Book List, Staff Post

In Celebration of AAPI Month

While we’ve been going through many changes at the store this month, we didn’t get to finalize our displays for the month in time to have the signs printed and with more than 50% of the staff being brand new (which is very exciting) we were focused more on training than displays. As such, my “display” for Asian Pacific Islander American month has moved here, to the blog! My husband, who is half Chinese, and I often talk about representation in contemporary literature and so I am very excited to share my favorite reads by AAPI authors!

All quotes are mine unless cited otherwise and the book descriptions are provided by the publisher. Click on the link below for the full list on our website or the individual covers to purchase!

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

I read Tokyo Ever After in one setting in a couple hours on a weekday night, something I haven’t done in who knows how long. Read a book in one sitting on a Sunday? Absolutely. On a Wednesday night? Maybe not since I was in middle school. It pulled me in and kept me hooked – I adore all of the characters and it’s clear how near and dear Izumi is to Emiko’s heart.

The Princess Diaries meets Crazy Rich Asians in Emiko Jean’s Tokyo Ever After, a “refreshing, spot-on” (Booklist, starred review) story of an ordinary Japanese-American girl who discovers that her father is the Crown Prince of Japan.

Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izumi discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity…and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.

In a whirlwind, Izumi travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.

Izumi soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairy tale, happily ever after?

Look for the sequel to Tokyo Ever After in spring 2022!

Sigh, Gone by Phuc Tran

Phuc Tran is an AMAZING writer and while I selfishly wanted to read his memoir because we grew up in the same small town and my mother was a teacher at Carlisle High School when he was a student, I didn’t expect to be so blown away by his story. Sigh, Gone paints a portrait of my hometown that I always knew existed in the back of my mind, but never really saw or acknowledged. Touching and eye opening, I cannot wait to share Phuc’s memoir with customers at the store!

For anyone who has ever felt like they don’t belong, Sigh, Gone shares an irreverent, funny, and moving tale of displacement and assimilation woven together with poignant themes from beloved works of classic literature.

In 1975, during the fall of Saigon, Phuc Tran immigrates to America along with his family. By sheer chance they land in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a small town where the Trans struggle to assimilate into their new life. In this coming-of-age memoir told through the themes of great books such as The MetamorphosisThe Scarlet LetterThe Iliad, and more, Tran navigates the push and pull of finding and accepting himself despite the challenges of immigration, feelings of isolation, and teenage rebellion, all while attempting to meet the rigid expectations set by his immigrant parents.

Appealing to fans of coming-of-age memoirs such as Fresh Off the Boat, Running with Scissors, or tales of assimilation like Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Displaced and The Refugees, Sigh, Gone explores one man’s bewildering experiences of abuse, racism, and tragedy and reveals redemption and connection in books and punk rock. Against the hairspray-and-synthesizer backdrop of the ‘80s, he finds solace and kinship in the wisdom of classic literature, and in the subculture of punk rock, he finds affirmation and echoes of his disaffection. In his journey for self-discovery Tran ultimately finds refuge and inspiration in the art that shapes—and ultimately saves—him.

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Marie Lu’s new book arrived at the store in the summer of 2019 in the form of an ARC, I do believe I squealed loudly. And repeatedly. And then I started it reading it, and proceeded to talk about it for the next seven months. Seven months I’ve had to keep this one to myself. It was TORTURE. Torture I tell you. Every time someone would come into the store and ask for LegendThe Young Elites or Warcross, and asked if we liked them, I would say, “Yes, but her upcoming one is simply THE BEST.”

And it is. The best. Marie is one of my YA Fab Five and has been for some time, but with The Kingdom of Back, she elevated her writing to a new level. The book is written like a love letter to classical music and the instruments that are so well suited to it. It’s like a sonata in words, the lines of the score woven through Marie’s word choice.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu comes a historical YA fantasy about a musical prodigy and the dangerous lengths she’ll go to make history remember her. Now in paperback.

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish–to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age–her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true–but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

A Team of Their Own by Seth Berkman

Oh how I wish I had gotten to this book sooner. It is absolutely wonderful, a great addition to any sports, sociology, history or women’s studies shelf in any bookstore, large or small. What the women of the united Korean hockey team managed to accomplish is absolutely amazing and commendable.

The inspiring, unlikely story of the American, Canadian, South Korean and even North Korean women who joined together to form Korea’s first Olympic ice hockey team.

