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Six Asian-American Memoirs to Read for Women's History Month

The memoirs — all by Asian-American women — touch on migration, displacement, language, and identity.
For National Reading Month and Women's History Month, here are six memoirs by Asian-American women.
For National Reading Month and Women's History Month, here are six memoirs by Asian-American women.

For the month of March, which is both National Reading Month and Women’s History Month, NBC Asian America is celebrating by reading recently published memoirs written by Asian-American women. Check out some of the titles below.

"Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember" by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee

On New Year’s Eve 2006, Christine Hyung-Oak Lee woke up with a headache, and by the next day, she was unable to form a coherent sentence. Lee soon learned that — at the age of 33 — she had had a stroke.

For months without short-term memory, Lee wrote down what she remembered in a notebook. This memoir goes back to that collection and examines the connections between memory and identity as she reconstructed herself as an Asian-American woman.

"In Other Words" by Jhumpa Lahiri, translated by Ann Goldstein

In college, Jhumpa Lahiri fell in love with the Italian language.

As a Pulitzer Prize winning author, National Humanities Medal honoree, and author of “The Namesake,” Lahiri later spent a year in Italy with her family, immersing herself in the language. This book is her memoir of that time and was written in Italian and translated into English by Ann Goldstein. This memoir shows another side of Lahiri as she considers issues of language, identity, and voice.

"The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father" by Kao Kalia Yang

Kao Kalia Yang’s father, Bee Yang, was the "song poet" of his community, tasked with singing the stories and keeping the memories of the Hmong community and culture.

Yang retells the story of her father as the family escapes America’s Secret War in Laos, reaches a refugee camp in Thailand, and settles into their new lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Minnesota Book Award, this is Yang’s second memoir, following Yang’s first memoir, “The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir.”

"Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora" edited by Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, Lan Duong, Mariam B. Lam, and Kathy L. Nguyen

Troubling Borders brings together the creative writing and visual art of 61 women of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, Thai, and Filipino heritage living around the world.

The wide variety of stories told dispel stereotypes and take on the complex challenges of colonialism, militarization, love, resistance, family, migration, and more. They reveal the intersectional and multilayered experiences of Southeast Asian women in the diaspora.

"Black Lotus: A Woman's Search for Racial Identity" by Sil Lai Abrams

Growing up, journalist Sil Lal Abrams knew that she was multiracial — her mother was an immigrant from China and her father was a white American — and she had been told that the reason her skin was brown and her hair was curly was because she had been born in Hawaii.

At 14, she discovered that the truth had been kept from her. The father she knew was not her biological father, and her biological father was actually a man of African descent. In this memoir, she explores issues of race and identity to find and reclaim herself despite internalized racism and racism in her community.

"The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir" by Thi Bui

In "The Best We Could Do," Thi Bui created a graphic memoir to tell the story of how her family escaped the war in Vietnam to come to the United States, with reflections by Bui as she is pregnant with her own son.

The memoir began as an academic oral history project for a graduate degree, but becomes more accessible and heartrending in graphic form. It delves into issues of displacement and war, relationships between parent and child, and how these all echo across generations.

RELATED: ‘The Best We Could Do’: Thi Bui Honors Family’s Immigration Story in Debut Graphic Novel

“I wrote it from a place of empathy and trying to understand my parents as human beings rather than as just my parents,” Bui told NBC News in March. “I'm hoping that translates to readers. This political discourse around immigration is so divisive, and I'm hoping that this story and where it was made from will remind people just to empathize. They're human beings just like everybody else and I hope that will cut through and remind people that these are human beings we're talking about, not 'others.'"

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