The Library will be closed on Monday, May 27, 2024, in observance of Memorial Day.

Read it First: Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Elizabeth Graney, Librarian, Literature & Fiction Department,
Collage of films adapted from books
Watch and Read at Home

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month during which we celebrate the achievements and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the history and culture of the United States. This year’s distressing rise of assaults and harassment against Asian and Pacific Islander communities has brought attention to the often ignored struggle for equality these communities continue to face. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may notice this month features far fewer titles than usual. In researching books and their film adaptations for this article, it soon became apparent how few films represent the Asian American experience with even fewer written by members of the community. Though minor in comparison to the actual documented accounts of anti-Asian violence taking place throughout our country, the clear lack of cinematic adaptation of Asian American and Pacific Islander American novels demonstrates how these communities lack representation in our mainstream media. We hope this month can be a time to stop and educate ourselves about the unique and incredible roles these communities have played in our history and to support greater representation going forward.

Watch and Read at Home

Book cover for To All the Boys I've Loved Before
To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Han, Jenny

Every time sixteen year old Lara Jean falls in love, she writes a letter to her crush, laying out her feelings, her hopes and her dreams. Then she stashes the letter away where no one can find it. But one day these secret letters are mysteriously mailed out and Lara Jean finds herself face to face with her past loves and a whole host of new possibilities. Jenny Han’s beloved romantic comedy To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before spent 40 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list. The 2018 film adaptation starring Lana Condor and Noah Centino was so popular that it led to a shortage of the probiotic drink Yakult, which is featured in a scene between the two main characters. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has not yet been released on DVD, it can be streamed on Netflix. 

Book cover for M. Butterfly
M. Butterfly
Hwang, David Henry

Based on a true story, David Henry Wang’s Tony Award winning play M. Butterfly is the tale of French diplomat René Gallimard and the love affair that changed his life forever. While working at the French embassy in Beijing, Gallimard meets Song Liling, a Chinese opera singer. Unaware that female roles are played by men in traditional Chinese opera, Gallimard falls in love at first sight and they embark on a twenty year affair, during which Liling uses their relationship to spy on him for the Chinese government. But was the whole relationship a lie or did they find true love under unusual circumstances? Hwang’s powerful love story looks at racial stereotypes, cultural gender norms and the power of self delusion. The 1993 film adaptation starred Jeremy Irons and John Lone and is available on DVD with your library card today. 

Book cover for Crazy Rich Asians
Crazy Rich Asians
Kwan, Kevin.

American Rachel Wu is excited to join her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, on his summer trip back to Singapore to see his family. Once there, she is surprised to find out that not only is his family exceedingly rich, but he is the country’s most sought-after bachelor. Instead of a relaxing vacation, Rachel finds herself navigating the ins and outs of upper-crust Singapore society and Nick’s suspicious family. Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians is an international bestseller that spent 40 weeks on the New York Times best sellers list. The 2018 film adaptation starred Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh and Awkwafina and can be checked out on DVD with your library card today.

Book cover for The Namesake
The Namesake
Lahiri, Jhumpa

Soon after their arranged marriage in Calcutta, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli immigrate to Boston. Homesick and far from their families, they are determined to raise their children according to their heritage, and try to give their son a name that will tie him to his family roots and honor an important memory. But their son, saddled with the name Gogol Ganguli, struggles to find his place as a first generation American and desires to leave his unique name and cultural heritage behind. Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Namesake is a tale of immigration, assimilation and the sometimes irreconcilable differences between cultures. The 2006 film adaptation starring Kal Penn and Bollywood stars Irfan Khan and Tabu can be checked out on DVD with your library card today.

Book cover for The Flower Drum Song
The Flower Drum Song
Lee, C. Y.

Wealthy Wang Chi-yang fled China with his family to escape the communist government. Now living in San Francisco’s Chinatown district, he fights assimilation to American culture with all his strength. As his son Wang Ta seeks love and happiness in this new country, the two generations and cultures clash. C.Y. Lee’s bestselling novel Flower Drum Song looks at the allure of the American dream and the power of the family bond. This classic tale was first adapted into a musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein and from there to film. The 1961 film adaptation was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and was the first American film in a modern setting to have a majority Asian American cast. You can stream the film on hoopla today.

Book cover for The Joy Luck Club
The Joy Luck Club
Tan, Amy

In 1949, four Chinese women, recent immigrants to the San Francisco area, started a weekly mahjong club. Over the following decades, they formed a deep connection, sharing their joys and their hardships over a little gambling and a lot of good food. Told as a series of tales about these women and their daughters, The Joy Luck Club is a testament to the powerful bonds women make and the often bittersweet love between mother and daughter. The 1993 film adaptation starring Ming-Na Wen, Rosalind Chao, and Tamlyn Tomita was the first American film in a modern setting to feature a majority Asian American cast since Flower Drum Song in 1961. You can stream it today on hoopla