Since 1992, the month of May in the United States has celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage month. May commemorates the immigration of the first Japanese person to the U.S. on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. (Most of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.)
One way we can teach children about Asian and Pacific Islander cultures, is through stories written from their unique identities, perspectives, and voices.
Here are 10 powerful books you should read this year written by those of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent.
- “Juna’s Jar” by Jane Bahk – Juna finds that adventure — and new friends — can be found in the most unexpected places. Coupled with dreamy watercolor illustrations by Felicia Hoshino, Juna's Jar is a heartwarming and whimsical tale about the power of the imagination.
- “A different Pond” by Bao Phi – Tells the tale about a father and son fishing trip that shows interconnectedness of family and the inexorable way that generational history impacts the present.
- “Fish for Jimmy” by Katie Yamasaki – (Inspired by one family’s experience in a Japanese American Internment camp) – For two brothers in a Japanese American family, everything change when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States went to war.
- “Red, White, and Whole” by Rajani LaRocca – About an Indian American girl whose life is turned upside down when her mother is diagnosed with leukemia. Reha feels torn between two worlds: school, where she’s the only Indian American student, and home, with her family’s traditions and holidays.
- “The Last Princess: The Story of Princess Ka’iulani of Hawai’i” by Fay Stanley – Stanley’s children's book, filled with award-winning illustrations by her daughter Diane Stanley, tells the touching story of Princess Ka’iulani and opens a window into a nation’s history that is often forgotten.
Middle & High School
- “Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahira – A Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Lahira focuses this work of fiction in eight stories about second-generation immigrants making and remaking lives, loves and identities in England and America.
- “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan – In this New York Times bestseller, Tan tells the stories of four Chinese mothers and daughters — recent immigrants to San Francisco — who meet weekly to play mahjong and tell stories about what they left behind in China.
- “The Housekeeper and the Professor” by Yoko Ogawa – The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.
- “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng – 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.
- “Daughter of the Moon Goddess” by Sue Lynn Tan – A romantic duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic — where love vies with honor, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.
- “On Such a Full Sea” by Chang-Rae Lee – A vividly imagined future America, Lee tells a stunning, surprising, and riveting story that will change the way readers think about the world they live in.
For additional books that celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month, see here.