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Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Non-Fiction

Updated: June 1, 2022

A selected list of non-fiction books for Asian & Pacific Islander American Heritage Month.

Ai Weiwei : according to what?
Ai, Weiwei.
Call Number: 709.51 A288-4

Ai Weiwei is a leading contemporary Chinese artist who has challenged the politics and social structure of his native China. Because of his unrestrained activity he was imprisoned and had a studio destroyed by the government. This volume presents a survey of the artist's work.

LAPL Reads recommends Ai weiwei never sorry /  [videorecording] 

An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice
Khan, Khizr
Call Number: 301.45095491 K45

The Khan family was thrust into the national spotlight when they appeared at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Now in this poignant and inspiring memoir, paterfamilias Khizr Khan recounts the path he took from a struggling Pakistani farm family to an unshakably patriotic American gold star family.

An American son : the story of George Aratani : founder of Mikasa and Kenwood
Hirahara, Naomi, 1962-
Call Number: 338.7 H668

George Aratani was the son of Japanese immigrants and was incarcerated at the beginning of World War II. In 1944 he was permitted to teach Japanese to American soldiers at The Military Intelligence Service Lanugage School. When he traveled to Japan at war's end, Aratani's business acumen and dreams eventually led to the creation of Mikasa dinnerware and Kenwood electronics. George Aratani's philanthropy helped rebuild the Japanese American community in Los Angeles.



Another world lies beyond : creating Liu Fang Yuan, the Huntington's Chinese garden
Call Number: 711.9794 H953An

The Huntington Library has several gardens. The Chinese Garden, or Garden of Flowing Fragrance, was opened to the public in 2008. Filled with lovely full-page color photographs, the authors discuss the special symbolism of the plants and layout of the garden space.

Asianfail : narratives of disenchantment and the model minority
Ty, Eleanor Rose, 1958-
Call Number: 301.45095 T977

Explores the new focus on relationships, personal growth, and cultural success, replacing the preoccupation with professional status and money.

2017-2018 Asian Pacific American Award for Adult Non-Fiction

Aung San Suu Kyi
O'Keefe, Sherry.
Call Number: 92 A926OK

The Nobel Peace Prize 1991 "for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights"

The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir
Bui, Thi
Call Number: 740.9999 B932
Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family's daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves. She also writes about the impact that colonialism and war in Vietnam had on one family, her own.

Daring to drive : a Saudi woman's awakening
Sharif, Manal, 1979-
Call Number: 301.412953 S531

Why was this woman arrested for driving? Was it a DUI? No, she was driving as a woman in Saudi Arabia, which was illegal. Manal al-Sharif did not seek any type of public attention, but that's what happened.  

Every Day is a Gift: A Memoir
Duckworth, Tammy
Call Number: 92 D836

Senator Tammy Duckworth represents her constituents and her country. She is biracial, multiethnic, multilingual, a highly decorated war veteran with a Purple Heart and the Air Medal and Army Commendation Medal for having sustained life-threatening injuries (a double-leg amputation) while piloting a Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq in 2004. There is even more to her autobiography because nothing stops Tammy Duckworth from doing what she knows is best.

Fresh off the boat : a memoir
Huang, Eddie, 1982-
Call Number: 647.95092 H874

Eddie Huang is one sassy, driven, great cook and owner of Baohaus a popular, lively restaurant in New York’s East Village where Taiwanese street food is served.  His fast-paced autobiography, is funny, candid, irreverent and spiced with urban slang.

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America
Dumas, Firoozeh
Call Number: 92 D8857 2006

Firoozeh Dumas uses humor to leaven this memoir of her family’s immigrant experience in America.

I am Malala : the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban
Yousafzai, Malala, 1997-
Call Number: 954.91 Y82

The Nobel Peace Prize 2014 was awarded jointly to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai "for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education"


Indian summer : the secret history of the end of an empire
Von Tunzelmann, Alex, 1977-
Call Number: 954.04 V948
Learn about the origins of modern India and Pakistan in this book that looks at the withdrawal of the British from India and the politics of its partition.

Iran awakening : a memoir of revolution and hope
ʻIbādī, Shīrīn.
Call Number: 349.092 I12

The Nobel Peace Prize 2003 Shirin Ibadi "for her efforts for democracy and human rights. She has focused especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children"

Human rights activist and lawyer, Shirin Ibadi won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2003.  Prior to the 1979 revolution in Iran, she was the first woman judge in that country, and she recounts her challenges as a woman, mother and lawyer in a country that was in turmoil.

