This list of Read in Color recommended reads explores experiences from the Asian American/Pacific Islander community. These titles are recommended by Little Free Library’s Diverse Books Advisory Group and others. The list of books includes options for early readers, middle and YA readers, and adults and advanced readers.
View all of the Read in Color Recommended Reading lists. These lists are far from exhaustive, but they offer a starting point for exploring different perspectives. We recognize that categorizing books can be limiting and are working to show the intersectionality within our reading lists.
Asian American/Pacific Islander (Early Readers)
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Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua (40 pp, Alladin, 2019). Amy loves to make bao with her family. But it takes skill to make the bao taste and look delicious. And her bao keep coming out all wrong. Then she has an idea that may give her a second chance…. Will Amy ever make the perfect bao? Ages 4-8.
Asian Americans Who Inspire Us
Asian Americans Who Inspire Us by Analiza Quiroz Wolf (100 pp, 2019). Asian-Americans Who Inspire Us shares engaging stories of 16 trailblazing Asian-Americans. The stories bring to life Vietnam Memorial architect Maya Lin, Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi, musician Yo-Yo Ma, astronaut Ellison Onizuka, anchorwoman Lisa Ling, activists Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, and more! Ages 8 and up.
Astrid and Apollo and the Starry Campout
Astrid and Apollo and the Starry Campout by V.T. Bidania, illustrated by Dara Lashia Lee (64 pp, Picture Window Books, 2020). Astrid is afraid of the dark and doesn’t want to go on her family camping trip. But her twin brother, Apollo, is excited. When they encounter scary things such as crawly bugs and the creepy dark, Apollo helps his twin through them. And when they encounter the scariest thing of all, Astrid might just be the one to save the starry campout. Ages 6-8.
A Big Mooncake for Little Star
A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin (40 pp, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018). Little Star loves the delicious Mooncake that she bakes with her mama. But she’s not supposed to eat any yet! What happens when she can’t resist a nibble? In this stunning picture book that shines as bright as the stars in the sky, Newbery Honor author Grace Lin creates a heartwarming original story that explains phases of the moon. Ages 4-8.
Bilal Cooks Dal
Bilal Cooks Dal by Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Anoosha Syed (40 pp, Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019). Six-year-old Bilal introduces his friends to his favorite dish—daal!—in this charming picture book that showcases the value of patience, teamwork, community, and sharing. Ages 4-8.
Cora Cooks Pancit
Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, illustrated by Kristi Valiant (32 pp, Lee & Low Books, 2014). Cora loves being in the kitchen, but she always gets stuck doing the kid jobs like licking the spoon. One day, however, when her older sisters and brother head out, Cora finally gets the chance to be Mama’s assistant chef. And of all the delicious Filipino dishes that dance through Cora’s head, she and Mama decide to make pancit, her favorite noodle dish. Ages 5-7.
Dancing in Thatha’s Footsteps
Dancing in Thatha’s Footsteps by Srividhya Venkat, illustrated by Kavita Ramchandran (34 pp, Yali Books, 2021). A heartwarming picture book about a multigenerational Tamil-American family discovering a shared love for bharatanatyam, an ancient classical dance form that continues to fascinate young dancers across the globe. Ages 4-6.
A Different Pond
A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui (32 pp, Capstone, 2017). A Different Pond is an unforgettable story about a simple event—a long-ago fishing trip. Graphic novelist Thi Bui and acclaimed poet Bao Phi deliver a powerful, honest glimpse into a relationship between father and son—and between cultures, old and new. Ages 6-8.
Drawn Together by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat (40 pp, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018). When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens—with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words. Ages 4-8.
Dumpling Day by Meera Sriram, illustrated by Inés de Antuñano (40 pp, Barefoot Books, 2021). Savor a rhyming celebration of one of the world’s most universal foods! Readers follow ten diverse families as they cook dumplings inside their homes in preparation for a neighborhood potluck. Dumplings are added to plates one by one, encouraging children to count with each new addition. Authentic recipes for all the dumplings and a map showing their regions of origin are included in the endnotes. Dumpling Day features dumplings from the following regions: India USA (Pennsylvania Dutch) China (Cantonese) Nigeria Japan Israel Mexico Syria Russia Italy. Ages 4-9.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho (40 pp, HarperCollins, 2021). A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future. Drawing from the strength of these powerful women in her life, she recognizes her own beauty and discovers a path to self-love and empowerment. Ages 2-8.
