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7 books to read during AAPI month, according to Read With Jenna authors

From a pop culture history book to a thriller about the lingering effects of the Korean War.

May is AAPI Heritage Month, which honors and celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. While you can read a book by an author of Asian descent any day of the year, you may be looking for one this month in particular — and we got you covered. caught up with past Read With Jenna authors with Asian heritage, like Jean Kwok and Jamie Ford, to find the books that have spoken to them. Their list includes a thriller about the lingering trauma of the Korean war; a modern classic that investigates what it means to be Asian American; a history of pop culture; and more.

Of course, there are even more possibilities out there. Maybe you want to explore your culinary side; if so, go for it with these cookbooks in conversation with AAPI cuisine. If you’re looking for books for kids to read during AAPI Month, we got you covered here.

"The Last Story of Mina Lee" by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

Michelle Min Sterling, author of "Camp Zero," recommends this book on the border of thriller and family saga. Mina Lee’s sudden and mysterious death in Koreatown, Los Angeles leads her daughter, Margot, to uncover her mother’s life as an orphan and undocumented immigrant.

"In elegant, fluid prose, 'The Last Story of Mina Lee' touches upon the traumatic legacy of the Korean War, the weight of the past, and the grueling challenges of life in a new country. I found this mother-daughter mystery deeply moving, and am in awe of Kim's sharp and perceptive look at the false promises of the American dream," Min Sterling says.

"The Resisters" by Gish Jen

Jean Kwok, author of RWJ pick "Searching for Sylvie Lee" and the upcoming pick "The Leftover Woman," calls Gish Jen's "The Resisters" a book that stayed with her "long after the final page."

"This is a pitch-perfect cautionary tale that has the sensitivity, emotional range and prophetic power of Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale,'" she says. It's set in a future called AutoAmerica where the haves have land — and the have-nots live on water. One girl's golden pitching arm may be a way out. The book is set in a landscape of surveillance and climate change, but is also "filled with humor and baseball, of all things," she says.

"Rise" by Jeff Yang, Phil Yu, Philip Wang

"Rise" is the story of Asian America from the '90s to the present day, told though pop culture. Jamie Ford, author of "The Many Daughters of Afong Moy," says it's an essential and entertaining history.

"My grandfather once told me that as a Chinese American boy in the 1920s, he had three career options: restaurant, laundry, or gambling. (He chose that latter, that’s a whole other story). My yey yey is gone, but I like to imagine him looking around the US today, seeing dim sum and boba become beloved by all, reading about Asian immigrants who became internet pioneers, and watching Everything Everywhere All At Once sweep the Oscars. He’d say, “You should write a book about this,” and I’d say, “Someone beat me to it. And it’s wonderful.”

"How High We Go in the Dark" by Sequoia Nagamatsu

Ford says this novel "haunts" him. "Not because it’s about an arctic plague that is ruinous on an apocalyptic scale. But because it’s a poignant story about those who are able to salvage and reinvent their humanity amid the wake of such devastating loss. The mix of tragedy and compassion, devastation and continuation, is utterly mesmerizing," he says.

"Minor Feelings" by Cathy Park Hong

"Minor Feelings' by Cathy Park Hong" came out in 2020, and has become a modern classic since. "It gave voice to so much of my experiences before I could find the words for them," Qian Julie Wang, author of "Beautiful Country," says. "It is the only book in recent memory that I've read, re-read, tabbed, and highlighted over and over again. Timeless and indispensable, 'Minor Feelings' is a healing balm and a call to action all at once."

"Tell Me How to Be" by Neel Patel

Susie Yang, author of "White Ivy," calls "Tell Me How to Be" an "astounding contemporary novel about the Asian-American experience."

"Akash and his mother Renu have long harbored secrets which they must grapple with at a family reunion in Los Angeles. This is a beautiful story about the agonies of first love, the experience of growing up as an outsider, the regret of the road not taken, and the unbreakable bond between family. I laughed, I wept. This book is a triumph," she says.