What shall we buy for the holidays?
Asian American Books!
By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang
On Thursday, we had hot pot. On Friday, we wrapped dumplings. On Saturday, we steamed sticky rice stuffing. And on Sunday, we made Indian food. Instead of trying to overload our plates with everything all on one day, our Thanksgiving this year was a four-day succession of all our favorite feasts. And when we weren’t cooking and eating, we were buying Christmas presents. We are not big shoppers, but we can’t resist a deal, and Black Friday seems to have expanded into Black Shopping Week.
But the more I shopped, the less certain I was about what to get my kids.
When my children were small, I bought them books for every holiday — Christmas, Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, birthdays. I bought all their friends books, too, even after they started begging me to let them give “normal” birthday gifts. I still think that Asian American books are the best gifts — beautiful, meaningful, educational, inspirational, and easy to wrap, too.
If you are looking for holiday gift ideas, here are some great books that came out this year.
"Tomorrow in Shanghai: Stories" by May-lee Chai — A vibrant and illuminating short story collection exploring multicultural complexities in China, the Chinese diaspora in America, and the world at large through lenses of class, wealth, age, gender, and sexuality — always tracking the nuanced, knotty, and intricate exchanges of interpersonal and institutional power. Review in San Francisco Chronicle.
The Evening Hero" by Marie Myung-Ok Lee — A sweeping, lyrical novel following a Korean immigrant pursuing the American dream who must confront the secrets of the past or risk watching the world he's worked so hard to build come crumbling down. Review in New York Times.
"Death Doesn’t Forget" by Ed Lin — Jing-nan, owner of a popular night market food stall, is framed for a string of high-profile murders — why does it seem like he's always the one left holding the skewer? Ed Lin's continuing Taipei mystery series is as hilarious and poignant as ever. Review in Los Angeles Times.
"Homicide and Halo-Halo" by Mia P. Manansala — Death at a beauty pageant turns Filipino restaurant Tita Rosie's Kitchen upside down in the latest entry of this witty, humorous, and cozy mystery series, a sequel to "Arsenic and Adobo." Interview with author at Medill Northwestern.
"RISE: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now" by Jeff Yang, Phil Yu and Philip Wang — A love letter to and for Asian Americans — a vivid scrapbook of voices, emotions, and memories from an era in which our culture was forged and transformed, and a way to preserve both the headlines and the intimate conversations that shaped our community. Review on NBC Asian America.
"Year of the Tiger: An Activist's Life" by Alice Wong — A groundbreaking memoir that offers a glimpse into an activist's journey to finding and cultivating community and the continued fight for disability justice, from the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project. Excerpt in Teen Vogue.
"The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life" by Simran Jeet Singh — Part memoir, part spiritual journey, a transformative book of hope that shows how we can turn from fear and uncertainty and move toward renewal and positive change with Sikh tenets of love and service. Five key insights.
"Somewhere Sisters: A Story of Adoption, Identity, and the Meaning of Family" by Erika Hayasaki — An incredible, deeply reported story of identical twins Isabella and Hà, born in Viêt Nam and raised on opposite sides of the world, each knowing little about the other's existence until they were reunited as teenagers, against all odds. Interview with author on NPR.
Poetry, cookbooks, and children’s books next time.