Festival of Colors
Festival of Colors by Kabir & Surishtha Sehgal, illustrated by Vashti Harrison (32 pp, Beach Lane Books, 2018). Spring is here, and it’s almost time for Holi, the Indian Festival of Colors. Siblings Mintoo and Chintoo are busy gathering flowers to make into colorful powders to toss during the festival. And when at last the big day comes, they gather with their friends, family, and neighbors for a vibrant celebration of fresh starts, friendship, forgiveness, and, of course, fun! Ages 2-6.
Geraldine Pu and Her Lunch Box, Too!
Geraldine Pu and Her Lunch Box, Too! by Maggie P. Chang (64 pp, Simon Spotlight, 2021). Geraldine Pu’s favorite part of school is lunch. She loves her lunch box, which she calls Biandang. She can’t wait to see what her grandmother, Amah, has packed inside it each day. Then one day, Geraldine gets stinky tofu…and an unexpected surprise. What will she do? Ages 6-8.
Holding on by Sophia Lee, illustrated by Isabel Roxas (32 pp, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2022).
There is always singing in Lola’s house. Sammy Davis Jr. in the morning, Dean Martin in the afternoon, and all throughout the evening, old Tagalog love songs from Nora Aunor, Basil Valdez, and more. Lola always says: “If you want to hold on, you gotta sing your songs.”Her granddaughter tucks these sounds and Lola’s wisdom deep within her heart. And when Lola starts slipping into silence and stillness, she helps Lola hold on, piece by piece, with the joy and music that Lola taught her. Ages 4-8.
Hot Pot Night!
Hot Pot Night! by Vincent Chen (40 pp, Charlesbridge, 2020). What’s for dinner? A Taiwanese American child brings his diverse neighbors together to make a tasty communal meal. Together, they cook up a steaming family dinner that celebrates community, cooperation, and culture. Includes a family recipe for hot pot! Ages 3-7.
I Dream of Popo
I Dream of Popo by Livia Blackburne, illustrated by Julia Kuo (40 pp, Roaring Brook Press, 2021). When a young girl and her family emigrate from Taiwan to America, she leaves behind her beloved popo, her grandmother. She misses her popo every day, but even if their visits are fleeting, their love is ever true and strong. Ages 2-7.
Maui Hooks the Islands
Maui Hooks the Islands by Gabrielle Ahuli, illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong (16 pp, Beachhouse Pub., 2016). Part of a new series called Hawaiian Legends for Little Ones, Maui Hooks the Islands introduces kids ages 2-5 to one of Hawaii’s best-known legends about Maui the demigod who fished up the Hawaiian islands using a magic fishing hook. Ages 0-4.
The Most Beautiful Thing
The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Khoa Le (32 pp, Carolrhoda Books, 2020). Drawn from author Kao Kalia Yang’s childhood experiences as a Hmong refugee, this moving picture book portrays a family with a great deal of love and little money. Weaving together Kalia’s story with that of her beloved grandmother, the book moves from the jungles of Laos to the family’s early years in the United States. Ages 5-9.
The Name Jar
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (40 pp, Dragonfly Books, 2003). Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Ages 3-7.
Ohana Means Family
Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis, illustrated by Kenard Pak (40 pp, Neal Porter Books, 2020). Join the family, or ohana, as they farm taro for poi to prepare for a traditional luau celebration with a poetic text in the style of The House That Jack Built. Acclaimed illustrator and animator Kenard Pak’s light-filled, dramatic illustrations pair exquisitely with Ilima Loomis’ text to celebrate Hawaiian land and culture. The backmatter includes a glossary of Hawaiian terms used, as well as an author’s note. Ages 4-8.
A Piece of Home
A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts, illustrated by Hyewon Yum (32 pp, Candlewick, 2016). When Hee Jun’s family moves from Korea to West Virginia, he struggles to adjust to his new home. A child-friendly story about the trials and triumphs of starting over in a new place while keeping family and traditions close. Ages 5-8.
Watercress by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin (32 pp, Neal Porter Books, 2021). Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl’s parents stop suddenly when they spot watercress growing wild in a ditch by the side of the road. Grabbing an old paper bag and some rusty scissors, the whole family wades into the muck to collect as much of the muddy, snail covered watercress as they can. At first, she’s embarrassed. Why can’t her family get food from the grocery store? But when her mother shares a story of her family’s time in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged. Together, they make a new memory of watercress. Ages 4-8.
