May is Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, and while The Rumpus celebrates writing by APIA artists year-round, we think it’s especially important to share a list of work written exclusively by APIA writers this month. This year, we’ve asked our editors to share new and forthcoming books from the APIA community that they’re especially excited for—and we hope you’ll consider ordering and pre-ordering more than a few in support of these amazing authors!
If a title is marked as a Rumpus Book Club or Poetry Book Club upcoming selection, you can receive this book before its release date and participate in an exclusive conversation with its author—while also supporting the magazine. Just head to our store and subscribe today!
Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu
Willa Chen has never quite fit in. Growing up as a biracial Chinese American girl in New Jersey, Willa felt both hypervisible and unseen, too Asian to fit in at her mostly white school, and too white to speak to the few Asian kids around. After her parents’ early divorce, they both remarried and started new families, and Willa grew up feeling outside of their new lives, too. For years, Willa does her best to stifle her feelings of loneliness, drifting through high school and then college as she tries to quiet the unease inside her. But when she begins working for the Adriens―a wealthy white family in Tribeca―as a nanny for their daughter, Bijou, Willa is confronted with all of the things she never had. As she draws closer to the family and eventually moves in with them, Willa finds herself questioning who she is, and revisiting a childhood where she never felt fully at home.
Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So
Seamlessly transitioning between the absurd and the tenderhearted, balancing acerbic humor with sharp emotional depth, Afterparties offers an expansive portrait of the lives of Cambodian Americans. As the children of refugees carve out radical new paths for themselves in California, they shoulder the inherited weight of the Khmer Rouge genocide and grapple with the complexities of race, sexuality, friendship, and family. A high school badminton coach and failing grocery store owner tries to relive his glory days by beating a rising star teenage player. Two drunken brothers attend a wedding afterparty and hatch a plan to expose their shady uncle’s snubbing of the bride and groom. A queer love affair sparks between an older tech entrepreneur trying to launch a “safe space” app and a disillusioned young teacher obsessed with Moby-Dick. And in the sweeping final story, a nine-year-old child learns that his mother survived a racist school shooter.
We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration by Tamiko Nimura and Frank Abe, illustrated by Ross Ishikawa and Matt Sasaki
Three voices. Three acts of defiance. One mass injustice. The story of camp as you’ve never seen it before. Japanese Americans complied when evicted from their homes in World War II—but many refused to submit to imprisonment in American concentration camps without a fight. In this groundbreaking graphic novel, meet Jim Akutsu, the inspiration for John Okada’s No-No Boy, who refuses to be drafted from the camp at Minidoka when classified as a non-citizen, an enemy alien; Hiroshi Kashiwagi, who resists government pressure to sign a loyalty oath at Tule Lake, but yields to family pressure to renounce his US citizenship; and Mitsuye Endo, a reluctant recruit to a lawsuit contesting her imprisonment, who refuses a chance to leave the camp at Topaz so that her case could reach the US Supreme Court. Based upon painstaking research, We Hereby Refuse presents an original vision of America’s past with disturbing links to the American present.
Fire Is Not a Country by Cynthia Dewi Oka
In her third collection, Indonesian American poet Cynthia Dewi Oka dives into the implications of being parents, children, workers, and unwanted human beings under the savage reign of global capitalism and resurgent nativism. With a voice bound and wrestled apart by multiple histories, Fire Is Not a Country claims the spaces between here and there, then and now, us and not us. As she builds a lyric portrait of her own family, Oka interrogates how migration, economic exploitation, patriarchal violence, and a legacy of political repression shape the beauties and limitations of familial love and obligation. Woven throughout are speculative experiments that intervene in the popular apocalyptic narratives of our time with the wit of an unassimilable other. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping by Matthew Salesses
The traditional writing workshop was established with white male writers in mind; what we call craft is informed by their cultural values. In this bold and original examination of elements of writing—including plot, character, conflict, structure, and believability—and aspects of workshop—including the silenced writer and the imagined reader—Matthew Salesses asks questions to invigorate these familiar concepts. He upends Western notions of how a story must progress. How can we rethink craft, and the teaching of it, to better reach writers with diverse backgrounds? How can we invite diverse storytelling traditions into literary spaces? Drawing from examples including One Thousand and One Nights, Curious George, Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, and the Asian American classic No-No Boy, Salesses asks us to reimagine craft and the workshop. In the pages of exercises included here, teachers will find suggestions for building syllabi, grading, and introducing new methods to the classroom; students will find revision and editing guidance, as well as a new lens for reading their work. Salesses shows that we need to interrogate the lack of diversity at the core of published fiction: how we teach and write it. After all, as he reminds us, “When we write fiction, we write the world.”
