A Reading List for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month 2021

For Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, observed annually during the month of May, we asked our members—independent presses, literary journals, and others—to share with us some of the literature by Asian American and Pacific Islander American writers they recommend reading in celebration. (Learn more about Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month here.)



The Migrant States by Indran Amirthanayagam

Hanging Loose Press | 2020

The poems in Amirthanayagam’s new poetry collection are, according to Terence Winch, “hellos and goodbyes, obituaries, salutations, and celebrations addressed to his children, his friends and heroes.”




All Heathens by Marianne Chan

Sarabande Books | 2020

In this debut poetry collection, Chan “navigates her Filipino heritage by grappling with notions of diaspora, circumnavigation, and discovery.”



Obit by Victoria Chang

Copper Canyon Press | 2020

According to Rick Barot, Chang’s poetry collection “marshals all the resources of poetry against the relentless emotional cascade that’s associated with death,” arriving “at a kind of momentary stalemate against that cascade.”




DMZ Colony by Don Mee Choi

Wave Books | 2020

This poetry collection, which incorporates poems, prose, photographs, and drawings, “is a tour de force of personal and political reckoning set over eight acts.”





Tupelo Press | 2021

According to Gabrielle Bates, “By layering and arranging found art, original drawings, washi, photos, paint, and bits of leaf, Naoko Fujimoto has created a stunning contemporary emaki engaged with Japanese heritage, the horrors of war, and daughterhood.”




Matadora by Sarah Gambito

Alice James Books | 2004

According to Kimiko Hahn, “The poems in Sarah Gambito’s first book, Matadora, are sheer juxtapositions of anything—star fish, Tagalog, frisson—and the friction very often adds a political dimension to the poetic.”




Documents by Jan-Henry Gray

BOA Editions | 2019

Winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, this poetry collection is “rooted in the experience of living in America as a queer undocumented Filipino.”




A Machine Wrote This Song by Jennifer Hayashida

Black Ocean | 2018

In Hayashida’s poetry collection, “the speakers are hooked on phenomenology in fitful attempts to understand competing scales of intimacy and violence, continuity and disruption.”




Community Garden for Lonely Girls by Christine Shan Shan Hou

Black Ocean | 2017

According to Brenda Ijima, “Spring-loaded psychic energy and heightened physical intensity catapult” Hou’s poetry collection “into a divergent zone of surreal non-fictive super abundance.”




Phyla of Joy by Karen An-hwei Lee

Tupelo Press | 2012

According to Rigoberto González, “Lee’s third book is a beautiful and sustained meditation on the impermanence of humanity’s essential components: memory, spirituality, emotion, thought.”




[and time erodes like thunder] by Zoë Luh

Assure Press | 2020

In her debut poetry collection, Luh “powerfully chronicles one mixed-race, Chinese-American’s emotional response to the trauma experienced in her family.”




SWOLE by Jerika Marchan 

Futurepoem | 2018

According to D. A. Powell, Marchan’s debut poetry collection “helicopters over the breached levee and breakwater, as roofs rip and fly like paper over her home city, in the midst of Hurricane Katrina.”




The Cowherd’s Son by Rajiv Mohabir

Tupelo Press | 2017

In this Kundiman Prize–winning poetry collection, “Mohabir’s inheritance of myths, folk tales, and multilingual translations make a palimpsest of histories that bleed into one another.”




Cleave by Tiana Nobile

Hub City Press | 2021

In her debut poetry collection, Nobile “grapples with the history of transnational adoption, both her own from South Korea and the broader, collective experience.”




Migritude by Shailja Patel 

Kaya Press | 2010

“Part poetic memoir, part political history, part performance and tour-de-force,” this collection creates “an achingly beautiful portrait of women’s lives and migrant journeys under the boot print of Empire.”




Habitat Threshold by Craig Santos Perez

Omnidawn | 2020

Perez’s latest poetry collection “explores his ancestry as a native Pacific Islander, the ecological plight of his homeland, and his fears for the future.”




Dears, Beloveds by Kevin Phan

Center for Literary Publishing | 2020

Phan’s debut collection of prose poems is, according to Ruth Awad, “a language experiment in the inner workings of grief—its crystalline truths, its kaleidoscopic perspectives, its stillness, its wry humor.”




Underworld Lit by Srikanth Reddy

Wave Books | 2020

Reddy’s latest poetry collection “unsettles our sense of home as it ferries us back and forth across cultures, languages, epochs, and the shifting border between the living and the dead.”




Letters to a Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes

BOA Editions | 2020

Reyes’s latest poetry collection “answers the questions of Filipino American girls and young women of color with bold affirmations of hard-won empathy, fierce intelligence, and a fine-tuned B.S. detector.”




Terrain Tracks by Purvi Shah

New Rivers Press | 2006

According to Harriet Davidson, Shah’s debut poetry collection “explores journeys through space and time in beautifully sensuous lyrics charting the dislocations and locations of immigration, memory, love, and loss.”




O Bon by Brandon Shimoda

Litmus Press | 2011

“Constructed of a language of witnessing,” Shimoda’s poetry collection “accesses two major sites of trauma: the bombing of Hiroshima, and Japanese-American wartime incarceration.”




Near, At by Jennifer Soong 

Futurepoem | 2019

Soong’s debut poetry collection “follows the inherent strangeness of one’s consciousness as it observes and comes into contact with the physical world” and is “a sustained exploration of language, capitalism, gender, and nature.”




Instrument by Dao Strom

Fonograf Editions | 2020

This hybrid poetry collection, which is accompanied by an album “of ambient and folk-tinged songs,” combines “color photography, personal biography, and gripping, restless poetry.”