A Piece of Home by Múón Thi Vãn, illustrated by Victo Ngai (40 pp, Orchard Books, 2021). Wishes tells the powerful, honest story about one Vietnamese family’s search for a new home on the other side of the world, and the long-lasting and powerful impact that makes on the littlest member of the family. Inspired by actual events in the author’s life, this is a narrative that is both timely and timeless. Ages 4-8.
Yes We Will: Asian Americans Who Shaped This Country
Yes We Will: Asian Americans Who Shaped This Country by Kelly Yang (40 pp, Dial Books, 2022). From creating beautiful music like Yo-Yo Ma to flying to outer space like Franklin Chang-Díaz; from standing up to injustice like Fred Korematsu to becoming the first Asian American, Black and female vice president of the United States like Kamala Harris, this book illuminates the power of Asian Americans all over the country, in all sorts of fields. Ages 4-8.
You Are Life
You Are Life by Bao Phi, illustrated by Hannah Li (32 pp, Capstone Editions, 2022). Every child is full to bursting with amazing things! This joyful poem celebrates the wonderful and complex identity of children of immigrants and refugees, embracing all that they are–a dancer, a shining light, a K-pop song–and promising what they will never be: invisible. Award-winning picture book author and poet Bao Phi and illustrator Hannah Li remind young readers through lyrical text and fantastical illustrations that who they are and what they love will always be enough. Ages 5-6.
Asian American/Pacific Islander (Middle Readers)
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Almost American Girl
Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir by Robin Ha (240 pp, Balzer + Bray, 2020). For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together. So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation—following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married—Robin is devastated. Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. She is completely cut off from her friends in Seoul and has no access to her beloved comics. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily, and worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to—her mother. Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined. Ages 13-17.
The Astonishing Color of After
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (480 pp, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019). Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird. Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life. Ages 12 and up.
The Boys in the Back Row
The Boys in the Back Row by Mike Jung (272 pp, Levine Querido, 2020). Best friends Matt and Eric are hatching a plan for one big final adventure together before Eric moves away: during the marching band competition at a Giant Amusement Park, they will sneak away to a nearby comics convention and meet their idol-a famous comic creator. Without cell phones. Or transportation. Or permission. Of course, their final adventure together is more than just that-really, it’s a way for the boys to celebrate their friendship, and their honest love and support for one another. That’s exactly what we love so much about The Boys in the Back Row: it’s an unabashed ode to male friendship, because love between boys, platonic or otherwise, is something to celebrate. Ages 8-12.
Butterfly Yellow by Thanhhà Lai (304 pp, HarperCollins, 2019). In the final days of the Việt Nam War, Hằng takes her little brother, Linh, to the airport, determined to find a way to safety in America. In a split second, Linh is ripped from her arms—and Hằng is left behind in the war-torn country. Six years later, Hằng has made the brutal journey from Việt Nam and is now in Texas as a refugee. She doesn’t know how she will find the little brother who was taken from her until she meets LeeRoy, a city boy with big rodeo dreams, who decides to help her. Ages 13 and up.
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan (272 pp, Square Fish, 2018). Cilla Lee-Jenkins is 50% Chinese, 50% Caucasian, and 100% destined for literary greatness! In this middle grade novel, she shares stories about a new sibling, being biracial, and her destiny as a future author extraordinaire. Ages 8-12.
Cold by Mariko Tamaki (240 pp, Roaring Book Press, 2022). Todd Mayer is dead. Now a ghost, hovering over his body, recently discovered in a snow covered park, naked and frozen. As detectives investigate Todd’s homicide, talking to the very people linked to the events leading to his death, Todd replays the choice that led him to his end. Georgia didn’t know Todd. But ever since she heard about his death, she can’t stop thinking about him. Maybe because they’re both outcasts at their school, or because they’re both queer. Maybe because the story of Todd people keep telling feels like a lot of fake stories Georgia has heard people tell. Plus Georgia has a feeling she’s seen Todd somewhere before, somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be. Ages 12-18.
