16 Books by Asian Latinx Authors to Read for AAPI Heritage Month

From "Saga" by Ryoki Inoue to "Meet Cute Diary" by Emery Lee, here are 16 books by Asian Latinx authors you need to read

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month

Photo: Quill Tree Books; Crown Books for Young Readers; Kensington

It’s officially Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month! Celebrated every year during the month of May, this is a time to honor the historic and present-day contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans from Southern and Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Western Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the Pacific Islands. It’s especially a great time to acknowledge Asian Latinxs in our community, as they remain underrepresented and overlooked across the board, including in publishing, despite how much they make up our demographic. While Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil have the largest Chinese community in Latin America, about 1.5 million people of Japanese descent live in LATAM. In the U.S. alone, Asian Latinxs make up 3 percent of the Asian population. So in honor of this month, we decided to put together this round-up of books by Asian Latinx authors like Carlos Yushimito and Sigrid Nunez. We chose from a variety of genres including adult, children’s, fantasy, young adult (YA), and memoir, so there should be a little something for everyone. Read on to learn more about 16 books by Asian Latinx authors to add to your AAPI Heritage Month reading list.

Between Words: A Friendship Tale by Saki Tanaka

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: Orchard Books

Between Words by Mexican author-illustrator Saki Tanaka, who is of Japanese descent, is a children’s picture book following a little boy named Kai, who is used to following the seasons, moving from place to place, and hearing new and unfamiliar languages with his Pa. When they settle together in a valley of pools, Kai tries to invite the local children to play with him but his strange words and way of speaking drive them away, leaving him isolated and alone. Frustrated, angry, and hurt, he kicks a stone into one of the pools. When he goes after it, he suddenly finds something more valuable and beautiful than he could’ve ever dreamed. In the end, he learns a great lesson about compassion, warmth, friendship, connection, and belonging, and shows us a world where relationships can be formed even beyond language barriers.

Lessons for a Child Who Arrives Late by Carlos Yushimito

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: Transit Books

Lessons for a Child Who Arrives Late by Peruvian writer Carlos Yushimito, who is of Japanese descent. This is his debut short story collection, which was originally published in Peru in 2011, then translated into English and published in the U.S. in 2017. In one story, a mascot for an electronics store dreams of making a new life for itself in Rio de Janeiro’s drug scene. In another, a tin man spends his time pondering death as a heart starts to control his limbs, while a boy tries to play the piano like his teacher’s cruel and beautiful niece. Filled with violence, tenderness, love, and disconnection, this is a powerful debut about estrangement, isolation, and longing.

The Vulnerables by Sigrid Nunez

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: Riverhead Books

The Vulnerables by Sigrid Nunez, who is of German and Chinese-Panamanian descent, is the author’s ninth novel. Narrated by a solitary female narrator, the story follows her meditation on the modern era, what it means to be alive today, and how her present reality affects how she looks back on her past. Over time, she discovers that humor is her priceless refuge, as is her connection with others, including a young female member of Gen Z and a spirited parrot named Eureka. More and more, she learns how to open her heart to others and how to practice care and love in the face of distress, hurt, and pain. Part philosopher’s notebook, part meditation, this is a story about searching to be understood and finding reasons to keep on writing about our lives.

Saga by Ryoki Inoue

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: Globo

Saga is just one of 1,075 books written by Ryoki Inoue, a Brazilian writer of Japanese and Portuguese descent who is also considered on the most prolific male writer in the world. In this novel, his protagonist weaves an intense and suspenseful historical romance over four generations of a single family. Based on real-life Japanese immigration to Brazil, it examines samurai culture, violence in São Paulo, and the effects of Western influence across the world. Full of drama and conflict, this also contains much-needed reflections about divisions between ethnicities, traditions, and prejudice, while also providing a beautiful introduction to Japanese culture in Latin America.

Twin Flames by Olivia Abtahi

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: Lee & Low Books

Twin Flames by Olivia Abtahi, who is of Iranian and Argentine descent, is a YA fantasy novel that follows twins Bianca and Leila, whose differences have led to their estrangment. Despite both of them being Argentinian and Iranian in a small town, their identities aren’t enough to keep them together. Instead, they barely talk anymore, with Leila being a homebody who shuns her heritage, loves to craft, and plans to marry her high school sweetheart. While Bianca honors her heritage, embraces her anti-establishment beliefs, and plans to get out of town as soon as possible. But when the neighbor’s barn mysteriously burns down on their 18th birthday, Leila meets a monster – a djinn – and suddenly gains strange powers and can no longer touch iron. Over time, the twins realize that the djinn has frightening secret plans for Leila and their kind. Only by reconciling, working together as sisters, and relying on their cultures can they undo the damage and banish the djinn from their people for good.

