11 Powerful Books About Mothers, Daughters, and Mental Health – By Asian American Authors

As my own child grows, I find myself thinking more and more about my mother – the choices she had, how and why she became who she is, and how she shaped me. I don’t and never will have all the information I desire to truly understand her, but I have to find peace with who she is. To do this, in addition to therapy and reflection, I turn to books.

Mother’s Day, Asian Native American Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, and Mental Health Awareness Month all take place in May. For me, this convergence of observances inspires me to reflect on how my life is shaped by being a mother, an Asian American, and someone with a mental health condition. I am grateful that there are more books than one might expect that explore this specific intersection of themes, no doubt because struggling with love and loss in mother-daughter relationships, struggling with mental health and finding cultural identity are universal human experiences. Reading thoughtful and thoughtful books by AANHPI authors broadens my perspective beyond the confines of my own heritage and the depths of the mental health experiences to which I have been exposed. Books like the ones below help me process, heal, and feel less alone and emotionally closer to my mother in ways I never had access to before.

This month, the country continues to be reeling from the pandemic and its mental health ramifications. We are also still grappling with the reality that there have been nearly 11,000 hate crimes against AAPI people reported by Stop AAPI Hate since March 2020. mother you never had, maybe you snuggle up with these poignant books about mothers and daughters will be cathartic.

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“My mother and I speak different languages…even though my mother understands and speaks English at a very functional level, there are places in me that she cannot reach, nuances of thought and emotion that I can’t express in words that make sense to her.”

Elizabeth Miki Brina’s breathtaking work is a courageous and timely judgment on the internalized racism and self-hatred that has always been visible in the author’s relationship with her war bride mother throughout her life. Brina confronts her inability as a daughter to comfort her isolated mother while skillfully weaving Okinawa’s fascinating history and family stories. It was a book I couldn’t put down.


“As she talked about the things she ate or wished to eat or had been deprived of eating when she was young, she also shared minute details of her past, a trail of crumbs that would lead me to my family history.”

This National Book Award finalist by Grace M. Cho recounts the author’s attempts to reach her mother, a bar hostess-turned-war bride who survived the Korean War but succumbed to schizophrenia while cooking Korean meals for her. . As someone living with a chronic mental health condition, I sincerely appreciated this compassionate remembrance of a daughter’s deep desire to reunite with the mother she lost through trauma and illness.

“A lot of my work has centered around the idea that women like my mother – Korean women who married American men and probably worked in the service industry that catered to men’s emotional and sexual needs. Americans in Korea – were erased from national narratives and hidden or shunned within their communities and families,” Cho shared in an email. “My intention in writing the memoirs was that my mother would finally be seen and cast off the shame that had been projected upon her for so much of her life.”


“No one can hurt you like a mother can. No one can love you like a mother.”

This incredibly honest queer Hawaiian Chinese Jewish coming-of-age memoir grapples with T Kira Madden’s relationship with her mother as she invites readers to be voyeurs of her lost innocence, forbidden desires, his traumas and his compassion.


“I also didn’t know that when your mother taught you to run and hide, you would keep doing it until it became a habit, until it became our best skill.”

I look forward to reading these memoirs, which come from the author’s New York Times modern love essay, At sea and in search of a safe harbor. Putsata Reang’s family fled on a Cambodian navy ship during the genocide more than forty years ago. Her mother refused the captain’s order to throw her apparently lifeless baby into the water. “I had survived because of my mother’s hope,” Reang wrote in his essay, Who That Baby Was. But as an adult, the author must come to terms with his mother’s inability to accept his bisexuality and his marriage to a woman.


“While your parents are alive, eat as much of their love as you can, so it can sustain you for the rest of your life. »

In deeply haunting prose, poet EJ Koh shares her story punctuated with letters from her mother. When Koh was 15, his parents moved back to Korea to work, leaving Koh and his 19-year-old brother in California to raise. A painful and revealing exploration of how parental love can manifest itself, Koh finds himself in this triumphant book about love, loss and identity. An unexpected section of the book delightfully describes how the multi-talented Koh (who recently wrote TV movies for Apple TV Pachinko episodes) almost became a K-pop star and moved to Korea to live with her parents.


“All my life, I wanted to be a mother, and once that became impossible for me, I mourned these future unborn children that I would never know. I hid this sadness.

This harrowing memoir is not so much about the author’s relationship with his mother as it is about his relationship with his homeland, the Philippines. With the utmost care and compassion, Talusan examines how the abuse and trauma she experienced as a child affects her mental health and all of her relationships, especially her relationship with her body.


“Today, when people ask me, I often say that I no longer see adoption — individual adoptions, or adoption as a practice — in terms of good or bad. I urge people to go there with their eyes open, acknowledging how complex it really is; I encourage adoptees to tell their stories, our stories, and not let anyone else define those experiences for us.

Nicole Chung’s poignant memoir captures the complexity of the adoption experience and beyond. By questioning the truths she was raised with, Chung finds her Asian American identity as a transracially adopted individual and as a writer in search of a sense of belonging.


“The three women turn to her, their faces open and expectant. They are all women. They are all mothers. They know who she is.

This gripping novel by Janice YK Lee is being adapted into an Amazon series by Lulu Wang, writer and director of The farewell. A masterful story of intertwined perspectives of three women whose lives as Hong Kong expats are entangled in an expected tragedy when a small child is lost. The events that followed are a test of strength and resilience for every woman as they emerge (and reemerge) as mothers. Read it before the series premieres!


“For the rest of my life there would be a thorn in my being, stinging from the time my mother died until she was buried with me.”

The ultra trendy Japanese breakfast The rock star/indie author had us sobbing with her at H-Mart in her 2018 viral New Yorker essay about his mother who died of cancer, leaving Zauner feeling cut off from his Korean identity. This trial gave life to this New York Times bestseller (and upcoming film adaptation). Crying in H Mart delves into the Grammy-nominated musician’s painful adolescence as a mixed-race Asian-American child in Oregon, a young adult struggling to find love, and then as a caretaker for her dying mother. Eventually, Zauner reconnects with his Korean-American self by learning to cook Korean food from food blogger Maangchi — and in the process, finds a lifelong connection to his beloved mother.


“As the mother of two young Asian American children, I fear for what they will one day face at school, at work, and in their neighborhoods. I fear they will feel the same lack of belonging that many of us have felt throughout our lives. I mourn the loss of belonging for my children, who consider themselves as much American as Asian.

Written by Taiwanese American clinical psychologist, Dr. Jenny T. Wang, creator of the popular Instagram account @asiansformentalhealth, this book invites readers to break free from the expectations, mindsets and unwritten cultural rules they face as members. of the Asian diaspora. “This book also explores the impact of three generations of women in my family my maternal grandmother, my mother and myself, shared Wang, who writes about how her mother ended the intergenerational cycle of violence by accepting the loss of the mother she wished for and refusing. to reproduce the trauma on the next generation.

For more food for your poetic soul, check out Jenny’s Qi Poetry Book Coordinator to lose his mother, and time is a mother, poetry by Ocean Vuong, the acclaimed author of the novel On Earth, we are briefly beautiful.

“It’s a lifelong process to untangle those knots,” Grace M. Cho says of mother-daughter relationship difficulties. “We live under a cultural regime that says our family is supposed to love and support us unconditionally, but the reality is that family relationships aren’t easy…so if you’re not close to your mother, be nice with you and with her.”

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