In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May, our librarians gathered a list of top book recommendations. The following titles are created by and/or about Asian and Pacific Americans. All titles are available at Grand Forks Public.
1. Eyes that Speak to the Stars by Joanna Ho, Illustrated by Dung Ho
A young boy comes to recognize his own power and ability to change the future. He realizes that his eyes are like his father’s, his agong’s, and his little brother’s, and they are visionary. Inspired by the men in his family, he recognizes his own power and strength from within.
2. Drawn Together by Minh Le, Illustrated by Dan Santat
This book explores how a young boy and his Thai grandfather learn to bridge barriers of language, culture, and age. Find out how they connect and explore common ground without words.
3. Watercress by Andrea Wang, Illustrated by Jason Chin
In this 2022 Caldecott medal-winning book, a young girl’s parents stop driving when they see watercress growing in the ditch beside the road. When her mother shares the story of her family’s life in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged.
4. The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Khoa Le
Drawn from author Yang’s childhood experience as a Hmong refugee, this moving picture book portrays a family with little money and a great deal of love.
5. Sakamoto’s Swim Club by Julie Abery, Illustrated by Chris Sasaki
Based on a true story, when schoolteacher Soichi Sakamoto notices a group of children cooling off in the irrigation ditches of Hawaii’s sugar plantations, he decides to form a swim club. Before long, the team surges onto the national swimming scene, dominating event after event.
6. Stargazing by Jen Wang
Moon is everything Christine isn’t. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic… and though they both grew up in the same Chinese-American suburb, Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known. When catastrophe strikes, can Christine find it in herself to be the friend that Moon needs? Author-illustrator Jen Wang draws on her childhood to paint a deeply personal yet wholly relatable friendship story in this heartfelt graphic novel.
7. Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte, Ilustrated by Ann Xu
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.
8. The One Thing You’d Save by Linda Sue Park, Illustrated by Robert Sae-Heng
The assignment: pick a single object to save in an emergency. Each student has an answer. With insight and humor, Linda Sue Park captures the voices of an inclusive classroom in verse inspired by the Korean poetry form sijo.
9. Amina’s Song by Hena Khan
In this follow up novel to Amina’s Voice, it’s the last few days of an amazing trip to Pakistan, and Amina finds it hard to leave the sights, the shops, and, most of all, her family. At home, though, Amina discovers her friends don’t seem interested in hearing about her trip. Will Amina find a way to remain true to herself, and to honor everyone and everything that make her who she is?
10. The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta
On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in New Jersey, until her parents mysteriously vanish and a rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Kiranmala is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There, she must solve riddles and slay demons in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it.
11. I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee
Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.
12. The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala
Esha is a legend, but no one knows. It’s only in the shadows that she moonlights as the Viper, the rebels’ highly skilled assassin. Kunal has been a soldier since childhood, training morning and night to uphold the power of King Vardaan. Then Esha’s and Kunal’s paths cross—and an unimaginable chain of events unfolds.
13. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
After her mother’s suicide, grief-stricken Leigh Sanders travels to Taiwan to stay with grandparents she never met, determined to find her mother who she believes turned into a bird.
14. Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming—especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. 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.
15. Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean
Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity… and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.
16. Monstress by Marjorie Liu
Steampunk meets Kaiju in this original fantasy epic for mature readers, as young Maika risks everything to control her psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, placing her in the center of a devastating war between human and otherworldly forces.
17. Displacement by Kiku Hughes
Kiku is on vacation in San Francisco when suddenly she finds herself displaced to the 1940s Japanese-American internment camp that her late grandmother, Ernestina, was forcibly relocated to during World War II. These displacements keep occurring until Kiku finds herself stuck back in time. Living alongside her young grandmother and other Japanese-American citizens in internment camps, Kiku gets the education she never received in history class.
18. The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
Real life isn’t a fairytale.
But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It’s hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, 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?
19. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!
Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend?
20. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
Long before George Takei braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s — and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future. In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten ‘relocation centers’, hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard. This is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire and the way his experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future. What is American? Who gets to decide? When the world is against you, what can one person do?
21. America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo
How many lives can one person lead in a single lifetime? When Hero de Vera arrives in America, disowned by her parents in the Philippines, she’s already on her third. Her uncle, Pol, who has offered her a fresh start and a place to stay in the Bay Area, knows not to ask about her past. And his younger wife, Paz, has learned enough about the might and secrecy of the De Vera family to keep her head down. Only their daughter, Roni, asks Hero why her hands seem to constantly ache.
22. Bestiary by K-Ming Chang
One evening, Mother tells Daughter a story about a tiger spirit who lived in a woman’s body. She was called Hu Gu Po, and she hungered to eat children, especially their toes. Soon afterward, Daughter awakes with a tiger tail. And more mysterious events follow: Holes in the backyard spit up letters penned by her grandmother; a visiting aunt arrives with snakes in her belly; a brother tests the possibility of flight. All the while, Daughter is falling for Ben, a neighborhood girl with strange powers of her own. As the two young lovers translate the grandmother’s letters, Daughter begins to understand that each woman in her family embodies a myth—and that she will have to bring her family’s secrets to light in order to change their destiny.
23. The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood
Following two families from Pakistan and Iraq in the 1990s to San Francisco in 2016, Bad Muslim Discount is a hilarious, timely, and provocative comic novel about being Muslim immigrants in modern America.
24. A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made. There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister’s footsteps. And their estranged son, Amar, returns to the family for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride. What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture?
25. Exhalation by Ted Chiang
In these nine stunningly original, provocative, and poignant science fiction stories, Ted Chiang tackles some of humanity’s oldest questions along with new quandaries only he could imagine. Including stories being published for the first time as well as some of his rare and classic uncollected work, Exhalation is Ted Chiang at his best: profound, sympathetic —revelatory.
26. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong
A ruthlessly honest, emotionally charged, and utterly original exploration of Asian American consciousness and the struggle to be human. Hong blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose the truth of racialized consciousness in America. She believes that “minor feelings” occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality– when you believe the lies you’re told about your own racial identity.
27. Good Talk by Mira Jacob
Mira Jacob’s touching, often humorous, and utterly unique graphic memoir takes readers on her journey as a first-generation American. At an increasingly fraught time for immigrants and their families, Good Talk delves into the difficult conversations about race, sex, love, and family that seem to be unavoidable these days.
28. Naturally Tan by Tan France
Before becoming a star of the show Queer Eye, Tan France was a member of one of the very few South Asian, Muslim families living in South Yorkshire, England, where he was routinely bullied for both his culture and his skin color. To avoid further abuse and a rift with his family, he did not come out as gay until the age of 34. In this memoir, France illuminates his winding journey of coming of age, finding his voice (and style!), and marrying the love of his life — a Mormon cowboy from Salt Lake City. He shares the lessons he’s learned about being a successful businessman, a devoted spouse, and the importance of self-acceptance.
29. Heart of Fire by Mazie K. Hirono
Raised poor on her family’s rice farm in rural Japan, Hirono was seven years old when her mother left her abusive husband and sailed with her two elder children to the United States, crossing the Pacific in steerage in search of a better life. Though the girl then known as “Keiko” did not speak English when she entered school in Hawaii, she would go on to hold state and national office, winning election to the U.S. Senate in 2012.
30. If They Come For Us by Fatimah Ashghar
This imaginative, soulful debut poetry collection captures the experiences of being a young Pakistani Muslim woman in contemporary America. Orphaned as a child, Fatimah Asghar grapples with coming of age and navigating questions of sexuality and race without the guidance of a mother or father. These poems at once bear anguish, joy, vulnerability, and compassion, while also exploring the many facets of violence: how it persists within us, how it is inherited across generations, and how it manifests itself in our relationships. In experimental forms and language both lyrical and raw, Asghar seamlessly braids together marginalized people’s histories with her own understanding of identity, place, and belonging.
A tender and sweeping story about what roots us, Minari follows a Korean-American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream. The family home changes completely with the arrival of their sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother. Amidst the instability and challenges of this new life in the rugged Ozarks, Minari shows the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home.
32. The Rider (written, directed, and produced by Chloe Zhao)
After a tragic riding accident, young cowboy Brady, once a rising star of the rodeo circuit, is warned that his competition days are over. Back home, Brady finds himself wondering what he has to live for when he can no longer do what gives him a sense of purpose: to ride and compete. In an attempt to regain control of his fate, Brady undertakes a search for a new identity and tries to redefine his idea of what it means to be a man in the heartland of America.
33. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Shang-Chi must confront the past he thought he left behind when he’s drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization controlled by his father, a man who gained immortality and the desire for unlimited power when he acquired an ancient artifact centuries ago.
34. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (written and directed by Taika Waititi)
Raised on hip-hop and foster care, defiant city kid Ricky gets a fresh start in the New Zealand countryside. He quickly finds himself at home with his new foster family: the loving Aunt Bella, the cantankerous Uncle Hec, and dog Tupac. When a tragedy strikes that threatens to ship Ricky to another home, both he and Hec go on the run in the bush. As a national manhunt ensues, the newly branded outlaws must face their options.
35. Fresh Off the Boat (series)
Join TV’s funniest new family and flashback to the ’90s! Twelve-year-old hip-hop enthusiast Eddie Huang and his family make their way from D.C.’s Chinatown to Orlando where his dad, Louis, tries to make his new steakhouse a success. His mom, Jessica aims to understand the culture clash and dominate suburbia. While his brothers fit right in, Eddie still tries to get a seat at the table–any table–in the school cafeteria.
An adventurous teenager sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demigod Maui, who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder. Together they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds. Along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she always sought: her own identity.
37. My Neighbor Totoro
This acclaimed animated tale by director Hayao Miyazaki follows schoolgirl Satsuke and her younger sister, Mei, as they settle into an old country house with their father and wait for their mother to recover from an illness in an area hospital. As the sisters explore their new home, they encounter and befriend playful spirits in their house and the nearby forest, most notably the massive cuddly creature known as Totoro.
38. Big Hero 6
Robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada learns to harness his genius, thanks to his brilliant brother Tadashi and their like-minded friends: adrenaline junkie Go Go Tamago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon, and fanboy Fred. When a devastating turn of events catapults them into the midst of a dangerous plot unfolding in the streets of San Fransokyo, Hiro turns to his closest companion – a robot named Baymax – and transforms the group into a band of high-tech heroes determined to solve the mystery.
39. Lilo & Stitch
The result of an illegal experiment in genetic mutation, Experiment #626, is so horrifyingly hostile that it’s been locked up by its inventors. It escapes to Earth where Lilo, a young Hawaiian girl, mistakes it for a strange dog, adopts it, and renames it Stitch. As Stitch becomes part of Lilo’s unusual family life Lilo’s innocence and the aloha spirit of the Islands confuse and ultimately civilize the creature.
40. Raya and the Last Dragon
Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans, and dragons lived together in harmony. But when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the last dragon in order to finally stop the Druun for good. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than dragon magic to save the world–it’s going to take trust as well.
Check out one of these titles at Grand Forks Public, browse our online catalog, or explore our OverDrive Collection for ebook and audiobook options. In addition, we have a number of related films to stream available on Kanopy. Check out these Asian Pacific American Heritage Month films.