Penguin Classics will publish four canonical novels by Asian-American authors on May 21. The publication lands during Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, which takes place each May, and follows last year's publication of six books by African-American authors into the Penguin Classics line during Black History Month.
The four books are:
- The Hanging on Union Square by H.T. Tsiang
- East Goes West by Younghill Kang
- No-No Boy by John Okada
- America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan
Tsiang, Kang, and Bulosan all immigrated to the U.S,. from China, the part of Korea now known as North Korea, and the Pangasinan province of the Philippines, respectively, while Okada was born in Seattle, sent to an internment camp during World War II, and is often considered the first Japanese-American novelist. Each book will be introduced by an influential contemporary Asian-American author, including Alexander Chee for East Goes West and Elaine Castillo for America Is in the Heart.
"The authors of these classics have all endured comparisons to better-known white authors in order to describe their own genius; Younghill Kang has been compared to Whitman and Nabokov, Carlos Bulosan to Steinbeck," the press noted in its announcement of the line. "Yet each author’s work is a uniquely powerful touchstone for the immigrant experience in America."
John Siciliano, executive editor of Penguin Classics, told PW. that he had "made it his mandate to diversify the Penguin Classics internationally" when he came on board at the publisher in 2006. "It was important to us to have a diversity within Asian America, which is why we have books by Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Filipino writers represented," he said, adding: "Our eyes are open to opportunities to publish writers from South Asia and Central Asia." Although the press is only publishing these four books concurrently, Siciliano noted that he hoped to bring more diverse voices to the imprint, including more works by Asian-Americans as well as Latino Americans and Native Americans.