“Only by glaring into the depths of ones own reflection can we find our true selves. It is here where the mirrored voices of our souls speak and can be heard.”
My name is Amanda Liu, a rookie editor for the New Plains Review, and this is a list of Asian-American narratives that changed my life. I have a lot of feelings for these stories, but I want to stress that this is by no means the list of Asian-American literature. I am not an expert in Asian-American experiences, just because I am Asian-American. I am not creating a catalog of a singular experience because there is no such thing as a singular experience—especially since every one of these stories are about people from different countries in Asia. I do, however, have the confidence in saying that I have been changed deeply by these stories and the ability to finally see myself in the characters I read about.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
This is almost the quintessential Asian American coming of age story, and it took me until my junior year of college to read it. This was published in 2007, and I really could have used this when I was in 7th grade, hating everything that reminded me I was different. The form meets the function perfectly in this book, and this story intertwines three different narratives all dealing with the issue of finding your place when you are labeled as a minority.
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
The Sun is Also a Star is about Natasha, a Jamaican immigrant on the verge of being deported, and Daniel, a first generation Korean-American struggling to find the motivation to apply for college. This book is interesting because of how much Nicola Yoon, a Jamaican author living in New York City, was able to tell the story of Daniel as beautifully and genuinely as Natasha’s. The part of the story that really blew me away was the narrative style that Yoon chose to tell this story in. The perspectives switch between the main characters, the narrator, and the seemingly unimportant side characters to create one of the most fulfilling reading experiences I’ve ever had.
“The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu
I didn’t necessarily save the best for last. Rather, I saved the most heart-breaking and earth shattering for last. I’m afraid that readers will be put off of the other stories because this one makes people ugly cry. However, this is actually where it all started for me. This short story struck me so deeply that I finally reconciled my previous distaste for my culture, and it led me to seek other narratives that I have so desperately needed. I really don’t want to spoil or over-hype anything about this story, but for me, Ken Liu was able to put a story behind everything I’ve ever felt about the “magic” of my parent’s stories, my life in the United States, and the fear I have of not being able to balance them both.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever read/are planning to read any of these titles, or if there’s a title that you think I should read. If these books cannot be mirrors for you, perhaps they can be windows and doorways. In the end, I want to invite as many people as possible into the stories that helped me grow and love myself the most.
Thanks for reading!