Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Recommended Reading and Viewing

May is AAPI Heritage Month, which recognizes the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. This influence can be keenly felt in a bookstore, where history, art, fiction, memoir, cookbooks, poetry, and more from these communities can be found on the shelves. Here are just a few recent titles and staff favorites, as well as a recording of our recent event with author Viet Thanh Nguyen, to celebrate AAPI Heritage month.

As always, much more can be found on our website and in the store, where our booksellers’ favorite thing to do is make personal recommendations! M&Q is now open 10am – 10pm daily. Stop by and say hello!

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

A meta-fictional, fun, funny, and impressively constructed novel about assimilation, immigration, pop culture, and the treatment of Asian Americans in media and beyond. Anyone who has spent any time thinking about Hollywood narratives, watching TV (especially police procedurals), or musing on who gets to play which “roles” (in media as well as in life) will love this book. Anyone who appreciates surreal novels that play with (or completely break) form will love this book. Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction!  —Annie 

Severance by Ling Ma

Written in 2018 and set in 2011, this novel hits close to home in the age of Covid-19. The book follows the protagonist Candace as she navigates a world fraught with Shen Fever. Darkly funny and absorbing, you’ll get lost in the desolate, abandoned streets of NYC. —Rebecca

Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee

Entertaining and vivid document of the author’s travels around the US visiting immigrant enclaves outside of the ‘mainstream’ and eating their food. A few years old but still highly relevant – also Lee, a Korean-American chef based in the South, has done a lot of work to assist struggling restaurant workers during the pandemic, so more people should know about him and buy his book! —Mary

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America. Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative–and its relentless and riveting pursuit of vital questions around family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality, will change the way you think about our world.

Soft Science by Franny Choi

Told from the perspective of a queer Asian-American cyborg, Soft Science explores what it means to embody yourself when you are not-human, not-robot, not-desired and not-accepted. Please read this book. —Kathleen

When I Grow Up I Want To Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen

Queer & Chinese-American poet Chen Chen’s first book is a meditation on what it means to be both, neither, inbetween, and further. His poems range from an ode to his boyfriend Jeffrey (‘For he must vacuum/mop/scrub/rinse/hand sanitize/air freshen the entire apartment to deal with the stress of having received a traffic ticket’) to a poem about the irony of being constantly asked why he writes so many poems about race. A must read; bonus points: longlisted for the National Book Award. —Kathleen

Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel

As young readers root for aspiring MC Rani Patel in this gripping 90’s-set novel, they will gain a deeper understanding of abuse and addiction, and the diversity and complexity of life in Hawai’i, beyond the touristy resorts and hotels.

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

In this self-assured debut, an imperialist system clashes with the ancient power of the sea while two teens from different backgrounds find unexpected love. Queer and gender nonconforming characters abound in this enchanting, seafaring fantasy!

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Desperate to be with Brit (a white girl), without his parents finding out, Frank Li turns to family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. A classic fake-relationship trope underpins this charming and moving contemporary teen romance.

Authors In Conversation:

VIET THANH NGUYEN in conversation with BAO PHI

Missed our March event with Viet Thanh Nguyen? You can watch the recording any time on our YouTube channel! Viet and Bao talked ideology, comedy, writing Asian and Asian American voices, and more while discussing Nguyen’s The Committed.