Good evening fiction-fiends everywhere! I know it’s kind of late into the night, but as I was chatting with one of the coolest cats I know, I came to the realization that while I read a lot of Asian literature, not many of them are from children-appropriate topics or genres. What about the tiny, little peoples who enjoy reading? Don’t they deserve to dip their toes into the sublime world of Asian adventures and narratives? Thus a vehement hunt for books in the realm of Chinese, Japanese, and many more had begun!
I wanted to create a list for my badass friend that she could share with her kids; titles that were about characters that these kids could relate to, or feel connected with. When I was a kid that no matter how many books I came across, I simply could not connect to the vast majority, if any, of the folks that I read about. They didn’t look like me, they didn’t come from similar cultural or religious backgrounds, and it made me feel alone and very confused about my identity. So, today on this blisteringly gross evening, I’m going to share with you a list of novels with stories from middle-grade to young adult that revolve around Asian cultures. The vast majority of them talk of self-identity and the struggle of growing up with the conflict of trying to accept or reject your heritage. Don’t worry! They aren’t all sappy, sentimental, and sad. A lot of these explore these themes with humour, wit, and great fun making them extremely accessible and likable by the youngsters.
The Moon Lady by Amy Tan is the perfect book for your kid, especially if you’re a fan of The Joy Luck Club. On a rainy afternoon, three sisters wish for something to do, anything to help alleviate their boredom. So, their grandma, Ying-Ying, tells them an old story about the Moon festival. When she was younger, Ying-Ying met the Moon Lady who is known to grant secret wishes of those who ask and that the best wishes are ones you can make come true yourself!
- Combo of exquisite art and beautiful storytelling from Tan that addresses the longstanding complaint of “I’m bored, mom!”
- Perfect to read with your child, as it’s about sharing stories with family
- Great lessons on making your own wishes come true
- Cast of female characters make it welcoming to young girls
- Older middle-grade to young adult
American Born Chinese by Gene Yuen Lang has three fables within it that come together with a surprising twist! The graphic novel revolves around a boy who comes to grips with his culture as well as his cultural heritage, and finds a way to accept his own identity.
- Comic book that utilizes myth, magical realism and fantasy to create a strong and compelling story
- Coming-of-age narrative filled with humour
- The artwork is cartoony in nature and accessible to both girls and boys
- Contains themes about overcoming fears by facing them, accepting yourself, and friendship
- Middle-grade to young adult
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang is a brilliant homage to classic comics about a young hero who solves crimes and fights injustice, like other superheroes, but in this instance the magnificent hero is an Asian-American known as The Green Turtle! This story revives the classic hero, The Green Turtle, and shares his origins.
- Tastefully beautiful artwork that’s a throwback to vintage comic style
- Talks about struggles that Chinese Americans had in 40s era with a fun and entertaining exhibition
- Young Adult age range
- Story has fantastically charming family dynamics
Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee tells the tale of a young 11-year-old who’s a prodigy going to high school. Students hate her for her intelligence, and then her mom sets her up to tutor the one kid she loathes. But then Millie, our brainy protagonist, meets a neat girl named Emily, who doesn’t know of Millie’s vast intellect. In an effort to finally befriend someone cool, Millie hides her smarts thus starting a journey of self-identity, friendship, and being a kid.
- Chapter book for middle grade; good for young girls.
- Funny, clever, relatable
- Strong messages about self-acceptance and identity told through comical situations and sassy wit.
- Doesn’t use the stereotypical “smart Asian” clichés; incorporates other traits that make you look past the stereotypes associated with Asian families.
The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang revolves around a sixth-grader who’s ready to be the ruler of her school as her sister is moving out and leaving Lucy to her own bedroom for the first-time! However, Lucy quickly realizes that her dreams of having the best year are busted to shreds when her mum tells her that her grandma’s sister, Yi Po, is visiting for several months from China… and will be staying with Lucy in her room. An unwelcome roomie, with foiled plans and a Chinese school may be giving Lucy the worst year instead.
- Middle-grade chapter book
- Comical as all heck
- Very realistic situations and characters
- Great book about accepting cultural identity, family values, and dealing with being different
The Amulet Series by Kazu Kibuishi is a graphic novel that is filled with fantastical creatures like a mechanical rabbit and a giant robot, and circles around a couple of kids who find themselves on one hell of a rescue mission!
- Whimsical tone with rich colours
- Absolutely brilliant world building; imaginative
- First fantasy series for middle-grade readers that is engaging and exquisitely written
- Would advise a parent to read with children younger than 11 years due to certain monsters and opening family tragedy
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson is a comic series about a girl from Jersey City named Kamala Khan. She’s ordinary with normal girl problems until one day she finds herself empowered with astonishing abilities! Who is this levelled-up girl? Is she a teenager? A Muslim? An alien? Follow Kamala as she discovers the dangers of having powers and trying to balance these new talents while trying to find herself as an individual.
- Good for young adults
- Fantastic origin story about a POC female from an Islamic background
- Relatable for anyone who’s struggled with finding themselves, especially amongst a conservative family setting
Well, friends, that’s the list! If you’d like to see more biblio-related posts geared towards the kiddos, please let me know and I’ll hunt down more titles. I found a lot of things to add to my ever-growing library in the process, so I don’t mind at all. 😉
Until next time! Sweet dreams. ♥