**Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Fiction & Literature

Updated: May 1, 2024

A selected list of novels, short stories, and poetry, Also, check Filipino American History Month: Fiction & Literature

Book cover for 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World
Shafak, Elif.
Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, master storyteller Elif Shafak's deliriously melodic and beautifully written novel chronicles the life of an Istanbul streetwalker, Leila Tequila, as it unfolds during the 10 plus minutes her brain remains in a conscious state, after she is murdered and dumped in a trash bin. For the next 10 minutes and 38 seconds, we witness her poignant and often humorous memories from birth to adulthood, sketching the colorful life of her five close friends, and chronicling a story of friendship and love within the confines of a rigid, patriarchal society where repressive politics and societal mores crush and stifle spirits, both tender and strong. An elegy to Istanbul, an ancient and modern city, with all its ugliness and splendor, and to the enduring resilience of spirit and humanity.

Book cover for The Angel of History: A Novel
The Angel of History: A Novel
Alameddine, Rabih,

While waiting in a clinic, Yemeni-American poet Jacob mulls over his life, which began with little promise, and was filled with turmoil. All the while, Satan is flirting with him, Death tells him to call it quits, and there are fourteen saints hanging about. Jacob is confronted with what is worth remembering and what should be forgotten in his exceptional life.

Book cover for The Automobile Club of Egypt
The Automobile Club of Egypt
Aswani, ʻAlaʼ, 1957-

Post-World War II Cairo is the setting for murmurings of political change and upheaval.  Alaa Al Aswany writes about a once prosperous landowner whose life has taken a turn for the worse. He finds work as a servant at the Automobile Club, once the private reserve of former colonials. This 1950s political/social/economic setting is a portent of future dissatisfaction and unrest.

Book cover for Brothers
Yu, Hua, 1960-

A rip-roaringly funny and clever work about modern China.Taking on the Cultural Revolution, entrepreneurship, capitalism, and a skewering of hyperbolic western values, Yu has created a satire to rival the best--think of Rabelais, Cervantes, Smollett, Swift, Bulgakov, Hasek and Twain. Half-brothers, Baldy Li and Song Gang, are opposites in personality, but dependent on each other for their existence as they compete, overcome and support each other in this ribald tale of humanity in all its glory and degradation.

Book cover for The Buddha in the attic
The Buddha in the attic
Otsuka, Julie, 1962-

Explore the collective lives of a group of Japanese “picture brides” brought to the US in the early part of the 20th century.  Otsuka gives us a compelling yet wrenching tale of the immigrant experience in this novel.

Book cover for The buried giant : a novel
The buried giant : a novel
Ishiguro, Kazuo, 1954-

This is a strange and dreamlike story about a group of characters traveling through a mist shrouded ancient Britain. They, and many of the people they meet, are suffering memory lapses. Can they find the things and people that they seek, or will the fog hide everything from them, even who they truly are? 


Book cover for Caspian rain : a novel
Caspian rain : a novel
Nahai, Gina Barkhordar.

Though both of Yaas' Iranian parents are Jewish, her father's upper class family is contemptuous of her mother, who comes from an impoverished community of South Tehran.  But the real challenge to her parents' marriage is her father's love for his beautiful Muslim mistress.  Hoping to spare her daughter the misery she endures, Yaas' mother expects her daughter to excel academically, but something prevents Yaas from grasping the basics of learning.

Book cover for The cat who saved books : a novel
The Cat Who Saved Books: A Novel
Natsukawa, Sōsuke, 1978-

A perceptive talking cat enlists the help of an aimless high school student in order to help save books that " ... have been imprisoned." A coming-of-age adventure that is also an homage to all kinds of books and to the joy of reading.

Book cover for Chicago : a novel
Chicago : a novel
Aswānī, ʻAlāʼ, 1957-

Post-9/11 Chicago is the backdrop for clashes of culture, politics, religion, bureaucratic contentiousness, sexual liberation, love and more, as revealed in the lives of a dazzling group of Americans and recent immigrants.

Book cover for David of Sassoun : an Armenian epic retold
David of Sassoun : an Armenian epic retold
Kherdian, David,
Call Number: 891.9921 K45

Dating back to the 9th century, David of Sassoun is a centuries-old Armenian epic, embodying the freedom-loving spirit, spiritual strength, and wisdom of the heart of Armenia.  Also recommended is this bilingual edition with lavish illustrations:  David of Sassoun: told and sung by more than forty generations of Armenian bards.


