What new books will you be reading or giving as gifts this holiday season?
By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang
Reading Maxine Hong Kingston’s book, “Woman Warrior,” in a graduate school Asian American literature class changed my life. Not only did the story and the details resonate in all sorts of unexpected ways, like moments in Chinese school and moments with aunties in Chinese restaurants, I realized that for most of my formal education, I had only been taught books by dead white male authors.
So I decided that to catch up my literary education, I was going to only read books written by people of color, women, and most importantly, Asian American and Pacific Islander women writers. And in these books, I again found myself in their stories.
Bonus, the stories are not accidentally offensive with stereotyped portrayals and mistaken details.
So every year at the holidays, I love to share the joy of Asian American authors. Here are some of 2021’s best new books:
“The Auntie Sewing Squad Guide to Mask Making, Radical Care, and Racial Justice” edited by Mai-Linh K. Hong, Chrissy Yee Lau, and Preeti Sharma; with Kristina Wong, Rebecca Solnit, and many other Aunties, University of California Press, 2021. The story of the Auntie Sewing Squad, founded by performance artist Kristina Wong, a massive mutual-aid network of mostly Asian American volunteer aunties who sewed and distributed free masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Crying in H Mart: A Memoir” by Michelle Zauner, Knopf Publishing Group, 2021; New York Times Best Seller, and a Best Book of 2021 by Time, Entertainment Weekly, Good Morning America, Wall Street Journal. A lyrical memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.
“Arsenic and Adobo” by Mia P Manansala, Berkley Books, 2021. The first book of Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mysteries, this romcom murder mystery is full of sharp humor, delectable dishes, and a trusty dachshund named Longanisa. CrimeReads, Buzzfeed, BookRiot’s most anticipated crime book of 2021.
“Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown” by Brandon Jew and Tienlon Ho, Ten Speed Press, 2021. The acclaimed chef behind the Michelin-starred Mister Jiu’s restaurant shares the past, present, and future of Chinese cooking in America through 90 mouthwatering recipes.
“The Committed” by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Grove Press, 2021. The sequel to “The Sympathizer,” which won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, tells the story of "the man of two minds" as he comes as a refugee to France and turns his hand to capitalism.
“Correctional: A Memoir” by Ravi Shankar, University of Wisconsin Press, 2021. Poetry professor and only son of South Indian American immigrants reflects on his unexpected encounters with law and order through the lenses of race, class, and privilege, and challenges us to rethink our complicity in the criminal justice system and mental health policies.
“The Bad Muslim Discount” by Syed M Masood, Doubleday Books, 2021. Debut novel that follows two families from Pakistan and Iraq in the 1990s to San Francisco in 2016, an inclusive comic novel about Muslim immigrants finding their way in modern America.
More books and toys for young people next time!