Lighthouse Reads: May Edition

Editor's Note: We'll periodically bring readers a round-up of books recommended by Lighthouse staff and faculty.

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month, Lighthouse asked me to compile some of my favorite recent AAPI reads. Although it was nearly impossible to create a finite list, I did my best. Here are nine of my favorite AAPI authors published or publishing in 2021, including two from Colorado.

Perfectly Parvin, by Olivia Abtahi

In this coming-of-age story penned by Iranian American, Denver-based writer Olivia Abtahi, loud, hairy, and opinionated teen Parvin struggles with being told that she is way too much – something I, and, I imagine, many other Asian American women have been (falsely) told our whole lives. An inspiring and hilarious YA novel that is also perfect for adults.  


Rise of the Red Hand, by Olivia Chadha

Panjabi-Latvian Boulder-based writer Olivia Chadha’s clifi novel follows two South Asian revolutionaries seeking to overturn a classist, authoritarian government. As someone who recently lived through New Delhi’s pollution and Bangalore’s water shortages, this is exactly the novel I’ve been wanting to read for years.    


The Marvelous Mirza Girls, by Sheba Karim

Pakistani American Sheba Karim’s latest YA novel, which is set in New Delhi, India, is so much more than a rom com: it’s also a searing commentary on India’s increasingly hateful administration, an intimate look into daily life in a changing climate, and an ode to female desire. It’s an absolute page turner perfect for a summer day.  


The Parted Earth and Southbound, by Anjali Enjeti

How lucky are we to get not one, but two books from multiracial, South Asian American activist Anjali Enjeti this year? The Parted Earth is a world and time crossing novel about the long shadow of Partition, and Southbound is a collection of essays about everything from pregnancy loss to identity to armchair activism. Enjeti’s prose is always a pleasure to read.

Lace and Pyrite, by Aimee Nezhukumatithil and Ross Gay

This co-authored chapbook is an utter delight. Recently re-issued by Get Fresh Press, the book is a set of epistolary poems between Filipina and South Asian American poet Aimee Nezhukumatithil and Black poet Ross Gay about their gardens. Each and every line is an absolute treasure.


Midnight’s Borders, by Suchitra Vijayan

South Asian American journalist Vijayan has long been a fearless critic of India’s current rightwing regime. Her latest work of nonfiction is a thoroughly researched history of India from the perspective of those who rarely appear in mainstream publications. I’ve always wanted a volume like this to exist, and I’m so excited to read it when it comes out in the US on May 25th.

Antiman, by Rajiv Mohabir

Winner of the 2020 Restless Books Prize, this queer, Indo-Caribbean, hybrid memoir is a balm for the soul. Incorporating prose, poetry, and translations of Mohabir’s grandmother’s songs, it reads like an ode to anyone who has ever felt uncomfortable in their own skin – and a reassurance that we are, each of us, perfect just the way we are. (Currently available for pre-order, publishes June 18th.)

Imagine a Death, by Janice Lee

The latest novel from Korean American healer and writer Janice Lee is an exploration of loss, love, and trauma at the end of the world. Lee’s writing is always morally complex and consistently gorgeous – I especially love her recent meditation on the meaning of literary success - and I can’t wait for her newest read to land on my doorstep in September. (Currently available for pre-order, publishes September 15.)

Names For Light, by Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint

Winner of the Graywolf Prize, this innovative and lyrical memoir intertwines the author’s personal story with her family history. Moving between Myanmar, where Myint was born, and the United States, where she and her immediate family live now, this is a haunting meditation on where we come from and where we end up. (Currently available for pre-order, publishes September 17th.)

Mathangi Subramanian is an award winning South Asian American author and educator who believes stories have the power to change the world. Her novel A People’s History of Heaven was longlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Valley of Words Prize. An excerpt from the book won the Katherine O. Paterson prize for middle grade short fiction. Her middle grades novel, Dear Mrs. Naidu, won the South Asia book award. Her nonfiction has appeared in The Washington Post, Ms., Zora Magazine and Al Jazeera America, among others. A former public school teacher, Fulbright-Nehru Scholar, and senior policy analyst for the New York City Council, she currently lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and way too many art supplies.