Essential Nonfiction Exploring Asian Culture and Asian American Experiences

By Skokie Staff Adult Services

To celebrate Asian and Asian American heritage, we've put together a list of nonfiction books that explore Asian culture and Asian American experiences throughout history.

  • On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family

    2014 by See, Lisa

    "Out of the stories heard in her childhood in Los Angeles's Chinatown and years of research, See has constructed this sweeping chronicle of her Chinese-American family, a work that takes in stories of racism and romance, entrepreneurial genius and domestic heartache, secret marriages and sibling rivalries, in a powerful history of two cultures meeting in a new world." Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Mango and Peppercorns: A Memoir of Food, an Unlikely Family, and the American Dream

    2021 by Nguyen, Tung

    Food and Wine sums up the book so well: "The beauty of this book is that it combines recipes with memoir, and each works to enhance the other. The Vietnamese recipes help tell the story within the memoir—a story of the American Dream, how Tung Nguyen escaped from Vietnam in 1975 and ended up in Miami, taken in by a graduate student named Kathy Manning. Five years later, the two women opened a restaurant together, Hy Vong, and their story continued to blossom." Recommended by Allyson.

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  • The Magical Language of Others: A Memoir

    2020 by Koh, EJ

    "Koh's parents returned to South Korea when Koh was 15, leaving her and her brother behind in their California house. Through letters, over the years, Koh tried to piece together her mother's story. Where, Koh asks, do the stories of our mothers and grandmothers end and ours begin? How do we find words—in Korean, Japanese, English, or any language—to articulate the profound ways that distance can shape love?" Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning

    2020 by Hong, Cathy Park

    Hong is an award-winning poet and essayist who takes a blistering look at the psychological condition of being Asian American. Kirkus states it best: "Candid and unapologetically political, Hong's text deftly explores the explosive emotions surrounding race in ways sure to impact the discourse surrounding Asian identity as well as race and belonging in America." Recommended by Becca.

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  • The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap

    2017 by Jen, Gish

    A personal, provocative, informative, and entertaining study of the different idea Asians and Westerners have of the self and how this plays out in our differing approaches to art, learning, politics, business, and almost everything else. Library Journal says, "An excellent and engaging read, certain to appeal to readers interested in cross-cultural communication, cognitive science, and the experience of Asian Americans in the United States." Recommended by Lukie.

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  • One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle over American Immigration, 1924-1965

    2020 by Yang, Jia Lynn

    "A history of the struggle for immigration law reform in 20th-century America. In this excellent debut, Yang recounts the making of the historic Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which opened the door to Asian, Latin American, African, and Middle Eastern immigrants and 'helped define America as a multicultural nation.' Until then, becoming an American was tied to European ancestry, with entry barred to nearly all Asians." (Kirkus) Recommended by Chris.

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  • The Making of Asian America: A History

    2015 by Lee, Erika

    "Tells the little-known history of Asian Americans and their role in American life, from the arrival of the first Asians in the Americas to the present-day. An epic history of global journeys and new beginnings, this book shows how generations of Asian immigrants and their American-born descendants have made and remade Asian American life in the United States." Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad

    2019 by Chang, Gordon H.

    "A history of the Chinese laborers who were pivotal to the construction of the American Transcontinental Railroad details the construction perils that cost innumerable lives before survivors were almost instantly lost to public memory." Recommended by Chris.

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  • Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion

    2019 by Tolentino, Jia

    A collection of original essays by one of the New Yorker's best new writers. I admit to being a little jealous of Tolentino's supernova writing—both intimate and profound, seemingly off-the-cuff and deeply investigated. Recommended by Chris.

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  • Asian-American: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from the Philippines to Brooklyn

    2015 by Talde, Dale

    Chicago-born and New York-based, Talde is a master culinary brand builder. This, his debut cookbook, offers gleefully meshed recipes "defined as much by my mom’s (Filipino) food as it was by American food.” Recommended by Chris.

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  • Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking

    2016 by Morimoto, Masaharu

    A cookbook by Masaharu Morimoto, one of the most well-known Iron Chefs in the world. This book contains almost 70 Japanese cuisine recipes. It’s simple enough that anybody with a little bit of cooking experience can follow. It’s also written with a mindfulness that not all ingredients are easily obtainable outside of Japan, so some adjustments are made in order to make it more accessible. Recommended by Penny.

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