Go Home, Ricky! by Gene Kwak
After seven years on the semi-pro wrestling circuit, Ricky Twohatchet, aka Richard Powell, needs one last match before he gets called up to the big leagues. Unlike some wrestlers who only play the stereotype, Ricky believes he comes by his persona honestly—he’s half white and half Native American—even if he’s never met his father. But the night of the match in Omaha, Nebraska, something askew in their intricate choreography sets him on a course for disaster. He finishes with a neck injury that leaves him in a restrictive brace and a video already going viral: him spewing profanities at his ex-partner, Johnny America. Injury aside, he’s out of the league. Without a routine or identity, Ricky spirals downward, finally setting off to learn about his father, and what he finds will explode everything he knows about who he is—as a man, a friend, a son, a partner, and a wrestler. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
The Parted Earth by Anjali Enjeti
The story begins in August 1947. Unrest plagues the streets of New Delhi leading up to the birth of the Muslim majority nation of Pakistan, and the Hindu majority nation of India. Sixteen-year-old Deepa navigates the changing politics of her home, finding solace in messages of intricate origami from her secret boyfriend Amir. Soon Amir flees with his family to Pakistan and a tragedy forces Deepa to leave the subcontinent forever. The story also begins sixty years later and half a world away, in Atlanta. While grieving both a pregnancy loss and the implosion of her marriage, Deepa’s granddaughter Shan begins the search for her estranged grandmother, a prickly woman who had little interest in knowing her. As she pieces together her family history shattered by the Partition, Shan discovers how little she actually knows about the women in her family and what they endured.
How to Raise a Feminist Son: Motherhood, Masculinity, and the Making of My Family by Sonora Jha
Beautifully written and deeply personal, this book follows the struggles and triumphs of one single, immigrant mother of color to raise an American feminist son. From teaching consent to counteracting problematic messages from the media, well-meaning family, and the culture at large, the author offers an empowering, imperfect feminism, brimming with honest insight and actionable advice. Informed by Jha’s work as a professor of journalism specializing in social justice movements and social media, as well as by conversations with psychologists, experts, other parents and boys—and through powerful stories from her own life—How to Raise a Feminist Son shows us all how to be better feminists and better teachers of the next generation of men.
Constellation Route by Matthew Olzmann
“Matthew Olzmann has long been a poet of exceptional wisdom and his latest collection is revelatory. Each poem reaches beyond the interior landscape to address the other in timely and intimate dialogues that bend, reframe, surprise, and ultimately embrace. Deeply perceptive, this series of epistolary poems are offerings to a new age in need of understanding where we are going, where we have been, and more importantly, what do we do for each other once we’ve reached our destination.” – Oliver de la Paz, author of The Boy in the Labyrinth A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
China Room by Sunjeev Sahota
Mehar, a young bride in rural 1929 Punjab, is trying to discover the identity of her new husband. Married to three brothers in a single ceremony, she and her now-sisters spend their days hard at work in the family’s “china room,” sequestered from contact with the men—except when their domineering mother-in-law, Mai, summons them to a darkened chamber at night. Curious and strong willed, Mehar tries to piece together what Mai doesn’t want her to know. From beneath her veil, she studies the sounds of the men’s voices, the calluses on their fingers as she serves them tea. Soon she glimpses something that seems to confirm which of the brothers is her husband, and a series of events is set in motion that will put more than one life at risk. As the early stirrings of the Indian independence movement rise around her, Mehar must weigh her own desires against the reality—and danger—of her situation. Spiraling around Mehar’s story is that of a young man who arrives at his uncle’s house in Punjab in the summer of 1999, hoping to shake an addiction that has held him in its grip for more than two years. Growing up in small-town England as the son of an immigrant shopkeeper, his experiences of racism, violence, and estrangement from the culture of his birth led him to seek a dangerous form of escape. As he rides out his withdrawal at his family’s ancestral home—an abandoned farmstead, its china room mysteriously locked and barred—he begins to knit himself back together, gathering strength for the journey home.
My Year Abroad by 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. The narrative alternates between Tiller’s outlandish, mind-boggling year with Pong and the strange, riveting, emotionally complex domestic life that follows it, as Tiller processes what happened to him abroad and what it means for his future. Rich with commentary on Western attitudes, Eastern stereotypes, capitalism, global trade, mental health, parenthood, mentorship, and more, My Year Abroad is also an exploration of the surprising effects of cultural immersion—on a young American in Asia, on a Chinese man in America, and on an unlikely couple hiding out in the suburbs.
Virga by Shin Yu Pai
VIRGA, Shin Yu Pai’s elegant eleventh collection of poems, is a crisp and intelligent response to recent and ancient history. In poems at once visionary and practical, VIRGA portrays Buddhist thought from lived experience, and demonstrates the everyday life of a poet who can see for herself in the “shafts of rain going sublime” the reality of being an Asian American woman in America today. This collection rediscovers who we are in an age when hate crimes and terrorization destroy the lives of Asians and all people of color. Experiencing these poems, we witness Shin Yu Pai rise in and through the wearying atmosphere of the “dominant caste,” as historian Isabel Wilkerson calls white culture, to hold herself, her child, her community, in that sublime state that, within the Zen mind, arises “before touching the ground.”
