As part of Oakland Public Library's celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, this week's blog post features new fiction by AAPI authors. This is just a sampling of the many books published by Asian American and Pacific Islander authors in the past few years.
Days of distraction : a novel / Alexandra Chang
The plan is to leave. As for how, when, to where, and even why—she doesn’t know yet. So begins a journey for the twenty-four-year-old narrator of Days of Distraction. As a staff writer at a prestigious tech publication, she reports on the achievements of smug Silicon Valley billionaires and start-up bros while her own request for a raise gets bumped from manager to manager. And when her longtime boyfriend, J, decides to move to a quiet upstate New York town for grad school, she sees an excuse to cut and run. Moving is supposed to be a grand gesture of her commitment to J and a way to reshape her sense of self. But in the process, she finds herself facing misgivings about her role in an interracial relationship. Captivated by the stories of her ancestors and other Asian Americans in history, she must confront a question at the core of her identity: What does it mean to exist in a society that does not notice or understand you?
Land of big numbers / Te-Ping Chen
Cutting between clear-eyed realism and tongue-in-cheek magical realism, Chen’s stories coalesce into a portrait of a people striving for openings where mobility is limited. Twins take radically different paths: one becomes a professional gamer, the other a political activist. A woman moves to the city to work at a government call center and is followed by her violent ex-boyfriend. A man is swept into the high-risk, high-reward temptations of China’s volatile stock exchange. And a group of people sit, trapped for no reason, on a subway platform for months, waiting for official permission to leave.
No good very bad Asian / a novel by Lelund Cheuk
Meet Sirius Lee, a fictive famous Chinese American comedian. He's a no good, very bad Asian. He's not good at math (or any other subject, really). He has no interest in finding a 'good Chinese girlfriend.' And he refuses to put any effort into becoming the CEO/Lawyer/Doctor his parents so desperately want him to be. All he wants to do is making people laugh. No Good Very Bad Asian follows Sirius from his poor upbringing in the immigrant enclaves of Los Angeles to the loftiest heights of stardom as he struggles with substance abuse and persistent racism despite his fame. Ultimately, when he becomes a father himself, he must come to terms with who he is, where he came from, and the legacy he'll leave behind.
Block seventeen : a novel / Kimiko Guthrie
Akiko “Jane” Thompson, a half-Japanese, half-Caucasian woman in her midthirties, is attempting to forge a quietly happy life in the Bay Area with her fiancé, Shiro. But after a bizarre car accident, things begin to unravel. An intruder ransacks their apartment but takes nothing, leaving behind only cryptic traces of his or her presence. Shiro, obsessed with government surveillance, risks their security in a plot to expose the misdeeds of his employer, the TSA. Jane’s mother has seemingly disappeared, her existence only apparent online. Jane wants to ignore these worrisome disturbances until a cry from the past robs her of all peace, forcing her to uncover a long-buried family trauma. As Jane searches for her mother, she confronts her family’s fraught history in America. She learns how the incarceration of Japanese Americans fractured her family, and how persecution and fear can drive a person to commit desperate acts.
Last Tang standing / Lauren Ho
At thirty-three, Andrea Tang is living the dream: She has a successful career as a lawyer, a posh condo, and a clutch of fun-loving friends who are always in the know about Singapore's hottest clubs. All she has to do is make law partner, and her life will be perfect. And if she's about to become the lone unmarried member of her generation in the Tang clan--a disappointment her meddling Chinese-Malaysian family won't let her forget--well, she doesn't need a man to complete her. Yet when a chance encounter with charming, wealthy entrepreneur Eric Deng offers her a glimpse of an exciting, limitless future, Andrea decides to give Mr. Right-for-her-family a chance. Too bad Suresh Aditparan, her office rival and the last man her family would approve of, keeps throwing a wrench in her plans. Now Andrea can't help but wonder: In the endless tug-of-war between pleasing others and pleasing herself, is there room for everyone to win?
