In Their Own Words: Audiobooks To Explore During Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (APIHM), a time to reflect and celebrate the important role that Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders play in our shared history. It’s also the perfect time to explore a biography or memoir from a member of these communities. Here are some recommendations from Spotify’s audiobooks editors:

Making a Scene

Written and narrated by Constance Wu

As a child growing up in suburban Virginia, actress Constance Wu was often scolded for having big feelings or strong reactions. “Good girls don’t make scenes,” people warned her. Community theater became her refuge, and acting later became her vocation. At 18, she moved to New York, where she spent the next 10 years of her life auditioning, waiting tables and struggling to make rent before her two big breaks: the TV sitcom Fresh Off the Boat and the hit film Crazy Rich Asians.

This raw, relatable memoir goes beyond tracing Wu’s rise to Hollywood fame to offer an intimate portrait of a living life out loud, on one’s own terms.

 We Were Dreamers

Written and narrated by Simu Liu

In this honest, inspiring memoir, the star of Marvel’s first Asian superhero film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, shares his own origin story. Simu Liu chronicles his family’s journey from China to the bright lights of Hollywood with razor-sharp wit and humor—from growing up as an immigrant in Canada, to his battles with cultural stereotypes and his own identity, to becoming a TV star and landing the role of a lifetime.

We Were Dreamers is more than a celebrity memoir, it’s a story about growing up between cultures, finding your family, and becoming the master of your own extraordinary circumstances.

Sigh, Gone

Written and narrated by Phuc Tran

 Sigh, Gone is an irreverent, funny, and moving tale of displacement and assimilation, perfect for anyone who can relate to feeling as if they don’t belong.

During the fall of Saigon, Phuc Tran and his family immigrated to America, landing in Carlisle, Pennsylvania—a small town where the Trans struggled to assimilate into their new life. In this coming-of-age memoir told through the themes of great books such as The Metamorphosis, The Scarlet Letter, The Iliad, and more, Phuc navigates the push and pull of finding and accepting himself despite the challenges of immigration, feelings of isolation, and teenage rebellion. In his journey for self-discovery Phuc ultimately finds refuge and inspiration in the art that shapes—and ultimately saves—him.

What My Bones Know

Written and narrated by Stephanie Foo

This New York Times-bestselling memoir by journalist Stephanie Foo investigates the little-understood science behind complex PTSD and how it shaped the author’s life.

By age 30, Stephanie had her dream job as a radio producer at This American Life, but she was having panic attacks at her desk every morning. Eventually, she was diagnosed with complex PTSD, a condition that occurs when trauma happens continuously over the course of years. In this deeply personal and thoroughly researched account, Stephanie interviews scientists and psychologists, tries a variety of innovative therapies, and returns to her hometown to investigate the effects of immigrant trauma on the community. Powerful, enlightening, and hopeful, What My Bones Know reckons with the hold of the past over the present and the mind over the body. It also examines one woman’s ability to reclaim agency from her trauma.

Why We Swim

Bonnie Tsui

Narrated By Angie Kane

Swimming is an introspective and silent sport in a chaotic and noisy age. It’s therapeutic for both the mind and body. It’s an adventurous way to get from point A to point B. And it’s also one route to that elusive, ecstatic state of flow.

Why We Swim is propelled by stories of Olympic champions, a Baghdad swim club that meets in Saddam Hussein’s palace pool, modern-day Japanese samurai swimmers, and even an Icelandic fisherman who improbably survives a wintry six-hour swim after a shipwreck. New York Times contributor Bonnie Tsui, a swimmer herself, dives into the deep, from the San Francisco Bay to the South China Sea, investigating what it is about water—despite its dangers—that seduces us, tempting us to come back to it again and again.

Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant

Written and narrated by Curtis Chin

In the 1980s, Detroit was a volatile place to live. But above the fray stood a safe haven: Chung’s Cantonese Cuisine, where anyone—from the city’s first Black mayor to the local drag queens, from a big-time Hollywood star to elderly Jewish couples—could sit down for a warm, home-cooked meal.

Beneath the restaurant’s bright-red awning and surrounded by his multigenerational family, filmmaker and activist Curtis Chin learned to embrace his identity as a gay ABC, or American-born Chinese. He realized just how much he had to offer the world, to his beloved family, and to himself. Structured around the very menu that graced the tables of Chung’s, Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant is both a memoir and an invitation to step inside one boy’s childhood oasis, scoot into a vinyl booth, and grow up with him—and perhaps even share something off the secret menu. 

A Daughter of the Samurai

Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto

Narrated By Siho Ellsmore

In the late 19th century, after Japan was restored to imperial rule, the samurais were no longer the seat of power and the families who were impacted by this shift lost wealth and power. 

Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto was the daughter of one such samurai, and had begun her life on a track to become a Buddhist priestess. But as the family lost their position in society, her path changed, and she was eventually sent to the United States to be in an arranged marriage to an American man. A Daughter of the Samurai is her personal memoir of her life and perspective on the differences between Japanese and American lifestyles, the value of women in each society, and the influence that evolving cultures had on different classes of society.

Check out the ‘Amplifying API Stories’ audiobooks shelf on platform, and view the full list of biographies and memoirs here: