Happy April, friends! I had a lot of things going on during March, both at work and in my personal life so it was a relatively slower reading month but nonetheless, there were some books I loved. Here’s everything I read last month:
THE LOVE MATCH by Priyanka Taslim – 4 stars
This YA romance is everything you want: a refreshingly unique premise with a Bangladeshi girl who is graduating high school soon and working at a restaurant to support her family; and a plot that remains exciting and dramatic, with a love triangle AND fake dating trope. I personally did not know a lot about Bangladeshi culture prior to reading The Love Match so I loved learning more about it too. Priyanka Teslim has a new book coming out early next year (From Mumbai, with Love) and I’m already looking forward to it!
YEAF OF THE TIGER: AN ACTIVIST’S LIFE by Alice Wong – 4.5 stars
A memoir by the editor of Disability Visibility, which was one of my favorite books from 2021, Year of the Tiger was exceptional. Year of the Tiger is eclectic both in its content and format, almost an anthology itself: some of the writing is from Alice Wong’s previous works, transcripts from her podcast episodes, letters to her future self, and more. There are a lot of visual elements such as illustrations and crossword puzzle weaved throughout the book that really make reading this book an experience (there is an audiobook but I’m not sure how they translate those graphics). Alice Wong is funny and honest and as she shares her story, she gives voice to many disabled people. I loved everything about this one! But if you’re not a huge fan of “creative” memoirs, this might not be your favorite book.
DYSCALCULIA: A LOVE STORY OF EPIC MISCALCULATION by Camonghne Felix – 4 stars
This was one of the most challenging and personal memoirs I’ve ever read. In her beautiful and poetic writing, Camonghne Felix shares about her pain and trauma. Because of how unconventional and poetic the writing is, I would suggest reading a physical copy over listening to it on audio. I personally also took a lot of breaks throughout the book, both from the intensity of the book (please look up the TWs beforehand!) and because there were parts I had to read multiple times to fully grasp what was happening.
OLGA DIES DREAMING by Xochitl Gonzalez – 3 stars
Olga is a daughter of a radical Puerto Rican activist who abandoned Olga and her brother Pedro “Prieto” in favor of devoting herself to the militant political cause for liberation, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother in Brooklyn. Olga is now a luxury wedding planner and her brother a congressman representing their gentrifying neighborhood.
I thought I was going to love Olga Dies Dreaming but I just didn’t. There were a lot of interesting and important ideas in the book but they did not work together cohesively. I feel like I understand what Gonzalez was trying to achieve but the execution fell short of its ambition. The plot was confusing and felt forced, especially in the second half/last quarter of the book. I probably would’ve enjoyed it more if the book was longer and all the elements were expanded upon.
THEY CALLED US ENEMY by George Takei – 4.5 stars
In this graphic novel memoir, George Takei recounts his childhood years spent in the Japanese imprisonment camps during WWII. While I was aware of the unfair and humiliating treatment Japanese people received during the time period and the existence of these “internment” camps, I knew very little else. Reading about this history in 2023, it’s painfully obvious that Japanese Americans were subject to racism and misdirected anger/fear. What makes this hurt greater is the fact that so little of this history is taught in the US schools; most Americans do not have a full understanding of what the Japanese people in America had to endure. I appreciate George Takei sharing his story and the story of many Japanese Americans in They Called Us Enemy–a short but important read.
IMPOSTER SYNDROME AND OTHER CONFESSIONS OF ALEJANDRA KIM by Patricia Park – 3.5 stars
Influenced by my sister Jiyoung, I have been reading more YA recently, especially so on audio! I found Imposter Syndrome and Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim on Libby while browsing newly added audiobooks at my library. Alejandra has an unusual upbringing as an immigrant of Korean-Argentine immigrants. Her Asian + Latinx identity is something she is aware of and thinks about every day. She’s also grieving–the loss of her father; end of childhood as she goes through senior year, etc. Imposter Syndrome and Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim is a coming-of-age story that is relatable and unique. My only complaint was that it was a tad bit juvenile even for YA. Alejandra is a high school senior but this reads more like a middle grade YA? Though it might be that I forget how high school students actually sound like!
BUNNY by Mona Awad – 4 stars
I finally got around to reading Bunny after borrowing from a friend perhaps two years ago. Set at an elite university in New England, Samantha, a scholarship student in the highly coveted MFA program finds herself as very much the “other.” The rest of her fiction writing cohort is a clique of rich, self-obsessed, seemingly-perfect girls who call each other “Bunny.” During the second year of the program, she is invited by the Bunnies to join them for an evening, which changes LITERALLY EVERYTHING. I’ve heard a lot of people describe this book as weird, and I concur. But I loved how weird and creepy it was?! I was in a bit of a reading slump most of March and Bunny was a saving grace—bizarre and addictive.
THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS by Cristina Henriquez – 4 stars
“I will tell them all the ways I love this country.”
Following two immigrant families, The Book of Unknown Americans does exactly what it promises to do–tells the unknown narratives of immigrants. The Riveras have recently left Mexico to come to America for better opportunities for their daughter Maribel, who suffered a traumatic brain injury from an accident. They befriend their neighbors, including the Toros who fled Panama to raise their two boys in a safer environment. The Book of Unknown Americans is one of those books that do not have the most eventful or dramatic plot but moves you with all of its small stories that make up the whole book.
BITING THE HAND: GROWING UP ASIAN IN BLACK AND WHITE AMERICA by Julia Lee – 4.5 stars
Biting the Hand is a collection of essays by a Korean American woman, reminiscent of Minor Feelings which I read back in 2020 and is one of my all time favorite books ever. As I did with Minor Feelings, I kept taking pictures of Biting the Hand because were so many parts I related to. Because I’m a 1.5 generation immigrant, having moved to the States while in middle school, I distinctly remember the black-and-white environment I suddenly found my self in, feeling invisible suddenly. I’ve always hated the idea of white being the “default” and everything else being exotic.
Biting the Hand also enlightened me in new ways: the shocking statistic of Korean Americans being most likely to kill themselves than any other ethnicity; the inferiority complex endowed on Asian American women by the racist and white supremacist society and the pressure it puts on us to prove our self-worth in unsustainable ways. I know Biting the Hand is a writing I will revisit over and over again. Thanks to Henry Holt Books for the gifted reviewer copy of the book!