by Bailey Keimig-Gehrke, Youth Services
Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is celebrated every May to recognize the contributions of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islander-Americans. It is the perfect time of year to add more diverse voices to your bookshelf so you can celebrate these individuals all year long. No matter your age, there are plenty of stunning books by Asian American and Pacific Islander American voices to try out this and every month. Here are just a few suggestions:
Teens and Adults
Pick up “A Girl Like That” (Farrar Straus Giroux Books, 2018) by Tanaz Bhathena. This book tells the dark, one-of-a-kind story of Zarin Wadia—a smart and rebellious girl who no one bothers trying to understand.
When Zarin’s parents both die, she moves from Mumbai to Saudi Arabia to live with her abusive aunt and uncle. Bogged down by constant violence and patriarchal expectations, 16-year-old Zarin expresses her frustration through risky behavior like smoking and fraternizing with boys. Despite her terrible reputation, Zarin has the heart of 18-year-old Porus, the only person to see anything good in her. The story begins after Zarin and Porus are found dead together in a car crash. As more questions arise about what happened, will people finally be able to see Zarin for who she really was? Or will a world ruled by diminutive gender roles still only see “a girl like that?”
Elementary and Middle Schoolers
Try out the much lighter “Stand Up, Yumi Chung!” (Kokila, 2020) by Jessica Kim. In this story we meet 11-year-old Yumi Chung, who is spending her summer working at her parents’ Korean barbeque restaurant and going to Korean summer school so she can ace the high school entrance test. But Yumi also dreams of becoming a wildly successful stand-up comedian. Achieving her dream has more than one roadblock, the biggest being what she calls #shygirlproblems. When you have #shygirlproblems everything seems terrifying, especially anything that puts you in the spotlight. So when Yumi gets the chance to attend a stand-up comedy summer camp, will she find the courage to go on stage or risk losing her dream? Grab this book when you need a good laugh or some inspiration to follow your dreams.
Take a look at “A Different Pond” (Picture Window Books, 2017) by Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui. In this soft, atmospheric story, a father and son wake up early to go fishing for food for their family. The father talks about how he used to fish at a similar pond when he was a child in Vietnam. The family lives in the United States now, but they still have hardships.
Lush illustrations bring this simple semi-autobiographical story to life, and the poetic language depicts a warm, hopeful, and loving family. This book is perfect for ruminating on your own or sharing and discussing with others.
Whatever reading experience you are after, take some time to incorporate Asian and Pacific Islander voices into your book world. Though this is just a small sampling of Asian/Pacific American Heritage stories, you can find many more books at the library to enrich your reading experiences.
Find more reading suggestions here.