The Archer by Shruti Swamy
As a child, Vidya exists to serve her family, watch over her younger brother, and make sense of a motherless world. One day she catches sight of a class where the students are learning Kathak, a precise, dazzling form of dance that requires the utmost discipline and focus. Kathak quickly becomes the organizing principle of Vidya’s life, even as she leaves home for college, falls in love with her best friend, and battles demands on her time, her future, and her body. Can Vidya give herself over to her art and also be a wife in Bombay’s carefully delineated society? Can she shed the legacy of her own imperfect, unknowable mother? Must she, herself, also become a mother? Intensely lyrical and deeply sensual, with writing as rhythmically mesmerizing as Kathak itself, The Archer is about the transformative power of art and the possibilities that love can open when we’re ready.
Speak, Okinawa: A Memoir by Elizabeth Miki Brina
Elizabeth’s mother was working as a nightclub hostess on US-occupied Okinawa when she met the American soldier who would become her husband. The language barrier and power imbalance that defined their early relationship followed them to the predominantly white, upstate New York suburb where they moved to raise their only daughter. There, Elizabeth grew up with the trappings of a typical American childhood and adolescence. Yet even though she felt almost no connection to her mother’s distant home, she also felt out of place among her peers. Decades later, Elizabeth comes to recognize the shame and self-loathing that haunt both her and her mother, and attempts a form of reconciliation, not only to come to terms with the embattled dynamics of her family but also to reckon with the injustices that reverberate throughout the history of Okinawa and its people. Clear-eyed and profoundly humane, Speak, Okinawa is a startling accomplishment—a heartfelt exploration of identity, inheritance, forgiveness, and what it means to be an American.
Southbound: Essays on Identity, Inheritance, and Social Change by Anjali Enjeti
A move at age ten from a Detroit suburb to Chattanooga in 1984 thrusts Anjali Enjeti into what feels like a new world replete with Confederate flags, Bible verses, and whiteness. It is here that she learns how to get her bearings as a mixed-race brown girl in the Deep South and begins to understand how identity can inspire, inform, and shape a commitment to activism. Her own evolution is a bumpy one, and along the way Enjeti, racially targeted as a child, must wrestle with her own complicity in white supremacy and bigotry as an adult. The twenty essays of her debut collection, Southbound, tackle white feminism at a national feminist organization, the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the South, voter suppression, gun violence and the gun sense movement, the whitewashing of Southern literature, the 1982 racialized killing of Vincent Chin, social media’s role in political accountability, evangelical Christianity’s marriage to extremism, and the rise of nationalism worldwide.
Bestiary by K-Ming Chang
One evening, Mother tells Daughter a story about a tiger spirit who lived in a woman’s body. She was called Hu Gu Po, and she hungered to eat children, especially their toes. Soon afterwards, Daughter awakes with a tiger tail. And more mysterious events follow: Holes in the backyard spit up letters penned by her grandmother; a visiting aunt arrives with snakes in her belly; a brother tests the possibility of flight. All the while, Daughter is falling for Ben, a neighborhood girl with mysterious powers of her own. As the two young lovers translate the grandmother’s letters, Daughter begins to understand that each woman in her family embodies a myth—and that she will have to bring her family’s secrets to light in order to change their destiny.
The Joy and Terror are Both in the Swallowing by Christine Shan Shan Hou
Christine Shan Shan Hou’s The Joy and the Terror Are Both in the Swallowing offers a new mythology for our “smooth and violent era.” Together, these poems map a constellation of desire, addressing “the female pleasure gap,” the exhilaration of submission, and all the mundanity and peculiarities of planetary life. Hou asserts that “you cannot rely on algorithms to take you to your destination,” instead arduously pushing past habits, expectations, instincts, and other “nameless forces,” toward the singular spark of enlightenment. In these fable-like poems, readers traverse landscapes both foreign and familiar. The result is a peregrination towards an afterlife “opaque & without backstory,” where tame animals return to the wild and nature forgives us for our failures.
Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung
How do you grieve, if your family doesn’t talk about feelings? This is the question the unnamed protagonist of Ghost Forest considers after her father dies. One of the many Hong Kong “astronaut” fathers, he stays there to work, while the rest of the family immigrated to Canada before the 1997 Handover, when the British returned sovereignty over Hong Kong to China. As she revisits memories of her father through the years, she struggles with unresolved questions and misunderstandings. Turning to her mother and grandmother for answers, she discovers her own life refracted brightly in theirs. Buoyant, heartbreaking, and unexpectedly funny, Ghost Forest is a slim novel that envelops the reader in joy and sorrow. Fung writes with a poetic and haunting voice, layering detail and abstraction, weaving memory and oral history to paint a moving portrait of a Chinese Canadian astronaut family.
Northern Light: Power, Land, and the Memory of Water by Kazim Ali
The child of South Asian migrants, Kazim Ali was born in London, lived as a child in the cities and small towns of Manitoba, and made a life in the United States. As a man passing through disparate homes, he has never felt he belonged to a place. And yet, one day, the celebrated poet and essayist finds himself thinking of the boreal forests and lush waterways of Jenpeg, a community thrown up around the building of a hydroelectric dam on the Nelson River, where he once lived for several years as a child. Does the town still exist, he wonders? Is the dam still operational? When Ali goes searching, however, he finds not news of Jenpeg, but of the local Pimicikamak community. Facing environmental destruction and broken promises from the Canadian government, they have evicted Manitoba’s electric utility from the dam on Cross Lake. In a place where water is an integral part of social and cultural life, the community demands accountability for the harm that the utility has caused. Troubled, Ali returns north, looking to understand his place in this story and eager to listen. Over the course of a week, he participates in community life, speaks with Elders and community members, and learns about the politics of the dam from Chief Cathy Merrick. He drinks tea with activists, eats corned beef hash with the Chief, and learns about the history of the dam, built on land that was never ceded, and Jenpeg, a town that now exists mostly in his memory. In building relationships with his former neighbors, Ali explores questions of land and power―and in remembering a lost connection to this place, finally finds a home he might belong to.
How to Kidnap the Rich by Rahul Raina
Brilliant yet poor, Ramesh Kumar grew up working at his father’s tea stall in the Old City of Delhi. Now, he makes a lucrative living taking tests for the sons of India’s elite—a situation that becomes complicated when one of his clients, the sweet but hapless eighteen-year-old Rudi Saxena, places first in the All Indias, the national university entrance exams, thanks to him. Ramesh sees an opportunity—perhaps even an obligation—to cash in on Rudi’s newfound celebrity, not knowing that Rudi’s role on a game show will lead to unexpected love, followed by wild trouble when both young men are kidnapped. But Ramesh outwits the criminals who’ve abducted them, turning the tables and becoming a kidnapper himself. As he leads Rudi through a maze of crimes both large and small, their dizzying journey reveals an India in all its complexity, beauty, and squalor, moving from the bottom rungs to the circles inhabited by the ultra-rich and everywhere in between.
There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura
A young woman walks into an employment agency and requests a job that has the following traits: it is close to her home, and it requires no reading, no writing, and ideally, very little thinking. Her first gig—watching the hidden-camera feed of an author suspected of storing contraband goods—turns out to be inconvenient. (When can she go to the bathroom?) Her next gives way to the supernatural: announcing advertisements for shops that mysteriously disappear. As she moves from job to job—writing trivia for rice cracker packages; punching entry tickets to a purportedly haunted public park—it becomes increasingly apparent that she’s not searching for the easiest job at all, but something altogether more meaningful. And when she finally discovers an alternative to the daily grind, it comes with a price.
The Last Thing: New & Selected Poems by Patrick Rosal
For nearly two decades, Patrick Rosal has been one of the most beloved and admired poets in the United States, bringing together the most dynamic aspects of literary and performance poetry. The son of Filipino immigrants, he has made a life of bridging worlds—literary, ethnic, national, spiritual—through his poetry, and has been recognized with some of the highest honors and countless devoted readers. The Last Thing: New & Selected Poems gives us a substantial playlist of new work—hard-hitting and big-hearted—along with ample selections from his first four books. Bursting with music, infused with love and awe, this is essential reading from a poet of vigor and conscience.
DoveLion: A Fairy Tale for Our Times by Eileen R. Tabios
In this inventive myth that straddles the binary of traditional narrative and experimental fiction, poet Elena Theeland overcomes the trauma of her past to raise a family who would overthrow the dictatorship in Pacifica. She is aided by artist Ernst Blazer whose father, a CIA spy, instigated the murder of Elena’s father, a rebel leader. As her family frees Pacifica from the dictator’s dynastic regime, Elena discovers herself a member of an indigenous tribe once thought to be erased through genocide. The discovery reveals her life to epitomize the birth of a modern-day Baybay in the tradition of Pacifica’s indigenous spiritual and community leaders. Unfolding through lyrical and spare vignettes, DoveLion presents the effects of colonialism and empire, while incorporating meditations on poetry, art, orphanhood, and indigenous values. Glimpses are provided of spy warfare, internet-based rebellions, and the insidious effects of beauty pageants. Relief is provided through Elena’s love of Wikipedia and the world’s most simple but delicious recipe for adobo. Ultimately, DoveLion and Elena’s story bespeaks the unavoidable nature of humanity: a prevailing interconnection that can cancel past, present, and future into a singular Now.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band—and meeting the man who would become her husband—her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.
Letters to a Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes
The Brown Girl of these poems is fed up with being shushed, with being constantly told how foreign and unattractive and unwanted she is. She’s flipping tables and throwing chairs. She’s raising her voice. She’s keeping a sharp focus on the violences committed against her every day, and she’s writing through the depths of her “otherness” to find beauty and even grace amidst her rage. Simultaneously looking into the mirror and out into the world, Reyes exposes the sensitive nerve-endings of life under patriarchy as a visible immigrant woman of color as she reaches towards her unflinching center.
Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir by Kat Chow
Kat Chow has always been unusually fixated on death. She worried constantly about her parents dying—especially her mother. A vivacious and mischievous woman, Kat’s mother made a morbid joke that would haunt her for years to come: when she died, she’d like to be stuffed and displayed in Kat’s future apartment in order to always watch over her. After her mother dies unexpectedly from cancer, Kat, her sisters, and their father are plunged into a debilitating, lonely grief. With a distinct voice that is wry and heartfelt, Kat weaves together a story of the fallout of grief that follows her extended family as they emigrate from China and Hong Kong to Cuba and America. Seeing Ghosts asks what it means to reclaim and tell your family’s story: Is writing an exorcism or is it its own form of preservation? The result is an extraordinary new contribution to the literature of the American family, and a provocative and transformative meditation on who we become facing loss.
Last Days by Tamiko Beyer
Last Days is a practice of radical imagination for our current political and environmental crises. It excavates the conditions that have brought us here—white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, corporate power, capitalism—and calls ancestors, birds, organizers, and lovers to conjure a new world. It explores how to transform our future to be more beautiful, more just, and more compassionate than we can imagine.
Land of Big Numbers: Stories by Te-Ping Chen
Gripping and compassionate, Land of Big Numbers depicts the diverse and legion Chinese people, their history, their government, and how all of that has tumbled—messily, violently, but still beautifully—into the present. 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. With acute social insight, Chen layers years of experience reporting on the ground in China with incantatory prose in this taut, surprising debut.
How Not to Be Afraid of Everything by Jane Wong
This new collection explores the vulnerable ways we articulate and reckon with fear: fear of intergenerational trauma and the silent, hidden histories of families. What does it mean to grow up in a take-out restaurant, surrounded by food, just a generation after the Great Leap Forward famine in 1958-62? Full of elegy and resilient joy, these poems speak across generations of survival.
A Fish Growing Lungs by Alysia Li Ying Sawchyn
At age eighteen Alysia Sawchyn was diagnosed with bipolar I. Seven years later she learned she had been misdiagnosed. A Fish Growing Lungs takes the form of linked essays that reflect on Sawchyn’s diagnosis and its unraveling, the process of withdrawal and recovery, and the search for identity as she emerges from a difficult past into a cautiously hopeful present. Sawchyn captures the precariousness of life under the watchful eye of doctors, friends, and family, in which saying or doing the wrong thing could lead to involuntary confinement. This scrutiny is compounded by the stigmas of mental illness and the societal expectations placed on the bodies of women and women of color. And yet, amid juggling medications, doubting her diagnosis, and struggling with addiction and cutting, there is also joy, friendship, love, and Slayer concerts. Drawing from life experience, literature, music, medical journals, films, and recovery communities, each essay illuminates the richness of self-knowledge that comes from the act of writing itself.
Made in China: A Memoir of Love and Labor by Anna Qu
As a teen, Anna Qu is sent by her mother to work in her family’s garment factory in Queens. At home, she is treated as a maid and suffers punishment for doing her homework at night. Her mother wants to teach her a lesson: she is Chinese, not American, and such is their tough path in their new country. But instead of acquiescing, Qu alerts the Office of Children and Family Services, an act with consequences that impact the rest of her life. Nearly twenty years later, estranged from her mother and working at a Manhattan start-up, Qu requests her OCFS report. When it arrives, key details are wrong. Faced with this false narrative, and on the brink of losing her job as the once-shiny start-up collapses, Qu looks once more at her life’s truths, from abandonment to an abusive family to seeking dignity and meaning in work. Traveling from Wenzhou to Xi’an to New York, Made in China is a fierce memoir unafraid to ask thorny questions about trauma and survival in immigrant families, the meaning of work, and the costs of immigration.
Yellow Rain by Mai Der Vang
In this staggering work of documentary, poetry, and collage, Mai Der Vang reopens a wrongdoing that deserves a new reckoning. As the United States abandoned them at the end of the Vietnam War, many Hmong refugees recounted stories of a mysterious substance that fell from planes during their escape from Laos starting in the mid-1970s. This substance, known as “yellow rain,” caused severe illnesses and thousands of deaths. These reports prompted an investigation into allegations that a chemical biological weapon had been used against the Hmong in breach of international treaties. A Cold War scandal erupted, wrapped in partisan debate around chemical arms development versus control. And then, to the world’s astonishment, American scientists argued that yellow rain was the feces of honeybees defecating en masse―still held as the widely accepted explanation. The truth of what happened to the Hmong, to those who experienced and suffered yellow rain, has been ignored and discredited. Integrating archival research and declassified documents, Yellow Rain calls out the erasure of a history, the silencing of a people who at the time lacked the capacity and resources to defend and represent themselves. In poems that sing and lament, that contend and question, Vang restores a vital narrative in danger of being lost, and brilliantly explores what it means to have access to the truth and how marginalized groups are often forbidden that access.
Heart of Fire: An Immigrant Daughter’s Story by Mazie K. Hirono
Mazie Hirono is one of the most fiercely outspoken Democrats in Congress, but her journey to the US Senate was far from likely. Raised on a rice farm in rural Japan, she was seven years old when her mother, Laura, left her abusive husband and sailed with her two elder children to Hawaii, crossing the Pacific in steerage in search of a better life. Though the girl then known as “Keiko” did not speak or read English when she entered first grade, she would go on to serve as a state representative and as Hawaii’s lieutenant governor before winning election to Congress in 2006. In this deeply personal memoir, Hirono traces her remarkable life from her earliest days in Hawaii, when the family lived in a single room in a Honolulu boarding house while her mother worked two jobs to keep them afloat, to her emergence as a highly effective legislator whose determination to help the most vulnerable was grounded in her own experiences of economic insecurity, lack of healthcare access, and family separation. Finally, it chronicles Hirono’s recent transformation from dogged yet soft-spoken public servant into the frank and fiery advocate we know her as today.
Something New Under the Sun by Alexandra Kleeman
East Coast novelist Patrick Hamlin has come to Hollywood with simple goals in mind: overseeing the production of a film adaptation of one of his books, preventing starlet Cassidy Carter’s disruptive behavior from derailing said production, and turning this last-ditch effort at career resuscitation into the sort of success that will dazzle his wife and daughter back home. But California is not as he imagined: Drought, wildfire, and corporate corruption are omnipresent, and the company behind a mysterious new brand of synthetic water seems to be at the root of it all. Patrick partners with Cassidy—after having been her reluctant chauffeur for weeks—and the two of them investigate the sun-scorched city’s darker crevices, where they discover that catastrophe resembles order until the last possible second.
Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief by Victoria Chang
For poet Victoria Chang, memory “isn’t something that blooms, but something that bleeds internally.” It is willed, summoned, and dragged to the surface. The remembrances in this collection of letters are founded in the fragments of stories her mother shared reluctantly, and the silences of her father, who first would not and then could not share more. They are whittled and sculpted from an archive of family relics: a marriage license, a letter, a visa petition, a photograph. And, just as often, they are built on the questions that can no longer be answered. Dear Memory is not a transcription but a process of simultaneously shaping and being shaped, knowing that when a writer dips their pen into history, what emerges is poetry. In carefully crafted missives on trauma and loss, on being American and Chinese, Victoria Chang shows how grief can ignite a longing to know yourself. In letters to family, past teachers, and fellow poets, as the imagination, Dear Memory offers a model for what it looks like to find ourselves in our histories.
Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear by 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 is 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? A recent Rumpus Book Club selection!
Antiman: A Hybrid Memoir by Rajiv Mohabir
Growing up a Guyanese Indian immigrant in Central Florida, Rajiv Mohabir is fascinated by his family’s abandoned Hindu history and the legacy of his ancestors, who were indentured laborers on British sugarcane plantations. In Toronto he sits at the feet of Aji, his grandmother, listening to her stories and songs in her Caribbean Bhojpuri. By now Aji’s eleven children have immigrated to North America and busied themselves with ascension, Christianity, and the erasure of their heritage and Caribbean accents. But Rajiv wants to know more: where did he come from, and why does he feel so out of place? Embarking on a journey of discovery, he lives for a year in Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges, perfecting his Hindi and Bhojpuri and tracing the lineage of his Aji’s music. Returning to Florida, the cognitive dissonance of confederate flags, Islamophobia, and his father’s disapproval sends him to New York, where finds community among like-minded brown activists, work as an ESL teacher, and intoxication in the queer nightlife scene. But even in the South Asian paradise of Jackson Heights, Rajiv feels like an outsider: “Coolie” rather than Desi. And then the final hammer of estrangement falls when his cousin outs him as an “antiman”―a Caribbean slur for men who love men―and his father and aunts disown him. But Aji has taught Rajiv resilience. Emerging from the chrysalis of his ancestral poetics into a new life, he embraces his identity as a poet and reclaims his status as an antiman―forging a new way of being entirely his own.
Hao: Stories by Ye Chun
By turns reflective and visceral, the stories in Hao examine the ways in which women can be silenced as they grapple with sexism and racism, and how they find their own language to define their experience. In “Gold Mountain,” a young mother hides above a ransacked store during the San Francisco anti-Chinese riot of 1877. In “A Drawer,” an illiterate mother invents a language through drawing. And in “Stars,” a graduate student loses her ability to speak after a stroke. Together, these twelve stories create “an unsettling, hypnotic collection spanning centuries, in which language and children act simultaneously as tethers and casting lines, the reasons and the tools for moving forward after trauma. You’ll come away from this beautiful book changed” (Julia Fine, author of The Upstairs House).
The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void by Jackie Wang
The poems in The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void read like dispatches from the dream world, with Jackie Wang acting as our trusted comrade reporting across time and space. By sharing her personal index of dreams with its scenes of solidarity and resilience, interpersonal conflict and outlaw jouissance, Wang embodies historical trauma and communal memory. Here, the all-too-familiar interplay between crisis and resistance becomes first distorted, then clarified and refreshed. With a light touch and invigorating sense of humor, Wang illustrates the social dimension of dreams and their ability to inform and reshape the dreamer’s waking world with renewed energy and insight.
Pop Song: Adventures in Art & Intimacy by Larissa Pham
Like a song that feels written for only you, Larissa Pham’s debut work of nonfiction captures the imagination and refuses to let go. Pop Song is a book about distances, near and far. The miles we travel to get away from ourselves, or those who hurt us, and the impossible gaps that can exist between two people sharing a bed. Plumbing the well of culture for clues and patterns about love and loss—from Agnes Martin’s abstract paintings to James Turrell’s transcendent light works, and Anne Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet to Frank Ocean’s Blonde—Pham writes of her youthful attempts to find meaning in travel, sex, drugs, and art before sensing that she might need to turn her gaze upon herself. There is heartache in these pages, but Pham’s electric ways of seeing create a perfectly fractured portrait of modern intimacy that is triumphant in its vulnerability and restlessness. Pop Song is a book about all the routes by which we might escape our own needs before finally finding a way home.
Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed
Working as a consultant for Kamala Harris’s attorney general campaign in Obama-era San Francisco, Seema has constructed a successful life for herself in the West, despite still struggling with her father’s long-ago decision to exile her from the family after she came out as lesbian. Now, nine months pregnant and estranged from the Black father of her unborn son, Seema seeks solace in the company of those she once thought lost to her: her ailing mother, Nafeesa, traveling alone to California from Chennai, and her devoutly religious sister, Tahera, a doctor living in Texas with her husband and children. But instead of a joyful reconciliation anticipating the birth of a child, the events of this fateful week unearth years of betrayal, misunderstanding, and complicated layers of love—a tapestry of emotions as riveting and disparate as the era itself. Told from the point of view of Seema’s child at the moment of his birth, and infused with the poetry of Wordsworth and Keats and verses from the Quran, Radiant Fugitives is a moving tale of a family and a country grappling with acceptance, forgiveness, and enduring love.
Arrow by Sumita Chakraborty
“This powerful and endlessly mysterious collection of poems is a book of fables, of spells, of revised narratives, and of realigned songs, brightly lifted above our bodies by music that is as unpredictable as it is marvelous. The lyricism is everywhere apparent as Sumita Chakraborty addresses us, our bodies and their stories, our planet, and our sense of time itself. How does she do it? Mad Ireland hurt him into poetry, W. H. Auden wrote about Yeats, and as the hurt enters Chakraborty’s language, we see that in speech violated, sounds and meanings—and even the oldest of human mysteries, like ‘the etymology of love’—are redefined. All one can do is repeat: this is an endlessly compelling book. Bravo.” – Ilya Kaminsky (author of Deaf Republic) A recent Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection!
The Groom Will Keep His Name: And Other Vows I’ve Made About Race, Resistance, and Romance by Matt Ortile
When Matt Ortile moved from Manila to Las Vegas, the locals couldn’t pronounce his name. Harassed as a kid for his brown skin, accent, and femininity, he believed he could belong in America by marrying a white man and shedding his Filipino identity. This was the first myth he told himself. The Groom Will Keep His Name explores the various tales Ortile spun about what it means to be a Vassar Girl, an American Boy, and a Filipino immigrant in New York looking to build a home. As we meet and mate, we tell stories about ourselves, revealing not just who we are, but who we want to be. Ortile recounts the relationships and whateverships that pushed him to confront his notions of sex, power, and the model minority myth. Whether swiping on Grindr, analyzing DMs, or cruising steam rooms, Ortile brings us on his journey toward radical self-love with intelligence, wit, and his heart on his sleeve.
Names for Light: A Family History by Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint
Names for Light traverses time and memory to weigh three generations of a family’s history against a painful inheritance of postcolonial violence and racism. In spare, lyric paragraphs framed by white space, Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint explores home, belonging, and identity by revisiting the cities in which her parents and grandparents lived. As she makes inquiries into their stories, she intertwines oral narratives with the official and mythic histories of Myanmar. But while her family’s stories move into the present, her own story―that of a writer seeking to understand who she is―moves into the past, until both converge at the end of the book. Born in Myanmar and raised in Bangkok and San Jose, Myint finds that she does not have typical memories of arriving in the United States; instead, she is haunted by what she cannot remember. By the silences lingering around what is spoken. By a chain of deaths in her family line, especially that of her older brother as a child. For Myint, absence is felt as strongly as presence. And, as she comes to understand, naming those absences, finding words for the unsaid, means discovering how those who have come before have shaped her life.
Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier
Eighteen years old, pregnant, and working as a pizza delivery girl in suburban Los Angeles, our charmingly dysfunctional heroine is deeply lost and in complete denial about it all. She’s grieving the death of her father (whom she has more in common with than she’d like to admit), avoiding her supportive mom and loving boyfriend, and flagrantly ignoring her future. Her world is further upended when she becomes obsessed with Jenny, a stay-at-home mother new to the neighborhood, who comes to depend on weekly deliveries of pickled-covered pizzas for her son’s happiness. As one woman looks toward motherhood and the other toward middle age, the relationship between the two begins to blur in strange, complicated, and ultimately heartbreaking ways.
A House Is a Body: Stories by Shruti Swamy
Dreams collide with reality, modernity with antiquity, and myth with identity in the twelve arresting stories of A House Is a Body. In “Earthly Pleasures,” a young painter living alone in San Francisco begins a secret romance with one of India’s biggest celebrities, and desire and ego are laid bare. In “A Simple Composition,” a husband’s professional crisis leads to his wife’s discovery of a dark, ecstatic joy. And in the title story, an exhausted mother watches, hypnotized by fear, as a California wildfire approaches her home. Immersive and assured, provocative and probing, these are stories written with the edge and precision of a knife blade. Set in the United States and India, they reveal small but intense moments of beauty, pain, and power that contain the world.
