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Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month Book Recommendations

Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI) is celebrated every May and has been since the late 1970s. In celebration of this month check out our list of books and find a new favorite read!

Picture Books 

Kumo: The Bashful Cloud (Japanese Canadian) 

by Kyo Maclear 

Wishing to float unseen, extremely shy cloud Kumo decides to pull her fluff together and do her duties, meeting some new friends along the way and inspiring the imagination of a small daydreamer like herself. 

 

Eyes That Speak to the Stars (Chinese American) 

by Joanna Ho 

When a friend at school creates a hurtful drawing, a young boy turns to his family for comfort. Inspired, he comes to recognize his own power and ability to change the future. 

Sari-Sari Summers (Filipino) 

by Lynnor Bontigao 

Nora loves spending summers with Lola at her sari-sari store, a treasure trove filled with everything you could need, from hair accessories to toys, creamy yema to sour tamarind candy. And this year, Nora is big enough to help her grandmother. 

Like a Dandelion (Cambodian American)  

by Huy Voun Lee 

Like feathery seeds, a young girl and her mother take flight, putting down roots in an adopted country. Soon they blossom in their new home, strong and beautiful among hundreds of others just like them 

Nana, Nenek & Nina (Malaysian British)  

by Liza Ferneyhough 

Nina’s visits to her two faraway grandmothers–one in Malaysia and one in England–unfold side-by-side, featuring similarities and differences between the two¬†

 

Middle Grade Books

The Whole Story of Half a Girl (Indian American) 

by Veera Hiranandai 

When Sonia’s father loses his job and she must move from her small, supportive private school to a public middle school, the half-Jewish half-Indian sixth-grader experiences culture shock as she tries to navigate the school’s unfamiliar social scene, and after her father is diagnosed with clinical depression, she finds herself becoming even more confused about herself and her family.¬†

Double O Stephen and the Ghostly Realm (Korean Canadian) 

by Angela Ahn 

When Stephen Oh-O’Driscoll gets suspended from school for doing proper pirate-adventurer-in-training things (using sticks to practice sword fighting), his mother doesn’t let him sit around doing nothing, instead she takes him to a museum. At the museum everything changes. Stephen finds himself in a strange new place, face-to-face with a real pirate. A pirate¬†ghost.¬†

Kira-Kira (Japanese American) 

by Cynthia Kadohata 

When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia during the late 1950s, it’s Lynn who explains to her why people stop on the street to stare, and it’s Lynn who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow. But when Lynn becomes desperately ill, and the whole family begins to fall apart, it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering —¬†kira-kira¬†— in the future.¬†

Winston Chu vs. the Whimsies (Chinese American) 

by Stacey Lee 

Winston Chu saves the owner of a curiosities shop from a robbery only to be gifted a broomstick and a dustpan for his trouble–items that turn out to be more a curse than a blessing when they sweep away important stuff, like his baby sister.¬†

Obie is Man Enough (Korean American) 

by Schuyler Bailar 

A coming-of-age story about transgender tween swimmer Obie, who didn’t think being himself would cause such a splash¬†¬†

Honorable Mention:

The Magic Fish (Vietnamese American) 

by Trung Le Nguyen 

It’s hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Ti√©Őān, he doesn’t even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he’s going through? Is there a way to tell them he’s gay?¬†

UPCOMING RELEASE:

Lei and the Fire Goddess (Native Hawaiian)  

by Malia Maunakea 

Coming out June 6th, 12-year-old Lei is forced to spend summers in Hawai Ľi with her grandma who is determined to make sure she knows all her family’s mo Ľolelo‚ÄĒstories the kids back home don Ľt care about or believe. But after insulting Pele, the Goddess of Fire, she learns just how real these legends are when the goddess takes her best friend and places a curse on her family‚ÄĒone that only Lei can lift.¬†

 

Young Adult Books

She Is A Haunting (Vietnamese) 

by Trang Thanh Tran 

Seventeen-year-old bisexual Jade Nguyen is spending the summer in Vietnam at the French colonial house her estranged father is fixing up as a vacation rental, but unbeknownst to her family, the house and its ghosts have other plans. 

Summer Bird Blue (Japanese & Native Hawaiian American)  

by Akemi Dawn Bowman 

After her sister and songwriting partner, Lee, dies in an automobile accident, seventeen-year-old Rumi is sent to Hawaii with an aunt she barely knows while she and her mother grieve separately. 

Gearbreakers (Asian inspired Sci-fi) 

by Zoe Hana Mikuta 

In an age of 100-foot-tall mechanical deities run by a tyrannical regime, two teenaged girls on opposite sides of a war discover they are fighting for a common purpose–and falling for each other.¬†

This Place Is Still Beautiful (Chinese American) 

by XiXi Tian 

The Flanagan sisters are as different as they come. Seventeen-year-old Annalie is bubbly, sweet, and self-conscious, whereas nineteen-year-old Margaret is sharp and assertive. Margaret looks just like their mother, while Annalie passes for white and looks like the father who abandoned them years ago, leaving their Chinese immigrant mama to raise the girls alone in their small, predominantly white Midwestern town. 

