My (Mostly New) Recommended Ownvoices Books for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!!

You might say… Asian books are a part of my brand.

I don’t think it’s THAT obvious though, it’s really not like I talk about them and boost them and shove them in your face all the time. Maybe only on Tuesdays or some other odd day of the week.

So in 100% true un-me fashion, today I’m giving you a few (mostly new) ownvoices Asian book recommendations that you should read for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!! And because you all can see that I don’t talk about Asian books often, you know that this is a very big deal!!!!

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GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE

Girls of Paper and FireYou all saw this coming, didn’t you?

This is one of my favorite books ever, and if you’ve read it, you know exactly why. It’s so well-written, achingly gorgeous, a gripping story, and features my favorite sapphic Asian f/f relationship!!

This whole book is just a voice—for Asians, for queer girls, for sexual abuse/assault survivors. And it’s so so powerful and poignant and meaningful and… god, even almost a year after I first read this I have no words how to describe how amazing this book is and how much it means to me.

⇒ read my review

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STARFISH

StarfishOkay, yes, I know, I recommended this in last year’s post as well, but this book means so so much to me as an Asian person that I think I’ll just recommend it forever. Even though I’m not specifically a biracial Japanese and white person, Bowman does so well in capturing my feelings about being Asian and how negatively it can affect my view of myself, and with absolutely beautiful writing.

This is an especially great book to read during May, since May is both Asian heritage and mental health awareness month, and the main character is Asian (biracial Japanese and white) and has anxiety!

⇒ read my review

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DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY

Darius the Great Is Not OkayJust like Starfish, this book is the PERFECT book to read for May, because it features an Asian boy with a mental illness! It also has a ton of other amazing rep (fat, gay, biracial) and part of the book takes place in Iran!!

Even though I’m not Persian like he is, both Darius’ thoughts about his Iranian identity and his depression were so relatable to me. As a disapora kid who can’t quite grasp the language of their culture, it’s hard to feel as Asian as everyone else, and Khorram wrote this so well. Plus, the writing style is somehow simple yet beautiful, and the themes of family and friends (and food!) make me so soft!!

⇒ read my review

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PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT

Picture Us in the LightI read this very recently but I am just absolutely in love with it. There was just something so compelling about this story, and it was emotionally touching and moving. I don’t know how to actually describe it or my feelings other than: please read it it’s so underhyped and underpromoted and deserves all the love??

While it was hinted at in the blurb, I didn’t expect things to take the turn that they did, but I’d argue that it made the book even better. I just think that there are so many Good moments in this book—from Danny’s art to the issues of immigration to learning about his past… GOD IT’S SO GOOD.

Danny is Chinese and two other characters are as well, and he is also gay!!

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SUMMER BIRD BLUE

Summer Bird BlueHere’s both an Asian and Pasifika book! The author and MC, plus a few other major characters, are Japanese, white, and Hawaiian (and by Hawaiian I mean indigenous Hawaiian). And if you’re looking for even MORE intersectional rep, Rumi also is questioning throughout the book, and at the end she figures she would identify as asexual and on the aromantic spectrum!

This was just an absolutely beautiful portrayal of… everything? Grief, identity, family—it was just written so achingly, gorgeously, heartbreakingly well that it made me cry. Akemi truly writes some of the best and most beautiful contemporaries out there.

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THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY

The Weight of Our SkySoutheast Asian book of my heart, that simultaneously broke my heart!!! This story takes place in Malaysia in 1969 during the Kuala Lumpar race riots, and you know that ANY historical fiction book I love is a good book.

This story is so inspiring and powerful and moving, and highlights an important voice that doesn’t get to see much representation. And seeing Melati survive so much when we’re both Asian and mentally ill was so, so inspiring.

(And yes, this is yet another great book for May because of the double Asian + mental illness rep! Melati is Malaysian and has anxiety and OCD.)

⇒ read my review

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A VERY LARGE EXPANSE OF SEA

A Very Large Expanse of Sea(Okay, yes, I JUST read this off my TBR, but it still counts, doesn’t it??)

I first expected to really like this. Then, a friend told me that it was heavily romance-focused, and my expectations decreased a lot. And flash forward to me actually reading the book, enjoying the romance and even… tearing up over it??

And it’s not a gay romance. Who have I become.

Anyways!! I definitely liked this book a lot better than I expected. I won’t say the romance was flawless, but the rest of the book was sure near it. This was SUCH an important story about being a hijabi Muslim POC (specifically Iranian) in today’s world, especially after 9/11. The things that happened to Shirin had me shocked, but it serves as a necessary reminder that these are the things people go through every single day, and sometimes even worse.


shall we chat

do YOU have any asian book recs? what are you favorite asian books? and are asian books Really a part of my brand??

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40 thoughts on “My (Mostly New) Recommended Ownvoices Books for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!!