Two weeks before the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics, South Korea’s women’s hockey team was forced into a predicament that no president, ambassador or general had been able to resolve in the sixty-five years since the end of the Korean War. Against all odds, the group of young women were able to bring North and South Korea closer than ever before.

The team was built for this moment. They had been brought together from across the globe and from a wide variety of backgrounds–concert pianist, actress, high school student, convenience store worker–to make history. Now the special kinship they had developed would guide them through the biggest challenge of their careers. Suddenly thrust into an international spotlight, they showed the powerful meaning of what a unified Korea could resemble.

In A Team of Their Own, Seth Berkman goes behind the scenes to tell the story of these young women as they became a team amid immense political pressure and personal turmoil, and ultimately gained worldwide acceptance on a journey that encapsulates the truest meanings of sport and family.

Monstress by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

If you’re a fantasy fan, a graphic novel fan, an art lover, or someone who loves the Jazz Age and the 1920s, or pirates, or just about anything cool and fun, Monstress is for you. It’s routed in mythology and feminism and so many other terrific genres that resonate deeply with today’s comic and graphic novel lovers. (Definitely an adult series, maybe older teens.)

Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steam punk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both and make them the target of both human and otherworldly powers.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes is an engrossing and intriguing tale of political turmoil, mayhem, murder and a touch of romance. Told in alternating points of view, it follows the journey of slave/undercover resistance fighter, Laia, and professional soldier, Elias, as they try to find their way in such a troubled world.

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
 
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
 
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
 
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
 
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself. 

Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi

The Amulet series is great for middle grade readers and was a favorite of my students when I taught middle schools. Many of the themes deal with facing your own fears and finding strength in friends and family. It’s a bestseller of the kids graphic novel section of the store for good reason!

Graphic novel star Kazu Kibuishi creates a world of terrible, man-eating demons, a mechanical rabbit, a talking fox, a giant robot—and two ordinary children on a mission.

After the tragic death of their father, Emily and Navin move with their mother to the home of her deceased great-grandfather, but the strange house proves to be dangerous. Before long, a sinister creature lures the kids’ mom through a door in the basement. Em and Navin, desperate not to lose her, follow her into an underground world inhabited by demons, robots, and talking animals.Eventually, they enlist the help of a small mechanical rabbit named Miskit. Together with Miskit, they face the most terrifying monster of all, and Em finally has the chance to save someone she loves.

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

Where Dreams Descend is the best sort of fantasy – one that immediately pulls you in and makes you want to inhabit the world right along with the characters. With the perfect balance of intrigue and fantastical world building, I wouldn’t hesitate to follow Kallia to the ends of the earth if it meant I could spend more time in the world of this wonderful book!

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

1989. Salem, Massachusetts. Are there homages to the witches, and maybe even actual witches? Of course. Lots of ’80s nostalgia? Duh. A fun coming of age book, the second person narrator (the team) follows each of the eleven field hockey players in turn and the antics they get themselves into. This book has all the characteristics of a great summer read!

In the town of Danvers, Massachusetts, home of the original 1692 witch trials, the 1989 Danvers Falcons will do anything to make it to the state finals—even if it means tapping into some devilishly dark powers. Against a background of irresistible 1980s iconography, Quan Barry expertly weaves together the individual and collective progress of this enchanted team as they storm their way through an unforgettable season.

Helmed by good-girl captain Abby Putnam (a descendant of the infamous Salem accuser Ann Putnam) and her co-captain Jen Fiorenza (whose bleached blond “Claw” sees and knows all), the Falcons prove to be wily, original, and bold, flaunting society’s stale notions of femininity. Through the crucible of team sport and, more importantly, friendship, this comic tour de female force chronicles Barry’s glorious cast of characters as they charge past every obstacle on the path to finding their glorious true selves.

Eat a Peach by David Chang

I find myself starting every chef memoir in the last 20 pages for it is there that I’ve come to expect their recollections of their time spent with my hero, Tony, “Tony time” as Chang puts it. I ask our reps constantly about every chef memoir that comes to print, “yes, it looks good, but does it come even close to Tony?” With a best friend in Brooklyn and brother in-law in Manhattan, I made a point in the last few years of visiting the big names of the NYC culinary world. And I love Momofuko. To read Chang’s story was a privilege and it brought me to tears and laughter. And while no one writes a culinary memoir quite like Tony, David Chang is certainly the closest I’ve come across in the last two years.

