Redefining American Literature: Best Fiction Books over the Last Decade by AAPI Authors

May is Asian Pacific Heritage Month—and what better way to celebrate than sharing our favorite AAPI authors? 

For your next book club or solo read, honor Asian-American voices in literature with stories that wrestle with identity, politics, and values. From dark mysteries to lighthearted romance, these Literati picks showcase the complexity and beauty of the AAPI experience.

If I Had Your Face—Frances Cha

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A salon entertainer. A struggling artist. A hairstylist. A new wife. In Frances Cha’s stirring novel, four women wrestle with the gendered, looks-obsessed society of Seoul. But when beauty fades, their saving grace might just be their friendship. Pick up If I Had Your Face for a peek into modern South Korean culture that validates women’s fears and self-doubts across the globe.

Why you’ll love If I Had Your Face:

  • Class politics that won’t put you to sleep
  • Honest portrayal of South Korean beauty culture
  • Women friendships placed front and center

A Little Life—Hanya Yanagihara

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Looking for a full-body, snot-nosed cry? We have a guaranteed tearjerker for you. Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life follows the tumultuous lives of four college friends in New York, struggling through addictions, muddled relationships, and trauma. With no simple happy endings, Yanagihara lays bare the shadow selves we all must face—especially with friends by our side. 

Why you’ll love A Little Life:

  • Raw, unafflicted look at trauma healing
  • Intimate friendships within chosen families
  • Yanagihara’s searing interior narration

Crazy Rich Asians—Kevin Kwan

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By now, you’ve probably heard the title of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel—or maybe you’ve even seen its blockbuster film adaptation. We’re here to say that Crazy Rich Asians is worth all that hype. 

Pulling from his childhood among Singapore’s elite, Kwan balances glitzy fun, cutting family dynamics, and Asian cultural politics in this can’t-put-down romance novel. With the first few pages, you’ll be swept away on a literary jet-plane.

Why you’ll love Crazy Rich Asians:

  • Lifestyles of Asia’s glamorous mega-rich
  • Nuanced views of class and status within relationships
  • Kwan’s crackling, hilarious dialogue

Other Words for Home—Jasmine Warga

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Fleeing from violence in Syria to safety in Cincinnati, twelve-year-old refugee Jude is thrust into a life of culture shock—American suburbia is far from her TV show-fueled expectations. Now an outsider a—“Middle-Easterner”—Jude must navigate her new place in a foreign land. 

An Ohio native herself, Jasmine Warga infuses Other Words for Home with life experience and vivid poetics, creating a stirringly personal bestseller. For a touching take on self-identity and refugee life, this Malala Yousafzai Luminary pick will pull at your heartstrings. 

Why you’ll love Other Words for Home:

  • Warga’s melodic, charming language 
  • Sympathetic yet complex portrayal of refugee life
  • Approachable debate on Middle Eastern identity and politics

Patron Saints of Nothing—Randy Ribay

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Jay Reguero is your average high school senior—a chill, video-game loving teen with a relaxing summer ahead of him. But when Jay’s cousin mysteriously dies in the Philippines, he’s pulled into an overseas world of grief, corruption, and danger. Author Randy Ribay puts a unique spin on the coming-of-age saga, as Jay must reckon with his immigrant family’s dark legacy.

Why you’ll love Patron Saints of Nothing:

  • Humanizing look at the Filipino drug war
  • First-generation immigrant stories
  • Layers of self-identity, family loyalty, and culture

Pachinko—Min Jin Lee

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From a fisherman’s daughter in Korea to her great-grandchildren in Japan, Pachinko is a multi-generational saga of East Asian culture and history. Min Jin Lee smoothly moves across the 20th century through the eyes of this struggling family, capturing the societal norms and harsh circumstances that shaped each generation. 

Every character’s painstaking choices prove just how much our ancestors pave the road for our lives.   

Why you’ll love Pachinko:

  • Blend of historical fiction and family drama
  • Lee’s unique time-spanning narrative
  • Humanization of 20th-century East Asian history

Little Fires Everywhere—Celeste Ng

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There’s one rule in Shaker Heights—respect order. It’s a mantra that Elena Richardson knows all too well. But when Elena welcomes in the artist Mia and her daughter as tenants, rules begin to crumble around this idealistic suburbia.

In this nonstop thriller, Celeste Ng breaks open contemporary racial politics, American life, and opposing philosophies of motherhood. Crack open Little Fires Everywhere for a slow burn that never fizzles out.

Why you’ll love Little Fires Everywhere:

  • Exposé on contemporary American suburbia 
  • Ng’s knack for dramatic tension and simmering conflict
  • Fully-fleshed mothers as protagonists

Lifting Up Literary Voices with AAPI Authors

For so long, “classic” literature meant white authors, white characters, and white experiences—but not anymore. By cherishing the AAPI writers of today, we move one step closer to equalizing our voices and stories. 
Care to expand your literary palette further? Literati’s Luminary Books include celebrity picks by diverse figureheads, from Stephen Curry to Susan Orlean. Shake up your bedside reading stack with the best books of 2021 and beyond.

On Key

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