The month of May has been a boon for great new books by Asian American and Pacific Islander authors. We're spotlighting just a handful of these titles, which run the gamut from apocalyptic fantasies and middle grade sci-fi to heartfelt rom-coms and reproductive health primers.

Here are some of PW editors' favorite books by AAPI authors out this month.

Cinema Love

Jiaming Tang. Dutton, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-47433-4
This resonant and textured debut traces the secret lives of gay men and their wives in 1980s China and their loneliness in contemporary New York City’s Chinatown. As a young man, Old Second leaves his village in shame after his family discovers his sexuality. In the city of Fuzhou, he falls in love with a man named Shun-Er, whom he meets at the Workers’ Cinema, which is known for showing war films to a gay clientele who meet for sex in the screening rooms. Out of convenience, Old Second marries Bao Mei, a woman who works at the cinema’s ticket counter, and they immigrate to New York City in the 1990s. A parallel narrative follows Yan Hua and her marriage to Shun-Er, who dies by suicide in 1989 and whose ghost continues to haunt her after she comes to the U.S. as a “puppet wife” to Frog, the “discount-bin husband” her family paid in exchange for her green card. Tang laces the narrative with Dickensian details of Chinatown’s underground economy (Frog and Yan Hua live in a cramped, six-dollar per night “motel” room shared by many others in bunk beds), and lyrically portrays Old Second’s longing for same-sex intimacy (“A barrier has been erected around his heart, and though he can look past it like clean glass, he finds there are certain thresholds he can no longer cross”). Tang announces himself as a writer to watch with this unshakable novel. Agent: Kent Wolf, Neon Literary. (May)


K-Ming Chang. Coffee House, $14.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-5668-9707-5
A 24-year-old woman is flooded with fraught memories of her early teen years after encountering an estranged friend in Chang’s striking latest (after Organ Meats). Seven works as a cleaner in a chiropractor’s office and still lives at home with her mother and grandmother Ama, whose fantastical stories shape the family’s mythology and Seven’s obsession with human waste (Ama says she was thrown into a well as an infant, then later rescued from a nearby city’s toilet and immediately put to work cleaning it). At her job, Seven listens through the bathroom door while others pee, visualizing the receptionist’s discreet trickle as “the rain in movies.” Her odd routine is upended by the appearance of Cecilia, whom she hasn’t seen since they were 13. As they ride the bus together, Seven reminisces about eating Cecilia’s stray hairs and chewed-up snacks in middle school, and how the two would practice kissing in the school bathroom. Their friendship dissolved after a bizarre sexual encounter, which produced mutual feelings of hurt and shame. As Chang works up to the details of that incident, she explores the ways in which the body can elicit both desire and disgust, and offers an original look at the volatility of a teen friendship. It’s another high-water mark from a prolific and provocative author. Agent: Julia Kardon, HG Literary. (May)

Road to Ruin

Hana Lee. Simon & Schuster, $18.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-6680-3561-0
Savage, sexy, and deliciously screwed up, Lee’s apocalyptic fantasy debut is sure to draw comparisons to Mad Max but sets itself apart through an inventive magic system and a thorny bisexual love triangle. Jin makes a living as a magebike courier, constantly risking her life in the face of mana storms, human raiders, and saurian predators to transport messages and illegal luxury goods across the wasteland between city-states. Her most lucrative gig involves carrying secret love letters between Prince Kadrin of Kerina Sol and Princess Yi-Nereen of Kerina Rut, neither of whom realizes Jin has developed feelings for them both. When Yi-Nereen asks Jin to help her escape an arranged marriage, the two flee into the wasteland, pursued by both Yi-Nereen’s betrothed, who can read minds, and Jin’s bounty hunter ex-girlfriend. Forced to take refuge during a mana storm, they discover a hidden community and uncover dark secrets about the nature of their world and the magical Talents which, in this highly stratified society, determine a person’s worth. As danger mounts, Jin is forced to call upon Kadrin for help. The twisty plot, complex emotional entanglements, and perilous landscapes keep the pages flying. Examining power, privilege, and passion, this dynamic adventure thrills. Agent: Paul Lucas, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (May)

