Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Community: Authors and Characters

May was Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, but it’s also important to acknowledge and celebrate AAPI heritage and peoples beyond May. For June, we put together a list of books by AAPI authors featuring AAPI characters and their experiences to be enjoyed all year round. This list by no means encompasses every children’s book available to read by AAPI authors with AAPI characters, but is rather a sampling that encompasses a diverse range of experiences and identities. In addition, included are a small list of resources for AAPI individuals and allies to utilize in these trying times and beyond.

Chee, Traci.
We Are Not Free. 2020 (Teen).
Fourteen teens who have grown up together in Japantown, San Francisco, who have formed a community and a family, have their lives turned upside down when over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry are removed from their homes and forced into desolate incarceration camps. This collective account follows the tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, as they rally together to face racism and injustice that threaten to pull them apart.
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Ho, Joanna.
Illustrated by: Dung Ho
Eyes That Kiss in the Corners. 2021 (Picture Book).
A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’,who all have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future. This young girl draws from the strength of these powerful women in her life, and she recognizes her own beauty and discovers a path to self-love and empowerment.
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Kelley, Tae.
When You Trap a Tiger. 2020 (Middle Grade).
When Lily and her family move in with her sick grandmother, a magical tiger straight out of her halmoni’s Korean folktales arrives, prompting Lily to unravel a secret family history. Long, long ago, Halmoni stole something from the tigers. Now, the tigers want it back. And when one of those tigers offers Lily a deal — return what Halmoni stole in exchange for Halmoni’s health — Lily is tempted to accept. But deals with tigers are never what they seem!
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Kelly, Erin Entrada.
Blackbird Fly. 2015 (Middle Grade).
Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to Louisiana from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods, makes mistakes with her English, and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” It becomes unbearable in middle school, when the boys in Apple’s class put her name on the Dog Log — the list of the most unpopular girls in school. When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself.
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Khan, Hena.
Illustrated by: Aaliya Jaleel
Under my Hijab. 2019 (Picture Book).
Grandma wears it clasped under her chin. Aunty pins hers up with a beautiful brooch. Jenna puts it under a sun hat when she hikes. Zara styles hers to match her outfit. As a young girl observes six very different women in her life who each wear the hijab in a unique way, she also dreams of the rich possibilities of her own future, and how she will express her own personality through her hijab. This picture book honors the diverse lives of contemporary Muslim women and girls, their love for each other, and their pride in their culture and faith.
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Khorram, Adib.
Darius the Great is Not Okay. 2018 (Teen).
Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. But he’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and to say he’s overwhelmed is an understatement. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything. Sohrab calls him Darioush , the original Persian version of his name, and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush. But when it’s time to go home to America, can Darius find a way to be Darioush on his own?
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LaMotte, Lily.
Illustrated by: Anna Xu
Measuring Up. 2020 (Middle Grade Graphic Novel).
Twelve-year-old Cici has just moved from Taiwan to Seattle, and the only thing she wants more than to fit in at her new school is to celebrate her grandmother, A-má’s, seventieth birthday together. Since she can’t go to A-má, Cici cooks up a plan to bring A-má to her by winning the grand prize in a kids’ cooking contest to pay for A-má’s plane ticket! There’s just one problem: Cici only knows how to cook Taiwanese food. Can Cici find a winning recipe to reunite with A-má, a way to fit in with her new friends, and somehow find herself too?

Loomis, Ilima.
Illustrated by: Kenard Park
Ohana Means Family. 2020 (Picture Book).
Join the ohana as they farm taro for poi to prepare for a traditional luau celebration. In a poetic text in the style of The House That Jack Built, this picture book pairs the present and past by showing Hawaiian luau traditions and the family that works together to uphold them, celebrating Hawaiian land and culture.
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Menon, Sandhya.
From Twinkle, With Love. 2018 (Teen).
Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore — if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. Offered the chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director and getting closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy, Sahil’s twin brother, means Twinkle’s dreams come true. The only slightly inconvenient problem: in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.
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Villanueva, Gail D.
My Fate According to the Butterfly. 2019 (Middle Grade).
When superstitious Sab sees a giant black butterfly — an omen of death — she knows that she’s doomed! According to legend, she has one week before her fate catches up with her, and that just so happens to be her eleventh birthday. With her time running out, all she wants is to celebrate her birthday with her entire family. But her sister, Ate Nadine, stopped speaking to their father one year ago, and Sab doesn’t even know why. If Sab’s going to get Ate Nadine and their father to reconcile, she’ll have to overcome her fears and figure out the cause of their rift. So Sab and her best friend Pepper start spying and digging into her family’s past, but their adventures across Manila reveal truths about Sab’s family more difficult (and dangerous) than she ever anticipated. Was the butterfly right?
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Yang, Kelly.
Parachutes. 2020 (Teen).
They’re called parachutes: teenagers dropped off to live in private homes and study in the US while their wealthy parents remain in Asia. Claire Wang never thought she’d be one of them, until her parents pluck her from her privileged life in Shanghai and enroll her at a high school in California. Suddenly, she’s living in a stranger’s house, with no one to tell her what to do for the first time in her life. Dani De La Cruz, Claire’s new host sister, couldn’t be less thrilled that her mom rented out a room to Claire. Dani is determined to earn her way into Yale, even if it means competing with privileged kids who are buying their way to the top. Desperately trying to avoid each other under the same roof, Dani and Claire find themselves on a collision course, intertwining as they grapple trauma and corruption.
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Stop AAPI Hate
In response to the alarming escalation in xenophobia and bigotry resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Stop AAPI Hate reporting center was launched, tracking and responding to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

Anti-Asian Violence Resources
Anti-Asian racism and violent attacks on Asian elderly have increased in recent months. Unfortunately, many of these incidents are not being reported and are invisible to major media outlets. This list of resources has been gathered to help individuals educate others, take actions, donate, and more.

The AAPI COVID-19 Project
This collective research project housed at Harvard University’s Department of Sociology, examining the ongoing COVID-19 crisis as it continues to shape the lives of Asians, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (A/AA and NHPIs) in the United States. The project focuses on uncovering the multiple layers of harm including the virus itself and the intensification of racism and xenophobia that A/AAs and NHPIs have endured in its wake.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice
AAJC is an affiliation of five organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans. Their mission is to advance civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all, and they’ve fought for Asian Americans in the national conversations that determine policies that shape lives.

National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association
The mission of NAAPIMHA is to promote the mental health and wellness of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. They work closely with community-based organizations that address mental health and mental health related issues, working to provide access to high quality affordable mental health services for all.