Journey to Washington [by] Daniel K. Inouye with Lawrence Elliott.
Inouye, Daniel K., 1924-2012.
Call Number: 92 I58

Daniel K. Inouye was the first Japanese-American to serve in the United States House of Representatives and then in the United States Senate.  As a Japanese-American, labeled as an enemy alien during World War II, he fought with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team to prove his loyalty. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and until his death, he was the highest ranking Asian American politician in United States history.

L.A. son : my life, my city, my food
Choi, Roy,
Call Number: 641.595 C545

Angeleno and rising star in the L.A. culinary landscape, Roy Choi chronicles--with charisma and sincerity--the story of his life and the Los Angeles food scene. From Korean taco inventor with his Kogi truck, to Chego to community-based inititiatives in the inner city, Choi is much more than a celebrity chef. Includes 85 recipes.

The latehomecomer : a Hmong family memoir
Yang, Kao Kalia, 1980-
Call Number: 92 Y216

A touching and profound memoir about a Hmong family's escape from war-ravaged Laos to a refugee camp in Thailand and relocation to Minnesota which has one of the largest Hmong populations in the United States: Hmong Cultural Center in Minnesota

The long afterlife of Nikkei wartime incarceration
Inouye, Karen M., 1964-
Call Number: 301.450952 I58

Describes the long-term effects of wartime incarceration on the lives of those who were imprisoned and on later generations, as well as the activism that ensued.

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

Looking for Palestine : growing up confused in an Arab-American family
Said, Najla.
Call Number: 301.450956 S132

Najla Said, daughter of Edward Said, well-known Palestinian scholar, relays with humor and insight her thoughts and feelings about growing up as a second-generation Arab-American.


The man who loved China : the fantastic story of the eccentric scientist who unlocked the mysteries of the Middle Kingdom
Winchester, Simon.
Call Number: 509.2 N374Wi
This biography of Joseph Needham is a vehicle for you to learn all about the thing Needham loved - the history of science in China.

Maya Lin : a biography
Langmead, Donald.
Call Number: 720.914 L735Lan

When she was an undergraduate student at Yale University, Maya Lin won the competition to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  What became an iconic place of remembrance and healing, initially was greeted with vitriol, racial and sexist, directed at the designer.  Maya Lin went on to design other works, including the Civil Rights Memorial. Boundaries by Maya Lin and the DVD Maya Lin a strong clear vision are two additional resources. To see all of her work, visit the Maya Lin Studio.

Meatless days
Goodyear, Sara Suleri.
Call Number: 954.91 S9485 1991
An idyllic world in post-colonial Pakistan is the setting for a young girl who grew up in a culturally divided house, with her Welsh mother and Pakistani father.

Mother on fire
Loh, Sandra Tsing.
Call Number: 810.92 L833
In a book of particular interest to L.A. parents, radio commentator and performer Loh launches herself into an extended rant about the absurd and often enraging task of getting your kid into the "right" kindergarten. She stomps all over the sacred cows of modern parenting and serves 'em up on a gluten-rich bun. Not for everyone, but girlfriend calls it like she sees it.

My name is Iran : a memoir
Ardalan, Davar, 1964-
Call Number: 92 A676

The tale of three generations of strong, daring women are portrayed in this autobiography. Love, heartache, divorce, immigration, revolution, differences in religion (Muslim and Christian) and nationality (Iranian and American) and adventure are all part of Davar Ardalan's family's history.

My Prison, My Home: One Woman's Story of Captivity in Iran
Esfandiari, Haleh
Call Number: 365.955 I78

In 2006 while visiting her mother in Tehran, Iran, the American Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Middle East Program, Haleh Esfandiari was suddenly imprisoned and interrogated for nearly eight months. For part of that time she was in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin Prison where focus, self-discipline and determination were attributes that sustained her through a living nightmare in a country that once had been her home.

Nine lives : in search of the sacred in modern India
Dalrymple, William.
Call Number: 294 D151
For many years India has been the passionate object of Dalrymple's research and travels. Through the lives of nine people, he explores the effect India's burgeoning economy has had on its traditional and varied religions and cultures.