Book cover for The devourers
The devourers
Das, Indra,

Both hauntingly lovely and upsetting, this novel follows the story of one lonely man as he transcribes the several strange and violent journals of an odd, feral man. The journals recount the lives of shapeshifters:  their loves, their hungers, and their loneliness 

Book cover for The eaglet
The eaglet
Avakian, Arra S.

An engaging historical saga set in fifth century Armenia and the struggle to preserve its culture and faith.  The tyrranical monarch of a neighboring country demands that Armenia renounce its faith and accept a sun god as the ultimate deity. The Armenian princes are confronted with a crisis--to yield to the monarch's demand, or to suffer a devasting invasion by his mighty armies.

Book cover for The emissary
The emissary
Tawada, Yoko, 1960-

In this dystopian novel, award-winning author, Toko Tawada portrays the after-effects of an unnamed, irreversible disaster that takes place in Japan. The novel is a riff on a post-Chernobyl, post-Fukushima world, which turns disaster on its head by way of Mumei, a child who will lead the way to something better.

Book cover for Endgame
Altan, Ahmet,

A scenically beautiful Turkish seaside resort does not provide respite for a bon vivant crime writer.  All the turmoil, political intrigue, personal pettiness and rivalries that existed in the big city are magnified in small town life, which has its own horrific secrets. Underestimating the town folk, the writer has the tables turned on him. A carefully crafted satire about politics and the human condition. What is truth, what is not?

Book cover for The essential Tagore
The essential Tagore
Tagore, Rabindranath, 1861-1941.
Call Number: 891.4 T128-44

In 1913, Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore was the first Asian winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. This monumental volume in English offers a wide variety of Tagore's writings: poetry, plays, travel writings, humor, prose and letters

Book cover for Everything I never told you
Everything I never told you
Ng, Celeste.

This slender debut novel is deceptively quiet and elegantly restrained on the surface, but packs a knock-out punch. The story of how and why teenager Lydia Lee, the beautiful, brilliant, best-loved child of a 1970's mixed-race Ohio family, meets her shocking death is much more than just a Midwestern mystery. Within her very specific rendering of one family's tragedy, author Celeste Ng illuminates America's poisonous history of racism, sexism, and homophobia, but never at the expense of a suspenseful plot and a compellingly original cast of characters.

Book cover for Exit West: A Novel
Exit West: A Novel
Hamid, Mohsin

Hamid, the Pakistani author of Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, is one of the world's best contemporary writers, sure to be considered for the Nobel Prize in literature. This novel concerns refugees who pass through hidden magic doors in search of a safer life. Fear, loss, resilience, love, and hope all play a part as main characters Nadia and Saeed gradually make their way from an unnamed, war-torn homeland to a dystopic America.

Book cover for The fat years : a novel
The fat years : a novel
Chen, Guanzhong.
A novel that has been banned in modern China. This is a dystopian story set in the near future, in China, where there is a booming economy and seemingly public contentment. However, when a past month vanishes from the history of events, few people seem to care or notice, except one successful writer. A key premise of this book challenges the concept of prosperity and material comfort versus freedom of thought and expression in a totalitarian state.

Book cover for Four Treasures of the Sky
Four Treasures of the Sky
Zhang, Jenny

U.S. history, the Chinese Exclusion Act and Chinese folklore are woven into a story about a young girl, Daiyu, who wants to escape the fate of the tragic heroine for whom she was named.

Book cover for The girl who wrote loneliness
The girl who wrote loneliness
Sin, Kyong-suk,

From the award-wining novelist who wrote, Please look after momKyung-Sook Sin has written a semi-autobiographical novel.

Book cover for Haiku in English : the first hundred years
Haiku in English : the first hundred years
Call Number: 895.2108 H1495-4

Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate, introduces this collection of over 800 poems by more than 200 international poets. Collins' introduction and overview helps place the haiku in its historical context.

Book cover for I am an executioner : love stories
I am an executioner : love stories
Parameswaran, Rajesh.

A striking debut collection of short fiction that traffics in desire. In "The Infamous Bengal Ming," a lovesick tiger mauls his keeper and then prowls the city in anguish under helicopter high beams. In "Demons," a quietly desperate wife idly wishes her husband dead, then is crushed by guilt when he suddenly dies of a heart attack. These characters - human, animal, and insect - bear the puzzling weight of destroying what they love, or being destroyed by it.