Love, Lies, and Cherry Pie

Jackie Lau. Atria/Bestler, $17.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-66803-076-9
Lau (The Stand-Up Groomsman) delivers a heartfelt and hilarious rom-com about a woman whose insecurities and assumptions blind her to the good intentions of the people around her. Now that both of Emily Hung’s younger sisters have gotten hitched, her mother has turned the full focus of her matchmaking onto Emily—and the 33-year-old writer-slash-barista doesn’t know how much more she can take. At her sister’s wedding, Emily’s mother pushes her at sweater vest–wearing family friend Mark Chan, forcing the two to make awkward small talk. Though Emily acknowledges that Mark, a successful engineer, is handsome, she insists, through snarky first-person narration, that he’s not her type and, because he scrolls through his phone during their conversation, she assumes he’s uninterested and judging her career choices and chaotic lifestyle. Despite this rocky meeting, Emily’s mother is still determined to set the two up, and Emily, who just wants to focus on writing, realizes the only way to satisfy her is to make her believe her matchmaking has been successful. Emily presents this fake-dating plan to Mark, who agrees with surprisingly little fuss—but the deception becomes complicated when Emily’s mother’s prying leaves them no choice but to actually go on the dates they’re lying about. The result is a funny and addictive take on a favorite trope complete with sincere family dynamics and a heroine who, while sometimes painfully un-self-aware, still proves easy to root for. Lau brings the goods. Agent: Courtney Miller-Callihan, Handspun Literary. (May)

Escape Velocity

Victor Manibo. Erewhon, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-1-64566-084-2
Manibo (The Sleepless) ingeniously melds genres in this suspenseful sci-fi mystery set in 2089. The opening chapter offers a tantalizing hook: Henry Gallagher wakes up to find himself tumbling in space, barely able to spot his previous location, Space Habitat Altaire, and unsure of how he got there. After initially calming himself with the thought that the Altaire’s orbit will eventually bring it near enough for him to reach, Gallagher panics when he realizes his space suit is out of propellant, leading him to suspect that someone deliberately tossed him off the space station. Just as his entire body is consumed with a burning pain, Manibo flashes back to Gallagher’s arrival on the Altaire for his 25th high school reunion, introducing classmates, such as Tom Lazaro III, an American ambassador, whom readers will immediately view as suspects. The whodunit plot is enhanced by careful and plausible worldbuilding that digs into the intricacies of an era when the UN’s Mars Settlement Agency is mere months away from accepting applications for civilian settlers. As in the best mysteries, Manibo never allows his plot twists to come at the expense of character development. Jack McDevitt fans will be especially pleased. (May)

It’s Not Hysteria: Everything You Need to Know About Your Reproductive Health (But Were Never Told)

Karen Tang. Flatiron, $30.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-89415-1
This first-rate debut from gynecologist Tang details the causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options for endometriosis, ovarian cysts, pelvic floor dysfunction, and other sexual and reproductive health conditions. For instance, Tang explains that fibroids—benign tumors that “form when cells in the muscular wall of the uterus start to multiply rapidly”—are more likely to occur in people with vitamin D deficiency, and are usually either surgically removed or treated with medications that suppress the hormones that stimulate fibroid growth. Tang debunks common misconceptions, as in the chapter on vulvovaginal conditions when she reports that contrary to the popular belief that panty liners should be used daily to absorb vaginal discharge, most doctors recommend against doing so because their overuse “can lead to irritation and infections.” The tone is compassionate throughout (“Anyone who isn’t satisfied deserves help in identifying and meeting personal sexual health goals, without fear or judgment,” Tang writes in a chapter on sexual dysfunction), and the in-depth coverage of gender-affirming care options distinguishes this from other health manuals that assume a cis readership. The result is a comprehensive resource for understanding gynecological health. (May)

Rising from the Ashes: Los Angeles, 1992. Edward Jae Song Lee, Latasha Harlins, Rodney King, and a City on Fire

Paula Yoo. Norton, $19.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-324-03090-4
Via vivid prose, Yoo (From a Whisper to a Rally) depicts the events surrounding the acquittal of the four police officers who brutalized Black motorist Rodney King in 1992 L.A. By centering the violent attempted arrest of Black 21-year-old Marquette Frye in 1965, the author contextualizes the history of the LAPD’s racist policing and emphasizes how incidents such as King’s were not isolated. King’s case, along with the 1991 killing of Black 15-year-old Latasha Harlins, had far-reaching implications that would impact L.A.’s Black and Korean communities and led to the death of Korean American 18-year-old Edward Jae Song Lee during the 1992 L.A. Riots. Tensions between the communities are equitably highlighted as Yoo outlines the system that still denies both groups basic rights by recounting details from King, Harlins, and Lee’s lives. Moments of solidarity are peppered throughout, as when Black residents protect a Korean-owned music stall from destruction amid societal unrest. Yoo’s message of empathy, progress, and resilience following tragedy prove resonant in this moving account that remains relevant to contemporary society, in which smartphones have replaced camcorders in individuals’ quest to expose police brutality and systemic racism. Includes abundant back matter. Ages 12–up. Agent: Tricia Lawrence, Emily Murphy Literary. (May)

Correction: The text of this review has been updated for clarity.

