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Student Services Librarian Nancy Wallace (left) and students Aneka Torgrimson (center) and Meleseini Lotoaniu (right) with their AAPI book recommendations, at the Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Academic Student Success.

Book Recs for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

A collaboration with the Strategic Asian and Pacific Islander Retention Initiative

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and I’m delighted to share book recommendations with two UC Davis undergraduates, fourth-year English major Meleseini Lotoaniu, and second-year Asian American Studies major Aneka Torgrimson. Our selections include fiction and nonfiction books that focus on different aspects of the Asian American and Pacific Islander experience. 

Special thanks to Associate Director Christopher Pangelina of the Strategic Asian and Pacific Islander Retention Initiative for his support and assistance with this project.

— Nancy Wallace, Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences Librarian, Student Services

Once Were Pacific: Maori Connections to Oceania, by Alice Te Punga Somerville, 2012

From Mele: This book is about the relationship between the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori people, and other Pacific Islander immigrants who reside in New Zealand. It’s a critical literature study of Indigenous and Pacific Islander studies. There are not many fiction works on Pacific Islanders and there are certainly not many non-fiction works, so this book is special because it covers the Pacific Islander diaspora in New Zealand from a critical theory and studies lens. This book is one of the first of its kind to study Pacific Islander diaspora and migration.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford, 2009

From Aneka: I chose this novel because I love historical fiction. As an Asian American Studies major, I wanted to share a historical perspective that educates the reader. This novel focuses on two Asian American characters during World War II, offering an emotional glimpse into their experiences. Additionally, for Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, it’s crucial to recognize the diversity within the Asian community. It is important to understand that Asian identity is not solely based on physical characteristics. Jamie Ford, a bi-racial Asian American author, exemplifies the multifaceted nature of Asian identities and how people connect with and express their racial and cultural backgrounds.

Chains of Babylon: The Rise of Asian America, by Daniel J. Maeda, 2009

From Nancy: Both of my recommendations are focused on Asian American history told in very different ways. Chains of Babylon is an academic history of the Asian American movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The author examines the formation of a multiethnic Asian American identity, inspired by and in solidarity with other racial justice movements of the era. I chose this book because of my interest in the political history of the 1960’s, and in particular, the ways in which various activist movements forged alliances to affect change, lessons that are important for social justice organizations today.

They Called Us Enemy, by George Takei with Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker, 2020

From Nancy: This graphic memoir shows the power of relating history through art and storytelling. Takei and his collaborators relate the story of one family’s experience as they’re forced from their home in Los Angeles and imprisoned in camps during the Second World War. The narrative shifts perspectives as Takei looks back through a child’s while acknowledging the struggles of his parents to keep their family safe. The story is searing and personal, especially as Takei describes the aftermath of their imprisonment, the efforts to obtain justice and reparations, and the development of his own political consciousness.




AAPI Heritage Month Book recommendations diversity