Happy Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) Heritage Month! Within my own classroom, we have delved into APIA Heritage Month by learning about different API Heroes to get snapshots of API History in America. For example, in our first week, students had to pick an API hero to research using videos or articles and write facts about them. We even did a class example together via Zoom using the eBook of Asian-Americans Who Inspire Us. It was such an easy lesson for me to implement while allowing my students to see mirrors and windows within our virtual classroom.

I know Colorful Pages has already released a post for APIA Heritage Month, but since it holds extreme importance to my API community and I have come across so many more books, I felt called to do another book list. I created a list of 10 Diverse Books about Asian American and Pacific Islander History! I have listed 6 picture books (many which I have used in my own classroom) and 4 Chapter Books/Young Adult Books. Please use these to continue the conversations you started in APIA Heritage Month beyond the month of May!   

Picture Books

Asian-Americans Who Inspire Us, by Analiza Quiroz Wolf

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Dependent on the Chapter

Age Range: 4+ years old

Asian-Americans Who Inspire Us is a picture book that tells the story of 16 Asian-Americans who are trailblazers in history. Each chapter features the biography of a hero accompanied by beautiful illustrations of their life. I used this eBook to read to my students so they can learn about important Asian-Americans for APIA Heritage Month!

Kohala Kuamoʻo: Naeʻole’s Race to Save the King, by Kekauleleanaeʻole Kawaiʻaeʻa [Bilingual Picture Book]

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Between Representation and Exploration

Age Range: 6-10 years old

Kohala Kuamo’o: Nae’ole’s Race to Save the King is a picture book that tells the story of Nae’ole racing across the Kohala district of the Hawai’i island to bring infant Kamehameha to safety. My little brother actually gave me this picture book for Christmas because it represents our Native Hawaiian culture and is bilingual (it has ‘Olelo Hawai’i on one side and English on the other). 

We Are Inspiring: The Stories of 32 Inspirational Asian American Women, by Angel Trazo

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Dependent on the Biography

Age Range: 6-8 years

Angel Trazo wrote this book after seeing the lack of literature representing Asian Americans! We Are Inspiring shares the stories of 32 Asian-American women and what they did in our world. I loved the diversity in the Asian-American women she included in this book. Trazo definitely paid attention to acknowledging the wide-breadth of identities in the Asian-American community!

The Bracelet, by Yoshiko Uchida

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years

The Bracelet is a picture book about Emi, a seven-year-old, and her family’s experiences being forced to go into a concentration camp, where all Japanese-Americans were ordered to go in the 1940s. Author Yoshiko Uchida uses her own childhood experiences to write this important story. I have used this book to introduce the Internment of Japanese Americans and address the racism that harmed the Japanese-American community during World War II. 

Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist, by Julie Leung

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years

Paper Son is the biography of Tryus Wong, who immigrated to America from China. Tyrus Wong eventually became an animator for Disney’s Bambi. The illustrations of Chris Sasaki in this picture book are absolutely breathtaking. I love that students will be drawn into the story because of Wong’s work on a Disney movie and then get to experience the story of a great Asian-American artist! It also provides a great way for students to think and critically analyze the experience of immigrants in America in the past and modern day.

Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong, by Dawn B. Mabalon, PhD and Gayle Romasanta

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years

Journey for Justice is a picture book that tells the true story of Larry Itliong, a Filipino American labor leader. Larry Itliong was co-founder of the United Farm Workers and fought for the rights of farmworkers. According to the publisher, this is the first nonfiction illustrated Filipino American picture book!

Chapter Books/Young Adult Books

Lili’uokalani, by Ruby Hasegawa Lowe

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 9+ years

This was one of my favorite books growing up and I even submitted an unassigned book report on it in third grade! It is a biography about Queen Lili’uokalani who was the last queen of Hawai’i. She did so many great things during her reign and fought for the sovereignty of her Hawaiian people. This non-fiction chapter book is perfect to really dive into Hawaiian history at an age-appropriate level. It also is part of a series that Kamehameha Publishing has of many Hawaiian monarchs. Please start teaching our true history!

They Called Us Enemy, by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, & Harmony Becker

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 12+ years

They Called Us Enemy is George Takei’s memoir of his childhood experiences during World War II. Takei and his family were forced into concentration camps as Japanese-Americans were ordered to be imprisoned. This Graphic Novel is incredibly engaging and can be used to have many conversations around this period of APIA history and racism. 

Escape to Gold Mountain: A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America, by David H.T. Wong

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 12+ years

Escape to Gold Mountain is another great graphic novel about APIA history and the APIA experience in America! The novel follows the fictional (but representative) Wong family as they immigrate from China to America and assimilate over 150 years. It delves into discrimination, racism, and other complex issues of the immigrant experience rooted in history. 

The Snake Dance of Asian American Activism: Community, Vision, & Power, by Michael Liu, Kim Geron, and Tracy Lai

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: Young Adult+

The Snake Dance of Asian American Activism was recommended to me when I was taking a course on the Asian Pacific American experience in the Pacific Northwest. Liu, Geron, and Lai write about the Asian American Movement and its impact on the equality and inclusion of Asian Americans. This novel challenges the “model minority” stereotype that is harmful for our communities.

Comment below and tell us what you are doing in your homes or classrooms for Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month!

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