One hundred years in the Huntington's Japanese garden : harmony with nature
Call Number: 711.9794 H951On folio

A history of the Huntington's Japanese Garden, which is over 100 years old. Beauty, tradition and culture are exemplified in the unique features of this very popular California landmark. 

Pearl King; the story of the fabulous Mikimoto..
Eunson, Robert, 1912-1975.
Call Number: 639.412 M636Eu

Prior to the work of Kokichi Mikimoto, real pearls were found in oyster beds where the gems were formed by chance.  Mikimoto came from a humble background, and with great determination and ingenuity, he devised a method that helped oysters form the nacre around a bead that was manually inserted into the shell.

Mikimoto of America the site for the pearl company has a brief history of its founder.

The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books
Nafisi, Azar
Call Number: 801 N146

Afar Nafisi once again brings her perception, knowledge, insight, and memories to the importance of fiction. This time it is about three American novels which she states show the unique attributes of the United States. The introductory essay is an appreciation and examination of the special aspects of fiction, American freedom of speech (in all media), and the importance of reading all types of books. The vitality, joy, and understanding expressed in this introduction should be widely read.

Sawtelle, West Los Angeles's Japantown
Fujimoto, Jack.
Call Number: 979.41 L881Fu
A photographic history, with some short essays, about the other Japanese neighborhood in Los Angeles. This documents and provides insight into the history of the Japanese American community surrounding the Sawtelle area of West Los Angeles.

Sex and the Citadel : intimate life in a changing Arab world
El-Feki, Shereen.
Call Number: 392.60962 E397

Shereen El-Feki is a British journalist, who has a Welsh mother and an Egyptian father.  She dared to crack the secrecy on a very taboo subject in the modern Arab world--sex.  She examines the history of the region going back to the tenth century; analyzes the influences of colonialism; conducts her own interviews with medical professionals, groups of women; questions standard statistical data on aborton, prostitution, STDs, genital mutilation, lesbianism.  In its candor and surprising conclusions, this book is very much analagous to Simone de Beauvoir's The Second sex.


Shadow of the Silk Road
Thubron, Colin, 1939-
Call Number: 958 T532
Peripatetic scholar, Colin Thubron, retraces parts of the ancient Silk Road. This is true adventure, not as a dare, based on remarkable knowledge and experience, and fueled by incredible curiosity.

The spirit catches you and you fall down : a Hmong child, her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures
Fadiman, Anne, 1953-
Call Number: 610.696 F145
Explore the collision of cultures in this medical history of one Hmong family's experience with their daughter's epilepsy and the American doctors who treat her. Altogether a fascinating read.

Trauma red : the making of a surgeon in war and in America's cities
Rhee, Peter, 1961-
Call Number: 610.92 R469

Dr. Peter Rhee was a renowned trauma surgeon, a tenured surgery professor, and retired U.S. Navy Captain, with a unique background long before becoming universally famous as part of the trauma team that saved the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The way to the spring : life and death in Palestine
Ehrenreich, Ben,
Call Number: 309.569 E33

Unequivocally and unapologetically sympathetic to the movement for a free Palestine, this triumph in investigative journalism lays bare the myriad ways in which the Israeli Defense Force and residents of Israeli settlements in Palestine systematically work to keep Palestinians feeling powerless. The result of National Magazine Award winner Ben Ehrenreich’s three years of work in the West Bank, this work is enlightening and harrowing. It is recommended as compulsory reading for anyone interested in getting a fuller picture of the Middle East.

Why growth matters : how economic growth in India reduced poverty and the lessons for other developing countries
Bhagwati, Jagdish N., 1934-
Call Number: 330.954 B5742-2

Columbia University economics professors (and Indian expats) Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya argue forcefully from the example of India that the best way to lift millions of people out of poverty is economic growth (hence the book's title), promoted through liberalizing reforms. Bhagwati and Panagariya make what could be eye-rolling, dry economic theory lively and passionate as they apply the lessons of Indian reforms to the rest of the developing world.

The woman who could not forget : Iris Chang before and beyond The rape of Nanking
Chang, Ying-Ying.
Call Number: 810.92 C456Ch

Iris Chang's thoroughly researched book, The rape of Nanking: the forgotten Holocaust of World War II, is considered to be the definitive work on the invasion of the Japanese Army in 1937 into Nanking, and all the devastation that followed. Ying-Ying Chang, Iris' mother, examines the toll the investigations, personal interviews, and research took on Iris Chang, and perhaps drove her to suicide.