by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
Our hearts are heavy as we consider the victims of the horrific shootings in Atlanta last week and the ongoing racist assaults on the AAPI community. Be sure to check out the movement to # StandUpforAAPI on Bookstagram. Today we celebrate a few of our favorite books from AAPI authors.
Helen Hoang's The Bride Test - I've shared my love of this romance novel many times including when I talked about it as one of my favorite reads from 2020 in our Unabridged Awards episode. I love the way that Hoang explores the obstacles that both Khai and Esme face and the hard work that they have to do to find a way forward with their relationship.
Min Jin Lee's Pachinko - This is another favorite book for me. This epic historical fiction novel spans multiple generations and locations, and I learned so much from it about the Japanese occupation of Korea and what that looked like for individual Korean families. This powerful book speaks to the lasting impact of that occupation on people from both countries.
Mira T. Lee's Everything Here Is Beautiful - This novel explores the complicated relationship between two sisters with very different lifestyles and attitudes. In this powerful depiction of what it is like to struggle with psychotic breakdowns, Lee shows what this journey can be like for everyone involved. The story ultimately depicts a quest to find peace amid the turmoil.
Chanel Miller's Know My Name - We discussed this powerful, important memoir as our book club pick on episode 141. Reading Miller's account of what happened to her when she was assaulted by Brock Turner and then the agonizing aftermath of the court case and the lasting impact on her life highlights just how broken our justice system is and how wrong our approach toward sexual assault is.
Young Adult Picks
Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before Series - Oh my goodness, you all know we love this series. You can't go wrong with this YA lit romance series featuring Lara Jean. I love these books so very much (and you all know I am still very picky about romance books!). Be sure to check out the Netflix adaptations as well, and listen in to our discussions of the first film (back on episode 90) and the third film that came out last month (episode 169)!
Marie Lu's Legend Series - This is one of my absolute favorite YA lit series, and I love all of the books in it (including Rebel, which came out recently after a long break!). This brilliant trilogy shows a dystopian government and the lengths that people will go to keep the power structures in place. I also love the way that Lu explores many important social issues including distribution of wealth, access to health care, and the insidious structures that favor some citizens over others.
Emily X. R. Pan's The Astonishing Color of After - This book is an all-time favorite for me and is such a powerful YA lit novel exploring important topics including depression, suicide, and finding healing through connections to family and to art. Pan's consideration of Leigh's quest to follow her mother's spirit (which has taken the form of a red bird) all the way back to her mother's family in Taiwan is powerful and poignant.
David Yoon's Frankly in Love - I loved this YA lit novel featuring Frank Li, a Korean-American teen who is struggling to find his way and feels like he is neither Korean enough nor American enough. Considering himself a "Limbo" who does not fit neatly into either culture, Frank winds up in a fake dating relationship with fellow Limbo, Joy, in an effort to ease family dynamics, and learns a lot about himself and his true feelings. This one is fun, funny, and poignant, and I love the way it centers a male protagonist navigating romantic situations.
Kids' Picture Books
Yangsook Choi's The Name Jar - With all of the important discussions happening about correct pronunciations of people's names, I wanted to share this gem of a picture book with you. This book, which focuses on Unhei (pronounced Yoon-Hey), who comes to America from Korea, explores the pressure that kids sometimes feel to make their names "easier" for other people by adopting a new American name. Ultimately celebrating Unhei's decision to keep her real name, this book is a great conversation starter with kids and shows how we can support one another with empathy and compassion. (Perhaps it goes without saying, but I want to note here that having Anglicized name is, of course, not inherently bad. I just love the way this book explores a consideration of names and why we should take the time to learn to pronounce them correctly.)
Joanna Ho's Eyes that Kiss at the Corners, illustrated by Dung Ho - This gorgeous book celebrates eyes "that kiss at the corners and glow like warm tea." The stunning illustrations celebrate the way that family connections can strengthen our own positive self-image, and the lovely text explores the way that the shape of our eyes makes us unique and can also connect us to our heritage.
If you're interested in reading more about ways to support the AAPI Community and also about the importance of names, the articles linked below can be a starting point:
"Organizations to Support in the Fight Against Asian Hate" from Harper's Bazaar
"Why Getting a Name Right Matters" from BBC
Be on the lookout for # AAPIApril on Bookstagram where Bookstagrammers are featuring more favorites by AAPI authors, and share your favorites as well!
(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)
Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.
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