Book cover for I am the beggar of the world : landays from contemporary Afghanistan
I am the beggar of the world : landays from contemporary Afghanistan
Call Number: 891.58108 I115

A surprising book from women who are oppressed in many ways, but their spirits, heart-felt desires (secular, sensual, and religious),and thoughts are not.

Book cover for Interior Chinatown
Interior Chinatown
Yu, Charles

Yu plays with literary form in new and interesting ways as he tells a story about a Chinese American bit part actor while simultaneously investigating concepts of assimilation, the history of Asian immigration, and how the self fits into society.

Book cover for Like a Sword Wound
Like a Sword Wound
Altan, Ahmet

Ahmet Altan is a journalist and novelist who has been sentenced to life in prison in Turkey. This is volume 1 of his Ottoman Quartet, a series of novels about the last fifty years of the Ottoman Empire.

Book cover for Literature from the axis of evil : writing from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and other enemy nations : a Words without borders anthology.
Literature from the axis of evil : writing from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and other enemy nations : a Words without borders anthology.
Call Number: SS

A remarkable collection of short fiction and poetry from writers living in countries listed as "enemy nations," this is part of an ongoing project from Bard College, Columbia University and the NEA. The introduction raises questions about being open to what others in the world are thinking--whether we agree with them or not.

Book cover for Love haiku : Japanese poems of yearning, passion, and remembrance
Love haiku : Japanese poems of yearning, passion, and remembrance
Call Number: 895.2108 L8975-1
Contemporary Japanese authors approach the traditional form alongside masters like Basho. "half of the mountain/dyed by red maples-/one-sided love" -Chiyo-Ni

Book cover for Love poems from the Japanese
Love poems from the Japanese
Call Number: 895.2108 L8975 2003
Kenneth Rexroth's translations of Japanese poetry from the 8th century to the modern age.

Book cover for Majestic nights : love poems of Bengali women
Majestic nights : love poems of Bengali women
Call Number: 891.408 M2335
Along with poems of romantic love, this collection also includes a surprising number of poems expressing a darker, more cynical attitude. "The heart is not a tulip/to bloom on its own in answer to summer." -Dilara Hashem

Book cover for A map of home : a novel
A map of home : a novel
Jarrar, Randa.

Nidali, the daughter of a Palestinian father and an Egyptian-Greek mother, recounts with comedic aplomb her childhood in Kuwait, her family’s harrowing escape during the Iraqi invasion, the no-holds-barred fights between her parents, her teenage years in Egypt, and the family’s ultimate move to Texas where she is routinely perceived as a Spanish-speaking Latina.

Book cover of The mirror of my heart : a thousand years of Persian poetry by women
The mirror of my heart : a thousand years of Persian poetry by women
Call Number: 891.508 M6765

A collection of poems, by eighty-three Persian women, from more than a thousand years ago to the present. According to the translator, Dick Davis, “The Persian language, especially its literary form, has remained far more stable over the past millennium than is true of most European languages.” Many of the subjects and issues that are important to women have remained the same: marriage, children, politics, emancipation (political, social and economic freedom) and death.  As well as the freedom of women to express themselves without serious repercussions. Therefore some poems are attributed to anonymous.


Book cover for Native : dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian life
Native : dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian life
Qashu, Sayed, 1975-
Call Number: 892.4092 Q1

A compilation of Sayed Qashu's newspaper articles in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper. Qashu is a prominent Israeli Arab author and journalist, who has written about the dififculties of being an Israeli Arab.  He is well known for the novel Dancing Arabsand for the satirical and biting television series, Arab Labor. which aired on PBS and can be found on YouTube.

Book cover for Nightingales & pleasure gardens : Turkish love poems
Nightingales & pleasure gardens : Turkish love poems
Call Number: 894.35108 N6885
Includes classical poems by Rumi and poems by sultans and folk poets from the Ottoman Empire as well as poems by contemporary authors. "You are half of an apple, I am the other half;/Day and night, we are one, our hearth and home are one." -Oktay Rifat

The pillow book of Sei Shōnagon. Translated and edited by Ivan Morris.
Sei Shōnagon, approximately 967-
Call Number: 895.28 S457-2

Lyrical, insightful, witty writing from the diary of a lady at the Imperial Court, 10th century Japan.

Book cover for Please look after mom : a novel
Please look after mom : a novel
Sin, Ky?ng-suk.
An aging woman goes missing, spurring stories of love and guilt from her family in this South Korean novel.  An interesting choice of voice and a rich level of detail help bring depth to this universal human story. A mother's disappearance in a Seoul subway station elicits reflection on the part of her children, husband and the mother herself. The children and father suddenly realize how they have taken her for granted, and reminisce about the sacrifices made by the mother.

