AANHPI Heritage Month Recommended Reading: Clifton Public Library List for Adult Readers


May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (“AANHPI”) Heritage Month. The month of May was chosen for several reasons, including to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States in 1843, as well as the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, where the majority of workers (upwards of 20,000) who laid those railroad tracks were Chinese immigrants.

To honor their contributions, and the contributions of so many other Asians to the United States, the U.S. Congress (spearheaded by Representative Frank Horton of New York and Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawai'i) chose the first ten days of May to commemorate the history and contributions of Asian American communities in 1977. President Jimmy Carter signed a joint resolution for the celebration on Oct. 5, 1978. The observance was extended to a month by President George H.W. Bush. Since then, presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of May as “AANHPI Heritage Month.” These proclamations celebrate the rich diversity of AANHPI communities in the United States and the contributions AANHPI have made to the United States over the course of American history in a variety of fields, from sports to science, from politics to literature. The Federal Asian Pacific American Council has declared that the theme of this year’s celebration is “Advancing Leaders Through Opportunities.”

The 2023 Presidential Proclamation declaring this May as AANHPI states that “During Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, our Nation celebrates the diversity of cultures, breadth of achievement, and remarkable contributions of these communities; of brave immigrants who, motivated by the promise of possibilities, picked up their lives and found new homes here; of native peoples who have stewarded these lands since time immemorial; and of community leaders shaping a brighter future for us all. Throughout our history, they have represented the bigger story of who we are as Americans and embodied the truth that our diversity is our strength as a Nation.”

The Clifton Main Memorial Library has curated an AANHPI Heritage Month reading list for The Clifton Times, which features a wide range of books recommended for adult readers, selected by Supervising Librarian Pat Ferro. We have included a link to each book’s publisher with a brief summary from the publishers’ websites. You can stop by the Clifton Main Memorial Library to see their display and stop by either the Main Memorial Library or the Allwood Branch to pick up one of these titles. Patrons can also place holds on any of these books through PALS Plus. Please note: some of these titles are available at only the Main Library or Allwood Branch, and some are available at both. The Clifton Times also has a list of books for young readers HERE.

Asian American Art: A History 1850-1970 - Gordon H. Chang et al. This is the first comprehensive study of the lives and artistic production of artists of Asian ancestry active in the United States before 1970. The publication features original essays by ten leading scholars, biographies of more than 150 artists, and over 400 reproductions of artwork, ephemera, and images of the artists. Aside from a few prominent Asian Americans such as Dong Kingman, Isamu Noguchi, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and Yun Gee, artists of Asian ancestry have not received the attention they deserve, even where they received wide critical acclaim during their lifetime. This book examines the work of numerous Asian Americans and offers an informed view of their place in art history and their impacts.

Fatty Fatty Boom Boom: A Memoir Of Food, Fat & Family - Rabia Chaudry. Rabia Chaudry is perhaps best known for her advocacy of Adnan Syed in the Serial podcast, and her own podcast Undisclosed, but here she shares her candid and intimate memoir on food, body image, and growing up in a Pakistani immigrant family. An ode to Pakistani cuisine, including Chaudry’s favorite recipes, a love letter to her Muslim family both here and in Lahore, and a courageously honest portrayal of grappling with issues around body image, Chaudry shows us how freeing it is to finally make peace with the body we have and with the delicious food that defines and comforts us.

Poké: Hawaiian-Inspired Sushi Bowls - Celia Farrar et al. Hailing from Hawaii, Poké - pronounced ‘Poh-Kay’ is a colorful mix of raw cubes of fish or tofu with a soy-based dressing, served in a bowl over rice and garnished. In Poké you will learn how to create your own vibrant bowls using their recipes for different toppings, vinegars, dressings, pickles, grains, and even sweet poké varieties. The possibilities are endless, but the results are always flavourful.

Minor Feelings: An American Reckoning - Cathy Park Hong. As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later define these “minor feelings” as occurring when American optimism contradicts your own reality. Minor feelings are not small, they’re dissonant—and in their tension Hong finds the key to the questions that haunt her, providing a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today.

The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering The World Through Pop Culture - Euny Hong. Euny Hong moved back to South Korea from the US when she was 12, witnessing Korea vaulting itself from being the “Hermit Kingdom” into the twenty-first century, becoming a global leader in business, technology, education, and pop culture, using hallyu — a wave of cool. Hong asserts that Korea’s rise is attributable to what the Harvard political scientist Joseph Nye calls “soft power” - the country wields influence not through military might but “by peddling a desirable image.” Featuring lively, in-depth reporting and numerous interviews with Koreans working in all areas of government and society, The Birth of Korean Cool reveals how a really uncool country invested in becoming cool, and how a nation that once banned miniskirts, long hair on men, and rock ‘n roll could come to mass produce boy bands, soap operas, and the world's most important smartphone.

Good Talk: A Memoir In Conversations - Mira Jacob. In her new graphic memoir, the author Mira Jacob documents conversations about love and race with multiple generations of her family spanning her life as a young Indian girl in New Mexico to being a mother in Brooklyn coming to terms with her in-laws who voted for Trump. Jacob is an Indian American, who was born in America after her parents immigrated to the United States in the 1960s. She lives with her husband, Jed, who is Jewish, and their son, in Brooklyn, New York. Mira opens her memoir with a conversation she had with her six year old son about Michael Jackson, and his questions about his own race and skin color. As a mother, she wants to protect him but knows she cannot, and she wants to instill within him a sense of identity and confidence in his place as an American.

Asian American Youth: Culture, Identity, and Ethnicity - Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou eds. This book is a compilation of studies on how young people born in America to Asian immigrant parents have created unique Asian American identities and spaces for themselves that are uniquely their own, both historically and in contemporary multicultural America. The book covers topics such as Asian immigration, acculturation, assimilation, intermarriage, socialization, sexuality, and ethnic identification. The individual pieces are arranged chronologically from past to present, with each author writing with individual research and expertise on their particular subject. The sheer variety of topics include DJ culture, import car culture, South-East Asian gangs, and college campus Christian clubs.

even this page is white Vivek Shraya. Vivek Shraya is a multi-disciplinary artist thriving as a trans-woman. Vivek's debut collection of poetry even this page is white is a provocative meditation on what it means to grow up anything other than white in Canada, tackling institutional racism and sexual identity from a unique viewpoint.

Crying in H Mart Michelle Zauner. In this expansion of her popular 2018 New Yorker essay, Zauner, best known as the founder of indie rock group Japanese Breakfast, grapples with what it means to be severed from her Korean heritage following her mother’s battle with cancer. In an attempt to honor and remember her umma, she seeks to replicate the flavors of her upbringing. Zauner, who is bi-racial, delivers mouthwatering descriptions of dishes like pajeon, jatjuk, and gimbap, and frames her story amid the aisles of H Mart, a place many Asian Americans will recognize. Zauner situates her personal story of mothers and daughters and how grief shapes us, as part of a broader conversation about diasporic culture.

Do you identify as AANHPI? Is there a particular book that you feel celebrates AANHPI contributions, spotlights AANHPI people, or shares pieces of your culture, please leave their titles and authors as a comment here for others to see.

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