Brown Church by Roberto Chao Ramero

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: IVP Academic

Brown Church is a nonfiction book by historian Roberto Chao Ramero exploring Christianity through a social justice lens. The son of a Mexican father and a Chinese immigrant mother, Ramero explores how Latinx culture and identity has been shaped by dozens of outside forces for over 500 years: religion, socio-economic inequality, politics, colonialism, dictatorships, imperialism, farmworker oppression, and the exploitation of undocumented immigrants. At every stage, he shows how Christianity has played a significant role in a larger movement of responding to, or at times enabling, injustices.

Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee 

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: Quill Tree Books

Meet Cute Diary is a YA novel by Emery Lee, who is of Black, Chinese, and Puerto Rican descent. Lee, who uses e/em/eir or he/him pronouns, is known for eir debut novel Café Con Lychee. This sophomore novel follows Noah Ramirez, who runs the popular blog the Meet Cute Diary where he collects trans love stories, believing that he’s an expert on romance. The only problem? All of the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy slowly grew into a beacon of hope for trans readers all over the world. When a troll exposes the blog as a work of fiction, Noah realizes that the only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true but he doesn’t have any proof. Suddenly, a boy named Drew walks into Noah’s life and declares himself willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he finds his ideas about love challenged, realizing that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as it is on the page. For better or worse, he’ll have to choose between following the rules or go off script to find his romantic ending.

Between Demons and Dieties by Bianca Wang-Polendo

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: New Degree Press

Between Demons and Dieties by Bianca Wang-Polendo follows half-Atonacan, half-Wei fire mage Esmeralda, who woke up from a coma two years ago and is struggling to reclaim her lost memories. In the interim, she’s lived a quiet life in Atonaco with her best friend and spirit mage named Dacio. But when Dacio is arrested for attempting to murder the emperor of Wei, a crime they couldn’t possibly have committed, Esme recruits Dacio’s friend and embarks on a quest to prove his innocence. However, it quickly becomes clear that things are not what they seem and that ominous and powerful beings lurk in the shadows. As she finally begins to get back memories from the past, she suddenly stumbles upon a larger plan that threatens the fate of the mortal realm. Intense and suspenseful, this is a story about magic, freedom, self-acceptance, adversity, and secrets.

Aloha Compadre: Latinxs in Hawaiʻi by Rudy P. Guevarra Jr.

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: Rutgers University Press

Aloha Compadre is the newest book by Rudy P. Guevarra Jr. and the first of its kind to spotlight the history and contemporary lives of Latinxs in Hawai’i. Contrary to popular discourse, Latinx migration to the island is not a recent event but has been happening even before the formation of Hawai’i as a U.S. state, with Latinxs voyaging there for almost 200 years. For decades they’ve created long-term historical communities, shaped Hawai’i’s history, and become a part of the island’s cultural landscape prior to annexation, territorial status, and statehood. Spanning from the 1830s to the present, the book also explores Latinx migration to Oceania and beyond. If you’re looking for even more Asian-Latinx history, be sure to check out his previous book Becoming Mexipino, which explores the historical and contemporary relationship between the Mexican and Filipino communities.

Love of My Lives by Yamile Saied Mendez

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: Kensington

Love of My Lives is a new adult romance novel by Yamile Saied Mendez, who is of Indigenous Argentine, Syrian, and Lebanese descent known for her award-winning YA novel Furia. This new book for adult readers follows Madi Ramírez, who is supposed to have it all: a career she loves, her successful boyfriend Jayden, and a wedding to plan. But she can’t help but feel like there’s something missing in her relationship. Even though Jayden appeared to her abuela in a dream, she wishes he could show a little more affection and prove that they really are meant to be. When she is offered the opportunity to take a business trip to Puerto Rico, she takes it, rationalizing that she can finally scatter her abuela’s ashes and take some time apart from Jayden to remind him how much Madi means to him. But when she arrives on the island, she finds a man who really makes her heart beat wildly and feels so right to her – and still, there’s something holding her back. A perfect summer beach read, this is a love story that transcends time and distance and shows the powerful magic we make for ourselves when we take charge of our own dreams.