That Was Now, This Is Then by Vijay Seshadri
No one blends ironic intelligence, emotional frankness, radical self-awareness, and complex humor the way Vijay Seshadri does. That Was Now, This Is Then takes on the planar paradoxes of time and space, destabilizing highly tuned lyrics and elegies with dizzying turns in poems of unrequitable longing, of longing for longing, of longing to be found, of grief. In these poems, Seshadri’s speaker becomes the subject, the reader becomes the writer, and the multiplying refracted narratives yield an “anguish so pure it almost / feels like joy.” A recent Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection!
House of Sticks by Ly Tran
Ly Tran is just a toddler in 1993 when she and her family immigrate from a small town along the Mekong river in Vietnam to a two-bedroom railroad apartment in Queens. Ly’s father, a former lieutenant in the South Vietnamese army, spent nearly a decade as a POW, and their resettlement is made possible through a humanitarian program run by the US government. Soon after they arrive, Ly joins her parents and three older brothers sewing ties and cummerbunds piece-meal on their living room floor to make ends meet. As they navigate this new landscape, Ly finds herself torn between two worlds. She knows she must honor her parents’ Buddhist faith and contribute to the family livelihood, working long hours at home and eventually as a manicurist alongside her mother at a nail salon in Brownsville, Brooklyn, that her parents take over. But at school, Ly feels the mounting pressure to blend in. A growing inability to see the blackboard presents new challenges, especially when her father forbids her from getting glasses, calling her diagnosis of poor vision a government conspiracy. His frightening temper and paranoia leave an indelible mark on Ly’s sense of self. Who is she outside of everything her family expects of her?
Inconvenient Daughter by Lauren J. Sharkey
Rowan Kelly knows she’s lucky. After all, if she hadn’t been adopted by Marie and Joseph, she could have spent her days in a rice paddy, or a windowless warehouse assembling iPhones—they make iPhones in Korea, right? Either way, slowly dying of boredom on Long Island is surely better than the alternative. According to Marie and Joseph, being adopted means Rowan is “special,” but when she’s sent to kindergarten at an all-white Catholic girls’ school, she realizes that “special” means “different,” and not in a good way. It occurs to her that she’ll never know if she has her mother’s eyes, or if she’d be in America at all, had her adoptive parents been able to conceive. She sets out to prove that she can be someone’s first choice—that she isn’t just a consolation prize. After running away from home—and her parents’ rules—and ending up beaten, barefoot, and topless on a Pennsylvania street courtesy of Bad Boy Number One, Rowan attaches herself to Never-Going-to-Commit. When that doesn’t work out, she fully abandons self-respect and begins browsing the Craigslist personals. But as Rowan dives deeper and deeper into the world of casual encounters with strangers, she discovers what she’s really looking for. A recent Rumpus Book Club selection!
The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam
Meet Asha Ray. Brilliant coder and possessor of a Pi tattoo, Asha is poised to revolutionize artificial intelligence when she is reunited with her high school crush, Cyrus Jones. Cyrus inspires Asha to write a new algorithm. Before she knows it, she’s abandoned her PhD program, they’ve exchanged vows, and gone to work at an exclusive tech incubator called Utopia. The platform creates a sensation, with millions of users seeking personalized rituals every day. Will Cyrus and Asha’s marriage survive the pressures of sudden fame, or will she become overshadowed by the man everyone is calling the new messiah? In this gripping, blistering novel, award-winning author Tahmima Anam takes on faith and the future with a gimlet eye and a deft touch. Come for the radical vision of human connection, stay for the wickedly funny feminist look at startup culture and modern partnership. Can technology—with all its limits and possibilities—disrupt love?
Inheritors by Asako Serizawa
Written from myriad perspectives and in a wide range of styles, each of these interconnected stories is designed to speak to the others, contesting assumptions and illuminating the complicated ways we experience, interpret, and pass on our personal and shared histories. A retired doctor, for example, is forced to confront the horrific moral consequences of his wartime actions. An elderly woman subjects herself to an interview, gradually revealing a fifty-year-old murder and its shattering aftermath. And in the last days of a doomed war, a prodigal son who enlisted against his parents’ wishes survives the American invasion of his island outpost, only to be asked for a sacrifice more daunting than any he imagined. Serizawa’s characters walk the line between the devastating realities of war and the banal needs of everyday life as they struggle to reconcile their experiences with the changing world.
This Is One Way to Dance: Essays by Sejal Shah
In the linked essays that make up her debut collection, Sejal Shah explores culture, language, family, and place. Throughout, Shah reflects on what it means to make oneself visible and legible through writing in a country that struggles with race and maps her identity as an American, South Asian American, writer of color, and feminist. Shah invites us to consider writing as a somatic practice, a composition of digressions, repetitions―movement as transformation, incantation. Her essays―some narrative, others lyrical and poetic―explore how we are all marked by culture, gender, and race; by the limits of our bodies, by our losses and regrets, by who and what we love, by our ambivalences, and by trauma and silence. Language fractures in its attempt to be spoken. Shah asks and attempts to answer the question: How do you move in such a way that loss does not limit you?