Book cover for The Pomegranate Lady and her sons : selected stories
The Pomegranate Lady and her sons : selected stories
Taraqqī, Gulī.

In this superb collection of short stories Iranian writer Goli Taraghi portrays what it is like for individuals to be deracinated within their own country, or exiled as the result of political change; for them to have an eternal longing to go home to a place that will never be the same, except in their memories and hearts. The various characters are portrayed in their full humanity which Taraghi does in a cheeky, humorous style.  The characters and perspective are Iranian, but the stories are universal in appeal.

November 5, 2013, the author was a guest at ALOUD.

Book cover for A portrait of the self as nation : new and selected poems
A portrait of the self as nation : new and selected poems
Chin, Marilyn,
Call Number: 811 C5386-4

 Marilyn Chin's poetry is direct, asssertive and examines her own identity as a woman and Asian American. Never self-deprecating, she weaves humor, earthiness, and candor about origins, family and love.

Book cover of The postcard
The Postcard
Berest, Anne

In 2003, a mystery is created when an unsigned postcard, possibly from the 1940s, arrives with the current mail. It is left to Anne to dig into her family’s past, questioning her mother, family members, friends, and associates, and seeking the help of a private detective, a graphologist, and many others to unravel this. Her quest will take her back to the history of the Rabinovitch family and their flight from Russia after the revolution.

Book cover for Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
Nafisi, Azar
Call Number: 370.92 N146
This book follows a female professor and her students as they are forced to take their class out of the university and into their homes. Despite the social pressures they experience during this time of revolution, they continue to study classics of English literature.

Book cover for The Refugees
The Refugees
Nguyen, Viet Thanh

A collection of eight short stories exploring the Vietnamese American diaspora.

2017-2018 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature, Honor, for Adult Fiction.

Book cover for The reluctant fundamentalist
The reluctant fundamentalist
Hamid, Mohsin, 1971-

Changez reminisces to an American he meets in Lahore, Pakistan, about his meteoric rise to success in a New York financial firm, and his acceptance in elite social circles via his relationship with a woman he met while a student at Princeton University. After September 11, 2001, his love for his new country transforms.

Book cover for The rope
The rope
Makiya, Kanan,

Beginning with the American invasion of Iraq and Saddam Hussein's hanging, the nameless narrator reflects on his life as an Iraqi citizen and military man. He reviews Iraq's modern history as a nation, and the cultural-religious-political events which have left the country fractured.

Book cover for Shinjuku shark
Shinjuku shark
Ōsawa, Arimasa, 1956-
Call Number: M

Samejima is a renegade but successful Tokyo detective who fights the police department's bureaucracy with the same tenacity that he pursues organized crime. A noir tale set within one of Tokyo's seedy districts. This is the first English translation of a very popular series of Japanese mysteries.

Book cover for Skinship
Choi, Yoon

Eight stories of Korean-American families and the indignities, compromises, and sacrifices they endure as part of the Asian minority in their adopted homeland.

Book cover for A sky so close
A sky so close
Khuḍayrī, Batūl.

Alienation and inner reconciliation are the themes in this tale of a young woman's adolescence in modern Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. Sensuous prose evokes a Baghdad of natural beauty and diversity, which create the backdrop for the young protagonist's conflicts with her two cultures, the war, her family and herself.

Book cover for Snow Flower and the secret fan : a novel
Snow Flower and the secret fan : a novel
See, Lisa.
Follow the lives of a pair of women in 19th century China, and experience vicariously everything from the agony of foot binding to the atrocity of war.

Book cover for Snow hunters : a novel
Snow hunters : a novel
Yoon, Paul.
A former prisoner of war leaves Korea for Brazil in an attempt to cobble together a different life from what he left behind. Lyrical and tender, this spare volume holds within its few pages a life both tragic and vibrant.

Book cover for Something to tell you : a novel
Something to tell you : a novel
Kureishi, Hanif.

Psychoanalyst Jamal wants to turn the tables. Instead of being the one who listens, as his profession requires, he wants to be the one to talk. Satirically funny and biting, Jamal reveals a good deal about our modern life and its daily quirks that help to create havoc and insanity. Kureishi is well-known for this screenplays to Venus and My beautiful laundrette.