La tercera guerra lunar by Julia Wong

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: Lilliputian Editions

La tercera guerra lunar, or The Third Lunar War, is the latest poetry collection by Peruvian poet Julia Wong, who is of Chinese descent. Born to Chinese immigrants, Wong explores powerful themes of culture, identity, family, and belonging. With her parents and other relatives as central characters, she plays with elements of fantasy, magic, and dreams to create a body of work that is unafraid to experiment and push the boundaries of what poetry can do. Other collections that she’s published in the last few years include A glass of cold milk for the rhapsodePessoa por Wong, and Tequila prayers.

Prosperity Gospel Latinos and Their American Dream by Tony Tian-Ren Lin

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: University of North Carolina Press

Prosperity Gospel Latinos and Their American Dream by Tony Tian-Ren Lin, who is of Taiwanese and Argentine descent, is a nonfiction book that explores why Latin American immigrants in the U.S. are drawn to Prosperity Gospel Pentecostalism. This strand of Protestantism teaches believers that they can achieve divine salvation and worldly success and fuses salvation with material goods, which helps them account for the contradictions of their lives as immigrants and pushes them to pursue the American Dream. In becoming better Prosperity Gospel Pentecostals they are also adopting traditional white American norms, while immigrants are also dealing with the immensity of the broader cultural and political resistance to their actually becoming Americans. In this way, he shows how, for better or for worse, religion as a whole gives Latinos the logic and understanding of themselves as those who belong in this country yet remain perpetual outsiders. Weaving together his personal experiences with outside firsthand accounts, this is a book about faith and how it has transformed individuals and communities over time.

We Are a Song by Lórian Tu

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: HarperCollins

We Are a Song by Lórian Tu, who is of Chinese, Cuban, and Ashkenazi descent, is a picture book that follows mixed-race siblings Arturo and Emilyn whose relatives all look and sound different and unique. Over the course of a single special day, they run errands to help prepare for their family celebration while Emilyn tries to write the perfect poem that describes what it’s like to be a part of their family. With every stop they make and every delicious treat they eat along the way, they each begin to understand in their own way all the different parts of their family make them who they are. Sweet and empowering, this is an uplifting celebration of mixed-race families and siblinghood.

Hei Ren, Hei Ren: Exploring Blackness in Taiwan by Daniel Zarazura

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: Pochino Press

Hei Ren, Hei Ren by Daniel Zarazura, who is Taiwanese and Chicano, is a zine that explores the lives of Black residents in Taiwan. This is part of a larger upcoming project entitled Taiwan is My Home, which explores Latino and Black culture in Taiwan through oral interviews and research, as well as the complex dynamics and circumstances that interracial couples and families face. In this project, he also draws on his personal experiences and family history to shape and inform his work, like being born in Taipei, moving around constantly, and living in various places around the world including Taiwan, Italy, and the U.S.

What’s Eating Jackie Oh? by Patricia Park

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: Crown Books for Young Readers

What’s Eating Jackie Oh? is the latest YA novel by Patricia Park, who is of Korean and Argentine descent, following her debut Imposter Syndrome & Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim about an Asian Latinx teen trying to fit into her two worlds. In this new work, we follow Jackie Oh, a Korean American teen who’s tired of being the perfect model minority, sick of her perfect test scores and stress from school and increasing anti-Asian violence. All she wants is to become a professional chef but her Ivy League corporate parents would never understand her dream. Still, she can’t help but try to chase after her dream, working at her grandparents’ Midtown Manhattan deli after school and practicing French cooking techniques at night when she should be studying. When she becomes a teen contestant on her favorite cooking show, Burn Off!, she’s thrown headfirst into a cutthroat and competitive TV world filled with showboating child actors, snarky judges, and gimmicky “gotcha!” challenges. Still, she’s determined to cook her way, prove who she really is, and find the delicate balance of identity, ambition, and cultural expectation. Park’s next project is an adult novel Chino about a Korean community in Buenos Aires.

Mama and Papa Have a Store by Amelia Lau Carling

Asian Latinx Books AAPI Heritage Month
Photo: Lee & Low Books

Mama and Papa Have a Store by Guatemalan author Amelia Lau Carling, who is of Chinese descent, is a children’s picture book that follows a young Chinese girl growing up in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Over the course of the story, she takes us through a typical day in her parent’s store where they sell cloth, threads, and buttons. Along the way, she hears her parents talk about their hometown in China and how they had to flee a war. In the store, on the sidewalk, and on the rooftop, her and her siblings make up games to play. At night, they dance together to celebrate the day. From the sound of the milkman’s mule, to the clack of her father using the abacus at night, to the mix of Spanish, Chinese, and Mayan languages she hears every day, she shows a single moment in a colorful, vibrant world. It won the Pure Belpré Illustrator Award Honor in 2000.

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