Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI) is celebrated every May to honor what Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans have contributed throughout history. In publishing, Latinx writers remain underrepresented and Asian Latinx writers specifically remain little known outside of Latin America or recognized within the U.S. Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil have the largest Chinese community in LATAM while about 1.5 million people of Japanese descent live in LATAM. Asian Latinxs in the U.S. comprise three percent of the Asian population in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center. AAPI is a broad term to recognize communities from Southern and Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Western Asia, the Indian subcontinent and the Pacific Islands. Though this community doesn’t often get the recognition or representation it deserves, writers like Emery Lee and Patricia Park are prominent Asian Latinxs shedding light on their community through their work. Read on to learn more about 13 Asian Latinx writers whose work you need to add to your reading list.
Sigid Nunez is an American writer of German and Chinese-Panamanian descent and one of the early pioneers in the intersection of Asian Latinx writing. So far, she has published eight novels including her debut A Feather on the Breath of God, Naked Sleeper, Mitz, For Rouenna, The Last of Her Kind, Salvation City, The Friend (which won the 2018 National Book Award for Fiction), and What Are You Going Through. Throughout all of her work, she explores themes of identity, family, marriage, friendship, war, and death. Her ninth novel, The Vulnerables, will be released later this year in November. She teaches at Hunter College in New York City in their MFA creative writing program.
Ryoki Inoue, born José Carlos Ryoki de Alpoim Inoue, is a Brazilian writer of Japanese and Portuguese descent who, since 1986, has published a record-breaking total of 1,075 books. This makes him the the male writer who has published the most book around the world (under different pseudonyms) according to the International Guinness Book of Records. He has written stories in a variety of genres including thrillers, westerns, spy, romance, and science fiction, and is also known for ghostwriting under at least 39 pseudonyms. He has been translated and published across the world including Japan and LATAM, particularly for his book Danger Connection, which spotlights the history and community of Japanese Brazilians.
Olivia Abtahi is an American filmmaker, director, and writer of Iranian and Argentine descent. After graduating from NYU Film School and VCU Brandcenter, she released two critically acclaimed young adult novels: Perfectly Parvin in 2021, which follows an Iranian American teen determined to win the “ultimate” date to homecoming, and Azar on Fire, the story of a teen girl who hopes to win a Battle of the Bands contest. Next, she will publish her debut middle-grade novel, Rostam and the Red Dwarf as a re-telling of the Shahnameh, the Persian Book of Kings, and her debut picture book, both in 2025.
Emery Lee is a writer of Black, Chinese, and Puerto Rican descent who has written a variety of genres but enjoys young adult literature in particular. Lee, who uses e/em/eir or he/him pronouns, pulls from eir multiracial experiences, intersectional identities, and love for Eastern media, pop punk music, and animals, Lee has published two critically acclaimed and beloved novels: Café con Lychee, which follows an Asian American boy and a Puerto Rican boy falling in love despite their plans for the future, and Meet Cute Diary, a story about a trans boy fake-dating a friend to save his online reputation, only to realize that his fake feelings may be real after all. Lee is also the creator of #transbooks365, which aims to spotlight trans stories and trans authors all year round in the publishing industry and book community.
Bianca Wang-Polendo is a fantasy writer and an MIT graduate with degrees in mathematics and economics. Today, she writes stories with themes of identity, friendship, secrets, and self-acceptance. In 2021, she published her first book, Between Demons and Deities, a fantasy novel centering on Esmeralda, a half-Atonacan, half-Wei fire mage, and taking place two years after waking up from a coma and losing her memories. When her best friend and spirit mage Dacio is arrested for a crime they didn’t commit, she tries to prove Dacio’s innocence, only for her to unravel the mystery of her past.
