Lapcharensap will have you laughing through your tears with this poignant collection of stories. —Sherri Machlin, Mulberry Street
I just finished All the Birds, Singing by Australian/British author Evie Wyld. It was dark, mysterious and not at all uplifting, but still fantastic and engaging. The story works backwards, pulling you to the end. The mystery of what happened to this reclusive female sheep farmer unravels through to the last pages. Kokoro by Natsume Soseki is a Japanese classic that quietly and beautifully crosses generations to look at traditional values placed against new ideas and examines the loneliness embodied in a young student and his aging mentor, "Sensei." —Jessica Cline, Mid- Manhattan
I always enjoy a good book by Chang Rae Lee. His insightful writing is the type that sticks with you long after you're done reading it. I just started his most recent book (it came highly recommended by some of my colleagues!), On Such a Full Sea, and I can't put it down. My favorite novel of his (so far...) is his debut, Native Speaker. Filled with spies, political intrigue, family drama, and sharp cultural and emotional observations, Native Speaker has a lot to say about the immigrant experience in America, and it says it with a punch that might just make you reconsider everything you thought you knew about race and class in our communities. —Nancy Aravecz, Mid-Manhattan
I have so many recommendations I am going to need my own list inside this list.
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is the hot book right now encouraging minimalism, Zen and joy in your everyday life, something Japanese culture has always embraced.
- Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang is the genesis for the current ABC comedy, a hilarious, profane and thoughtful look at Asian-American culture and family.
- I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight by the comedian Margaret Cho (who paved the way for a show like Fresh Off the Boat) is fierce, funny and feminist. All things great! And I'm not just recommending her because I get mistaken for her on the street all the time.
- American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang is essential graphic novel reading—this book changed the genre and shared the ABC experience in a new way.
- Echoes of the White Giraffe by Sook Nyul Choi - I read this as a teenager coming to terms with being an adopted Korean in a white American family. It's not specifically about adoption, but I was so hungry for insight into Asian culture (in rural Oklahoma) and so very grateful for this book.
- Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua garnered intense attention from both supporters and critics. Did Chua further stereotypes or bring understanding to the biological nature of Asian mothers? The world may never know, but I think it's worth a read for any mother or perfectionist. Happy Asian-Pacific Heritage Month!
—Leslie Tabor, Associate Director, Manhattan East
Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your picks, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend.