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Advancing Writers as Leaders: An AAPI Heritage Month Reading List

DC Rally for Collective Safety; Protect Asian/AAPI Communities; McPherson Square, Washington, DC
DC Rally for Collective Safety; Protect Asian/AAPI Communities; McPherson Square, Washington, DC. Photo credit: Miki Jourdan

This year’s theme for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service. Beacon Press views their writers as leaders, charting the way to a better future with uncovered histories, cultural commentary, and more. Which is why, as AAPI Heritage Month wraps up, we’re putting the spotlight on the work of our Asian American writers. The following list of recommended reads—by no means exhaustive—honors their work and contributions to our society and American history at large, especially during a time when anti-Asian violence has been on the rise. These are titles to be savored all through the month and beyond.



Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex
Angela Chen

“A book that makes room for questions even as it illuminates, Ace should be viewed as a landmark work on culture and sexuality.”
—Nicole Chung, author of All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir


Acts of Faith 2020

Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation
Eboo Patel

“Eboo Patel has crafted an elegantly written and brilliantly argued manifesto-a call to arms, really-about the importance not of interfaith dialogue but of interfaith cooperation. Acts of Faith is more than a book; it is an awakening of the mind. It should be required reading for all Americans.”
—Reza Aslan, author of No God but God


Demystifying Shariah

Demystifying Shariah: What It Is, How It Works, and Why It’s Not Taking Over Our Country
Sumbul Ali-Karamali

“With clarity and wit, [Ali-Karamali] describes shariah’s origins, central texts, methodologies, and schools of thought, exploring something that was never a code of law, but rather a system of interpretation designed to evolve and be flexible . . . This is a remarkably nuanced and thought-provoking history.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review



For Want of Water: and other poems
Sasha Pimentel

“In language of fierce compassion and tenderness, Pimentel humanizes the dehumanized. And oh, how we need such poems.”
—Martín Espada, author of Vivas to Those Who Have Failed


How to Be a Muslim

How to Be a Muslim: An American Story
Haroon Moghul

“Both authentically American and authentically Muslim, Moghul navigates the perilous fault lines of each dysfunctional identity while gracefully juggling the hot-potato topics of race, religion, nerd pop culture, and awkward first dates. . . . By showing us his warts, pain, flaws, insecurities, demons, and hypocrisies, Moghul ultimately reveals the joy, wonder, and purpose of living and being in the messy, conflicted playground that is modern life.”
—Wajahat Ali, author of The Domestic Crusaders


Prison Baby

Prison Baby: A Memoir
Deborah Jiang Stein

“Deborah Jiang Stein has beaten the cycle of intergenerational incarceration, despite the odds against her—multiracial, born in a federal prison to a heroin-addicted mother. Her story offers hope to the possibility of personal transformation for anyone.”
—Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking and Pulitzer Prize nominee


Prisons Make Us Safer

“Prisons Make Us Safer”: And 20 Other Myths About Mass Incarceration
Victoria Law

“Law has offered us a very important tool. Her careful and accessible analysis, her feminist approach, and her methodical demystification of widely held views about incarceration enable precisely the kind of understanding we need at this moment.”
—Angela Y. Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of California, Santa Cruz


Radicalizing Her

Radicalizing Her: Why Women Choose Violence
Nimmi Gowrinathan

“This is the kind of book that will unravel your understanding of the world. Reading Gowrinathan is a rare treat: when she narrates a story, she is as gripping and lyrical as Arundhati Roy—when she presents her philosophical takeaways on violence, she is precise and incisive, the Hannah Arendt of our times.”
—Meena Kandasamy, author of When I Hit You


Rescuing Jesus

Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians Are Reclaiming Evangelicalism
Deborah Jian Lee

“Lee’s reporting indicts modern American evangelicalism’s failure to be good news for those who aren’t conservative, straight, white men. Weaving in her own story, she movingly chronicles her subjects’ search for a spiritual home, and what emerges is a profoundly hopeful, deeply Christian narrative about redemption and resurrection.”
—Jeff Chu, author of Does Jesus Really Love Me?


Soul Repair

Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury After War
Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini

“An eloquent, deeply human reminder that war is not just what takes place on a distant battlefield. It is something that casts a shadow over the lives of those who took part for decades afterwards. The stories told by Lettini and Brock are deepened by what the authors reveal about the way the tragic thread of war’s aftermath has run through their own families.”
—Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars


Thousand Pieces of Gold

Thousand Pieces of Gold
Ruthanne Lum McCunn

“From Shanghai to San Francisco, Lalu Nathoy’s courageous journey is an important contribution to the history of pioneer women.”
Ms. Magazine


The Upstairs Wife

The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan
Rafia Zakaria

“From a window in the upstairs of her family’s house, Rafia Zakaria parts the curtain, looks down on Pakistan, and writes its history. The Upstairs Wife roams between the lives of a family and the life of a nation—and finds itself in the heart of a society that is much maligned and little understood.”
—Vijay Prashad, author of The Poorer Nations


DC Rally for Collective Safety; Protect Asian/AAPI Communities; McPherson Square, Washington, DC