Undue Burden: Life and Death Decisions in Post-Roe America

Shefali Luthra. Doubleday, $29 (368p) ISBN 978-0-385-55008-6
Journalist Luthra debuts with an eye-opening and chilling look at the strain the U.S. reproductive healthcare system is undergoing in a “post-Roe” world. Tracking the circuitous, costly, and legally jeopardizing paths that patients seeking abortions who live in states that have imposed restrictions must take to access care across state lines, Luthra reveals that these cross-country journeys are having a “bottleneck” effect that is limiting healthcare access across America. The story of Angela, a 21-year-old San Antonio mother who can’t afford another child and makes an expensive trip to New Mexico for a dose of the abortifacient mifepristone, is juxtaposed with the plight of Jasper, a trans man who struggles to access abortion care because his local clinic in Orlando, Fla., has been overwhelmed by out-of-state patients. The healthcare providers themselves paint a dire portrait of a system in crisis (“It’s an unfolding national disaster,” says one). Luthra depicts them triaging patients (the staff at a Jacksonville, Fla., clinic routinely stays until midnight to help out-of-staters, but still has to limit services for locals), strategizing new ways of providing care (which include illegal mail-order mifepristone networks), and dealing with patients in mortal terror of jail time (one San Diego clinician describes patients anxiously discussing how best to hide where they’ve been from people back home). Luthra’s vivid and compassionate storytelling unveils an interconnected web of desperate individuals and heroic helpers who are only just barely within reach. It’s an urgent wake-up call. (May)

Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly stated that Jasper’s local clinic is in Jacksonville, Fla. The review has also been updated with changes made prior to the book’s publication.

Lunar Boy

Jes and Cin Wibowo. HarperAlley, $24.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-305760-9; $15.99 paper ISBN 978-0-06-305759-3
Transgender, brown-skinned Indu has always weathered big changes with his adoptive hijabi mother, who found him alone on an outlying moon during a space mission. Now, socially anxious Indu faces a move from their beloved community spaceship to neo-Indonesian New Earth, and while opportunities for connection abound—Indu must improve his Bahasa Indonesia with an after-school tutor, navigate living with a new parent and siblings, and correspond with a school-mandated pen pal, who is queer—he worries that New Earth society, while racially diverse, lacks consideration for his gender identity. Feeling isolated, Indu accepts when delegates from the moon of his origin offer to retrieve him on the night of the new year. But as the date approaches, and as Indu’s new friends and family make him feel more at home, he’s forced to consider where he belongs. Twin creators the Wibowos compose characters with striking light and shadow; this cinematic interplay intensifies moments of clarity and connection for Indu and others, while a radiant palette of warm, sun-drenched pinks and oranges underscore the vibrant community of care and support that envelop Indu. Reminiscent of Le Petit Prince, this lustrous debut graphic novel signals a much brighter future for its protagonist and those who relate to him. Ages 8–12. Agent: Britt Siess, Britt Siess Creative Management. (May)

This Book Won’t Burn

Samira Ahmed. Little, Brown, $18.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-3165-4784-0
Book banning, homophobia, and racism intersect as a newcomer confronts one small town’s “fascist BS” culture. Halfway through senior year, 18-year-old Chicagoan Noor Khan is devastated when her immigration-lawyer father “torched our lives” by abandoning the family. Their distraught mother moves Noor and her younger sister to conservative, rural Bayberry, Ill., for a fresh start. At Noor’s new, overwhelmingly white high school, a zealous school board led by politician Steve Hawley removes hundreds of books deemed pornographic. Activist-minded Noor notes that “they’re censoring practically all queer or BIPOC authors” and stages lunchtime banned book readings at a nearby park with new friends Faiz and Juniper. Though school administration disciplines Noor and hints at violence if she doesn’t comply, she continues hosting her book club in the evenings at a VFW hall until someone tossing a Molotov cocktail through the building’s window escalates events. Meanwhile, Noor’s growing feelings for Faiz are complicated by interest from charming, wealthy, and good-looking Andrew, who turns out to be Hawley’s stepson. Characters display resolute integrity and deliver dialogue that zings in this timely offering by Ahmed (the Amira & Hamza series), who employs high stakes, increasing tensions, romantic near-misses, and adult hypocrisy to powerful effect. Noor cues as Southeast Asian. Ages 12–up. (May)