By Amy Wright, Sarah Lundy, Zoe Doyle and Ana Matute
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI) is celebrated in May, so for this issue we are shining the spotlight on authors of this heritage. From non-fiction to fiction, we cover interesting narratives that let readers explore new identities and cultures.
Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Sutanto
Dial A for Aunties is the hilarious story of Meddy Chan and how she requires the help of her aunties when she accidentally kills her blind date. Winner of the Comedy Women in Print Prize, this book is a fun read that mixes dark humour with a hint of romance. You can’t help but warm to Meddy and her aunties; Sutanto has created loveable characters that genuinely care for one another despite their bickering. The story is unique and unpredictable, making it a gripping read unlike any rom-com you have read before. And if Sutanto’s debut novel leaves you wanting more, the sequel, Four Aunties and a Wedding, was published this year and is certain to make you laugh out loud just as much.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Celeste Ng is an extraordinary writer. With Little Fires Everywhere, she has created a story full of twists and revelations that will keep you flipping until the last page. It follows two families in Ohio brought together by their children. The relationship is weighted with tension as they constantly push against racial and class differences, while small town claustrophobia casts a close eye on the behaviour of every person in the community, from relationships to the length of front lawns.
The title excellently sums up how these tensions, the little fires, set about to ravage this seemingly idyllic lifestyle to the ground, forcing ideas of perfection to crumble. This novel is a fascinating and intriguing read that’s a great choice for discussion at your favourite book club!
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
Mythological stories are often told through the lens of the male gaze and many monsters in these tales are female or coded as such, with women usually portrayed as devious and manipulative. Recent retellings, such as Madeline Miller’s Circe, offer new perspectives, giving voice to the female characters of these myths.
Published just in time for AAPI month, recent debut Kaikeyi retells the story of the infamous and despised queen from the Indian epic Ramayana. The only daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, Kaikeyi discovers she has magical abilities which propel her from an overlooked daughter to a major player in the politics and power clashes of kings. In a world where men and gods dictate her fate, Kaikeyi struggles to bring justice to improve the lives of women in her kingdom.
All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung
As a newborn, Nicole Chung was given up for adoption by her Korean parents and grew up with an American family from Oregon. All You Can Ever Know explores her identity and relationship with her roots as an Asian American, weaving a journey of introspection where she discovers a way to connect with every part of herself.
This brilliant book delves into the many effects adoption can have on a child, with the writing process acting as a way for the author to try to understand who she is. Chung also explores how adoption is an interruption of any parents’ relationship, as the child becomes a part of them. Having given birth to her own child during the memoir’s conception, it is emotive and moving, and a perfect read for when you’re unsure of where you belong and to see that life is, at its core, a way to explore who we are.
Babel by R. F. Kuang
In 1828, Robin Swift is an orphan training to enrol in Oxford University’s Royal Institute of Translation, known as Babel. It is the centre of translation and silver-working, the magical art of recreating the meaning lost in translations through silver bars; this process aids the Empire in the colonisation of other nations. The novel deals with student revolution and colonial resistance as Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, has to reconcile his identity with the consequences of Babel’s work. As Kuang’s “love letter and breakup letter to Oxford,” it promises to be an interesting read and sounds perfect for fans of dark academia.