Count Me In
Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj (192 pp, Puffin Books, 2020). An uplifting story, told through the alternating voices of two middle-schoolers, in which a community rallies to reject racism. Karina Chopra would have never imagined becoming friends with the boy next door–after all, they’ve avoided each other for years and she assumes Chris is just like the boys he hangs out with, who she labels a pack of hyenas. Then Karina’s grandfather starts tutoring Chris, and she discovers he’s actually a nice, funny kid. But one afternoon something unimaginable happens—the three of them are assaulted by a stranger who targets Indian-American Karina and her grandfather because of how they look. Ages 10-12.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang (320 pp, Arthur A. Levine, 2019). Mia Tang has a lot of secrets. Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests. Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they’ve been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed. Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language? It will take all of Mia’s courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams? Ages 9-11.
Inside Out and Back Again
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (288 pp, HarperCollins, 2013).
Hà has only ever known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope–toward America. Ages 9-12.
The Knockout by Sajni Patel (360 pp, Flux, 2021). If seventeen-year-old Kareena Thakkar is going to alienate herself from the entire Indian community, she might as well do it gloriously. She’s landed the chance of a lifetime, an invitation to the US Muay Thai Open, which could lead to a spot on the first-ever Olympic team. If only her sport weren’t seen as something too rough for girls, something she’s afraid to share with anyone outside of her family. Despite pleasing her parents, excelling at school, and making plans to get her family out of debt, Kareena’s never felt quite Indian enough, and her training is only making it worse. Ages 14-17.
The Last Mapmaker
The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat (368 pp, Candlewick Press, 2022). In a fantasy adventure every bit as compelling and confident in its world building as her Newbery Honor Book A Wish in the Dark, Christina Soontornvat explores a young woman’s struggle to unburden herself of the past and chart her own destiny in a world of secrets. As assistant to Mangkon’s most celebrated mapmaker, twelve-year-old Sai plays the part of a well-bred young lady with a glittering future. In reality, her father is a conman–and in a kingdom where the status of one’s ancestors dictates their social position, the truth could ruin her. Sai seizes the chance to join an expedition to chart the southern seas, but she isn’t the only one aboard with secrets. When Sai learns that the ship might be heading for the fabled Sunderlands–a land of dragons, dangers, and riches beyond imagining–she must weigh the cost of her dreams. Vivid, suspenseful, and thought-provoking, this tale of identity and integrity is as beautiful and intricate as the maps of old. Ages 8-12.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (432 pp, Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2021). Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the feeling took root–that desire to look, to move closer, to touch. Whenever it started growing, it definitely bloomed the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. Suddenly everything seemed possible.But America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father–despite his hard-won citizenship–Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day. Ages 14-17.
Maizy Chen’s Last Chance
Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee (288 pp, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2022). Maizy has never been to Last Chance, Minnesota . . . until now. Her mom’s plan is just to stay for a couple weeks, until her grandfather gets better. But plans change, and as Maizy spends more time in Last Chance and at the Golden Palace–the restaurant that’s been in her family for generations–she makes some discoveries. Ages 8-12.
The Marvelous Mirza Girls
The Marvelous Mirza Girls by Sheba Karim (400 pp, Quill Tree Books, 2021). To cure her post-senior year slump, made worse by the loss of her aunt Sonia, Noreen decides to follow her mom on a gap year trip to New Delhi, hoping India can lessen her grief and bring her voice back. In the world’s most polluted city, Noreen soon meets kind, handsome Kabir, who introduces her to the wonders of this magical, complicated place. With the help of Kabir—plus Bollywood celebrities, fourteenth-century ruins, karaoke parties, and Sufi saints—Noreen discovers new meanings for home. But when a family scandal erupts, Noreen and Kabir must face complex questions in their own relationship: What does it mean to truly stand by someone—and what are the boundaries of love? Ages 13-17.
Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business: Volume 1
Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business: Volume 1 by Lyla Dee, illustrated by Dung Ho (400 pp, Quill Tree Books, 2021). Fresh Off the Boat meets Junie B. Jones in this first novel in an adorable new chapter book series about Mindy Kim, a young Asian American girl who is starting a snack business! Ages 6-9.
Red, White, and Whole
Red, White, and Whole by Rajani Larocca (224 pp, Quill Tree Books, 2021). From Indies Introduce author Rajani LaRocca comes a radiant story about the ties that bind and how to go on in the face of unthinkable loss. This is the perfect next read for fans of Jasmine Warga and Thanhhà Lại. Ages 8-12.
Stand Up, Yumi Chung!
Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim (320 pp, Puffin Books, 2021). One lie snowballs into a full-blown double life in this irresistible story about an aspiring stand-up comedian. On the outside, Yumi Chung suffers from #shygirlproblems, a perm-gone-wrong, and kids calling her “Yu-MEAT” because she smells like her family’s Korean barbecue restaurant. On the inside, Yumi is ready for her Netflix stand-up special. Her notebook is filled with mortifying memories that she’s reworked into comedy gold. All she needs is a stage and courage. Ages 9-12.
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar (448 pp, HarperTeen, 2020). The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago. This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy. Ages 13-17.
Stargazing by Jen Wang (224 pp, First Second, 2019). Moon is everything Christine isn’t. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic . . . and though they both grew up in the same Chinese-American suburb, Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known. Jen Wang draws on her childhood to paint a deeply personal yet wholly relatable friendship story that’s at turns joyful, heart-wrenching, and full of hope. Ages 8-12.
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim (336 pp, Scholastic Press, 2020). Minni lives in the poorest part of Mumbai, where access to water is limited to a few hours a day and the communal taps have long lines. Lately, though, even that access is threatened by severe water shortages and thieves who are stealing this precious commodity–an act that Minni accidentally witnesses one night. Meanwhile, in the high-rise building where she just started to work, she discovers that water streams out of every faucet and there’s even a rooftop swimming pool. What Minni also discovers there is one of the water mafia bosses. Now she must decide whether to expose him and risk her job and maybe her life. How did something as simple as access to water get so complicated? Ages 10 and up.
Thirst by Varsha Bajaj (192 pp, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2022). Anna Chiu has her hands full. When she’s not looking after her brother and sister or helping out at her father’s restaurant, she’s taking care of her mother, whose debilitating mental illness keeps her in bed most days. Her father’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could be a normal teen. But when her mother finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as her mother’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other. The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling is a heart-wrenching, true-to-life exploration through the often neglected crevices of culture, mental illness, and family. Its strong themes are balanced by a beautiful romance making it a feel-good, yet important read. Ages 12 and up.
They Called Us Enemy
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (208 pp, Top Shelf Productions, 2019). A stunning graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei’s childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon — and America itself — in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love. Ages 12-17.
We Are Not Free
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee (400 pp, HMH Books for Young Readers, 2020). From New York Times best-selling and acclaimed author Traci Chee comes We Are Not Free, the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II. Ages 12 and up.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (278 pp, HMH, 2019). In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life’s questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family’s fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer. Ages 8-12.
You Are Here: Connecting Flights
You Are Here: Connecting Flights by Ellen Oh (272 pp, Allida, 2023). A powerful and engaging exploration of contemporary Asian American identity through interwoven stories set in a teeming Chicago airport, written by award-winning and bestselling East and Southeast Asian American authors including Linda Sue Park, Grace Lin, Erin Entrada Kelly, Traci Chee, and Ellen Oh. Flying Lessons meets Black Boy Joy. Ages 8-12.
You Bring the Distant Near
You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins (320 pp, Square Fish, 2019). This elegant young adult novel captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart. Told in alternating teen voices across three generations, You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture—for better or worse. From a grandmother worried that her children are losing their Indian identity to a daughter wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair to a granddaughter social-activist fighting to preserve Bengali tigers, award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together the threads of a family growing into an American identity. Ages 12-18.
Asian American/Pacific Islander (Adult Readers)
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America Is Not the Heart
America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo (432 pp, Penguin Books, 2019). How many lives fit in a lifetime? When Hero De Vera arrives in America—haunted by the political upheaval in the Philippines and disowned by her parents—she’s already on her third. Her uncle gives her a fresh start in the Bay Area, and he doesn’t ask about her past. His younger wife knows enough about the might and secrecy of the De Vera family to keep her head down. But their daughter—the first American-born daughter in the family—can’t resist asking Hero about her damaged hands. An increasingly relevant story told with startling lucidity, humor, and an uncanny ear for the intimacies and shorthand of family ritual, America Is Not the Heart is a sprawling, soulful debut about three generations of women in one family struggling to balance the promise of the American dream and the unshakeable grip of history.
Crying in H Mart
Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner (256 pp, Knopf Publishing Group, 2021). In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.
Everything I Never Told You
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (297 pp, Penguin Books, 2015). “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
Girls Burn Brighter
Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao (416 pp, Flatiron Books, 2019). Poornima and Savitha have three strikes against them: they are poor, they are ambitious, and they are girls. After her mother’s death, Poornima has very little kindness in her life. She is left to care for her siblings until her father can find her a suitable match. So when Savitha enters their household, Poornima is intrigued by the joyful, independent-minded girl. Suddenly their Indian village doesn’t feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond arranged marriage. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend.
