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Welcome to the Shelf Care reading list by The Blue Bench! Every month, we curate a reading list of books showcasing powerful voices and talented storytelling. These books delve into topics related to sexual assault, identity, trauma, healing, hope, community, and resilience.

The books highlighted in this month’s list are by Asian American authors in recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. [TW/CW: These books may contain topics related to sexual assault, domestic violence, drug use, racism, violence, and other topics that may be triggering]

We are adding a special book every month, a banned book of the month. Books depicting sexual violence often get placed on banned book lists. We believe that silencing authors who’ve written about sexual violence perpetuates stigmas around the issue.


By Kelly Yang

This young adult novel is about two teens in California navigating wealth, power, and trauma. The story follows Claire Wang, who moves from Shanghai to California to attend high school and live with a host family. Claire’s relationship with her host sister Dani is strained, though their stories are intertwined as they navigate trauma and coming of age.

Kelly Yang is an Asian American author of young adult and children’s books. She won the 2019 Asian/Pacific American Aware for literature. Yang is also a survivor of sexual violence, noting that Parachutes is drawn from personal experience.

Private Lessons

By Cynthia Salaysay

Private Lessons is a young adult novel about Filipina-American Claire, as she processes her father’s deaths and navigates grief. She escapes her sadness through playing the piano. She begins taking private lessons from a prominent teacher in an effort to earn a college scholarship. This novel navigates grooming, coming of age, as well as class and cultural differences.

Cynthia Salaysay is an author and registered nurse. Private Lessons is her debut novel. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from UC Berkeley.

Raw: An Asian American Narrative

By Natalie Y. Ahn

Raw is a collection of poems, thoughts, and essays of the coming-of-age experience of a Korean-American girl. She grapples with race, violence, and sexuality in America, all with the pains associated with adolescence. Ahn allows the reader to feel what she’s felt, with the knowledge that we all have similar experiences and we need to stand together.

Natalie Ahn is a young author and current undergraduate student at Scripps College.

This Way to the Sugar

By Hieu Minh Nguyen

This Way to the Sugar is a collection of poems that dissect feelings of nostalgia, trauma, and desire. Nguyen scans the violence enacted through race, sexuality, and homophobia. A deep and bruising collection of poems on being Asian and queer in America, these poems are sure to stick with you.

Hieu Minh Nguyen is a queer Vietnamese American poet and performer based in Minneapolis. He has several poetry collections including Not Here and This Way to the Sugar, which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Minnesota Book Award.

The Year of Blue Water

By Yanyi

The Year of Blue Water is a collection of poems about his experience as a Chinese American, and dealing with racism, mental health, and gender. As a queer and trans identified person, Yanyi invites all readers to consider the perspectives of multiple identities through not only trauma, but also every day life. Yanyi celebrates the power of friendship, love, and relationships through creative styles of prose and poetry.

Yanyi is an American poet and author. He won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize for The Year of Blue Water.


The Kite Runner

By Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner is the first novel by Hosseini, and tells the story of Amir, a young boy from Kabul, as he experiences the political turmoil of the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy, Soviet invasion, and the rise of the Taliban regime. This book features themes of guilt vs. redemption and familial relationships. This book has been placed on many banned book lists due to depicting scenes of sexual violence.

Khaled Hosseini is an Afghan-American novelist. The Kite Runner was a critical and commercial success, earning over 100 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller list. Hosseini has also written A Thousand Splendid Suns and And the Mountains Echoed. In addition to writing, Hosseini has been an advocate for refugees, including establishing the Khaled Hosseini Foundation to support Afghan refugees returning to Afghanistan.

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