With Crazy Rich Asians and To All The Boys I've Loved Before coming out this week, we can't get enough of the Asian American representation! If you're feeling the same way after reading the books and watching the movies, us Crazy Publishing Asians at Little, Brown Young Readers and NOVL have some recommendations for you!
My pick is Justina Chen’s Girl Overboard. Before the book Crazy Rich Asians, there were the crazy rich Asians in Girl Overboard. Syrah is the daughter of billionaire Ethan Cheng, and has everything that you’d think a teenager would want—a waterfront mansion, private jet, and custom-designed snowboards. But, of course, her life isn’t perfect—she has parent problems, sibling problems, best friend problems, and boyfriend problems. This novel was Justina’s second book, and it has her signature sharp voice, lively characters, lots of drama, and this one also has snowboarding (it will cool you down this steamy hot summer!), and includes my all-time favorite trope in fiction: friendship to lovers (maybe? No spoilers!).
My pick is Grace Lin’s Ling & Ting series. Ling & Ting are cute, funny identical twins who want to be different. I love that the series features Asian characters which I think is unusual in early readers. I also love Grace’s fun, whimsical illustrations—especially the illustrations of Ling and Ting making dumplings. “Making Dumplings” story in book 1 always makes me hungry!
My pick is the “Bharat Babies Presents” titles–an adorable range of books that cover India’s heritage and culture in board book, picture book and early reader formats.
When shopping for baby shower or birthday gifts for family or friends, I’ve noticed that Indian characters are not well represented in illustrated books. And then a good friend of mine, began posting samples of art from some books he was creating for Bharat Babies–and that was it, I became a big fan. The art is cute and appealing and the stories are informative and fun. Check them out–my favorites are Padmini is Powerful and Let’s Celebrate Diwali.
I’m going to go with Halmoni and the Picnic, a picture book by Sook Nyul Choi that was a favorite of me and my sister’s when we were kids. My grandma would babysit us all the time, and similar to the halmoni in the story, she was a relatively new immigrant. The book deals a lot with worrying about the “otherness” of being Asian American among other kids, but at the time a lot of that went over our heads and mostly we were just so excited that there was a grandma in a book that made kimbop and had a hambok.
I recommend Journey To Topaz: A Story of the Japanese-American Evacuation by Yoshiko Uchida, illustrated by Donald Carrick. I was assigned to read this for mandatory reading in grade school, but it's such a good book. The book may have been published in 1979, but I still think it is relevant to today's current events and political climate. This book closely follows the author's own experiences being imprisoned in internment camps for 3 years. It has been decades since I had picked this book up; however, I remember it being sad and beautifully written. Not only that, but Yoshiko Uchida and Amy Tan were the only two Asian-American authors I knew growing up and I'm glad there's more now. I also like A Big Mooncake for Little Star, a forthcoming picture book by Grace Lin. It's so freaking cute and a beautifully illustrated rendition of a mother and daughter relationship.
I'd like to recommend The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh. It was one of the first books I ever read at LBYR and I wish that it existed when I was in middle school. Bea starts seventh grade friendless and is expecting big changes at home: she's about to become an big sister. She finds solace in writing haiku in invisible ink and hides them in a secret spot, but one day, someone responds. She finds herself making new connections and discovering herself along the way. It spoke out to my middle school self because I was once a shy seventh grader that found it hard to make connections and found an outlet writing angsty Xanga entries. I love that it has an Asian American protagonist and written by an Asian American author—it feels really good to be represented in not only books but in media as well! P.S. Constance Wu has a rabbit and so do I so my rabbit feels represented, too...
(Read also: Warcross by Marie Lu, Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi, The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo, Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami)
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan is one of the books I wish I had in high school, not only because it’s such a gorgeous, lush, lyrical read, but because of how candid the main character is when grappling with being a biracial Asian American. It feels so unlike the traditional Asian American narrative that I saw as a kid, so Leigh’s perspective was so refreshing and engaging. I’m also OBSESSED with travel stories of any kind, magical realism elements, and the whole 'falling in love with your best friend' thread!