Sight Lines by Arthur Sze

Copper Canyon Press | 2019

Winner of the 2019 National Book Award, Sze’s tenth poetry collection “moves through space and time and brings the disparate and divergent into stunning and meaningful focus.”




Curb by Divya Victor

Nightboat Books | 2021

Victor’s poetry collection “maps our post-9/11 political landscape by locating the wounds of domestic terrorism at unacknowledged sites of racial and religious conflict across cities and suburbs of the United States.”




My Name Is Immigrant by Wang Ping

Hanging Loose Press | 2021

Wang’s latest poetry collection is a “song for the plight and pride of immigrants around the globe.”





The City of Good Death by Priyanka Champaneri

Restless Books | 2021

Winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, Champaneri’s debut novel “brings us inside India’s holy city of Banaras, where the manager of a death hostel shepherds the dying who seek the release of a good death.”




So Many Olympic Exertions by Anelise Chen 

Kaya Press | 2017

This experimental debut novel—by a recipient of the National Book Award Foundation’s Best 5 under 35 award—blends “elements of self-help, memoir, and sports writing” into “a personal handbook on ‘how to live.’”




The Parted Earth by Anjali Enjeti

Hub City Press | 2021

Enjeti’s debut novel “is a heartfelt and human portrait of the long shadow of the Partition of the Indian subcontinent on the lives of three generations.”




A World Between by Emily Hashimoto

Feminist Press | 2020

In Hashimoto’s debut novel, “a college fling between two women turns into a lifelong connection—and spells out a new kind of love story for a millennial, immigrant America.”




A Student of History by Nina Revoyr

Akashic Books | 2019

Revoyr’s novel “explores both the beginnings of Los Angeles and the present-day dynamics of race and class. It offers a window into the usually hidden world of high society.”




Inconvenient Daughter by Lauren J. Sharkey

Akashic Books | 2020

Sharkey’s debut novel “dispels the myths surrounding transracial adoption, the ties that bind, and what it means to belong.”




Further News of Defeat by Michael X. Wang

Autumn House Books | 2020

Winner of the 2021 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection, Wang’s short fiction “interrogates personal and political events set against the backdrop of China that are both real and perceived, imagined and speculative.”




Sansei and Sensibility by Karen Tei Yamashita

Coffee House Press | 2020

In this collection of short stories, Yamashita “transfers classic tales across boundaries and questions what an inheritance—familial, cultural, emotional, artistic—really means.”





Tastes Like War by Grace M. Cho

Feminist Press | 2021

This debut memoir is a hybrid text about a daughter’s search through intimate and global history for the roots of her mother’s schizophrenia.




Go Home!

Feminist Press | 2018

In an essay collection edited by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and with a foreword by Viet Thanh Nguyen, “Asian diasporic writers imagine “home” in the twenty-first century through an array of fiction, memoir, and poetry.”




Middle of the Night by HC Hsu

Deerbrook Editions

Hsu’s personal essays “explore love and sex, history and identity, hopes, nightmares, and other nocturnal joys and quotidian tyrannies haunting our sunlit existence.”




The Lava Never Sleeps: A Honolulu Memoir by Loreen Lilyn Lee

Willow Books | 2019

In this memoir, Lee “poignantly details her struggle growing up in a traditional Chinese family in Honolulu, Hawai’i during the 1950s and 1960s, enduring both emotional and physical abuse.”




Imagine Us, The Swarm by Muriel Leung

Nightboat Books | 2021

Following the death of Leun’s father, this collection of essays in verse “contemplates vengeance, eschews forgiveness, and cultivates a desire for healing beyond the reaches of this present life.”




Phong Nha, the Making of an American Smile by Tammy Nguyen

Ugly Duckling Presse | 2020

Part of UDP’s 2020 Pamphlet Series, Phong Nha, the Making of an American Smile “is a story about a girl who was born missing two of her front teeth and the journey it took to correct this defect.”




Ensō by Shin Yu Pai

Entre Ríos Books | 2020

Presented as a hybrid book and digital experience, Pai’s “blend of personal essays reflecting on the development of her poetics…places new work next to old, to create not only a mid-career retrospective but a guidebook for poets interested in moving their practice off the page and into the community.”




A Transpacific Poetics

Litmus Press | 2017

Each piece in this anthology of poetry, essays, and poetics edited by Lisa Samuels and Sawako Nakayasu is “a unique intervention that considers the possibilities of meaning in and of the Pacific, the contentious prefix ‘trans-,’ and the intersections between place, politics, and language.”




Beyond Lowu Bridge by Roy Cheng Tsung

Passager Books | 2014

About this memoir, Tsung writes, “Born and raised in sunny California, my daughters had no idea of what it was like for their grandmother and father to live in totalitarian China. I wanted them to understand that freedom came with sacrifice.”




We Are No Longer Babaylan by Elsa Valmidiano

New Rivers Press | 2020

In her debut essay collection, Valmidiano “frames the ancient, persistent pain that hammers and chisels Filipina American knowledge with ritual and unrest.”




Accomplice to Memory by QM Zhang 

Kaya Press | 2017

In this hybrid text that is “part memoir, novel, and historical documentary,” Zhang “tries to piece together the fractured mystery of her father’s exodus from China to the U.S. during the two decades of civil and world war leading up to the 1949 revolution.”





Suicide Forest by Haruna Lee

53rd State Press | 2019

Lee’s bilingual play, which was a New York Times Critic’s Pick, is set in 1990s Japan and written to be performed by a Japanese heritage cast. It explores “the silence and submissiveness often associated with Japanese and Japanese American identity” as well as “questions of emotional, psychic and social suicide.”




Literary Magazines

The Greeter” by T Kira Madden

The Sun | 2019




Umbrellas on a Sunny Day” by Yurina Yoshikawa

Belmont Story Review | Vol. 5: Longing