Asian American Literary Award in Nonfiction

Winner for the Asian American Literary Award in Nonfiction

Leaving India: My Family's Journey from Five Villages to Five Continents, Minal Hajratwala (HoughtonMifflinHarcourt)
Judge: S. Mitra Kalita
Leaving India stood out in a category crowded with memoir, personal journeys, migrations and coming-of-age stories because it was all of that—yet so much more. Minal Hajratwala's book captures the story of a vast diaspora through her scattered family, chronicling successes and failures with honesty, empathy, explanation and context. She expertly weaves history into her rendering, and so her book is more than one family's tale but the broader story of the nations, professions, and identities they embrace.

Finalists for the Asian American Literary Award in Nonfiction

Fieldnotes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers, Arundhati Roy (Haymarket Books)
Judge: Hua Hsu
The challenge of writing about “globalization” and its effects is arraying the scattered, infinite lives the term suggests within something resembling narrative. After all, what kind of “reason” guides rival factions who clash over a glacial plot which, owing to the actions of those thousands of miles away, shrinks daily? In Fieldnotes on Democracy, an elegant, forceful and at times cantankerous essay collection, Arundhati Roy proves to be a visionary guide. There is something almost mocking about the clarity she applies to these stories of democracy, development and terror in India and beyond. Over the course of these essays, a lesson is learned: the raw materials for democracy—or conflict—are everywhere. Whether future generations regard Fieldnotes on Democracy as merely an autopsy of a once-vaunted idea rests on how carefully we listen.

American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, Bonnie Tsui (Free Press)
Judge: Marie Lee
In American Chinatown: A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods, journalist Bonnie Tsui takes the reader to four Chinatowns: San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Honolulu. Tsui, a travel journalist, goes behind the exotic façades set up for tourists and speaks directly with the residents, including first-generation inhabitants, and provides us with a fascinating glimpse into an ethnic phenomenon that, like America, is constantly changing and reinventing itself.

Non-fiction Long List

Judged by Vassar Professor Hua Hsu, Wall Street Journal editor S. Mitra Kalita, and novelist and former AAWW Board President Marie Lee.