I’ve rounded up a list of adult and young adult books by Asian American authors as well as other POC authors, too, and I hope you’ll find books that you like/are interested in.
YOUNG ADULT BOOKS
Elsewhere, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, All These Things I’ve Done [Birthright trilogy] (Review) by Gabrielle Zevin– Gabrielle Zevin is one of my favorite YA authors of all time. I remember picking up Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac just because I liked the cover and it’s been love-at-first sight ever since. Zevin also writes books for adults, most recently, The Storied Life of A. J Fikry, in which the main character is Southeast Asian and his adopted daughter is biracial.
Control by Lydia Kang (Review)– A YA novel filled with science (but enjoyable!) and dystopia. There are genetic mutations in the near future and some people are trying to take control of how these mutations work.
Young Adult Books I Want to Read
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
Since You Asked by Maureen Goo
A humorous, debut novel about a Korean-American teenager who accidentally lands her own column in her high school newspaper, and proceeds to rant her way through the school year while struggling to reconcile the traditional Korean values of her parents with contemporary American culture.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
In Bed Stuy, New York, a small misunderstanding can escalate into having a price on your head—even if you’re totally clean. This gritty, triumphant debut captures the heart and the hardship of life for an urban teen.
A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing.
Nah, not his thing. Ali’s got enough going on, between school and boxing and helping out at home. His best friend Noodles, though. Now there’s a dude looking for trouble—and, somehow, it’s always Ali around to pick up the pieces. But, hey, a guy’s gotta look out for his boys, right? Besides, it’s all small potatoes; it’s not like anyone’s getting hurt.
And then there’s Needles. Needles is Noodles’s brother. He’s got a syndrome, and gets these ticks and blurts out the wildest, craziest things. It’s cool, though: everyone on their street knows he doesn’t mean anything by it.
Yeah, it’s cool…until Ali and Noodles and Needles find themselves somewhere they never expected to be…somewhere they never should’ve been—where the people aren’t so friendly, and even less forgiving.
None of the Above (4/25/15) by I.W. Gregario– A senior in high school, Kristin Lattimer discovers that she’s intersex (not quite a girl but not quite a boy either) and she deals with the ramifications of having her secret revealed to her entire school by her best friend.
Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang (9/14)– Amy Zhang just graduated high school this year but she’s already written a novel. I’m incredibly happy for her and I remember when she announced the news on Twitter. It’s the story of a girl who attempts to commit suicide, interwoven with physics.
Southern Cross the Dog by Bill Cheng (Review)– What I find remarkable is that a POC author isn’t writing about his heritage but another POC heritage (African American) and Cheng does an incredibly great job channeling the South.
Aunty Lee’s Delights by Ovidia Yu (Review) — It’s a Singaporean mystery by a well-known Singaporean playwright so she isn’t quite Asian-American but I do think that it’s worth reading authors who might not be American. Aunty Lee’s Delights is about Aunty Lee, a rich woman who shuns the relaxing life of being a tai-tai, a rich idle woman, but instead creates a food-empire. A mystery soon is boiling under her nose when a woman fails to show up to Aunty Lee’s dinner and another woman washes up dead at the local beach. It was really interesting to read about Singapore, a place I want to visit sometime as well as see how Asian auntie-ness is more of a universal occurrence, haha.
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara (Review)– Based on loosely on the story of Dr. D. Carleton Gajdusek, a Nobel Prize winning scientist and molester of his adopted children, The People in the Trees is wonderfully written and suspenseful novel that explores a lot of moral and ethical questions.
Part two of this post is here, with more Asian American authors and resources.
Note: I kept Amy Tan and Haruki Murakami off this list because their works are well-known and I wanted to focus on authors whose works weren’t as well known. I like Amy Tan’s works, especially Joy Luck Club, as well as Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. This list is by no means an exhaustive list of books by Asian American authors. I’m always glad to know of more POC authors, whether they’re of AAPI heritage or not, so please let me know more, whether below in the comments, through email [hello[@] byjessicayang . [com] or through Twitter!
Edit: 8/2015 Edited for clarity.