  1. oh my goodness yes!!! girls was truly such an amazing book and i’m sure had such a meaningful impact on everyone who read it. and darius the great is not okay is also SUCH a beautiful story that had me tearing up… loved the recs may ❤

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  2. omg I think I’m the only person who really didn’t like Girls of Paper and Fire lmao, I guess I can see the appeal but its just not my cup of tea, I do really want to read Starfish and A Very Large Expanse of Sea though so I’ll have to bump them up my tbr ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. im screaming that you liked a very large expanse of sea??? i really didn’t think you’d like it and NOW IM ACTUALLY SMILING BECAUSE YOU DID!!i think i gave it 4 stars because the writing & romance wasn’t my fave but the fact that you liked it and it’s a tahereh mafi book? gives me such hope for life.

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    1. I was very surprised too!! like literally after u told me about how much romance there was, I was like oh no I am Not going to love this… but I did!! and tbh I think Tahereh’s writing is nice but…. I can’t deal with the Shatter Me characters oops (but I will TRY one day)

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  4. Wonderful list, May!! I actually hadn’t heard of Picture Us in the Light before, but it sounds AMAZING! The cover for it is also stunning, I must say! I’ve been hesitant to read A Very Large Expanse of Sea, because I wasn’t a fan of Shatter Me at all. Hmm, I might have to re-add it to my tbr though. We shall see! Haha.

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  5. These are some brilliant recommendations May. ❤ I've only actually read one of these books myself – Darius the Great is Not Okay – but that was such an important read for me because so many of Darius's thoughts on his depression were thoughts I could relate to, and I loved reading that representation (it kind of goes to show how important it is to have representation in books doesn't it). 🙂
    I have a lot of the others on my TBR list still. I need to get around to Starfish soon, I've heard nothing but great things about it, and I really enjoy Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me series so I need to read her other release soon as well.
    Great post, and again great recommendations. 🙂 ❤

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    1. Thank you so much, Beth! And yes yes yes, I’m so happy you loved Darius and were able to connect with it and the portrayal of Darius’ representation. I definitely could relate to him too and it moved me so much I cried! ❤

      Oh, I hope you get around to reading AVLEOS soo, Beth! I think you'll definitely like it, especially since you enjoyed Shatter Me. And Starfish will always be one of my favorite books so I hope you love it if you're able to read it!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s all right, and yeah that’s why it’s so important to have this kind of representation right?! 🙂 ❤️
        Based on what everyone has been saying about it I’m sure Starfish will end up being one of my favourites. The glowing reviews I’ve read can’t be wrong! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I’m not biracial so I can’t saw how accurate the biracial rep was, but I’m so glad you thought it wa samazing! And yes!! If you loved Starfish, you’ll definitely love Summer Bird Blue as well ❤

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  6. Ahhh what a wonderful list, May! I can’t WAIT to read Picture Us In The Light, it has been on my TBR for a little while now and I hope I can get to it soon, your love for it makes me so, so, so impatient to read it ❤ AND DARIUS I NEED THIS BOOK SO BADLY too ahhhh. Sorry. I'm screaming haha. I love this list! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, I hope you’re able to get around to Picture Us in the Light soon, Marie! I can definitely picture you (no pun intended) falling in love with it — I say this a lot but it’s definitely the type of contemporary you’ll love 😉 And the same thing goes for Darius!!! So excited to hear your thoughts on both of them ❤

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  7. “You might say Asian books are part of my brand” *me nodding along* yes i’m listening and with you so far…

    I absolutely LOVED all the books you’ve mentioned here ❤ I love all the Akemi book recommendations here (which I honestly need to read ASAP) and I loved the focus as well on mental illness representation. I've been needing to read Darius since the beginning of the year too!!

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    1. AH TIFFANY you’re so cute ❤

      And omg you absolutely have to read Akemi's books! They definitely made me feel seen in so many ways, especially Starfish ❤ And I didn't even plan to have all the mental illness rep but I love how it happened anyways! Intersectional rep ALWAYS 😎

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  8. I loved Starfish for the same reasons; I understood how the character felt like no other. I haven’t heard much about Girls Of Paper And Fire, but I will not because it has LGBTQ and Asian representation. Great post!

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    1. Starfish was so so meaningful to me, Akemi just captured all the right thoughts I had about my Asian identity! And I hope I’m interpreting your words right haha but I hope you love GOPAF if you get around to reading it — I adore it with my whole heart!! ❤

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  9. I read and loved both of Akemi Dawn Bowman’s books so I was v. happy to see them both on here! Girls of Paper and Fire has been on my TBR for ages so I *need* to get on it! I hadn’t heard of Picture Us In The Light, but you’ve made me really curious about it now, so I’ll look it up on Goodreads! Fab recs May! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yesss I’m in absolutely love with anything and everything Akemi writes at this point!! And aahh yes I think I’ve seen your Instagram stories about GOPAF before haha — but no worries at all, you can always get around to it at your own pace ☺ And I hope you find Picture Us in the Light interesting enough to consider picking up! ❤

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