Go Home! by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (320 pp, The Feminist Press, 2018). Asian diasporic writers imagine “home” in the twenty-first century through an array of fiction, memoir, and poetry. Both urgent and meditative, this anthology moves beyond the model-minority myth and showcases the singular intimacies of individuals figuring out what it means to belong.
Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations
Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob (368 pp, One World, 2020). Like many six-year-olds, Mira Jacob’s half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, has questions about everything. At first they are innocuous enough, but as tensions from the 2016 election spread from the media into his own family, they become much, much more complicated. Trying to answer him honestly, Mira has to think back to where she’s gotten her own answers: her most formative conversations about race, color, sexuality, and, of course, love. Written with humor and vulnerability, this deeply relatable graphic memoir is a love letter to the art of conversation—and to the hope that hovers in our most difficult questions.
I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir
I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir by Malaka Gharib (160 pp, Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2019). I Was Their American Dream is at once a coming-of-age story and a reminder of the thousands of immigrants who come to America in search for a better life for themselves and their children. The daughter of parents with unfulfilled dreams themselves, Malaka navigated her childhood chasing her parents’ ideals, learning to code-switch between her family’s Filipino and Egyptian customs, adapting to white culture to fit in, crushing on skater boys, and trying to understand the tension between holding onto cultural values and trying to be an all-American kid.
The Joy Luck Club
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (352 pp, Penguin Books, 2006). With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery.
Know My Name
Know My Name by Chanel Miller (384 pp, Penguin Books, 2020). Universally acclaimed, rapturously reviewed, and an instant New York Times bestseller, Chanel Miller’s breathtaking memoir “gives readers the privilege of knowing her not just as Emily Doe, but as Chanel Miller the writer, the artist, the survivor, the fighter.” (The Wrap). Her story of trauma and transcendence illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicting a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shining with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life.
The Last Story of Mina Lee
The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim (384 pp, Park Row, 2020). Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother. Told through the intimate lens of a mother and daughter who have struggled all their lives to understand each other, The Last Story of Mina Lee is a powerful and exquisitely woven debut novel that explores identity, family, secrets, and what it truly means to belong.
The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang (312 pp, Coffee House Press, 2017). In the 70s and 80s, thousands of Hmong families made the journey from the war-torn jungles of Laos to the overcrowded refugee camps of Thailand and onward to the United States, all in search of a new place to call home. Decades later, their experiences remain largely unknown. Kao Kalia Yang was driven to tell her own family’s story after her grandmother’s death. The Latehomecomer is a tribute to that grandmother, a remarkable woman whose spirit held her family together through their imprisonment in Laos, their narrow escape into Thailand’s Ban Vinai Refugee Camp, their immigration to St. Paul when Yang was only six years old, and their transition to life in America.
Little Fires Everywhere
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (368 pp, Penguin Books, 2019). In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned—from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson. Enter Mia Warren—an enigmatic artist and single mother—who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town—and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong (224 pp, One World, 2020). Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America. Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative—and its relentless and riveting pursuit of vital questions around family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality, will change the way you think about our world.
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (336 pp, Mariner Books, 2019). Meet the Ganguli family, new arrivals from Calcutta, trying their best to become Americans even as they pine for home. The name they bestow on their firstborn, Gogol, betrays all the conflicts of honoring tradition in a new world—conflicts that will haunt Gogol on his own winding path through divided loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (512 pp, Grand Central Publishing, 2017). In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant—and that her lover is married—she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (384 pp, Grove Press, 2016). With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds,” a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam. The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship.
Which Side Are You on
Which Side Are You on by Ryan Lee Wong (192 pp, Catapult, 2022). Twenty-one-year-old Reed is fed up. Angry about the killing of a Black man by an Asian American NYPD officer, he wants to drop out of college and devote himself to the Black Lives Matter movement. But would that truly bring him closer to the moral life he seeks?In a series of intimate, charged conversations, his mother–once the leader of a Korean-Black coalition–demands that he rethink his outrage, and along with it, what it means to be an organizer, a student, an ally, an American, and a son. As Reed zips around his hometown of Los Angeles with his mother, searching and questioning, he faces a revelation that will change everything.