Representation matters all the time, but especially at times when hatred seems prevalent and overpowering. It is my firm belief that stories, and representation in those stories, can change minds and hearts and encourage empathy. So here is a list of AAPI authors for you to read. By reading their voices, we encourage our hearts, and the hearts of others, to grow and lead with compassion.
I think I can say with confidence that Malinda Lo is a legend. All her books are excellent, but as a fairytale fanatic, Ash is my personal favorite. A queer Cinderella retelling, this book follows Ash who grieves her father and is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. She dreams that one day the fairies will steal her away. Then she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, and her wish may be granted. But when she meets the King’s Huntress, he heart begins to change. Ash will have to choose between fairy tale dreams and true love. And if you’ve already read Ash, I suggest you dive into Huntress – the prequel! It’s inspired by the I Ching and filled with queer romance and adventure!
Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird. I challenge you to read the gorgeous book without crying – trust me, it won’t happen. Hovering between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, this novel is about finding oneself though family history, art, grief, and love. And if you’ve already read The Astonishing Color of After, don’t worry, Emily is coming out with a new book soon, so keep your eyes peeled!
This. Book. Is. So. Good. Read. It. For real though, this book is so adorable and hilarious and will flood your system with serotonin, I guarantee it! Danyal Jilani may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but he has no lack of confidence. He’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. If only Danyal’s long time crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval and her family could consider him an ideal arranged-marriage prospect. Danyal gets the chance to prove himself when he’s selectded for the Renaissance Man – a school-wide academic championship. He recruits the brilliant and totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition. But the more he learns from her and cooks for her… the more he realizes happiness might be staring him right in his pretty face. And if you’ve already had the joy of reading More Than Just a Pretty Face, Syed has another book coming soon – Sway With Me which made me both laugh out loud and cry within the first 20 pages. If that’s not a stunning recommendation, I don’t know what is.
You may know Nandini from A Match Made in Mehendi. Well, she’s back with a new one out in May – Sister of the Bollywood Bride. Mini’s big sister Vinnie is getting married and there’s no one but Mini to plan the wedding. But her dad raised her to know more about computers, calculus, and cars than desi weddings. But from the moment Mini held the jewelry their Mom left them, she wanted her sister to have the wedding their Mom would have planned. Now Mini has only two month to get it done and she’s not letting anything distract her – especially not smoking-hot Vir Mirchandani. Just as everything is set – a monster hurricane heads for Boston that could ruin everything. Will Mini come through as sister of the bride and save the day?
This book of a ballerina learning how to move forward from a dream destroying injury speaks to my ex-dancer soul on a profound level. Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but one terrifying fall shatters her leg – and her dreams of a professional ballet career. She is forced to trade her pre-professional ballet classes for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the musical. But rehearsals offer more than she was expecting – namely Jude her annoyingly attractive cast mate. And to move forward, Alina will have to make peace with her past and face the racism she had grown to accept in the dance industry.
In this glorious retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo, Amaya saves a mysterious stranger from drowning and fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship. But instead he offers her riches and a new identity, setting her on the path to the one thing she wants: revenge. Cayo has just gotten out from under his past mistakes and is determined to lead an honest life. But soon he becomes entangled once again in the dark underbelly of the coastal city-stay of Moray. As Amaya and Cayo’s paths intertwine, they will discover the truth of Amaya’s past… and learn they can trust no one. Once you’ve finished the Scavenge the Stars duology, I highly recommend Tara’s Timekeeper trilogy!
This mouth-watering story about mental health, budding romance, and family is sure to hit you in the feels! Jocelyn Wu has three wishes for her Junior year: To make it through without dying of boredom, to direct a short film with her best friend, and to get at least two months into the year without being confused for Peggy Chang, the only other Chinese girl in her grade. Will Domenici has two goals: To find a paying summer internship and to prove he has what it takes to be an editor at the school newspaper When Jocelyn father tells her their family restaurant may be going under, Jocelyn will have to team up with Will, her unlikely employee, to bring A-Plus Chinese Garden into the 21st century (or, at least, to Facebook). What begins as a rocky partnership soon grows into something more. But family prejudices and the uncertain future of the restaurant threaten to keep Will and Jocelyn apart.
Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens. Layla will begin a journey to fight for freedom. This book is emotional, intense, and heart racing – and it challenges us all to fight complicit silence. Samira’s Love, Hate & Other Filters and her middle-grade Amira and Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds are also excellent. So if you’ve already read Internment, you should certainly check them out!
Another one that hits me right in the feels and takes me back to my senior year in high school. Danny Cheng has been an artist for as long as he can remember, and with a scholarship to RISD and his family’s blessing, it seems his path is set. Still, thinking of the future makes him feel a panic he can barely put into words. Combine that with a recent tragedy and family secrets that disturb the foundations of his family history – Danny’s whole life seems to be crumbling around him. He will have to face ghosts of the past to build a future that belongs to him. If you’ve already had the pleasure of reading Picture Us in the Light, I suggest you check out Kelly’s book Conviction.