 

Honorable Mention:

Mech Cadet Yu (Korean American) 

by Greg Pak; illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa ; colored by Triona Farrell 

Every year, giant sentient robots from outer space come to Earth and bond forever with a brand new crop of cadets at Sky Corps Academy to help keep the planet safe. But this year, instead of making a connection with a cadet, one of the mechs bonds with Stanford, a young kid working with his Mom as a janitor at Sky Corps. Stanford has the opportunity of a lifetime but he’ll first have to earn the trust of his classmates if he’s to defend the planet from the monstrous Sharg.  

 

UPCOMING RELEASE:

Something More (Palestinian-Canadian)  

by Jackie Khalilieh  

Another June 6th release, Fifteen-year-old Palestinian-Canadian, Jessie, a quirky loner obsessed with the nineties, is diagnosed as autistic just weeks before starting high school. Determined to make a fresh start and keep her diagnosis a secret, Jessie creates a list of goals that range from acquiring two distinct eyebrows to getting a magical first kiss and landing a spot in the school play.   

 

Adult Books

She Who Became The Sun (Chinese)  

by Shelley Parker-Chan 

In 1345s China, when a bandit attack orphans two children, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.¬†

The City Inside (Indian) 

by Samit Basu 

Joey is a Reality Controller in near-future Delhi. Her job is to supervise the multimedia multi-reality livestreams of Indi, one of South Asia‚Äôs fastest rising online celebrities. Rudra is a recluse estranged from his wealthy and powerful family, who receives a job offer from Joey, becoming his only escape from his family‚Äôs orbit. But as Joey and Rudra become enmeshed in multiple conspiracies, their lives start to spin out of control‚Äēcomplicated by dysfunctional relationships, corporate loyalty, and the never-ending pressures of surveillance capitalism.¬†

Sharks in the Time of Saviors (Native Hawaiian)  

By Kawai Strong Washburn 

A groundbreaking debut novel that folds the legends of Hawaiian gods into an engrossing family saga; a story of exile and the pursuit of salvation.  

In the Shadow of the Banyan (Cambodian American) 

by Vaddey Ratner 

Set in Khmer Rouge-era Cambodia, this story follows seven-year-old Raami and her family as civil war forces them from their beloved home in Phnom Penh. With starvation, labor camps, and death now part of her everyday life, Raami finds comfort only in the beauty and hope of her father’s mythical tales and poems¬†

The Circus Infinite (Asian American author) 

by Khan Wong 

A mixed-species fugitive, Jes tries to blend in on a pleasure moon, but instead catches the attention of a crime boss who owns the resort-casino where he lands a circus job and is forced to bend to the mobster’s will until he decides to take the big boss down.¬†

 

Honorable Mention:

The Many Deaths of Laila Starr (Indian) 

by Ram V 

Humanity is on the verge of discovering immortality. The avatar of Death is cast down to Earth to live a mortal life in Mumbai as twenty-something Laila Starr. Will Laila take her chance to stop mankind from permanently altering the cycle of life? 

Nonfiction  

Time is a Mother (Vietnamese American) 

by Ocean Vuong 

Ocean Vuong’s second collection of poetry looks inward, on the aftershocks of his mother’s death, and the struggle – and rewards – of staying present in the world.¬†

Minor Feelings (Korean American) 

by Cathy Park Hong 

As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy.¬† With sly humor and a poet’s searching mind, Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today.¬†

Gentlemen Bankers: The World of J. P. Morgan (Korean American Author) 

by Susie Pak 

Gentlemen Bankers investigates the social and economic circles of one of America’s most renowned and influential financiers to uncover how the Morgan family’s power and prestige stemmed from its unique position within a network of local and international relationships. 

Bengali Harlem and the lost histories of South Asian America (Bengali American) 

by Vivek Bald 

Vivek Bald’s meticulous reconstruction reveals a lost history of South Asian sojourning and life-making in the United States. At a time when Asian immigrants were vilified and criminalized, Bengali Muslims quietly became part of some of America’s most iconic neighborhoods of color, from Tremé in New Orleans to Detroit’s Black Bottom, from West Baltimore to Harlem.   

Another Appalachia: Coming up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place (Indian American) 

by Neema Avashia 

Another Appalachia examines both the roots and the resonance of Neema Avashia’s identity as a queer desi Appalachian woman with lyric and narrative explorations of foodways, religion, sports, standards of beauty, social media, and gun culture. ¬†

Honorable Mention:

We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration (Japanese American) 

written by Frank Abe, Tamiko Nimura; art by Ross Ishikawa, Matt Sasaki 

Three Japanese American individuals with different beliefs and backgrounds decided to resist imprisonment by the United States government during World War II in different ways. These three stories show the devastating effects of the imprisonment, but also how widespread and varied the resistance was.