Deceit and other possibilities : stories / Vanessa Hua
In her powerful collection, first published in 2016 and now featuring new stories, Vanessa Hua gives voice to immigrant families navigating a shifting America. Tied to their ancestral and adopted homelands in ways unimaginable in generations past, these memorable characters span both worlds but belong to none, illustrating the conflict between self and society, tradition and change.
Sex and vanity : a novel / Kevin Kwan
On her very first morning on the jewel-like island of Capri, Lucie Churchill sets eyes on George Zao and she instantly can't stand him. She can't stand it when he gallantly offers to trade hotel rooms with her so that she can have a view of the Tyrrhenian Sea, she can't stand that he knows more about Casa Malaparte than she does, and she really can't stand it when he kisses her in the darkness of the ancient ruins of a Roman villa and they are caught by her snobbish, disapproving cousin Charlotte. "Your mother is Chinese so it's no surprise you'd be attracted to someone like him," Charlotte teases. The daughter of an American-born Chinese mother and a blue-blooded New York father, Lucie has always sublimated the Asian side of herself in favor of the white side, and she adamantly denies having feelings for George. But several years later, when George unexpectedly appears in East Hampton, where Lucie is weekending with her new fiancé, Lucie finds herself drawn to George again. Soon, Lucie is spinning a web of deceit that involves her family, her fiancé, the co-op board of her Fifth Avenue apartment building, and ultimately herself as she tries mightily to deny George entry into her world--and her heart.
My year abroad / Chang-rae Lee
Tiller is an average American college student with a good heart but minimal aspirations. Pong Lou is a larger-than-life, wildly creative Chinese American entrepreneur who sees something intriguing in Tiller beyond his bored exterior and takes him under his wing. When Pong brings him along on a boisterous trip across Asia, Tiller is catapulted from ordinary young man to talented protégé, and pulled into a series of ever more extreme and eye-opening experiences that transform his view of the world, of Pong, and of himself.
Neotenica / Joon Oluchi Lee
Set in the Bay Area of the early 2000s, Neotenica is a novel of encounters: casual sex, arranged-marriage dates, cops, rowdy teenagers, lawyers, a Sapphic flirtation, a rival, a child, and two important dogs. At the center of it are Young Ae, a Korean-born ballet dancer turned PhD student, and her husband, a Korean-American male who inhabits an interior femininity, neither transgender nor homosexual, but a strong, visceral femininity nonetheless.
Disappear doppelgäger disappear : a novel / Matthew Salesses
Matt Kim is always tired. He keeps passing out. His cat is dead. His wife and daughter have left him. He’s estranged from his adoptive family. People bump into him on the street as if he isn’t there. He's pretty sure he’s disappearing. His girlfriend, Yumi, is less convinced. But then she runs into someone who looks exactly like her, and her doppelgänger turns out to have dated someone who looks exactly like Matt. Except the other Matt was superior in every way. He was clever, successful, generous, and beloved―until one day he suddenly and completely vanished without warning. How can Matt Kim protect his existence when a better version of him wasn’t able to? Or is his worse life a reason for his survival?
Dial A for Aunties : a novel / Jesse Q. Sutanto
When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is inadvertently shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working at an island resort on the California coastline. It's the biggest job yet for the family wedding business and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie's perfect buttercream flowers. But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy's great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?
THE SECRET TALKER : A NOVEL / Yan Geling ; translated from the Chinese by Jeremy Tiang
Hongmei is the perfect Chinese wife: beautiful, diligent, passive. Glen is the perfect American husband: intelligent, caring, well-off. From the outside, Hongmei and Glen's life in the San Francisco Bay Area seems perfect. But at home, their marriage is falling apart. Post-its left on the fridge are their primary form of communication. When Hongmei receives a beguiling email from a secret admirer, naturally she’s intrigued. But what starts out as harmless flirting with an internet stranger quickly turns into an all-consuming emotional affair. As Hongmei spills more and more about her dark past as a military intelligence officer-in-training in China, she falls deeper and deeper into a tense cat-and-mouse game.
All descriptions are provided by the publishers.