Book cover for Song of a captive bird : a novel
Song of a captive bird : a novel
Darznik, Jasmin, 1973-

A historical novel based on the life of Iran's most controversial modern female poet, Forugh Farrokhzad, who was both exalted and reviled during her short life. The poetess dared to create and to live as a liberated woman, long before the Iranian Cultural Revolution. This beautiful novel brings to life the feelings, direct speech and thoughts of a woman seeking to live unshackled as a human being and artist.

Book cover for A strangeness in my mind : being the adventures and dreams of Mevlut Karatas, a seller of boza, and of his friends, and also a portrait of life in Istanbul between 1969 and 2012 from many different po
A strangeness in my mind : being the adventures and dreams of Mevlut Karatas, a seller of boza, and of his friends, and also a portrait of life in Istanbul between 1969 and 2012 from many different po
Pamuk, Orhan, 1952-

Orhan Pamuk, 2006 laureate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, has created a picaresque tale of old Istanbul and Turkey versus the changing world of the modern city and country.  Boza, a fermented drink, was once ubiquitous, but is rare and sold by few sellers. Mevlut Karataş is one of the few who still walks the streets selling the drink. A rather ordinary man from Central Anatolia, he thinks back upon his entire life and wonders what or who brought him his greatest joy and love.

Book cover for The thief and the dogs : a novel
The thief and the dogs : a novel
Maḥfūẓ, Najīb, 1911-2006.
Call Number: Ed.b

A recently released prisoner winds up on an ill-fated revenge quest in this stream of consciousness novel by Egyptian Nobel Winner Mahfouz.

Book cover for The travelling cat chronicles
The travelling cat chronicles
Arikawa, Hiro, 1972-

A tender story of friendship, love and trust between a stray cat, with a crooked tale, taken in by a man. Satoru travels in a van to various parts of Japan in order to visit old friends. Nana the cat is his companion as they venture forth on a trip of the spirit and road.

Book cover for Twenty fragments of a ravenous youth
Twenty fragments of a ravenous youth
Guo, Xiaolu, 1973-
Fenfang Wang is the country-girl hick who leaves her family's sweet-potato farm seeking adventure, some money, and a better way of life in modern Beijing.

Book cover for An unnecessary woman
An unnecessary woman
Alameddine, Rabih,

A tour de force novel about a flinty, reclusive 72-year-old woman who lives in modern-day Beirut.  Aaliya spends her days thinking about books, art, music and what, if anything, they have to do with real life, especially with her beloved city.  However, once a year she takes on the self-assigned task of translating a book that she deems significant.

Note:  This book has a copyright date of 2013, but was published in 2014.


Book cover for The vagrants : a novel
The vagrants : a novel
Li, Yiyun, 1972-

A teacher, a former concubine, a rubbish collector, a disfigured girl, a news anchor, a wealthy layabout, and a little boy--each of their lives will be impacted by a young Chinese counterrevolutionary.  Set two years after the end of the Cultural Revolution, Li's tale provides a gripping introduction to a turbulent time period that is not well known outside of China.

Book cover for Waiting
Jin, Ha, 1956-
This is an intimate look at the relationship between a Chinese army doctor, his wife, and the woman he is in love with.

Book cover for The way things were : a novel
The way things were : a novel
Taseer, Aatish, 1980-

A big, complex book that deconstructs the dissolution of a marriage and alienation of a family, amidst and inevitably linked to the multifaceted social and political upheavals of India from the 1970s to the present. The book centers on a father and son, Toby and Skanda, both Sanskritists, and their difficult relationship with Uma, Toby’s estranged wife and Skanda’s mother, and with India. Taseer weaves a considerable amount of history and Sanskrit into this novel, but never at the expense of his characters who feel absolutely alive and credible and absorbing.


Book cover for The young man in the gray suit
The young man in the gray suit
Hacikyan, A. J. (Agop Jack), 1931-

This is a sequel to the epic Summer Without Dawn and can be read on its own. In the 1950’s Nour Kadam attempts to reconcile his Armenian family’s past history, the Armenian Genocide and his own life as a successful Turkish lawyer.

Book cover of Zodiac : a graphic memoir
Zodiac : a graphic memoir
Ai, Weiwei
Call Number: 709.51 A288

In graphic novel format, artist Ai Weiwei revisits his personal experience as a child growing up during China’s Cultural Revolution. Ai Weiwei has used the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac and Chinese folklore as a basis for this memoir, where he reflects on freedom of expression and what it means to be an artist.