New Releases by AAPI Authors

Every year during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I try to target one AAPI book that I can sit down and read. While I work at the Texas Book Festival, I actually rarely have time to sit down and read and my usual go-to books are cookbooks and graphic novels. So May feels like a special month to me, where I can say I read this book and I feel more connected to my Asian culture. Last year my book of choice was Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Hong Park, which I would highly recommend. It takes quite a bit of research for me to pick a book for May, so I thought I would share my shortlist as well as the book that I eventually chose for this month’s required reading.

Land of Big Numbers: Stories by Te-Ping Chen

Land of Big Numbers: Stories by Te-Ping Chen

This is a collection of short stories about people in China that weave realism and magical realism and explores how people deal with the struggles of making a name for themselves and climbing the social ladder. The subjects of each story are unique and fascinating, from the differences of how twins choose different paths in life to a group of people who are awaiting official permission to leave a subway platform. The latter was the story that drew me in initially, as a big fan of Samuel Beckett, my senior project in college being a theatrical production of Endgame. Buy the book here.

Klara and the Sun


Klara and the Sun
by Kazuo Ishiguro

Written by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Kazuo Ishiguro, this book is a story of Klara, an artificial intelligence friend that is waiting for the day that someone chooses them from the store. Klara observes the world outside from inside the store and tries to explore the meaning of what is love. I was interested in this book because of the similarities to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Buy the book here.

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Lila has arrived home after a terrible breakup and she is tasked to help her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant. She has to deal with all of her aunties trying to set her up with new beaus and their criticism of her love life. When one particularly harsh restaurant critic, who is also her ex-boyfriend, drops dead after a moment of confrontation, her life turns from a story of romantic comedy tropes to a murder mystery. When the police are suspecting Lila as the murderer, she decides to start searching for answers on her own. I was drawn to this book for the murder mystery elements with some Asian flair, with Lila’s auntie network helping her figure out the case. It has serious Knives Out vibes that I love to see unfold. Buy the book.

Bestiary by K Ming Chang

Bestiary by K Ming Chang

When Mother tells Daughter about a tiger spirit that lives in a woman’s body, she shrugs it off as an old folk tale and goes to bed, only to find that she has grown a tiger tail overnight. This is the start of several events that are unusual and odd, like her aunt arrives with a snake in her belly and a hole in the backyard the spits up old letters from her grandmother. When Daughter meets Ben, a neighborhood girl with her own powers, they start to read the old letters to uncover why things are happening. This was a 2020 fall book that drew my attention because of how much I love Asian folklore and allegories. Buy the book.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

This book ended up being my pick because it felt like something I could relate to, which is crying in H Mart, a Korean supermarket (which has a store here in Austin). I cry in H Mart for different reasons than this author, but Michelle Zauner’s memoir really hits home with being an outsider in America and in her “mother” country of Korea. This memoir explores grief and coming into her own identity while trying to bridge two cultures, which resonated with me. I’ll be honest that Chapter 4 had me bawling my eyes out as I am still dealing with the grief of my father’s passing, but it is a worthwhile book that deserves its best-seller status. Buy the book.

 

Welcome New TBF Board Members

The Texas Book Festival is thrilled to welcome five new members to our Board of Directors. Join us in welcoming Dalton YoungAndrea ValdezAnna HargroveGrant Loveless, and Carlos Y. Benavides IV. Our Board of Directors play a crucial role in advancing the TBF’s strategic vision and mission, overseeing our financial resources, and ensuring the sustainability and vitality of our programs.

We are proud to have exceptionally hands-on board members. From lending a hand in our Reading Rock Stars classrooms to moderating sessions at the Festival to reviewing grant applications and much more, our Board is a big part of what makes the Texas Book Festival the successful, far-reaching organization that it is. These new members each bring an impressive array of talents and rich experience to our board, and we look forward to working with them in the coming years.

Children’s Reads for AAPI Heritage Month

Cover photo: Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho, illustrated Dung Ho

Growing up in Singapore, I didn’t really have very many books where I saw someone like me. I never really felt like I was part of either my American side or my Singaporean side. It didn’t help that in 6th-grade science class that I was used as the example for gene differences and anomalies, like how my eyes were slanted, my hairline had a widow’s peak, how I had one hitchhiker’s thumb and one regular thumb, and how my second toe on my left leg is longer than my big toe and on the right leg it is not, etc. Quite literally I became the class “specimen” somehow, and I felt so uncomfortable with who I was after that. It felt like my body in some sense was as complex as my personal heritage and the question, “Where are you from?”.

I had no books that showed that I was normal, just different and that is okay. I think the only book that even came close was this book about Singaporean kids, but that book mostly just made me wear swimming goggles while chopping onions (according to that book, all Singaporean children did this). Here are a bunch of newly released kid’s books that celebrate being a proud child of Asian American heritage. I truly wish I had these growing up.

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho is about embracing your features as a part of how you are. When a girl notices that other girls have different eye shapes than hers, she finds beauty in her own eyes “that crinkle like crescent moons”.

Click here for more information about Joanna Ho

Click here to buy the book

Toasty by Sarah Hwang
Toasty by Sarah Hwang

This book is about how you don’t need to change to fulfill your dreams. Toasty is a piece of toast that has a pair of arms and legs and dreams of being a dog. While dogs sleep in a dog house, Toasty sleeps in a toaster. While trying to run with the dogs in a park, Toasty becomes in danger when the dogs try to eat him. But soon Toasty meets a little girl who has always wanted a dog but is allergic to dogs, so Toasty becomes the perfect pet for her!

Click here for more information about Sarah Hwang

Click here to buy the book

Amira's Picture Day by Reem Faruqi
Amira’s Picture Day by Reem Faruqi, illustrated by Fahmida Azim

Ramadan has come to an end, and Amira can’t wait to stay home from school to celebrate Eid. There’s just one hiccup: it’s also school picture day. How will Amira figure out how to be at two places at once?

Click here for more information about Reem Faruqi

Click here to buy the book

Laxmi's Mooch
Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Anand, illustrated by Nabi H. Ali

Laxmi has never really paid attention to the hair on her upper lip until some kids at recess start to bully her saying she looks like an animal. Laxmi starts to notice more body hair and starts to become anxious. When Laxmi’s parents start to teach her that body hair is normal and happens to everybody, regardless of age or gender, she starts to accept her body hair and gains self-esteem.

Click here for more information about Shelly Anand

Click here to buy the book

The Most Beautiful Thing
The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang

Weaving the story of Kalia and her grandmother, spanning across time from Laos to immigrating to the USA. When Kalia decides that she wants braces to fix her smile, her grandmother, who only has 1 tooth, shows her that true beauty is found between people who love each other the most.

Click here for more information about Kao Kalia Yang

Click here to buy the book

Graphic Novel Reading for AAPI Heritage Month

This year for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I wanted to take the opportunity to suggest a few graphic novels created by Asian American cartoonists, authors, and illustrators. Last year, Nicole Wielga suggested some fantastic graphic novels written and/or illustrated by Asian American authors and artists, check it out!

This list is by no means exhaustive, and I haven’t included many genre or YA books, so please share your favorite comics or graphic novels penned by AAPI authors and artists on our Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Without further ado, here are a few of my favorites to kick off the conversation…

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

A student recommended this book to me about 15 years ago, and it reintroduced me to the joy and power of storytelling in graphic novels. American Born Chinese challenges and satirizes Asian stereotypes, as three unique characters converge. Yang, a former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, also wrote Dragon Hoops, Boxers and Saints, and Animal Crackers, and many more! Check out Gene Luen Yang’s website.

 


Good Talk by Mira Jacob

I know that I’ve already recommended Good Talk, a funny, honest, and scathing graphic novel by Mira Jacob, but you cannot miss this. This book was inspired by conversations Jacob had with her son about racism, and delves into the art of the conversation that reveals so much about relationships, beliefs, and love. I also love her novel, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing. More of Mira Jacob’s work and insight can be found on her website.

In recent days, Jacob has been drawing awareness to the healthcare and humanity crisis in India, and not only suggesting ways for us regular people to help but also holding accountable companies who have profited off Indian culture. Check out her Instagram for more information: https://www.instagram.com/goodtalkthanks/.


Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine

Adrian Tomine is amazingly prolific. You may have seen his New Yorker covers, Brooklyn Book Festival posters, Optic Nerve comics, and many books and collections. So if I just had to choose one, it was Shortcomings. It is funny, insightful, and quiet, and filled with the precise beautiful art that Tomine is known for. Check out Adrian Tomine’s website to look at the scope of his artwork.

