Every month, through our lit section and through The Hyphen Reader, we offer you new writing by Asian American poets and prose writers that we think you should be reading. Now, as the year draws to a close, we gave our writers a chance to recommend some of their favorite pieces and books by Asian American writers!
Read below to see what your new favorite writers are reading and loving!
Margaret Rhee (Issue 28: Revolution, "This is How You Make Love to a Robot" and "Beam, Robot")
Essay: "Aziz Ansari on Acting, Race and Hollywood"
"This is one of the best essays I've read this year, and I read a lot. Here comedian and author, Aziz Ansari writes about race, Hollywood, and robots! Intelligent, thought provoking, and personal, Ansari asks poignant questions on the representations of South Asians in Hollywood and affirmative ways to enhance diversity."
Book: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen and To Love As Aswang by Barbara Jane Reyes
"I am tied because two amazing APIA authors published books this year, so I'll name both: Viet Thanh Nguyen's profound and haunting novel The Sympathizer, and Barbara Jane Reyes' luminious and powerful poetry collection To Love As Aswang. Viet and Barbara are visionary authors, I devour everything they write. Moreover, they've been part of my life for many years as generous mentors, and I can vouch how genuinely lovely they are as people, which is always nice to know of an author when reading their book."
Patrick Rosal (January, "Dangerous Poems")
Poem: "The Jacob Lawrence Ekphrasis: Frederick Douglass Series" by F. Douglas Brown
"I'm really digging F. Douglas Brown's ekphrastic series on the Jacob Lawrence Great Migration paintings. The poems aren't descriptions or narrations, but soundscapes, shouts, fragments of speech, singing, and meditations. If you moved through a Migration like this -- or with it or in the wake of it, Brown composes a compelling version of what you might hear."
Book: Dogeaters by Jessica Hagedorn
"It was a big year for Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters — 25 years since its first publication; Marlon James shouted it out as the 'greatest novel about Jamaica ever written, except it's set in the Philippines'; and I taught it in my very first Asian-American lit class this fall. After two and a half decades, the book is still complicated, haunting, and beautiful."
Dickson Lam (February, "Snowmen")
Graphic Piece: Demon by Jason Shiga, Ch. 1
"This first chapter of Demon, a serialized comic, opens with a guy in a motel who hangs himself but soon after wakes to find himself in another room of the motel. No matter how he tries to kill himself, he keeps coming back. It's not as morbid as it sounds! The situation is set up as a logic puzzle, and each subsequent chapter also contains a logic puzzle."
Book: One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry.
"This autobiographical graphic novel explores different 'demons' Barry has faced growing up. It also focuses on her relationship with her Filipina mother and grandmother. There's a chapter about scents, particularly about the scents of an Asian household. So relatable! The stories are poignant and at times heartbreaking."
Jenna Le (March, "Birth Control")
Poem: "Sepsis" by C. Dale Young
"Writers, especially writers who are healthcare professionals, often feel pressured to engage in image-crafting and self-promotion, but in this poem Dr. Young resists those pressures, giving us an honest unvarnished picture of error and shame and guilt, which offers no easy answers or false map to redemption."
Book: Ingratitude: The Debt-Bound Daughter in Asian American Literature by Erin Khuê Ninh
"An emotionally cathartic, one-of-a-kind book, which uses close readings of seminal texts from Asian American literature to buttress a cohesive, original, and illuminating argument regarding the inseparably intertwined nature of intra-family politics and societal politics at large."
Stacey Lee (April, Under a Painted Sky)
Poem: "In Defense of Small Towns" by Oliver De La Paz:
"I loved this poem because the idea of Asian Americans growing up in places you wouldn't expect to find them has always fascinated me. Chinese people were the great immigrants; they went everywhere, and not only that, they survived, and thrived. Even in the smallest most obscure town in Nowhere, USA, my father has managed to find a Chinese restaurant for some 'home cooking.'"
Book: Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
"In continuing this theme of Asian Americans in small towns, my book recommendation is Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata, which won the 2005 Newbery Medal. It's about a Japanese America family growing up in the fifties in a small town in Georgia as seen through the eyes of the youngest daughter. In a word: poignant."
Sally Wen Mao (May, "Anna May Wong on silent films" and "Anna May Wong has breakfast at Tiffany's")
Poem: "Cambodia" by Monica Sok
"Chills ran through my entire body as I read this poem. This poem is everything and everything."
Book: Monstress by Lysley Tenorio
"No matter how many times I read this book by Lysley Tenorio, I never stop marveling at the beauty of the prose, the realness of the characters, the humor, the grit, and the startling originality of the stories. The writing wastes not a single word, and I find myself completely captivated by its characters -- misfits, others, monsters, lepers, immigrants, sons, daughters -- for anyone who delights in weird yet beautiful stories, this is the perfect."
Matthew Salesses (June, The Hundred Year Flood)
Poem: "Children Walk on Chairs to Cross a Flooded Schoolyard" by Patrick Rosal
"I'm greatly looking forward to Patrick Rosal's next book of poetry, dropping next year, Brooklyn Antediluvian. I like the feeling of floating a poet's confident hands in this poem."
Book: You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman
"Alexandra Kleeman's debut novel, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, made waves this fall for good reason. There's nothing else like it. Kleeman can hold you completely captivated by a mind, in a way that both makes you want to escape it and to go on in those sharper, weirder thoughts forever."
Jennifer J. Chow (July, "Gratitude" and "Hey, Beautiful")
Poem: "Sunk Costs" by Siel Ju
"I love Siel's poetry. The best part of her work is how she twists the words and makes new meanings and intricate images come alive."
Book: Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kirstin Chen
"Set in Singapore, this is a novel meant to be savored, like artisanal soy sauce. I really enjoyed seeing the main character transform throughout the story and discover her own identity."
Jean Kim (September, "Haenya (Abalone Huntress) Dancing")
Poem: "regarding the yellowface poet" by Franny Choi
"This poem came out after the Yi-Fen Chou scandal and just hit so many perfect raw notes without being sanctimonious or obvious. In general, her poetry strikes this fiery balance between anger and beauty; she isn't afraid of open emotion, which seems rare nowadays in 'establishment' literary poetry, and manages to channel that emotion in her own original, steely way."
Book: Drifting House by Krys Lee
"A collection of short stories that takes some of the sad plainness of the Korean immigrant experience and unflinchingly splays it on the page. These are people have fallen into situations even I as a Korean-American try to shyly ignore or stare away from, but they are important and need to be voiced and are in stark, spare truth. They deserve literary depiction."
Alexandra Kleeman (October, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine)
Essay: "They Pretend To Be Us While Pretending We Don't Exist" by Jenny Zhang
"I don't think there's anything I could say about this piece that rises to its level, all I can really do is say: read it, please read it."
Book: The Hundred-Year Flood by Matthew Salesses
"Reading this book was a powerful, enveloping narrative experience for me--Salesses holds the reader so close to his main character, Tee, that it's hard to step back from the narrative and remember who you are, where you're reading it. An engrossing read from a writer I've admired for years!"
Kevin T.S. Tang (November, "Sourdough")
Story: "Tanuki" by Jeff Chon
"A troubled geneology as told in a long swamp fever. There's a lush rot to it, gothic and baroque -- all things I like."
Book: In The Country by Mia Alvar
"Perfect minimalism in prose, wild maximalism in drama and heart. There is so much at stake in every encounter in this short story collection. Until I read this, I didn't know how badly I wanted to read an Asian-international (rather than strictly Asian-American immigrant) fiction that mirrors my experience."