Essential Nonfiction Exploring Asian Culture and Asian American Experiences
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.
2014 by See, LisaGet this item
"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.
2021 by Nguyen, TungGet this item
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.
2020 by Koh, EJGet this item
"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.
2020 by Hong, Cathy ParkGet this item
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.
2017 by Jen, GishGet this item
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.
2020 by Yang, Jia LynnGet this item
"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.
2015 by Lee, ErikaGet this item
"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.
2019 by Chang, Gordon H.Get this item
"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.
2019 by Tolentino, JiaGet this item
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.
2015 by Talde, DaleGet this item
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.
2016 by Morimoto, MasaharuGet this item
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.