 


This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

While this may technically be Young Adult, it is such an authentic story of adolescence, that is should strike notes of nostalgia for many readers. The coming-of-age story follows two friends as their annual summer vacation is a turning point in their lives, as they grapple with family, mental health, sexuality, and tragedy. This One Summer is illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and written by her cousin, Mariko Tamaki. More of Jillian Tamaki’s work can be found on https://www.jilliantamaki.com/ and check out Mariko Tamaki’s Twitter to check out her latest work and collaborations: https://twitter.com/marikotamaki.

 


Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale by Belle Yang

In this memoir, Belle Yang finds solace and healing through her father’s stories of old China. The same stories that she dismissed as a child now give her strength in the wake of an abusive relationship.

Yang also has several children’s books, filled with her beautiful art: http://belleyang.com/childrens-books/.

Roosevelt Weeks

Roosevelt Weeks is the Director of the Austin Public Library where he leads a dynamic team and library system. His responsibility includes 20 branch locations, the History Center and a Central Library, listed by Time Magazine as one of the World’s Greatest Places in 2018. Weeks joined the Austin Public Library team in 2017 and previously worked at the Houston Public Library, Pasadena Public Library, Accenture and Aetna.

Weeks is passionate about improving technology, literacy and education, both inside and outside of the library. He also works directly with community leaders to agree upon shared values, vision, and measures of success. This furthers the combined goal of ensuring a future workforce capable of the complex critical thinking skills necessary to succeed in an ever-changing competitive environment.

In addition, Weeks is a member and serves on several committees within the American Library Association (ALA), Public Library Association (PLA), Texas Library Association (TLA), Urban Library Council (ULC), National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA), University of Texas Libraries System, as well as currently serving on the Executive Boards for both TLA and ULC.  Weeks received his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Texas Southern University and his Master of Library Science degree from the University of North Texas. In his spare time, Weeks enjoys time with family, serving in his church and helping the community.

Teresa Oppedal

Teresa Oppedal enjoyed a twenty-year career as a law librarian and legal information services manager at Morrison & Foerster, a large international law firm in San Francisco. Since retiring and moving to Austin in 2000, she has volunteered for many local non-profits including serving as Board President of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation, on the advisory board of the Austin Museum of Art, on the grants committee of the Austin Community Foundation’s Women’s Fund, and as Advisory Council Chair of Literacy First. Most recently she built a small business, having developed a bug bite deterring mesh jumpsuit. Her primary interests remain promoting literacy and the free dissemination of information to all.

Carlos Y. Benavides IV

Carlos Y. Benavides IV is a Texas attorney working in the city of Austin at Ikard Law PC, where he represents clients in matters related to fiduciary law. Carlos received a BA in English from Marymount University and a JD from St. Mary’s University School of Law. He began his legal career in Hidalgo County, Texas as a state prosecutor for the first Domestic Violence Specialty Court in South Texas to rehabilitate domestic violence offenders, reduce potential recidivism and improve upon victim safety. Carlos has served on the non-profit Texas Council on Family Violence’s Prosecutor Leadership Core and went on to help establish and serve as the first labor trafficking specialty state prosecutor in the State of Texas. In 2019, Texas Governor Greg Abbott appointed Carlos to serve a six-year term on the Specialty Courts Advisory Council as a gubernatorial appointee. As a member of the advisory council, Carlos evaluates applications from specialty courts across the state for grant funding from the Governor’s Office and makes recommendations to the office’s criminal justice division regarding best practices for these courts.

Dalton Young

Dalton Young is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Rank & Style (rankandstyle.com), a lifestyle media site that features data-driven “Top 10” lists promoting best-of products in women’s fashion, beauty, men’s clothing, skincare, kids and home categories. She joined Rank & Style from the legal industry where she previously practiced as an attorney and was the president of a technical and data-driven legal support company. Dalton is passionate about contributing to the Austin community and spearheaded the creation of Hartford Park, a new pocket park in central Austin, through a unique public-private partnership with the City of Austin. In 2020, she co-chaired The Texas Book Festival Virtual Gala and is a former member of the Elizabeth Ann Seton Board. Dalton received her undergraduate degree in English literature from Washington and Lee University and her law degree from The University of Texas at Austin. She lives in Austin with her husband, Victor, and their sons Philip and Elliot.

Andrea Valdez

Andrea Valdez is The 19th’s editor in chief. Previously she served as editor in chief of the Texas Observer, editor of WIRED.com, and editor of Texas Monthly’s website. A native Houstonian, she wrote the book “How to be a Texan: The Manual.” She is also a board member of the Student Press Law Center.