Carlos Yushimito del Valle
Carlos Yushimito del Valle is a Peruvian writer of Japanese descent known for his short stories. Internationally, he has published several collections including El Mago, Las Islas, Lecciones para un niño que llega trade, Los bosques tienen sus propias puertas, Marginalia, and Rizoma. He has garnered critical acclaim for his work and spoken at events across the world in the U.S., Mexico, Cuba, and Spain. In 2010, he was named one of the best Spanish-language writers under 35 by the UK literary magazine Granta.
Yamile Saied Mendez
Yamile Saied Méndez is an American author of Indigenous Argentine, Syrian, and Lebanese descent whose young adult novel Furia centered on Camila, a teenage soccer player who defies cultural and traditional expectations set on women by pursuing her passion for soccer. Camila is Argentine mixed with Black, Indigenous, European, and Palestinian ancestry while her soccer teammate Roxana is Chinese Argentine. Throughout her impressive career, Méndez has published 20+ books and been includes in anthologies including Twice a Quinceañera, House Party, Where Are You From?, Writing in Color, and more. She has received many awards for her work including the 2021 Inaugural Pura Belpré Young Adult Gold Medal. She is also the co-founder of Las Musas, a collective for women, trans, and nonbinary Latinx writers.
Julia Wong Kcomt
Peruvian writer Julia Wong Kcomt was born in Chepén, Peru and is of Chinese descent (Tusán) with an impressive bibliography of 20 poetry books, six novels, and two short story collections. Drawing on her diverse ethnicities and cultures, she frequently writes about borders, identity, religion, migration, and family, all in the Spanish language. Her books include Un salmón ciego and 18 poemas de fake love para Keanu Reeves.
Based in Brooklyn, Saki Tanaka is a Mexican author and illustrator of Japanese descent with a passion for art in various genres. Taking from her own multicultural identity, she writes and creates art on themes of polarities, belonging, being an outsider, magic, and the intersections between East and West. In 2020, she illustrated her first picture book If Sun Could Speak by Kourtney Lafavre, breaking down the solar system for kids.
Based in New England, Lórian Tu is an author and illustrator of Chinese, Cuban, and Ashkenazi descent with a passion for children’s books. As a former art and special education elementary school teacher, she uses her mixed-race and multi-ethnic identity to be part of positive, uplifting stories about culture, family, and food including May God Bless You and Keep You, Dress Like a Girl, Stay Through the Storm, and The Rice in the Pot Goes Round and Round.
Pedro Shimose Kawamura
Based in Madrid, Pedro Shimose Kawamura is a Bolivian writer, poet, journalist, and professor of Japanese descent who is often considered one of Bolivia’s most famous poets. After working at the newspaper Presencia in his home country and teaching at the Higher University of San Andrés, he published several works of poetry and short stories including Quiero escribir, pero me sale espuma; Triludio en el exilio, and Sardonia, Poemas para un pueblo. He is also known for publishing the comprehensive guide of Latin American authors, titled Diccionario de autores iberoamericanos. Throughout his career, he has received critical acclaim, even winning the Casa de las Américas Prize for his writings on national identity, social liberation, and politics.
Patricia Park is a writer and author best known her for debut YA novel, Imposter Syndrome & Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim about an Asian Latinx teen trying to fit into her two worlds, one of wokeness, one of working-class people who equate being politically correct with being fake. Her debut adult novel Re Jane is a Korean American reimagining of the beloved classic Jane Eyre, which was named Editors’ Choice by The New York Times Book Review and one of the Best Books of 2015 by American Library Association. She is currently working on her next YA novel called What’s Eating Jackie Oh?, as well as an adult novel Chino about a Korean community in Buenos Aires.
Donna Barba Higuera
Donna Barba Higuera is a mixed-race American author known for her middle-grade and picture books for children. Touching on themes of language, culture, fitting in, conquering fears, and being racial, she has published multiple middle-grade and picture books including Lupe Wong Won’t Dance, The Last Cuentista, The Yellow Handkerchief, and El Cucuy Is Scared, Too! Her next books include the picture book It’s Navidad, El Cucuy! coming out this September and her next middle-grade novel Alebrijes, coming out this October.