In 2004, Momofuku Noodle Bar opened in a tiny, stark space in Manhattan’s East Village. Its young chef-owner, David Chang, worked the line, serving ramen and pork buns to a mix of fellow restaurant cooks and confused diners whose idea of ramen was instant noodles in Styrofoam cups. It would have been impossible to know it at the time—and certainly Chang would have bet against himself—but he, who had failed at almost every endeavor in his life, was about to become one of the most influential chefs of his generation, driven by the question, “What if the underground could become the mainstream?”

Chang grew up the youngest son of a deeply religious Korean American family in Virginia. Graduating college aimless and depressed, he fled the States for Japan, hoping to find some sense of belonging. While teaching English in a backwater town, he experienced the highs of his first full-blown manic episode, and began to think that the cooking and sharing of food could give him both purpose and agency in his life.

Full of grace, candor, grit, and humor, Eat a Peach chronicles Chang’s switchback path. He lays bare his mistakes and wonders about his extraordinary luck as he recounts the improbable series of events that led him to the top of his profession. He wrestles with his lifelong feelings of otherness and inadequacy, explores the mental illness that almost killed him, and finds hope in the shared value of deliciousness. Along the way, Chang gives us a penetrating look at restaurant life, in which he balances his deep love for the kitchen with unflinching honesty about the industry’s history of brutishness and its uncertain future.

The Library of Legends by Janie Chang

While marked as the third in a trilogy, The Library of Legends can definitely be read on its own. I knew very little of the China-Japan war happening prior to and during WWII and was excited to not only read about a chapter in history that I didn’t really know about, but to read such a beautifully written book about three intriguing and interesting characters.

From the author of Three Souls and Dragon Springs Road comes a captivating historical novel—the third in a loosely-connected trilogy—in which a young woman travels across China with a convoy of student refugees, fleeing the hostilities of a brutal war with Japan.

“Myths are the darkest and brightest incarnations of who we are…”

China, 1937: When Japanese bombs begin falling on the city of Nanking, nineteen-year-old Hu Lian and her classmates at Minghua University are ordered to flee. Lian and a convoy of more than a hundred students, faculty, and staff must walk a thousand miles to the safety of China’s western provinces, a journey marred by hunger, cold, and the constant threat of aerial attack. And it is not just the student refugees who are at risk: Lian and her classmates have been entrusted with a priceless treasure, a 500-year-old collection of myths and folklore known as the Library of Legends.

Her family’s past has made Lian wary of forming attachments, but the students’ common duty to safeguard the Library of Legends forms unexpected bonds. Lian finds friendship and a cautious romance with the handsome and wealthy Liu Shaoming. But after one classmate is murdered and another arrested, Lian realizes she must escape from the convoy before a family secret puts her in danger. Accompanied by Shao and the enigmatic maidservant Sparrow, Lian makes her way to Shanghai, hoping to reunite with her mother.

On the journey, Lian learns of the connection between her two companions and a tale from the Library of Legends, The Willow Star and the Prince. Learning Shao and Sparrow’s true identities compels Lian to confront her feelings for Shao. But there are broader consequences too, for as the ancient books travel across China, they awaken immortals and guardian spirits to embark on an exodus of their own, one that changes the country’s fate forever.

Based on true events, rich in Chinese history and lore, The Library of Legends is both an illuminating exploration of China’s recent past and an evocative tale of love, sacrifice, and the extraordinary power of storytelling.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn

Sharks in the Time of Saviors is one of the best pieces of contemporary fiction I’ve had the pleasure to read. The fact that the book takes place in Hawaii makes it even more special. The author provides the reader with a unique ‘chicken skin’ experience. The book captures contemporary Hawaii’s history over the past 20+ years, including the socioeconomics of race and being Hawaiian, income disparity, housing issues, family issues, and the diaspora that affects so many families in Hawaii who are unable or unwilling to deal with the cost of living. Truly a master work of art.

Benjamin “Buddy” Bess, Da Shop, Honalulu, HI

In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends.

Nainoa’s family, struggling amidst the collapse of the sugarcane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favor from ancient Hawaiian gods—a belief that appears validated after he exhibits puzzling new abilities. But as time passes, this supposed divine favor begins to drive the family apart: Nainoa, working now as a paramedic on the streets of Portland, struggles to fathom the full measure of his expanding abilities; further north in Washington, his older brother Dean hurtles into the world of elite college athletics, obsessed with wealth and fame; while in California, risk-obsessed younger sister Kaui navigates an unforgiving academic workload in an attempt to forge her independence from the family’s legacy.

When supernatural events revisit the Flores family in Hawai’i—with tragic consequences—they are all forced to reckon with the bonds of family, the meaning of heritage, and the cost of survival.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s