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Arts & Culture

5 Summer Reads by Asian and Asian American Authors

AAPI Literature and Media Club Founder and President Shares Recommendations

By Chloe Kim

Five book covers

Julie Cha ’25, who is the founder and president of UMD’s AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Literature and Media Club, recommends five books to read this summer.

Illustration by Mary Kacsur

A young Korean American determined to find a place in New York high society. The emotionally wrenching aftermath of a mother who goes missing. An enemies-to-lovers office romance.

These are among the themes of five summer book recommendations by Julie Cha ’25, an English and marketing double major who is the founder and president of UMD’s AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Literature and Media Club, housed in the Department of English.

Since Fall 2023, Cha has led biweekly meetings to discuss literature from Vandana Singh’s science fiction short story “Delhi” to Vanessa Hua’s collection “Deceit and Other Possibilities.”

“I wanted to be able to show UMD that there are so many different aspects and diverse voices of the Asian diaspora,” Cha said.

After summer break, the AAPI Literature and Media Club will continue with a fresh array of novels, short stories, poems, essays and films to explore. In the meantime, here are Cha’s top five summer reading picks:

“Free Food for Millionaires” by Min Jin Lee

The debut novel from Korean American author and journalist Min Jin Lee, “Free Food for Millionaires” (2007) is the story of a young Queens-bred Korean American woman who graduates from college and is determined to find a place in New York high society despite having no money or job.

“It’s a very good representation of what it feels like to live as a Korean American split between Korean culture and the culture we are expected to assimilate into,” Cha said.

“Afterparties” by Anthony Veasna So

A highly anticipated posthumous debut by Cambodian American writer Anthony Veasna So, who died unexpectedly in 2020 at age 28 from a drug overdose, “Afterparties” was an instant New York Times bestseller and named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and other publications. This collection of short stories chronicles the experiences of Cambodian American characters navigating identity, family, queerness and immigrant life.

Cha said a Cambodian American member talked about how “relatable” one particular story was.

“Please Look After Mother” by Kyung-sook Shin

An elderly mother disappears at a train station, and her family grapples with feelings of love, guilt and regret in the fallout. Published in 2009, “Please Look After Mother” is one of South Korea’s most critically acclaimed novels, and sold more than 1 million copies within three months.

“We often reduce mothers to their role as a caretaker and maternal figure; we forget that our mothers are people too. They have lives, interests, hobbies and people in their lives that we may not know about,” Cha said.

“The Trouble With Hating You” by Sanji Patel

An accomplished and happily single biochemical engineer realizes her parents have set her up with a man they want her to marry. She has none of it at first—until she starts working with him, and realizes she might be able to give love a chance. “The Trouble With Hating You” is a romcom novel by Indian American writer Sajni Patel. This novel contains a brief non-graphic reference to sexual assault.

“This was very healing, and talks about women’s empowerment, especially from a strict Asian American household perspective,” Cha said.

“Crying in H-Mart” by Michelle Zauner

The memoir and debut book by Michelle Zauner, the singer and lead guitarist of the indie pop band Japanese Breakfast, was a New York Times bestseller and widely lauded as one of the best books of 2021. “Crying in H-Mart” chronicles Zauner’s experience of growing up as a mixed-race Korean American and grappling with her mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis.

“She is an Asian American who pursued art and made a living off it, and it inspires me as an English major. It was a very interesting perspective on growing up split between cultures, and seeing how that played a pivotal role in her grief,” Cha said.

For more information, email and/or follow @umdaapi on Instagram.

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College of Arts and Humanities

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