Last week, we celebrated Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Month by coming up with a list of movies to watch. This week, we thought we'd put together a list of celebrated novels written by Asian or Asian American authors. And don’t worry, if there isn’t time to read them all this May, at least you can add them onto your Summer reading list (the one that never ends).
Number One - An all around classic: At the End of the Matinee
“Classical guitarist Satoshi Makino has toured the world and is at the height of his career when he first lays eyes on journalist Yoko Komine. Their bond forms instantly.
Upon their first meeting, after Makino’s concert in Tokyo, they begin a conversation that will go on for years, with long spells of silence broken by powerful moments of connection. She’s drawn by Makino’s tender music and his sensitivity, and he is intrigued by Yoko’s refinement and intellect. But neither knows enough about love to see it blooming nor has the confidence to make the first move. Will their connection endure, weaving them back together like instruments in a symphony, or will fate lead them apart?
Blending the harmonies of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes and the sensuality of Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love, At the End of the Matinee is an enchanting and thought-provoking love story.”
Number Two - Novel turned Hollywood Rom-Com: Crazy Rich Asians
You might have already seen the movie that grossed $239 million and topped everyone’s rom-com list in 2018. However, if you haven’t, then you’re in for a treat with this trilogy written by Asian American Kevin Kwan who was born in Singapore.
“When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.
On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.”
Number Three - A finalist: Pachinko
A National Book Award Finalist, Pachinko, tells the story of a Korean woman named Sunja who “falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home” only to marry another “gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan” once she finds out the wealthy stranger is already married to another woman. “Her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son's powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations,” according to Amazon Books.
“Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan's finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee's complex and passionate characters--strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis--survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.”
Number Four - The history-backed novel: The Making of Asian America: A History
After all that Fiction, you might want some historical facts (even though fiction is basically based off of facts and real-life happenings).
“The Making of Asian America shows how generations of Asian immigrants and their American-born descendants have made and remade Asian American life, from sailors who came on the first trans-Pacific ships in the 1500 to the Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. Over the past fifty years, a new Asian America has emerged out of community activism and the arrival of new immigrants and refugees. But as Lee shows, Asian Americans have continued to struggle as both “despised minorities” and “model minorities,” revealing all the ways that racism has persisted in their lives and in the life of the country.
Published fifty years after the passage of the United States’ Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, these “powerful Asian American stories…are inspiring, and Lee herself does them justice in a book that is long overdue” (Los Angeles Times). But more than that, The Making of Asian America is an “epic and eye-opening” (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) new way of understanding America itself, its complicated histories of race and immigration, and its place in the world today.”