Essential Nonfiction Exploring Asian Culture and Asian American Experiences

By Skokie Staff Advisory Services

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

  • Sigh, Gone: A Misfit's Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In

    2020 by Tran, Phuc

    I really enjoyed this memoir. I thought the author's use of looking back on his life and self-acceptance through the prism of classical literature was really enlightening. Recommended by Rummanah.

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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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  • Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now

    2022 by Yang, Jeff

    This hip, eclectic work looks at the inroads Asian Americans have made in the areas of sports, entertainment, and politics over the last three decades. It offers readers a delicious mix of comics, playlists, essays, interviews, and much more. A book overflowing with contributions made by the diverse, talented, and transformative Asian American community. Recommended by Chris.

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  • To Asia, with Love

    2021 by McKinnon, Hetty

    With one of the most popular cookbooks of 2021 (it appeared on numerous Best of 2021 lists, including my own), McKinnon provides poignant, intimate memories of her mother's delicious Cantonese cooking as well as accessible plant-based recipes. Recommended by Chris.

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  • The Loneliest Americans

    2021 by Kang, Jay Caspian

    This smart, nuanced hybrid of memoir and journalism explores what it means to be Asian American in a country where race is rarely explored past a near-monolithic white and Black binary. As a first generation Korean American, Kang explores the varying, often conflicting narrative strains of what it means to be Asian in America today. Recommended by Chris.

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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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  • Tell Me Who You Are: Sharing Our Stories of Race, Culture, and Identity

    2019 by Guo, Winona

    Inspired by a discussion in their tenth grade history class, Guo and Vulchi founded CHOOSE (a platform for racial literacy) which led to opportunities to give TED talks and beyond. But ultimately, they decided that they could do more. They fundraised, and with the support of their families and community were able to take a year between high school and college to travel throughout America, collecting over 500 stories of people's experiences starting with the same question: How has race, culture, or intersectionality impacted your life? The result is this book. Recommended by Becca.

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  • From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial That Galvanized the Asian American Movement

    2021 by Yoo, Paula

    This compelling, well-reviewed work of narrative nonfiction explores the brutal murder of Chinese American Vincent Chin in 1982 and its rallying impact on the then nascent Asian American civil rights movement. 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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  • Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir

    2020 by Ha, Robin

    A moving graphic memoir about belonging, family, immigration, and the love of art. I very much appreciated a peek into the Korean culture. Readers of graphic memoirs will find much to enjoy. Recommended by Rummanah.

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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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